Aquilo on their new album ‘ii’

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Tonight is the finale of your UK and European tour, how has it been? Has it all gone smoothly?

Tom: We got on the plane and Ben said “I don’t have my guitar” and I was like “Oh, what an idiot”, but then I realized that I’d done the exact same thing!  We both left our guitars in our house, fucked it completely… And then we had to get them delivered to Manchester.

Ben: Our mate Harvey came up to the Manchester show and dropped them off, which was nice of him!

Your new album ii is being released in two parts, with Side A already out and Side B coming out on 4th May. What made you want to release the album in this way?

B: When we started making it, we had about 4 or 5 songs that sounded like they fitted a piece of something and our manager said “It kind of sounds like you’ve got the start of an album here”. These days you can put music out a lot quicker than maybe 4 or 5 years ago. We decided to announce our new album before we’d even finished it because we felt like we were on a roll, we were making it all quite quickly. Also, people don’t digest music in the same way anymore… I’d say only about 3 or 4 of my mates still sit down and listen to an album as a whole. Because of the way that Spotify and iTunes work, people find songs that they like and they save it and put it on their playlists. It just makes sense for the times that we’re in to release it in this way.

Many of the most successful new artists today are just releasing EPs.

T: I agree with you, yeah. We’ve become quite impatient, we can’t sit down and listen to things for too long without being distracted. We think 4 or 5 songs are enough, so it’s better to give people the other 4 or 5 songs when the time is right.

It’s better for fans as well to not have to wait as long for a full record. Do you see yourselves continuing to release music in this way in the future?

T: We’d like to, it’s been a different way of doing things for these past two releases.

Would you say that the two sides are pretty similar or very different?

B: They both fit, they both work together. I think you might notice a slight difference, maybe in terms of energy. It’s quite a hopeful album, in comparison to our first album, there’s a hint of positivity to it.

We need that these days! I also love the cover art of ii, who shot those photos and why did you choose the images of the desert and the open road?

T: It was Ben’s photography really!

B: I took the photos for the artwork but then we met this woman called Rachel Bungey and she played the art director role and carried it through. We had a very basic idea and she made it actually happen. We had this idea for a scrapbook that we’d been making and we also had all the original handwritten lyrics for the songs on paper, so for people who buy the record, it’ll be a nice read. It’ll show the adventure that we went through to create this album.

You also acted in your own video for the first time for your track ‘Who Are You’ from ii (Side A), how was that?

T: It was scary, very daunting… We kind of got it thrown upon us, the directors assumed that we could do it but we’d never been in that sort of environment before.

B: We said yes but it was a ballsy move for a director to ask a musician to act!

T: I’m not saying we were good actors in the video, but it could’ve been shit, like really, really bad. It could’ve been such an embarrassing mess!

B: It would’ve been a lot of money wasted too, but it worked out well in the end.

Being from Silverdale, which is pretty rural, your track ‘Complication’ from your debut album Silhouettes deals with you not being sure about moving to London. How has being from Silverdale informed the kind of music that you make and has London changed the music you make in any way?

B: We wrote ‘Complication’ just before we moved to London. For so long we put off moving here because all of our mates said “Oh, you’ll just turn into another London band” but since we’ve moved down here, we’ve found that we’re so much more productive. I don’t think London has changed our sound at all, I think it just gives us more opportunities to be inspired. We’re surrounded by more things that could possibly influence us. Speaking for myself, but I absolutely love it down here! It kind of feels like home now, even though we’ve only been here for about 2 years. Because we grew up in the countryside, I’ve always longed for a little bit of rowdiness, which Silverdale doesn’t quite offer! [laughs], not in the same way anyway…

Were you able to get to many gigs in Manchester when you were growing up?

T: Not as many as we should’ve done really, we lived there for about 18 months but we’ve definitely been to more gigs in London than we did when we lived in Manchester. I’d say we have more friends in London than we did in Manchester as well.

I only just realized that SOHN produced your track ‘Human’ – what was he like to work with?

B: It was great, it felt like a bit of a lesson really.

T: It was definitely a learning experience, we worked with SOHN and Ólafur Arnalds and it’s just like being taught by the best. In a session, even if you’re working with someone bad, you can take something from it.

B: You learn other people’s techniques and ways of approaching songs. Working with Ólafur Arnalds was so inspiring, we went over to his studio in Iceland. The album was pretty much finished at that stage, the songs were already there, so it was a production thing really. We just sat back and watched, it was nice!

You also did a special performance of that song at Union Chapel, what was that like?

B: It was bizarre, really surreal.

T: I was talking to someone about that yesterday, it was a proper moment in our career. When we were doing it, you could hear 40 or 50 people behind you all singing a song that you wrote, it was crazy to hear that.

B: It’s that idea that someone’s spent a bit of time actually listening to you.

T: We had a quartet onstage with us once, which was really good. If I could take a quartet to every show with us, I would!

B: We worked with these guys called The Killer Horns and they played some parts that we suggested for the album. With this new album, we strayed away from having strings on it, because our first album had a lot of strings. This new record has lots of guitar and lots of horns. It’s a little bit rougher.

Finally, what new music have you been loving recently?

B: Loving the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album at the moment, a lot of Beach House, The War on Drugs, Big Thief are fucking amazing.

ii (Side A) is out now, via Island Records. Side B is due to be released on 4th May.

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