Going Focus: Aquilo
Aquilo are definetely one the leading figures of the new music scene. Over the past two years, the Silverdale duo formed by Tom Higham and Ben Fletcher have released a sequence of songs of rare beauty, where cinematic synths and passionate vocals have always been side by side with a brilliant and unique pop sensibility . After three critically acclaimed EPs, the two are ready to make the big jump by relasing their debut LP. For the occasion we had the opportunity to chat with them about their influences, the upcoming full length and their collaboration with SOHN.
Hi guys! Before talking about your highly-anticipated debut album, I’d like to take a short look back to your career so far. As you said in an interview with Unrecorded, you had just a song online when all the buzz around you started and suddenly you found yourselves signed to an important management. Did you see it coming or was something completely unexpected? They must have been hectic days…
This whole thing for us has been quite unexpected. However, thats not to say we never wanted to do this. We suppose we were just taken back by it all. It was hectic but the best kind of hectic.
Your self-titled debut EP had a huge response last year. We, as many other blogs did, spent a lot of positive words on it. I remember our team discussing your sound and, in the flood of the names emerged, someone picked up The Antlers, which in my opinion was a sort of seal of quality. It was like.. “hey.. it’s not the usual electronic production duo. they have something more”. Do you remember what was the most flattering comparison that people have made about you? And the weirder one?
“Justin Timberlake trying to out-falsetto Jeff Buckley’s in an ambient synth rainstorm”. I love this one taken from Rolling Stone. Can you imagine yourselves playing huge arena shows like Justin? Could it be a realistic goal? When we first came down to London, a few people suggested we were like a modern Hall and Oates. At the time we’d never even heard of them, but after that we’ve been hooked on those guys. We actually like to think we really draw influence from classic acts like Hall and Oates now. Can we imagine playing huge arena shows like Justin? Urm, maybe. If everything went the right way yes. We’re just more concerned about making the music we feel is right and then hopefully good things will follow.
Speaking about live shows, could you tell us how your sound evolves in your concerts? Is it quite similar to the recordings or people should expect something different? If I’m not wrong, you’ve never played in Italy so far. Needless to say, it would be nice to have you here.
The two of us come from live backgrounds. We were both in rock bands so playing live is so much fun. It’s something we really look forwards to. Our sound is similar to the recordings, but just a tad bigger i’d say. We’d love to play in Italy!
You both have a background as grunge/metal musicians…how did you end up doing what you’re doing now? It’s a long way from Kurt Cobain to SOHN.
It was quite a natural progression from grunge/rock to the sound we have now. It basically came about when we started producing music ourselves and we didn’t have access to lots of equipment. See, i reckon Kurt Cobain and SOHN are similar in the way they both mask good pop songs in their own sound.
Speaking about SOHN (one of our favorite artists by the way), you have worked with him in the past on Human and now – correct me if I’m wrong – he’s helping you out with your debut album. How is it working with him?
We’ve written a couple of songs with SOHN, one of which is Human that he produced. That’s it for now, but we hope to work more in the future. It was so much fun and a truly inspiring experience. A lovely guy too.
Is Ólafur Arnalds also involved? What added value can offer these influences to your music?
Ólafur is involved with our album yes. He’s amazing. He understands strings on a level we wish we did. He is just such a great musical mind and he really gets what we’re going for.
Have you ever considered writing for someone else? I know your songs have been remixed by a lot of artists and you also did a couple of them in the past, but it’s not the same thing.
We’d never say no to writing for someone else, as long as we weren’t writing shit music we didn’t want to write. There would have to be a reason for it, or a desire to help someone.
I often see your music tagged as “electro-pop”, which is a narrow definition. Of course electronic is an important part of it, but sometimes it seems that the complexity of the melodies you create is extremely undervalued. I’m thinking for example to the piano, which has become a pivotal element in your songwriting. Do you feel the same sometimes? And what should we expect from the new album, musically speaking?
We totally get this. We like to think the electronic element doesn’t play a big part. Our songs should just stand alone as songs with a meaning. There are a few personal songs on the album that really don’t bare any electronic elements at all.
We’re just more concerned about making the music we feel is right and then hopefully good things will follow.
I love your official videos because they always tell stories. Good Girl is the absolute best I’ve seen this year. At what level are you involved in their creation? Do you have a favorite one?
We get really excited about the idea of a good music video. Especially one that tells a story or something that can shed a different light on a song. We weren’t at the shoot for Good Girl unfortunately. We worked with Jack King on a couple of ideas that he had and we moulded the idea to suit. We like to make sure we fully understand the video, what it’s trying to say and how it’s going to look. Music videos are so important.
We know Tom is a huge fan of Billy Elliot. Do movies or other art forms influence your music in any way? Can you mention Star Wars just to make us happy?
It’s actually Ben thats a huge fan haha. Films play such a huge part in inspiring us. Toms actually quite into Star Wars.
With an upcoming record on the way, what’s next for Aquilo?
For the two of us, we’re just getting our heads down and focusing on this record. We’re in a good place with it all and we’re pretty excited for people to hear what we have to say.