- Dan Hayes
In Conversation With... Flyte
After releasing one of the best albums of 2020 with This Is Really Going To Hurt, Flyte had to wait quite a while before they could return to touring and play for their fans. Ahead of their sold out show at the Liverpool Arts Club, I sat down with Will Taylor and Nick Hill to discuss being back on tour, songwriting, the latest album, and much more.
Hi guys, first of all, how are you?
WT: Yeah, really good man. Half way through this tour. Finding the whole operation, is very satisfying. The attention to detail you can place on all the elements.
Does it feel normal yet? After such a long time away?
WT: It does. Straight away feels normal.
NH: Yeah, it's been very cathartic to get this record finally to play in front of people. It's definitely a very fucking personal record, like, it's been so frustrating having all this connection solely online and not being able to actually… I know this is quite a generic answer.
No, not at all.
WT: I’ll add to that by saying we had so much interaction with people online and with such a personal record, being suddenly in a room with them is kind of like an online ‘You’ve Got Mail’ style, ‘Lonely Hearts’ lovers, all meeting for the first time at a café, on a large scale.
NH: Yeah it’s been amazing seeing people who have just been in touch with each other solely online getting together to come and see us, who have never met each other in real life.
WT: At every show, we’re seeing people come up together as a group, assuming they’re all from Cardiff or from Liverpool or all live together and they’re quite literally people who have flown from different countries to meet for the first time and become pen pals via the band. So it’s been this connection between us and the people and the people within the crowd, its overwhelming and extreme in a way that we’ve never had before.
NH: It's just a big release of emotion from us.
WT: A lot of manifestation happening.
The pandemic has really facilitated that way of connecting.
WT: Yeah the pandemic is the reason for this I would say.
We’ve all been trapped away for a very long time, have you managed to pick up any new skills over the lockdowns and maintain them?
WT: I haven’t taken up any extra-curricular activities like basket-weaving or banana bread making. But I have found the time useful for a lot of self-growth and self-reflection and a lot of centering. I’ve found that coming out, into a familiar situation like tour, all of sudden situations that might have been stressful of anxiety inducing in the past and identify them now as things I’ve all ready located, in this time of reflection. And now it seems much easier to handle.
NH: Umm, I think I had a pretty similar experience to most people during the pandemic. At first I was incredibly energized and then slowly ground down by it.
So over the last year, a lot of bands just exclusively used Instagram Live as a means of keeping in touch with fans and perform for them. But you also chose to physically be there in parks and on peoples doorsteps. I was wondering what the decision behind that was?
WT: Uh, I think, I did Instagram lives on a Monday night because we were writing songs throughout the week remotely, not just between Nick and I but also between our friend Jess who’s in The Staves and a singer called Jade Bird and a guy called Will from Mystery Jets and just a group of us, Anna B Savage, who’s just put out a great record. So a bunch of artists writing a song a day, doesn’t matter if it's not good, it just has to be something that’s finished by the end of the day, then we’d send them round to each other. So we had that nice little exercise early on and the Monday night live thing was a good way of wrapping those up to people and engaging with people that way. I did that for that reason. When we started playing at peoples doors and we did the show on Hampstead Heath, that was just a way of trying to play to people while we were releasing music.
NH: Yeah we were so desperate to just do it.
WT: Yeah it was an early notion that we thought we wouldn’t follow up, the idea of actually going and playing at peoples doors.
Was it a nice little return to somewhat normalcy that you got to? Or was it still completely alien to the norm?
WT: No, no, it felt like an opportunity to do something that we wouldn’t otherwise do.
NH: And would make other people really really happy at the same time.
I was first introduced to your stuff by my girlfriend who showed me your covers of Talking Head’s ‘Heaven’ and your busking performance of ‘This Boy’ by The Beatles and then while you were on tour in America you were doing those beautiful covers up in the Rockies and your wonderful version of ‘Dayman’ from It’s Always Sunny and then last year your out in parks and on peoples doorsteps. I was wondering, is playing in these outdoor places and non-typical venues something that’s just part of the Flyte DNA or is it just something you simply enjoy?
WT: That sort of began with us playing on the street in Notting Hill, because that was something we did to make rent. But it did also inadvertently become a way in which we defined how we were as artists because quite literally just singing in harmony was a practical way of making people stop and give us more money. And so it couldn’t have been a more useful petri dish as career artists.
NH: I think it really gave us the measure of songwriting on what songs connect on that completely simple level. Like, if you don’t play the right song, people will walk past and not give you money. It was this very sort of visceral way. So I think when we started doing those performances in odd spaces it felt like such a natural progression. Like what song is going to work with all this beautiful reverb. We found this spot, let’s go make the most of it. And I think with ‘Archie, Marry Me’, we just thought this is such a good song, we just want to put our own spin on it.
WT: Yeah, it wasn’t about the song being good.
NH: Yeah and it helped us with our songs too.
WT: We couldn’t have done those renderings of those songs had they not also been phenomenal songs to begin with. I don’t think we improved on Alvvays’ version. I think Alvvays’ version is perfect. But I think we obfuscated it enough that it then became an almost entirely different song.
"We couldn’t have done those renderings of those songs had they not also been phenomenal songs to begin with." - Will Taylor
Yeah it became like an entirely separate entity from the original.
WT: Yeah precisely, and I’m always upset with people who cover a song that has already been done perfectly. I think a cover is an opportunity to outdo something or find a song that is a beautifully written song but actually the way it was recorded and captured never quite did justice to how good the song was. There's your opportunity to cover something. That's not what we were doing, I think we were aware that we were covering songs that were already much loved and perfectly executed already. It was more of a way for us to exercise our vocal arrangement skills and being able to carry something off in a difficult environment. You know, its hard to perform something well without an instrument to base your tuning off of in an echo-ey tunnel, where every twenty minutes someone's gonna walk through with a beer and shouting. It’s tricky to do a show without having prepared or done a little reccy or something in the middle of Hampstead Heath, which is an incredibly busy part of London. These are challenges we clearly enjoy giving ourselves. It wasn’t an easy feat going to all those different doorsteps, sometimes people weren’t in, sometimes it took an hour to go from one door to the next. Sometimes it felt really awkward.
I was going to ask about that, what was it like? You’re obviously so used to playing for a large amount of people and then, at least at the park you were still gaining that sort of large crowd, compared to doorsteps where its just maybe two people?
NH: Somewhat even more nerve-racking.
WT: Definitely more nerve-racking. Because it’s easy to personify a large crowd as a large crowd. If you can look someone in the eye and say ‘this is just for you right now’, it turns into something entirely different. I think the fact that we put ourselves in these positions so often, is basically to do with ourselves being challenged and being vindicated. In the sense that what we’re being able to perform, if we’re able to do it in that kind of environment that is that laid bare, then we can do it anywhere.
I know you’re both huge cinema fans, I’m always fascinated by what inspires artists. I know you spoke before about how this latest record is so deeply personal, but I was wondering if there was any literature, films, TV, or other music that you drew particular inspiration from when creating and recording that album?
WT: I don’t think that the latest one was particularly inspired by cinema or literature or anything actually, other than the real life. Where all of our previous work has been quite heavily inspired by -
NH: The first record is very very much to do with a cast of characters and much more abstract than this one.
WT: Having said that, we’re often trying to be very postmodern in the way that we harp back to a lot of 60s and 70s and 80s. We’re not afraid to be deliberately un-contemporary. Because effectively what we’re doing is taking the music that we think is the best and its the music we really listen to and we’re not trying to deny that that’s our feeling about music. And then we’re using that as a template to become as present as possible in our own lives. So that the music we’re making, I think, is as modern as it possibly could be, because we’re going entirely alone on our own experiences and we’re reacting to the environment we surround ourselves in and that we enjoy. So I think, you know, reference is arbitrary. Sometimes there’s an easy, kind of, identifier to pluck from you know; ‘oh there’s a little Neil Young melody or there’s a little thing here or isn’t that Beatles-y’ but that’s totally arbitrary I think. It’s completely postmodern. It’s there for us to play with and take. And the important thing is actually our own experiences, in a sense of articulating some sort of truth and putting it within this template. I think with the last record we were just kind of letting go of any sense of reference or inspiration and just using our own instincts and eye for a story to tell.
How have your expectations of perception when recording the album compared to the way its resonated with fans?
WT: We are having the best time performing this album because it’s so much easier than the first one.
NH: It’s so much more natural. It's like [Will] said, we used our instincts, where with our first record we tried to challenge, we tried to pack every moment with something exciting and melodic -
NH: Yeah, and with this one we went with the feel and we just tried to make something that is naked and wooden and live. So when we actually get on stage and perform it, it’s like ‘oh my god, we don’t need to do all these huge stacks of oohs and aah harmonies’, we get to all just look at each other and feel the chemistry on the stage. It’s something that I guess we’ve never really been able to do, just chill.
WT: We created a chilled thing for ourselves in the studio deliberately in order to let the emotions speak rather than the music. So now when we get up on stage that’s all we have to do. It’s hard sometimes, because what you have to do is place yourself in the emotional spot you were in when you were writing the songs, if you want to really connect and engage. And I can actually feel myself going off there boil on stage if I’m getting distracted by something that’s maybe happening off stage or in the room. I can feel myself disconnecting with what I’m singing about. I think that every artist struggles with that when they’re playing live. You forget you’re actually singing something that meant something.
NH: You’re just recounting it.
WT: But with this it’s really easy. It just takes me straight back and I sing it ten times better than I’ve ever sung anything live because I’m emotionally there. It’s not about being in tune or being in rhythm, its about ‘oh you pulled all your emotional energy and put it into every note you’ve sung’ and that's just the most satisfying thing that's reminding me that I actually really like being in a band and I really like touring and it's completely worth it. Because that's another thing that can also go out the window when you’re touring too much and you’re playing the same songs every night, you forget why you wrote them and why you’re singing them in the first place.
NH: You become like a fucking robot and go on pure muscle memory.
"We get to all just look at each other and feel the chemistry on the stage." - Nick Hill
It just becomes like, ‘the job’?
WT: Yeah, but I don’t think these songs will ever wane in that sense.
NH: It’s a new and exciting feeling to be moved by something, like genuinely moved by something that we’re playing on stage together. Because it’s kind of one of the first times that's really happened to me.
WT: Yeah I think when we were writing the songs in the first place was when I was most emotionally connected to them. Then from there, there’s a lot of production and mixing and music-video making, in those moments you do kind of forget the etymology of it all. But these are the kind of bookends for it. There's the writing and there’s the performing it again for people, who have clearly come, we’re noticing, for this new record. A lot of them are happy to hear some of the old songs but they’re clearly here for the new record. Everywhere, everyone has a story when we meet them afterwards about how they connected to it. Its always about how they’ve had some harrowing time with some break up and it’s great to connect.
After the year everyone had with all these heightened emotions and anxieties that you touched on before, when you returned to normality you kind of realise that they weren’t irrational and in fact, all you could do was worry. I feel like this latest album works as a companion to that. It’s obviously very hard to listen to, knowing the pain that's being felt, but as a listener there’s a sense of deep understanding, past a lyrical level and sonic level, to that raw feeling that's so relatable and that really translates.
WT: That's music's way. That's what I hope everyone thinks and if they don’t, that's fine too because they haven’t had that kind of connection. Which is great because then don’t listen to it. Its not for you, like you don’t like chocolate or you don’t want to watch that show. And that's fine. There's a sudden deliberate reason for this music, which is such a relief. Cause otherwise it’s just like, how do you describe music you like? Or how do you get your friend to like it? Now there’s suddenly this sense of purpose for it. Its not about your taste in music or who you are really, its about have you had this experience? Then this is going to articulate it.
A universal feeling.
WT: Yeah exactly.
NH: It transcends the music itself.
You spoke about how great its been playing this album for you, are there any standout tracks that you’ve enjoyed playing the most since returning?
NH: I think for me, finally getting to play Everyone’s A Winner on stage is just really really great.
WT: Everyone’s A Winner always soars very nicely.
NH: It was such a challenging song to write and such a broad sentiment. We had such a hard time getting it perfect and it just felt like one of our biggest achievements. I don’t know why, it’s such a simple song and trying to frame it right was just impossible. So finally getting to play it and the full band and the feeling, it’s my best moment.
WT: At the front of the set we’re doing: Easy Tiger, Losing You, I’ve Got A Girl, Under The Skin, and Everyone’s A Winner. So we’re doing the first five tracks of the record at the beginning of the show and that as a sweep, for me, is great. I love just walking through those tracks. They just kind of feed into the next. Being able to sit in the cruise of Losing You live and just enjoying. Feeling so safe and relaxed in the feeling of that track. I’ve Got A Girl is really fun and Under The Skin is really powerful and intense.
WT: Theatrical, exactly. Then Everyone’s A Winner is a moment to really engage with the subject matter and connect. I’m really enjoying all of It.
Here at No Party, No Disco! We do a segment on our website called ‘Music History 101’, where writers get to pick any artist and anything about them and just write about something they personally love. If you were given the option to do this, who would you choose?
WT: It’s a tough one.
NH: It’s very tough (laughs).
WT: Do we have to do that now?
I do have the pen and paper in my bag now if you’d like.
WT: I’d do it about Paul Simon probably.
NH: Fuck me, it’s so hard. I’m very in-between Joni Mitchell ‘Blue’ era or Stevie Wonder ‘Innervisions’ era, the relationship between the grooves and all the instruments he plays. I think musically thats what I would do, but songwriting-wise, I would probably do Joni.
WT: See, I would love to do both of those but something about those two artists, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near. They’re so out of my league, in my head. There's this sort of mysticism about how good those artists were in their prime. With Paul Simon, obviously it’s just as good, there’s just something with him, this craftsmanship. It would be easy and quite satisfying to write about.
His solo career specifically or his entire career?
WT: It would be his entire writing career, yeah.
You can stream Flyte's latest album 'This Is Really Going To Hurt' on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube & all other streaming sites and find them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook. Catch them on the rest of their tour around the UK & Ireland, find tickets here.
20 - The Caves, Edinburgh
21 - Riverside 2, Newcastle Upon Tyne
24 - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
26 - Patterns, Brighton
28 - O2 Empire Shepherds Bush, London
27 - The Grand Social, Dublin
28 - Ulster Sports Club, Belfast