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  • Ru Pearson

An Interview with Electronic Dream-Pop Trio, 'Night Tapes'

© Natalie Hewitt

Read on as Night Tapes speak to INJECTION magazine about life in London, their meticulous creative process and their third EP, ‘Perfect Kindness’.

Chatting to Iiris, Max, and Richie, it’s easy to imagine how they work so well together. Even when Zoom fails us and we have a host of technical difficulties to contend with, they remain as relaxed and down-to-earth as ever. Perhaps they’re the real deal: chilled out people who make chilled out music. Crafting their expansive, otherworldly sound from their home in South London, Night Tapes combine Iiris’s layered vocals with minimalist drum loops and languid electronic beats that will leave you melting blissfully into their luscious soundscape.

The band’s latest offering, ‘Perfect Kindness,’ is the ideal soundtrack to late night drives, a dreamy night at home in a dimly lit room, or, as Iiris suggests, long walks in a forest somewhere. The lyrics, lilting and light, conjure images of the metaphysical and the mythical, and the slight lo-fi atmosphere of the tracks feels candid and easy.

Having signed to Nettwerk Music Group in 2022, played SXSW in March, and amassed almost 400,000 Spotify listeners from all corners of the globe, Night Tapes have certainly been kept busy. Catching them just before they embark on their first tour, I sat down with them to get the lowdown.

You formed after university, jamming and experimenting in your house in South London. Are you all from the city originally? How has the environment of London shaped your creative output?

IIRIS: I don’t think any of us are from the city originally, actually! I’m from Tallinn, Estonia. MAX: Me and Richie have known each other since we were really young. We grew up together in the New Forest, a couple of hours outside of London. We moved to London to meet more musicians because there’s only so much you can do where we’re from. We needed to be in a more concentrated place.

IIRIS: We met at uni back when the EU was still open, and it was easy for foreign students. I decided to come and study at Goldsmiths because I heard that James Blake studied there. London makes you work hard. The music scene here is intense. It’s a “we want it fast, and we want it now” kind of thing. So, I think it’s made us more productive and more concentrated in our efforts to make music.

MAX: It’s an accelerated and concentrated environment, I think. Everything’s amped up in London, which is a good thing and a bad thing.

IIRIS: There’s a weird paradox within that, too. Night Tapes started off as a fun thing we would do after work -

I think sometimes projects that are not borne out of a really defined motivation can often end up having the most organic, natural results… IIRIS: Yes, because the axioms are pure.

You played SXSW festival this summer, how was your music received in the States? Do you sense a difference between crowds in the UK and America? RICHIE: On the music front, we felt pretty at home. It was the first time I’d ever been out to the U.S. and all the music there felt quite expansive. Even music you’d hear in the supermarkets. That element of our sound feels reminiscent of those classic American driving songs…wide roads, the whole cliché. People definitely responded to it.

IIRIS: It was really lovely. I’ve been dreaming of going to SXSW for a long time so, for me, I was so hyped to be there. MAX: We had a really nice experience of SXSW because we stayed with locals. We played a neighbourhood party, which was probably my favourite gig of the week. They closed off the road and just invited all the neighbours out to the street -- IIRIS: It was very Dazed and Confused Vibes.

I heard that there was a big electrical storm at one point…

MAX: Yeah! We were playing right before it, actually, at the Austin Brewery. When we walked outside there was this deluge of rain and epic lightning strikes all across the sky.

RICHIE: It’s pretty much all anyone talks about from SXSW now, it’s like “Did you see the storm, though?!”

As a trio, how do you mesh your individual talents to create your cohesive, other-worldly sound? MAX: The actual setup is very fluid. The roles are quite undefined in the band, which means that we get a combination of everyone’s skills. RICHIE: Stylistically, we all have similar interests which helps. Iiris comes from more of a pop background than us, though.

IIRIS: I brought them over to the dark side…

Congratulations on the release of your latest EP, “Perfect Kindness”. How has the process of making this new music been for you?

IIRIS: It’s been a long, long process!

RICHIE: A lot of these tracks were actually from before we ever released any music. Tracks like ‘Selene’, ‘Inigo’ and ‘Silent Song’ were made a year before we made ‘Forever’. (2019 EP) We really loved the songs on ‘Perfect Kindness’ and we wanted to get them out into the world at the best possible time. During the middle of the pandemic didn’t feel right. I’m happy we waited on it and got everything together because it really worked out.

IIRIS: Yeah, and in the meantime, we got signed and got to do some snazzy music videos.

MAX: Yeah, and the extra time meant that the songs are very refined; they are detailed. We went to the deep end with the details on this EP. I think they are songs that we could have worked on forever. It’s probably a good thing that we eventually had to put them out.

So there was a final deadline that meant the drafts had to stop?

IIRIS: Haha, yes. We had to settle on one of the ever-changing versions.

Would you ever release any of the other versions?

MAX: No because the final version is the best version of each of these tracks. That’s not necessarily true for every song that we have released but for these songs, on the ‘Perfect Kindness’ EP, it’s true.

RICHIE: With some of our stuff we might look back and think about how we could have done something differently but there’s not so much of that with these ones, which is nice. It’s interesting now, writing new stuff, and having such intricate tracks out there because we don’t have five years this time.

MAX: Our latest track represents the complete antithesis to what we’re talking about now. That song was made so quickly; it’s the other side of what we can put out.

RICHIE: Yeah, it feels very naked but also relaxed.

MAX: The process of making that one was a lot less intense. On songs like ‘Inigo’ we literally spent hours agonising over the smallest details.

IIRIS: We went round and round and round for years.

MAX: There’s literally thousands of bounces of that song.

IIRIS: Ok maybe not thousands… MAX: Tens then.

© Natalie Hewitt

With the writing process, do you each have designated parts to play in that or is it always completely collaborative?

MAX: It’s really collaborative. We have a hot seat, which is basically the only seat in front of the computer and then we have this sofa that we’re sitting on now. Two of us will be here and one of us will be in the hot seat and we just sort of rotate. So, one of us will have some time up close and personal with the music and the other two can be Rick Rubin-ing on the sofa, just sort of shouting ideas. It’s good because it means that one person doesn’t get too lost in it. As soon as one person is spending two hours tuning a kick drum, one of us on the sofa can just say “It doesn’t matter. Let’s move on''.

RICHIE: That makes it sound like quite an aggressive environment!

MAX: It’s more that the people on the sofa act as the voice of reason. A deep-dive into a Logik project is a cool space to get into but you can lose a lot of time. And your mind, actually.

IIRIS: I think Richie does that most often.

RICHIE: What? Lose my mind in the details? Yeah, I think for each track I probably spend a good 45 minutes on 4 seconds of sound…

MAX: He’s like a spider, spinning a very delicate web of automation.

RICHIE: I know that the changes are often very slight, but they are felt rather than heard. That matters to me.

The lyrics on the EP explore themes of the metaphysical, with recurring references to space, time, and the interstellar. Is this something that fascinates you in everyday life?

IIRIS: Max’s favourite movie is Interstellar.

MAX: No, it’s The Truman Show! But Interstellar is my favourite Christopher Nolan film.

IIRIS: We are all very much into space. After writing lots of love songs, at some point you’re going to come to a place where you’re questioning the deeper meaning of things. Like life on planet earth.

RICHIE: You were reading lots of interesting books at the time of writing the EP, Iiris. I think that comes through, conceptually, in a few places with the lyrics.

IIRIS: I love it when I can hear a spiritual journey going on in a song. We are all on our own journey. I like it when there are moments of understanding in songs, too. So, if I find an understanding of some sort, I try to capture it.

MAX: We’re all space cadets.

IIRIS: In slightly different ways, though. Richie can probably tell you the density of a star or something, but I think about it all in a more conceptual way and how it relates to life on earth.

What books were you reading, Iiris?

IIRIS: I was getting quite into Jungian philosophy and the tarot, which opens up a whole can of different philosophies because there are so many different approaches to this alternate way of being. The tarot tries to capture the circularity of things. The best place to go is down… down into yourself. Trying to become more “real” - whatever that means. To balance out the mythical with the empirical, I also read popular science.

RICHIE: We seem to collect words and phrases from books and our experiences. Iiris is amazingly quick at writing lyrics, which is staggering to us because it would take us years to get anywhere close!

MAX: A lot of the time, the first thing Iiris sings is the thing that we keep. Sometimes she won’t even re-sing it. That first take will be the take. She’s done the work beforehand collecting lyrics and ideas, so when we need it it’s already there.

IIRIS: Integrating experience and turning it into art is what we all do. We all collect things. I collect lyrics and words and phrases. Perfect kindness was one of those really weird situations. I was literally falling asleep when we were trying to record the song, and Max just put a phone by my face and recorded my voice.

MAX: We recorded those vocals on an iPhone. Iiris has a particular way of singing when she’s about to fall asleep that’s really…cool?

IIRIS: Probably because I don’t give a shit anymore!

© Natalie Hewitt

Dream-pop is a genre often attributed to your music. Do you feel like this fits? Do you have other ideas about your sound?

MAX: I didn’t know that dream pop existed until people started to call us dream pop.

RICHIE: I think it’s appropriate, though.

MAX: Yeah, there’s definitely pop sensibilities in the reverbs.

RICHIE: I would have a hard time thinking of a better descriptor, I think. IIRIS: I like it because it works like an umbrella term. We try to weave different genres throughout our tracks, so a term like dream pop allows a certain degree of wiggle room within it.

I absolutely loved the music video for Humans. What was it like to create?

MAX: That was the biggest video we’ve made to date. We got to work with Taz (@taztrondelix) who we’ve been massive fans of for ages. It was a lot less DIY than most of our videos.

RICHIE: Taz is really good at building vignettes or surreal dreamscapes that take you to unexpected places. It was really cool being on a set with so many people working on it.

IIRIS: So many talented people. The dancers were amazing. We felt really lucky to be able to do a music video to such an amazing standard of production. It was nice not to have to pull a cameraman around on a skateboard like we used to…

RICHIE: When we made the music video for ‘In Poly Amber,’ Eugene, one of our videographers, sat on a longboard to try and get some moving shots of Iiris skating.

MAX: I think it was a cobbled street too, right? Outside the Barbican? I just remember it being so bumpy!

RICHIE: I don’t dislike the old videos, though. I think people can tell there’s a DIY element to it and that definitely has its own charm.

Who are your influences? What sort of music do you listen to in your downtime?

MAX: I was listening to a lot of rain sounds while making the EP, actually, and Hiroshi Yashimura. Nothing with a beat, to be honest.

RICHIE: Big Thief is one of my favourites at the moment. I used to listen to Beach Fossils a lot, too. We all listen to a fair amount of electronic music. I think during the process of actively writing stuff, it’s quite good to listen to music that’s adjacent to what you’re making without being too close to it. Some of the bands we like do sound similar to us but if you over-listen to that you can subconsciously pull elements of it into your own sound.

IIRIS: I listen to lots of dance music and alt-pop. Before Night Tapes, I was in a riot girl punk band.

My favourite track on the EP is ‘Selene’. Do you each have a favourite? Can you tell me a little bit about what your favourite tracks mean to you?

RICHIE: The lyrics on ‘Perfect Kindness’ are my favourite of anything she’s written.

MAX: We felt really free to experiment on that song.

IIRIS: In a typical case of recency bias, the newest song is always my favourite, I think. So ‘Silent Song’ and ‘Moonrise’ for me. I love Richie’s chords and Max’s drumming on ‘Moonrise’. ‘Silent song’ is probably the song I’ve listened to the most. It’s a song to go and walk in a forest to.

MAX: ‘Silent Song’ for me, too. It feels like a room you can go into. It feels like there’s no beginning or end because it can be looped. You can dwell in it for a long time.

Is there an overarching message you want fans to get from the EP?

IIRIS: I just hope that it facilitates a journey that someone out there can vibe with. I think it’s an EP that quietly invites you to delve into it, but at the same time is something you can effortlessly live with in the moment.

RICHIE: It doesn’t demand anything of you –

IIRIS: Yeah, totally. I really dislike it when songs try to tell me what to do, for example. I hope that no one feels obligated to feel or think anything when they listen to Perfect Kindness. I sometimes get into arguments with songs. Drake’s Passionfruit, or Hot Line Bling - I always fight with those songs. Like, clearly you didn’t give her enough space, Drake! I always want to always keep my lyrics open ended and open to interpretation.

So, what’s next for Night Tapes?

MAX: We’re going on our first tour! RICHIE: Because of COVID it feels like we’re a couple of years behind on the tour front. We’re really excited to get out and see some new places, though.

IIRIS: I am so pumped for the tour. So, so pumped. I can’t wait to see new places and meet new people. We’re also already working on a new EP, our fourth, and after that will come an album. Expansion feels nice right now. There’s so much for us to explore with our music.

Which stop on the tour are you most excited for?

IIRIS: Copenhagen for me because I’ve never been.

MAX: Paris. RICHIE: Paris, too! I’ve never played there before.

Finally – for your London fans who will want to know…what’s your favourite venue in the city?

MAX: The Windmill is great. We’ve probably played there more than anywhere else.

IIRIS: Yeah, or Colour Factory.

Check out Night Tapes on Spotify and on Instagram for more information about their upcoming shows.


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