Interview with Emily In Love (September 2009)

September 7, 2009 Penny Century

Emily - Study 4 of 4 by sammiemacI was delighted to be able to catch up with my long-time email penpal Em – producer, musician, all-round renaissance woman and the guiding light behind Emily In Love – to chat about the forthcoming release of “Let’s Pretend We’re In Love”.

PC: Hi Em and welcome back! It’s good to see you again and I’m excited to hear about the new EP. It’s an elegant and stylish 5-song EP which will be available very soon from the prestigious netlabel Corpid Extra. And, I have to say, it’s been a long time coming – but well worth the wait! So-o-o… What took you so long?

Em: (laughs) Well, the short answer is that I’m a perfectionist, I just kept tinkering with the mixes until Mario (Corpid owner) said essentially oy where’s the songs. We actually recorded quite a few more songs, but this time I thought I’d be a bit more careful and picky about what I put out.

PC: I’m a huge fan of your earlier release, “You break my heart, you bought it” which set out Emily In Love’s trademark sound, a fusion of two distinctive voices with an intricate and delicate electro-acoustic pop sound. Listening to the new EP, those elements are still very much in evidence, but the sound is a lot more defined and confident now. Have there been any changes in the way you, Pia and Ricardo approach writing and recording?

Em: Oh yeah, totally. The first EP everything was completely written by me except for the Outside to Play lyrics, I just handed Pia and Ricardo fairly finished instrumentals in the studio. It was just this little side project, you know? We were quite spontaneous, a lot of the songs were done really quickly.

Whereas this time it’s a lot less electronic I think, we spent a lot of time recording instruments live, occasionally bringing in other musicians where needed. We thought a lot more about what should go on the songs. Pia’s partner Brett had this glockenspiel laying around the studio and once I heard it, it sounded kind of perfect for the Emily In Love vibe, so I ended up playing it a lot across the songs.

PC: I’ve been fortunate enough to have received a pre-release of Let’s Pretend We’re In Love – it’s been on permanent loop on my iPod since it arrived! – and I wondered if you’d like to talk us through the songs?

The EP opens with Sow The Seeds, a very meditative reflection on a relationship and a real showcase for Pia’s unique vocal style. I love how she sings like she’s just chatting with you, her style’s informal and intimate and draws you in straight away.

Em: That song’s really beautiful, I love it. Ricardo wrote the music for “Sow the Seeds” and Pia wrote the lyrics. I think all I’m playing in that is the glockenspiel and the programming!

But yes, cos it’s such a sweet song, Pia almost whispers the lyrics. She’s got such a big voice, but knows when to pull it back and be tender. Dynamics are a lost art nowadays I think, not everything has to be that American Idol big note every time, you know? Pia’s so talented that way, she’ll break your heart three different ways per song.

PC: Track two, Jellybean. The more electronic side of Emily In Love shines through this, especially in the percussion sounds. Would you say the minimalist electronica of labels like Kompakt and Warp have been an influence on your work?

Em: Oh, absolutely. Both of those labels have always been an influence on my production style. Boards of Canada especially actually, I like the way that their tracks are always kind of hazy and I think we have similar kinds of interests in terms of the past. They’re always looking backwards, but not trying to recreate the past. I try to do the same, sure there’s acoustic guitars and glockenspiel but the static reminds you you’re in the present. To make a really folk record would be a kind of fakeness to me, more artificial than having all the electronic sounds and blips.

Kompakt records I’ve listened to for a long time too—Superpitcher, (Michael) Mayer. Similar kind of thing. Machines make all these kinds of noises, why not use them for percussion? So I like to have those kinds of minimal and IDM elements lurking in the background of songs. My partner calls it “airconditioner” music, she hates all the clicks and whirrs, but I think they’re kind of necessary as a balance to the melodic elements.

PC: Half A Chance exemplifies what I meant about Emily In Love sounding confident – it has a swagger that really gives it an edge. Oh! – and the saxophone is an inspired touch that sits really well in the mix. There’s so much going on in this track and yet you never lose sight of the song. It must have been difficult to resist the temptation to just add a bit more of this, and some of that, and a touch of something else. Admirable self-restraint!

Em: (laughs) Oh I think we added a lot! It felt like quite a packed mix in the end, trying to keep it clear was a challenge. But it works, I think there’s a nice balance between the electronic elements and the guitars and glock. And the vocals, Pia did a big vocal on that one. I kept saying, bigger, bigger! Actually, friend of Brett’s, Matt, was sitting in with us when we were working on the track and he ended up adding that nice bluesy guitar in the breakdown and at the end, can’t forget that. Just added a nice little light touch there. And my cousin Fiona actually played the glockenspiel on the chorus, she was just sitting there tapping away with this melody line while Pia was recording the vocals so she took a bash at it. It turned out well, I had a bunch of electronic blips that I ended up ditching to make room for all the guitars..

PC: I love the way the beats really drive the main riff in Everything’s OK and yet, tucked away in the middle distance, there’s this gorgeous and almost mournful synth sound which is just the perfect complement to the lyrics. It must have been hard work to get that balance of light and shade without one or other taking over. I imagine that, with a slightly different production, this could almost be a ballad.

Em: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, the lyrics are pretty sad. Missing someone who’s living in another state, and all you’ve got is a phone call to make things better. It’s like, bravado I think—everything’s ok, but not really.

Those midrange synths were the first thing I started with, and that little bell sound. Once I had those, I knew it was going to work. And then Ricardo added that lovely New Order style guitar and it really completed the song.

PC: Saving the best til last – Here With You is a real tour de force, not only for what you’ve done with the vocals, but also Ricardo’s guitar. The boy, as they don’t say round here, plays a blinder!

Em: Yeah, Ricardo’s guitar was amazing. He came up with this really country style riff for it on the acoustic, and it just worked. And then he doubled it up with those lovely washes of electric guitar as the song swells. He’s got such a feel for coming up with those kinds of riffs. I actually played the piano on the track, which was nice to go in that direction without hopefully being a cheesy ballad.

PC: So – not wanting to appear greedy for more releases from you – but what’s next for Emily In Love? I know the studio’s your natural habitat so I guess the stadium world tour might take a while to happen! But I remember after “You break my heart, you bought it”, you brought out a sister EP of remixes (“You Break My Heart, You Remixed It”) – do you have any plans for remixes of any of the songs on the new one?

Em: Well, I think you’d have to ask Mario about that! I’ve done a remix of “Here With You” that’s more of a shoegaze track, Slowdive kind of thing. So hopefully that’ll slot in with some other remixes at some point. The remixes were so great last time – especially Rupert Falsch’s – so I’d love to see some more of these new songs.

Oh, and yeah, we’re not really much of a live band, I think I’d need at least another keyboard player to get all the synths and stuff. Still, you never know. Offer us a bunch of money and I’m sure we’d give it a go!

PC: Thank you, and good luck with “Let’s Pretend We’re In Love”!

The new EP by Emily In Love – “Let’s Pretend We’re In Love” – will shortly be available for download from the Corpid Extra netlabel.

The previous EPs can be downloaded from Corpid Extra and Emily In Love have pages at Corpid Extra and MySpace, as well as their own blog here.


ETA: Emily In Love have generously made available for a limited time, a free MP3 download of their cover of “Foundations” (by Kate Nash):

Click here to download


Entry Filed under: Emily In Love

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. br0  |  September 8, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Interesting interview Em, looking forward to hearing the EP.

    Especially the glockenspiel – love me some glockenspiel!

  • 2. replenished  |  September 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    We rock the glock!

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