To celebrate the limited edition T7 Gold collaboration with Burberry we conceived Live for Burberry: four unsigned acts, the legendary RAK studio and a unique way of recording resulting in four live EPs available exclusively through Society of Sound.
We asked each of the artists about the experience of being in the studio, their influences and what we should be listening to. Fenne Lily’s folk-tinged songs are deceptive, the ethereal vocals belying a tough resolve. Only 18 years old at the time of writing, the maturity of her song-writing is impressive. We expect big things.
Together we’ve created a unique recording experience enabling listeners to hear the music exactly as you did while recording. How did it change the way you performed during the session?
It’s quite a daunting experience, recording while knowing that absolutely everything you hear as a performer will be heard by anyone who listens to that recording; every breath, change of tone, wavering notes. Everything was picked up, which meant that I was not only focusing on what I normally would while recording or performing live but these extra factors, too. Having said that, it was also very liberating as I had the freedom to play around with the dynamic between my voice and guitar; I could subtly change volume to bring out certain parts of each song and concentrate on making each track as intimate as I possibly could. As everything I was doing was being recorded in a very raw way, nothing got lost in translation and I had the power to make each track exactly how I wanted it to be heard, which was a pretty special opportunity to have.
Would this session influence how you record in the future?
Recording at RAK definitely opened my eyes to alternative ways of approaching studio recording; in the past I’ve always put down a guitar track and sung over it separately, although I’ve always found it more difficult to sing over a click than I do while performing live, as it often feels quite unnatural and restricting. The fact that I was given the chance to get an extremely high quality recording by performing as I feel most comfortable (singing and playing at the same time) was an absolute first for me, and is definitely something I would consider for future recordings.
RAK is a legendary studio. Everyone from Radiohead to Rod Stewart has recorded there, how did it feel to be performing in that space?
The space was incredible – I think the first thing I said when I walked into the main room was that it felt like I was in a spaceship. It’s got quite a daunting atmosphere, because of the history of the place and the amazing artists who’ve worked and recorded there, but consequently it’s impossible not to feel super inspired and privileged. I also felt a lot of pressure to really make the most of being there and working with Kevin; to come away with something truly representative of my music. The recordings are everything I was hoping for and more, so it was a pretty perfect day! My only regret: not taking any photos.
Who currently influences your song-writing? What artists or producers resonate with you?
I grew up listening to my parents’ record collection, mainly artists like Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, The Velvet Underground etc, and I think as a result I got quite used to the raw, immediate sound that music from that kind of era has. It’s made me very aware that a track doesn’t always have to be perfect and polished to touch people – often it’s the complete opposite which makes an impression on someone. From my experience, anyway. I was also exposed to live music from a young age so have always really appreciated and sought out musicians who translate well in a live setting; who can bring something different to their material at a gig and make you fall in love with them all over again, even though you may have listened to their singles or albums a tonne of times. In terms of the writing process, I have a couple of go-to albums that I listen to if I’m having a creative block or just feel like I’ve got stuck in a rut and my songs are beginning to repeat themselves or sound too similar. The first is ‘Lovers’ by The Sleepy Jackson – their melodies are mad and although it’s very different from the music I’m making, they leave a lot of space in their songs which I subconsciously fill and then realise that I have a new idea of my own. The second is Bombay Bicycle Club’s ‘Flaws’ album, because of the production and the way it feels really raw and instinctive.
Is there anything in your Live for Burberry recording that you are particularly pleased with and that we should listen out for?
I recorded a song called ‘Young & Younger’ that I wrote when I was about 16 – I never really get the opportunity to play it live as it’s a little more delicate than the rest of my usual set. The only other recording of it that I have is a bedroom recording I did when I lived at home in Dorset, and I felt that the set up in the RAK studio would be perfect for capturing the softness and vulnerability that makes it so hard to articulate in a live setting. It’s absolutely my favourite recording of that session – the balance between my voice and guitar is exactly how I always wanted it to come across and there’s a couple of (accidental) vocal wobbles which give it a kind of cracked, whimsical sound. Kevin (Bacon) also suggested amplifying my guitar for that track alone and it brought something a little bit more atmospheric and haunting to the recording than the rest. It was quite a cathartic process as well, recording something I wrote so long ago and getting put back into that 16-year-old mindset, so I’m just incredibly pleased and slightly relieved that it worked out so well.
For Bowers & Wilkins, Burberry is a perfect partner, who would your perfect
collaboration be with?
Recently I’ve become fully obsessed with Larry Clark’s work, after watching his film ‘Kids’ and studying his photography as part of my art course, so I guess on an artistic level, making a video or working alongside him in a photographic sense would be incredible (I’m not sure he still practices?! But his back-catalogue is stunning and the visual art he creates is a beautiful balance of intimacy and grit). Having said that, in a musical sense I’m really drawn to the idea of eventually putting my vocals on something more electronic, as I’ve been working acoustically up until now, so to collaborate with an artist like Shura (my music crush at the moment) or Caribou (why not) would be pretty spectacular. It’s ridiculously hard to think of a top collaboration as there are so many people and projects that I hold in very high regard, in all areas of art and music, but I think being able to explore other areas of music and the mediums that surround it is an extremely important avenue to go down and although I’d be selective in terms of collaboration, I feel that any work that I find inspiring and real and truly an expression of the artist who’s created it would be a valuable thing to incorporate into my own practice.
Finally, can you tell us your favourite all time live recording?
Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser recorded a live acoustic demo of ‘All Flowers in Time (Bend Towards the Sun)’ and the first time I heard it, I literally couldn’t speak – my flat mate put it on at breakfast and I stopped mid-chew and sat in silence for the full 5 minutes. It was never meant to be released or even heard, and Elizabeth Fraser was apparently really upset that it went up online and a tonne of people started listening to it. In a way it’s extremely sad and I feel like a bit of a space invader whenever I hear it because it seems wrong to find pleasure in something while the person who created it is feeling the complete opposite, but on a purely musical level the harmonies are absolutely spot-on perfect and the song itself is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful every written, lyrically, melodically and sentimentally. The recording is so full of character because it captures a moment; the pair weren’t expecting to record a final version of the song so what came out is raw and honest and full of improvisations. There’s also a little laugh at the end which I love!
Fenne Lily July 2016