Skye And Ross (formerly Morcheeba) Explains How It All Starts With A Riff BC ARTIST PROFILE: Interview with Skye & Ross (formerly Morcheeba)
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Skye & Ross (Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey, formerly of Morcheeba) have a new album Light of Gold. It is a departure from the trip hop band Morcheeba, but the evolution that is presented in Light of Gold is in every way refreshing. While some bands may have lost themselves trying a new incarnation, Skye & Ross seem to have been freed to explore music that has been swirling around them that was just as genius as the music of Morcheeba but just never made it into the constructs and sound that Morcheeba music made. The seasoned musicians have hit a home run in making an album that will appease fans, and allowed this new influx of artistry to shine into the mix.
Before I sat down for the interview, I was able to catch their set at AFROPUNK FEST in Brooklyn, New York. Like a group of travelers who wandered onto a beach and gave into the temptation to take their shoes off to experience the elements on their bare feet, the smiles could be seen for miles. The audience seemed to be unsure of what to expect and but once they let go of their prior concepts and let the waves of music wash over them, everyone fell into the mix and the band was ready and able to take the crowd on this fresh new journey.
The following day I caught up with them. Their reputation for being total sweethearts was immediately confirmed as Ross giddily showed me an app that helped them take life less seriously and called it their “Chill-the-fuck-out-app”. Skye, while walking to the room impeccably dressed, and with a Grace Kelly smile, took a stumble and giggled at herself. This only managed to make her more wonderful and real because of it. They are two of the most thoughtful, introspective and real artists that I’ve encountered to date. The two balance each other out in a way that is remarkable, pulling each other back from the edge of being too serious, allowing the other to feel what they needed to feel. Listening to them and watching them interact was proof that explains how this musical marriage has been as successful as it has been.
What is your first musical memory?
Skye: My first musical memory I guess would be my mum and singing like a “la la la la la la” and through years and years, I thought it was one that maybe she made up and then, ten years ago I heard it on the radio, and I think it’s called the Merry Widow and I heard this big orchestra playing it and it was just wonderful to know that it is actually a real tune and I can hear it because my mum is no longer with us.
Ross: I honestly used to like “The Pinball” song by The Pointers Sisters on Sesame Street. That was quite cool.
Skye: Was that the “One, two, three, four, five…”
Ross: Yeah, and weirdly when I lived in Los Angeles, I became friends with Anita Pointer and remember saying to her one night after a few drinks, “I really loved that song in Sesame Street.” And she was like, “Yeah, I thought that was good too.” It’s good to teach children to count and have funky fun at the same time.
Skye: Blimey … I remember the tune so it worked for me.
Can you talk a little about how family shaped and influenced the new album?
Skye: When we first started with this new record we thought it was going to be more acoustic. That’s how it started and then as the songs developed we thought … Ok … this would sound good with live drums on it and bass and my son plays drums and my husband plays bass in the band and when we were touring with Morcheeba, so it just made sense to have them play on the record. When we recorded our parts aside from the drum and bass, we recorded vocals, Ross did the writing and producing at home and I did my vocals in my home so whilst he’s working in his home and his wife happens to be a singer…
Ross: It’s easier to shout into the kitchen, “Honey, can you come do this?” and you know she’s very good at that, so we are very lucky that we are related to talented musicians. And it’s sort of, they are around when you are writing the song and developing the song, so it’s not like someone coming into the studio cold and trying to explain to them what you are trying to do. It’s quite a natural process.
I listened to the album and stopped at “How To Fly” and hit repeat, is there a story behind that song?
Ross: I’d had the riff for a while and we were playing it in sound check for about five years. I didn’t think that it would turn into anything because it was a bit to rock for Morcheeba, so when Skye and I decided to move and make a record and we wanted to have some different things on it … the guitar bigger and more prominent and stuff. We were in Australia doing a big blues festival and we saw Gary Clark Jr. playing and he was really ripping into some riffs with the live band and we thought it would be really great to have a tune like that and I’m like, “Oh no, I’ve got that riff! We should write a tune around that riff!” Then I sent it to Skye and she came up with the lyrics and the melody and then we just all kind of like went into the studio and set up and played it live because we wanted to include more live energy into this album. Morcheeba records were always more thought about and kind of programmed and even though it was very atmospheric. It didn’t have an amazing amount of spontaneity to it and so we wanted to make something that felt a bit more alive … not like it sounded like a live band, but just that there was an energy involved that you only really get when you have a bunch of musicians in a room playing together.
Skye: We screwed it up actually, because it was much slower at first.
Ross: And we played it much faster live.
Skye: Even faster live… hahaha
Ross: And it’s nice to sort of rock out a little bit, people don’t really expect that of us so it’s good to surprise them.
In terms of your writing process, where do you go for inspiration?
Ross: It doesn’t really work like that it just, they just sort of arrive on your doorstep.
What’s your process then?
Ross: It normally starts with me having a guitar or a riff or a basic chord progression and then I give it to Skye and she’ll have a melody and then we might change everything from the beginning again, but normally it kinds of starts with a basic, you know piano something or other, but it sort of takes shape once Skye takes it and writes the melody and gets the lyrics. Then we can kind of fall back on ourselves and finesse what the music does and kind of arrange things a little bit and try and get some counter melodies. It’s a natural process, it’s not like we sit around for ages thinking, “Hmmm… I need to be inspired. (laughs) Basically, if you don’t feel inspired you just don’t do anything cause we record mainly at home, we have little studios at home, which is when you feel like you want to do something, you do it. So it’s not like we are sitting in the studio waiting for inspiration. It’s normally doing the dishes, like “oh yeah I should do that” and it’s a pain in the ass in the ,middle of the night or your just about to go to bed, just brushed your teeth and you think “Oh god, that’s a really good melody. I’ve got to go down stairs and record that now.” Turn on all the computers…
Skye: iPhone, that little app that you’re using (she points to my phone) that’s a good one for capturing the melody and what I tend to do is when I’m humming the melody, but trying to get the words in there and then you listen to it over and you hear, “Oh I see your soul with a halo” OH that’s what it sounds like I’m saying! Oh I’m going to write that down and then the words appear for the melody.
Ross: It’s like you’re subconsciously writing it and eventually you see through the mist, and you’re like, “Oh that’s what I was trying to do.”
Skye: And then you work out, “OH that’s what it actually means!”
Where do you draw for the lyrics?
Skye: The lyrics come, and then afterward I think actually this one is about our life and our baby. She’s sixteen months now, she was born three months early, so that one “How to Fly” … “I’ve seen your soul with a halo” like she’s like so early that it was scary to see the life in your eyes and your fight is so tireless but you’ll win and you’ll rise high. So it’s like, “You’re not going to die you’re going to live!” She’s fine [now], they called her fierce and they called her a “Super Star”. They said she will need a blood transfusion, not once, but twice. She will have a brain bleed, she’ll have this and that and she had all those things and she got through it and they were like, “Wow, SHE IS a Super Star.”
How are you maintaining the balance between being an artist and having the life at home?
Ross: Pretty good, I mean Skye brings most of her life with her. I find it a little bit harder, because I’ve got two daughters at home, ages three and one, and if I’m away for more then two weeks it gets a little bit, I don’t know. I’ve never really missed home before but now I’ve got this weird, like thinly stretched band that wants to pull me back to where I live. They come with us sometimes which is nice and we try to make our tours not that long so we go home every couple of weeks. We used to go on the road for six months at a time and not go home, but now, we are a bit older and we need to go home and do the laundry and reintroduce ourselves to our families. It can be tough, but most of the time it’s quite fun.
Skye: That’s the good thing when we are home, both parents at home and able to take the children to school and pick them up from school and when we were recording the album, I bet people thought that we were probably out of work. Both parents are here and they have been here every day and they came for sports days. Both parents?!? But then when you are away and both parents are away, cause my husband plays bass, that’s kinda hard but yeah I don’t want to complain about it. When they are young they can come with me and my eldest son is in the band now. But it’s tough, half are at home and here so you kind of feel like, dam, I can’t bring all four children. They say happiness is expensive (big sigh) it’s sad.
Ross : Yeah but we are quite good at it, these days.
It must be sort of old hat for you both though, and you seem to be handling it well, you sound like seasoned warriors.
Skye: Yes, we’ve been doing it for twenty years and we are here and we are speaking to you and we are still enjoying it.
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Cortney Armitage is a photographer and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Born into the world of indie rock ‘n’ roll, she travels back and forth from Los Angeles capturing artists in and out of their natural habitat. Contact her at: www.CortneyArmitage.com