As you can probably imagine, I listen to a ton of music. In a job like this, it really does take something special for a group to stand out from the crowd. It says a lot then, that London’s August and After are one of my favourite folk bands to ever feature on my channel! The love affair began in my April 2016 compilation with their song ‘Wolves’ (which you can hear above) and continued in my August, Halloween and Winter comps. They most recently featured in the smash-hit Relaxing Sunday Mornings which hit half a million views today. Find out what all the fuss is about in my interview with the band below…
Hello! What is your name, age and role in August and After?
My name’s Ned Mortimer and I’m 26 – I sing, play the (nylon-stringed) guitar and piano, and co-write the songs… I also work with Jordan’s uncle to design our artwork and do various other things like manage the website and mailing list. Running a band can be like running a small business, you just muck in with everything and learn lots in the process!
Hi there Ned! Thanks for joining me. You sound very busy haha! Could you please give me three words to describe August and After’s music for someone who’s never heard of it?
Sincere, playful, thoughtful
Give me a brief history on the band. What inspired you all to make music together?
Vedantha and I met in our first week at Cambridge uni – we had both turned up with the intention of forming a band, and gravitated towards each other as soon as we found out we both loved songwriting, albeit with different musical influences. Vedantha had really only been a guitarist up to this point, but he had a beautiful low voice and I would harmonise vocals above him (probably because of a history being in choirs…) – everyone was telling us how well our voices worked together and so we started playing shows around the city.
Fast-forward three years, we moved to London, where we met Jordan at a Christmas party on the south bank. She was studying viola at the Royal Academy, and immediately charmed us with her enthusiasm and amazing musical knowledge. She brought something different to the table – a love of classical music, a more technical understanding of arrangement, etc – but shared our passion for carving out a unique sound. She started playing with us at all our London shows and we formed as a trio.
Wonderful! My viewers will be most familiar with your Cascades EP which you released last year (I’ve featured three tracks from this record on alexrainbirdMusic). Do you have a favourite song on that album? Any particular tracks for readers to check out to best introduce them to your sound?
I wouldn’t hesitate in pointing people to ‘Wolves’ as a good marker for us. It has all the elements that define our sound – our three-part vocal harmonies, classically inspired viola and piano lines, contrast between loud and quiet sections, and a haunting finish!
On balance, ‘Halley’ is probably my personal favourite – Vedantha’s childhood story of his dad showing him a passing comet and explaining to him that he wouldn’t be there to see it the next time it came round. Vedantha seems to have had some pretty profound thoughts for an eight-year old and captures them beautifully in the song – “I thought a wish could rewrite the patterns of light, set the grim parts glowing…” Musically, even with the dark subject matter, he keeps the mood fairly playful and optimistic. I remember when he first played me the song; I knew straight away he had written something special!
Awesome! ‘Wolves’ first became my favourite, then ‘Vancouver Waves’ and now for the last few months it’s been ‘Halley’. I love it! So a little bird told me that you’ve been working on new music recently. How’s that going? Any particular inspirations for your songwriting this time around?
We’ve just been putting the finishing touches on three new singles – we’re super excited to start releasing them in the summer! Jonathan, our producer in Paris, has done a beautiful job in stepping up the quality of sound and arrangement. That said, we didn’t want to do anything drastically different to Cascades – we felt there was still a lot to develop in our sound and didn’t want to lose the sincerity…
In terms of specific influences, there are a number of tracks that came up as pointers for how we wanted to produce particular moments in the songs: ‘Hej, me I’m Light’ – Phosphorescent; ‘End of the Affair’ – Ben Howard; ‘Bird’ – Billie Marten. They’re all great songs you should check out!
Thank you, I will. Incredibly excited for the new singles! You’ve been playing together for a few years now. How do you feel you and your band’s music has evolved since you first began?
Right from the beginning, I think we’ve had a consistent idea of how we want our music to develop – rich orchestral layers, a big sound, etc. Over the years, we’ve become more and more precise in achieving this. Our arrangements are more sophisticated than in our earliest recordings – we used to go with the first thing that made sense, whereas now we put a lot more thought into individual parts. For example, Jordan really step changed how we arrange our string parts – rather than simple parts with single held notes, or 4-bar sections just being repeated several times over, the lines are now more intricate and nuanced. You can hear this nicely in the loud section after the third chorus of ‘Halley’, or the end of ‘Somewhere in Florence’, compared with one of our earlier songs, like ‘Set Sail’ where the parts are fairly repetitive…
Yeah I can definitely hear that. I’m glad it’s all progressing nicely for you! Besides releasing new music, do you have any more plans for the future?
Excitingly, we just found out we were long-listed for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, so we’re waiting to see what happens with that! Also we have a few exciting gigs coming up, including a support slot for Natacha Atlas at Rich Mix in London on 23rd April…
More generally, we’ve just started working with a new manager, Meg – she’s brilliant and has some really original ideas for how we can promote our songs and feed our other interests into our plans. For example, I love cricket and so we’d love to play a show at Lords Cricket Ground (if you’re reading this…)
We’re also really keen to use our music as a discussion platform for what some of the songs are about, rather than being too self-focused – so instead of our message being “here’s a song called ‘Waltz for Marie’ about a woman trapped in a violent relationship – please buy the song!”, it should be “here’s a song about a woman trapped in a violent relationship, this is a problem that affects thousands of women (and men) and we can help by encouraging victims to speak out about their experiences…” Obviously this stuff can often come across as opportunistic and self-aggrandising, but it’s worth overcoming that and thinking bigger than ourselves/our music.
Well that’s fantastic! It seems like the future has never been brighter for you guys. 2017 is going to be your year, for sure! Finally, any last words?
Dr Rainbird, now I know your evil master plan, I will escape and save the world from your tyranny…
Seriously though – your channel is amazing and you do beautiful work for emerging artists around the world. At the risk of sounding sycophantic, the exposure we got when you first featured ‘Wolves’ was invaluable. So so glad you’ve developed the playlists into something bigger (website, label) can’t wait to see where you take it!
Hahaha I’ve asked every band the same final question and you’re the person to pick up on this… loving the 007 reference 😉 Anyway, thank YOU Ned! It was always a dream to be able to help independent artists all over the world, but I never set out to actually do it or ever believe it was possible… but here we are. Now I’ve got to this point, I’m going to take it as far as I can!
Find August and After on
Official website: http://www.augustandafter.co.uk/