Amelia’s Magazine | Becky Becky: Good Morning, Midnight

Becky Becky by Gareth A Hopkins
Becky Becky by Gareth A Hopkins.

I often listen to the music that I am sent when I am driving, and only a very few albums make a big impression: ones that I return to again and again. Good Morning, Midnight by Becky Becky is one such record, combining the extraordinary narrative of an ageing party girl out on the lash with hugely danceable beats, the ennui of our protagonist’s tale somehow brought alive in a wonderfully life affirming manner. If you love early era The Knife (and I do) then you will revel in Good Morning, Midnight. I spoke with Gemma Williams (formerly of Woodpecker Wooliams) and her ex-boyfriend Peter J D Mason, about making music after a relationship ends, and the power of doing it for yourself.

Becky Becky Good Morning, Midnight album cover review

What were your main influences when this album was in gestation?
The main influence of this album was always the work of Jean Rhys, specifically the novels and short stories she completed in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The songs first took shape on scraps of dog-eared paper in a tiny studio flat in Prague, with no access to any computers for recording or instruments for figuring out some music. At first all we had was copies of Jean Rhys’ novels and words on paper – nothing musical at all. The music came later, ideas were formed on an old guitar with only two strings originally belonging to the deceased mother of one of us. When it came to finally recording the songs proper, we sold some old vinyl and bought a synthesiser, and a lot of the ideas came from tinkering with that. Musically, we listened to a lot of ‘80s synth-pop like Bronski Beat and Soft Cell, and we also drew a lot from The Knife, Hot Chip and Legowelt.

Becky Becky press photo 2

What did you mean by Good Morning, Midnight?
The title of our album comes from the title of a book by Jean Rhys, which we drew most of our inspiration from. We toyed with the idea of using another title, but it seemed to fit the album we’d made perfectly. Jean Rhys herself took the title from an Emily Dickinson poem. In the poem, Dickenson talks of being rejected by ‘day’ and turning towards ‘night’. Obviously, this has been interpreted into ideas of leaving ‘the light’ and being drawn into ‘darkness’, life and death, etc. It fits the protagonist of our album. She’s losing her place in society, becoming an invisible person – a woman, ageing and single – she’s being rejected by society and turning towards darkness. That’s the tale of the album in once sentence. Hence, Good Morning, Midnight.

The album features the tales of a ‘lonely, ageing female‘ – what inspired such a choice?
Our protagonist is a single, ageing woman who is also a drunk. This is almost a sin in western society. People don’t care for or about these kinds of people. If you’re too old to be the object of someone’s lust and not a mother, what are you? Nothing. These people don’t exist as far as most media is concerned. Yet these women do exist. We didn’t make an album about a young, carefree, partying clubbing woman – songs about these people abound, especially in electronic music. We wanted an interesting story, an interesting character, someone more real to be at the forefront of our music.

Becky Becky by Cristina BanBan
Becky Becky by Cristina BanBan. ‘I tried to reflect the image of a powerful, glamorous and very feminine woman as it was the feeling I had after listening to Good Morning, Midnight. I wanted to capture the sexy and stylish beats of the new album through a strong contrast between bright colours. I think it comes from a huge influence of the cover albums from club scene in the 80s’.

Do you know of anyone who fits this bill in real life? And if so, what advice do you have for them?
As we said, there are plenty of women out there who could be our protagonist. For us to give advice to them would be a bit presumptuous on our part, though. This album is a snapshot, a description of one woman’s experience. It’s a piece of narrative. We have no advice for anyone.

Fire & Wings: This song details the end of an alcohol-fuelled evening in a European city, wherein the narrator drunkenly vows to ‘drink [herself] to death‘, laments love lost, encounters a sinister older gentleman with designs on her; all culminating in a joyous paean to that particular feeling that, ‘comes in a glass… fire and wings.’

How did you put together the video for recent single Fire & Wings? Can you tell us a bit about the making of…
We are essentially a zero-budget group. The album was written when one of us was pretty much homeless, sleeping on sofas in Europe. So when it came to making our first video for the album, we didn’t have access to a load of cash. We do have some friends, however. Richard Sanz had put together an animation for us to use as a projection some time prior, with no specific music in mind. With a bit of editing we found it fit to Fire & Wings perfectly. As it was originally designed as projection, we decided to mix it with some live shot-footage, albeit heavily effected. We’re great fans of ‘one-shot’ videos – where it’s just one camera with one shot for the whole thing. With a music video, often you want the music to speak for itself – the visuals are an assist to that. Take a look at Once In A Lifetime from Talking Heads’ live DVD Stop Making Sense. Despite having access to god-knows how many camera angles, for the first four or so minutes, the shot is just one, a close up of David Byrne. That’s all you need. A friend of ours has created a piece of software called Lightsynth that we’ve also used for animated visuals – so far, only live, but we may use it in a video too, and another group of friends is putting together a kind of cubism-based video for House of the Black Madonna. These will be released over the next couple of months.

Becky Becky by Simon McLaren
Becky Becky by Simon McLaren.

A DIY aesthetic and process is clearly important to you – how has this manifested in the release of your album?
Everything about this album we have done ourselves. We recorded and mixed the album ourselves, created our own label to distribute it, booked our own gigs. Everything we’ve shouldered ourselves which has been quite stressful, yet gave us the control we wanted.

Becky Becky press photo 1

Have you any plans to tour in 2014, and if so where can we see you live?
We find playing live quite difficult, for various reasons and we are still developing how we present ourselves and our music in a live environment. We very much believe in putting on a ‘show’ rather than a gig – we use a combination of mixed-media and extra performers to try and create something that’s more theatrical than a standard concert. However, so far, it’s still a work-in-progress that develops with every performance. We’re playing Supernormal festival in Oxfordshire in August, and then we aim to conduct a European tour in the autumn, primarily Spain, Germany and Italy.

House Of The Black Madonna.

You first got together in 2011 and became a couple. When your relationship fell apart, you continued to make the album – what have been the best bits and pitfalls of this creative process?
The pitfalls have mainly been learning how to work with one another. The first time we got in a room together to record after our break-up was quite difficult, as there was still a lot of tension in the air. This also transferred to rehearsing for live concerts, too. Recording and rehearsing can be quite stressful, and with the history between us, it can feel very personal. The best bits have been that we have actually created something very positive out of our acrimonious split. We have built something together that has kept us in each other’s lives. It was a real struggle to achieve, but we made something we’re really proud of. And we’re not just talking about the album. We have also created a strong friendship, and we are now very close. Without making this record, it’s hard to say if we’d even still be speaking to each other.

Would you and will you do it again?
Would we do it again? Definitely. Will we do it again? That’s a harder question to answer. We can’t really promise anything. After the album was first finished, it felt like that might be it. That might be all we’re capable of doing together. However, now we’re on a bit more of an even-footing, there may be more to come from us yet.

Good Morning, Midnight by Becky Becky is out now on Feint Records.

Categories ,album, ,Becky Becky, ,brighton, ,Cristina BanBan, ,diy, ,Emily Dickinson, ,Feint Records, ,Fire & Wings, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,Gemma Williams, ,Good Morning Midnight, ,Hot Chip, ,House Of The Black Madonna, ,Jean Rhys, ,Legowelt, ,Lightsynth, ,Peter J D Mason, ,Prague, ,review, ,Richard Sanz, ,Simon Mclaren, ,Supernormal festival, ,The Knife, ,Woodpecker Wooliams

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Amelia’s Magazine | Best Alternative Christmas Songs of 2015

Charlene Man christmas cat
Christmas scene by Charlene Man.

Tis the season for my annual festive tune round up: my favourite alternative Christmas songs and albums laid out all in one place. As has also become ritual I am also very late in the day – this year the excuse being that I had a baby in August and I’ve also just published my fourth book, Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion. Still, I could not let the opportunity pass me by to dig out the best Christmas tunes for 2015, so here’s what I’ve found on my trawl around the internet.

Brett Beardslee wrote this lovely song about the importance of family for his wife Jesse, Pickin In Pajamas, with a simple but evocative video featuring nostalgic Christmas photos.

American country singer Darryl Gregory is writing a new Christmas song every year, find a whole album here. All proceeds go to Ben’s Lighthouse, supporting youth in his local home town.

Winter_Scene_by Christine Charnock
Winter Scene by Christine Charnock.

The Ragged Flags release an EP called Christmas At My House which features all their Christmas tunes recorded since 2012. The songs are uniformly fab, featuring lyrics such as “the turkey’s too dry but the booze won’t run out”. This year’s offering is a catchy little ditty called Crackers & Maracas, all about the joys of heading abroad for warmer climes during the holiday season.

Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children release a gorgeous Christmas Song, all twinkly bells and soporific vocals.

Yo Sushi releases his seasonal song Happy New Year as a free download here. The Bokeh encrusted video features himself in large fur coat and plenty of tinsel.

Kirsty Almeida takes part in the Christmas album Ska of Wonder by Baked A La Ska, which gives a ska party makeover to many well known songs. Hear album teaser here.

Astrocolor are a Canadian collective who have created an entire album featuring wigged-out prog-rock psych versions of seasonal classics such as We Three Kings and The First Noel. Quite unlike anything you will have heard before. Find Lit Up – Music For Christmas here

Watch a suitably surreal accompanying video below: Love Love.

Becky Becky released Champagne On Christmas Day last year but I sadly missed out then. I absolutely love this! The three songs on this EP are a danceable collection of tunes inspired by the tale of a backstreet abortion in 1920s Paris on Christmas Eve: a typically dark take on the usual festive fayre. You can read my interview about album Good Morning, Midnight (also inspired by the writings of Jean Rhys) here.

Sharon and the Dap Kings can always be relied on to get the party swinging. This year they release It’s a Holiday Soul Party: hear the whole album here.

In the same vein as Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, Benji Hughes agrees that It’s Time to Have a Merry Christmas.

French Finnish duo The Dø sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas in this Casiotone-tastic backstage iphone recording.

Part of the album Suicide Songs, Money release A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year, which is seen here performed live at the White Hotel in Salford. One for those who feel like wallowing rather than celebrating.

Ette is is the solo project of Carla J Easton from TeenCanteen. She looks forward to Spending Christmas With My Boy. The song is dedicated to her cat Bez who passed away this year, and celebrates the joy of Christmas time with family. Think jingle bells, the smell of cinnamon candles and a brand new party dress.

Honey & the Bear are a husband and wife folk duo, and all profits from their song Close Your Eyes will go to Children in Need.

Lady Low sings about a Lonely Christmas, complete with sleigh bells and yearning violins.

I am still mourning the loss of the awesome For Folk’s Sake annual Christmas compilations which were once my most reliable source of brilliant alternative Christmas songs (please come back!) but this year you can take advantage of their online Advent Calendar to download some fabulous new music including this track from new wonder Ora Cogan, the plaintive End of Nowhere.

NANNA Prieler illustration-happy-holidays
Illustration by Nanna Prieler.

The Oto Christmas Grotto features 12 Bands of Christmas covering a host of familiar songs in festive studio sessions. Watch Pat Dam Smyth sing Silent Night live on a London rooftop here and catch the rest here.

I also really like Natalie McCool on guitar covering I Believe in Father Christmas.

Irish singer songwriter Wendy Jack shares Woolly Jumpers, a whimsical tune for Christmas.

Owen Tromans has just realised Child Winter, a seasonal song that is accompanied with lovely archive footage, and he will also be releasing a new improvised Christmas song on Christmas Eve here.

Finally, I can’t wait to watch Jingle Bell Rocks! an entire documentary about the people who are crazy about collecting obscure Christmas songs… I can totally relate to these people. This is the sixth year in a row that I have done a round up of alternative festive tunes and I absolutely love discovering what springs up each year. It’s become a dream to release my own Christmas album… so do get in touch if you are a record label that would like to work with me or an artist who would like to be considered for inclusion when I eventually get around to doing this.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2016!

Categories ,12 Bands of Christmas, ,2015, ,A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year, ,Advent Calendar, ,Alternative, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,Astrocolor, ,Baked A La Ska, ,Becky Becky, ,Benji Hughes, ,Ben’s Lighthouse, ,Brett Beardslee, ,Carla J Easton, ,Champagne On Christmas Day, ,Charlene Man, ,Child Winter, ,Children in Need, ,Christine Charnock, ,Christmas At My House, ,Christmas Song, ,Christmas Songs, ,Christmas tunes, ,Close Your Eyes, ,Crackers & Maracas, ,Darryl Gregory, ,End of Nowhere, ,Ette, ,For Folks Sake, ,Good Morning Midnight, ,Happy New Year, ,Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas, ,Honey & the Bear, ,I Believe in Father Christmas, ,Indie, ,It’s a Holiday Soul Party, ,It’s Time to Have a Merry Christmas, ,Jean Rhys, ,Jingle Bell Rocks!, ,Kirsty Almeida, ,Lady Low, ,Lit Up – Music For Christmas, ,Lonely Christmas, ,Money, ,Music For Christmas, ,Nanna Prieler, ,Natalie McCool, ,Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children, ,Ora Cogan, ,Oto Christmas Grotto, ,Owen Tromans, ,Pat Dam Smyth, ,Pickin In Pajamas, ,review, ,Sharon and the Dap Kings, ,Silent Night, ,Ska of Wonder, ,Suicide Songs, ,TeenCanteen, ,The Dø, ,The First Noel, ,The Ragged Flags, ,We Three Kings, ,Wendy Jack, ,Woolly Jumpers, ,Yo Sushi

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