Guitar bands in the UK and Ireland are thriving right now and another act set to strengthen the charge is south London’s Bleach Lab.
The four-piece’s brand of mesmerising, melodic dream pop is entwined with the deeply personal and honest songwriting from singer Jenna Kyle and bassist Josh Longman, an engrossing combination wonderfully captured in their debut EP A Calm Sense of Surrounding as they explore the experiences of heartache and grief.
This vulnerable, heart-on-sleeve songwriting approach, combined with luscious, layered soundscapes akin to Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star, has seen the Buckinghamshire-formed quartet justifiably tipped as ones to watch in 2021 by a number of publications, while latest single, the shimmering Old Ways, achieved track of the week status on Shaun Keaveny’s BBC 6 Music show.
“Me and Josh tend to share lyric writing out quite evenly, so there is a real mix in there of different perspectives and emotions”, Jenna told Daily Star.
“For me it doesn't come easy to put everything down into words, I really have to get into the mindset and submerge myself in the emotions to be able to write them down cohesively. So for that reason it can be quite hard. However it is a wonderful and therapeutic outlet in a lot of ways. I think it helps, it's almost like once it's all out there you can let it go?”
Josh added: “I found it difficult at times to be so open when writing parts of this EP. It was opening an ugly can of worms from the past. But upon completion I found myself better off for doing it and finding that 'Calm Sense of Surrounding’.”
And as we look forward to live music returning over the next few months, make sure Bleach Lab’s headline show north London’s The Lexington on October 20 is firmly marked in your diary.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with them to find out more about A Calm Sense of Surrounding’s writing process and their rise so far.
Hi guys. How have the past 12 months been for you? How have you managed to navigate a pandemic as a band?
Jenna: “I think the last year has been challenging certainly. I would say though that it is also been pleasantly eventful for us as a band. We were afraid of losing momentum early on, however I think the fear combined with wanting to continue a sense of normality allowed us to continue progressing and making what we could of the situation.
“Additionally, we have always had logistical issues even pre-pandemic as we all live in different areas. So we were already quite used to working remotely with each other, which was a huge help.”
You’re releasing your debut EP A Calm Sense of Surrounding on March 19. What was its writing and recording process like? When did you begin?
Jenna: “The EP is an amalgamation of some older songs that we have had up our sleeves from the early days when we first started writing together and also some newer stuff that has kind of begun to take us on the path of developing and exploring our sound.”
Frank: “So in a sense it begun pretty much when the band got together for the first time in 2017.”
Jenna: “Recording was slightly strange as it was done over a period that was just after the first lockdown. We weren't all able to be there at the same time so it was a bit challenging and it prolonged the process slightly.”
Frank: “Thankfully our producer Max was able to work everything together in the end though.”
Lyrically, it’s an incredibly personal EP that melds together traumatic experiences of grief; the death of Josh’ father and the end of Jenna’s long-term relationship. What was it like getting into the mindset of something so personal and turning it into song form? From a personal point of view, did you find it helped dealing with those emotions in some way?
Jenna: “Me and Josh tend to share lyric writing out quite evenly, so there is a real mix in there of different perspectives and emotions. For me it doesn't come easy to put everything down into words, I really have to get into the mindset and submerge myself in the emotions to be able to write them down cohesively. So for that reason it can be quite hard. However it is a wonderful and therapeutic outlet in a lot of ways. I think it helps, it's almost like once it's all out there you can let it go?”
Josh: “I found it difficult at times to be so open when writing parts of this EP. It was opening an ugly can of worms from the past. But upon completion I found myself better off for doing it and finding that 'Calm Sense of Surrounding'. If our music in some shape or way can help one person deal with a loss, whatever that may be, I will be very happy and has made it all worth it.”
Musically, were you inspired by anything when writing it? Who are your main influences?
Jenna: “Around the time of writing some of the newer songs, I was listening to a lot of solo female artists like Adrianne Lenker, Julia Jacklin and Hannah Cohen. They are all such beautiful lyricists, their words are vividly immersive stories of their life experiences.”
Frank: “A lot of the production and musical elements in the songs have come from listening to a lot of shoegaze and post rock. Cocteau Twins and Mogwai are a big influence on how we wanted the EP to sound, but we saw a lot of elements from other artists like Joy Division and Radiohead creeping up from time to time.”
Josh: “For me I would definitely also say Interpol and Slowdive.”
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You’ve been championed by the likes of Gigwise and latest single Old Ways was added to BBC 6 Music’s B-list. What’s it like having that support early on?
Jenna: “Surreally amazing. It's not something we necessarily thought would happen so early on for us, and the fact that it has is just hugely reassuring and has given us so much more confidence in what we're putting out there. We're really excited to see where it goes from here.”
Tell me more about the band’s formation. When did you get together?
Jenna: “Originally Josh and Frank had started working together on a separate project, they met via an ad online requesting band members. Safe to say that didn't last awfully long and Josh reached out to me to ask if I was interested in stepping in as a vocalist as we had studied music together at college previously. The first formation of Bleach Lab was back in 2017 and it has taken us to where we are now with our newly found drummer, Kieran.”
Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel for live music in the UK. How much are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?
Jenna: “It's all we have our eyes set on at the moment! We have all been deprived of live music for so long, we are so ready to be back on stage and also be back in the audience too!”
Frank: “We're so excited to have announced and sold out our first show back as well. it's going to be an incredible feeling getting to play together.”
You're part of this exciting charge of emerging acts in this country right now. How would you describe the UK’s music scene?
Frank: “This last year will have left a lot of artists feeling very disconnected from one another. But it has still surprisingly been a great time for discovering new music. There have been some amazing releases from UK artists. So much of the music we've been listening to is from artists we hadn't listened to prior to lockdown.
“Hopefully others have found the same, and that they'll have a burning desire to go and see the new music they have discovered live once gigs return.”
Josh: “I think there is going to be a massive revival of guitar music once the world begins to see some normality again and I can't wait. History shows there tends to be a massive influx of creativity when people are faced with hard times and I'm sure that new upcoming UK artists won't disappoint. But times are hard for bands right now and it's important for everyone to keep their heads up.”
What are your next steps? Do you have an ultimate goal?
Jenna: “Our next steps are to keep writing, keep recording and hopefully get ourselves back on stage as soon as possible. We have been keeping ourselves very busy in lockdown indeed. The ultimate goal is definitely along the lines of US and international tours, hopefully some incredible festivals!”
Bleach Lab’s A Calm Sense of Surrounding EP is out now. They headline The Lexington on October 20. Tickets here.
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