MUSIC: PY (DON’T PANIC MAY 2012)
We speak to London’s most interesting new vocalist on soundscaping, Portishead and her brand new mixtape, Tripping On Wisdom.
Up-and-coming London-based artist Py (real name, Jade Pybus) is destined for big things. Having only performed her first ever live show in March, she has already collaborated with some seriously impressive names like Lapalux, Damu and Greenwood Sharps – and with her enchanting vocals and hypnotic tripped-out sound, it’s pretty much a guarantee she’ll be taking up residence on your iPod this summer.
You’ve just dropped your debut mixtape, Tripping On Wisdom – what kind of ideas and themes did you want to explore in it?
I wanted the mixtape to be from a vocalist’s perspective – it was a statement, rather than a definition of my sound. I didn’t want to restrict myself with genre, but leave it to be lead by the concept – which was about growing up in Hitchin, moving from one time to another, letting go, and a journey, from leaving Brighton to moving to London, using the field recording and sounds I captured in these places. I covered the track ‘Wonderful World’ and used this as a theme throughout to go back to, changing the lyrics to reflect my time growing up, and my world. It is a very personal story, and the seriously talented producers I worked with all took a part of that story and created from it.
Your music has a decidedly trip-hop sound to it – has that genre has been a big influence?
I wouldn’t say I set out to make trip-hoppy sounds, but I love Portishead; they have always been a huge influence – but no more than Billie Holiday or Lauryn Hill, or Bob Dylan.
How did you get involved with major names like GreenwoodSharps and Damu? That’s a pretty big coup for such a new artist.
Well, the scene in London is very friendly and relatively small, although ever-expanding. It all fell into place naturally. It’s been amazing to collaborate with every one of the producers and learn from them as I go.
And speaking as an emerging vocalist, what would you say is the hardest thing about breaking into the music industry right now?
It takes time and courage to be truly yourself (if that’s what you want to be). It’s also a lot of hard work, and you end up with a pretty crap social life and a lot of debt! But I absolutely love it.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you often used creativity as a means of “escape” when you were growing up. Why was this?
I had a few years that were difficult, and reality around me was very unstable. For me, this was how I dealt with it all; it was a way of creating a new world I could control. I used to keep books and make myself write every day, even if I didn’t feel like it, and often used metaphors and words that have a texture to them, like how drawing or painting might feel.
You’re also known for making sound installations – tell us a bit about them.
I once made a surround-sound installation for voice. It was played through eight speaker cones, which I hung at head height on wire in a circle. The audience sat in the middle, and each speaker had a different voice – all my own voice, which I had manipulated using only manmade effects, like recording vocals whilst hanging upside-down, after a run, using my last breath. I wanted to see how I could create different sounds without producing, or using audio FX. It focused on the idea of the true voice and the manipulated, the ugly and the beautiful. I’ve always been interested in psychology, visual arts and the relationship of music/sound and visuals – that’s reflected in my music.
You’re set to support Belleruche at the Scala in a few weeks – it’s your biggest gig to date, how do you feel?
Very nervous! Very excited! I would love to play at ATP [All Tomorrow’s Parties festival] too. They’re full of so much talent. It would be amazing to play one curated by someone like Burial, and play alongside Holy Other!
Describe the best situation to listen to your music in.
On a long journey on a train or plane would be pretty good – somewhere you can let yourself absorb it all in a space that also feels inspiring and open. Or just on a massive bass-y set up, that always sounds good!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m concentrating on demos at the moment, getting creative again. Then I have my live shows – and I have a brilliant drummer as well as keys player involved now, which is exciting. We’ve been rehearsing lots, so I’m looking forward to playing with the new set up!
Interview: Charlotte McManus