Soul Feeder recently got in touch with Jo Griffin and Jake Kavanagh, the founders of the Oxford, UK five-piece 31hours. The band released their debut album, the excellent Tell Me What You See on November 17th and will be headlining at The Bullingdon in Oxford on November 26th. Their innovative brand of Avant-Garde Indie Rock has been gaining traction in Britain, and the band is bound to be talked about for some time to come.
Isak McCune: What bands inspire your music? (I’m particularly curious about the influence of Latin American rhythms and the possible influence of Bossa Nova, Samba, or Tropicalia) What are your favorite artists?
Jake Kavanagh: It’s hard to summarise what inspires us as we’re constantly listening to a lot of very different music in sporadic fashion, one moment I may be listening to the afro-beat rhythms of Dele Sosimi, Fela Kuti & more contemporary acts like Vula Viel, and then shortly after move onto the moody & seductive ‘trip hop’ vibes of Portishead, Massive Attack and so on.
I have respect for bands that are inspired by the music of lots of different cultures and merge it all into an unexpected combination. One pretty underground example of this would be the art-punk outfit, Guerilla Toss. They take Latin influenced drumming, mixed with videogame-esque synth sounds, 70’s psych infused funk bass & abrasive female punk vocals to create this oddball concoction (Listen to their song ‘Diamond Girls’).
The eclectic & rich sounds of highly percussive music in Latin America, Africa & India are something that I’m currently finding very inspirational. A glimpse of this is captured on our new album and I’m almost certain that it’ll have a heavy influence on future projects.
Jo Griffin: I am mainly influenced by the more left-field side of modern indie/alternative rock. Radiohead are the obvious touchstone, as well as bands such as Everything Everything and Foals, who are an undeniable influence on my guitar playing in particular. I am always conscious though of taking the influences of these artists and creating something which possesses its own character, not just an inferior pastiche of other people’s work.
I also have a habit of taking genres in which I am not particularly well versed and doing something vaguely in that style based on my poor knowledge of the genre, which I then incorporate into a song, giving it a subtle hint of something different! Whether other people notice these things or not who knows, but off the top of my head a few examples on our album are the slightly dub reggae sounding start of the bassline in the chorus of Hospice, and the guitars with the kind of dance-y swing rhythm in the ending of Foreign, which end up providing a weird juxtaposition between that and the dark mood and sonic texture of the song.
Isak: How did you meet?
Jake: Jo & I met at school; I believe we were in the same Spanish class together (which I did horrendously in). It was around this time, about 5 years ago, that he sent out a post online asking if anyone was interested in starting a band; I liked the post but didn’t reciprocate with a message as I was too shy at first. After a few years and many line-up changes we’ve landed in our current 5 piece live setup. Jo met Sam through college and he recommended Simon to play bass for us. At this point we already knew Bek from our photography lessons at school.
Isak: What’s your songwriting process like?
Jo: The songs usually start with me sketching out ideas for various instrument parts in Logic. I copy and paste sections and map out a rough structure, then re-record all the parts properly when it comes to it. Occasionally though, early recordings of parts which I record pretty much as soon as they are written do make it into the final songs.
Jake comes up with drum parts, and usually the lyrics too, based on these rough demo ideas that I map out. We sometimes jam the song ideas once they are developed a little to refine the structure and get a better idea of where the song is headed, but with just the two of us writing and recording the songs this can be difficult since they are so layered.
When it comes to performing them, we are joined by our live members Sam on guitar, Simon on bass, and Bekah playing keys in addition to the flute parts which she plays on the record.
Isak: How did you record and produce your album? And what’s your studio space like?
Jo: As with our previous EPs, we recorded and produced the album ourselves. We think this really helps us realise our vision for each song. I personally think that, especially in this day and age, the line between songwriting and production is ever more blurred, and I see that as a very welcome thing. Having control over every aspect of the music creation process allows us to create something truly our own, the most honest creative statement we can make.
In terms of the recording process itself, I’m not a huge gear snob. I don’t ever mic up real guitar and bass amps anymore. As someone who isn’t a guitar purist, I have nothing against making use of technology, so I have got used to using amp simulation plugins. When mixing, the practicality of being able to change the amp settings in Logic post-recording without the need for re-amping is super useful, especially in music with so many different layers. The vast majority of the keyboard sounds are software too.
Also, the pop shield I use for vocals is an empty sellotape roll with some old tights stretched over it.
Jake: Our studio space is currently just the house we’re renting for university (our neighbours love us). This is where we recorded/produced the majority of the album, but when it came to tracking drums we hired out the closest recording space which fortunately happens to be just a few doors down from us. We recorded the strings, brass and sax in various spaces around Oxford.
Isak: What kind of music training do you each have?
Jo: I have a bit of a background in classical music, my first instrument having been piano, at which I am grade 8, but it’s not something I have pursued in a while. Still, I think the understanding of music theory I have gained from this background definitely helps me have more insight into the songs I write. It also helped me in the past when I came to start learning to play guitar and bass, as obviously a lot of the theoretical knowledge is shared by all western instruments. Flute is the latest thing I’ve started picking up, but I have a long way to go to catch up with Bekah and her grade 8 flute playing. Watch this space for a jazz flute duet on album 2!
Jake: I did take some drum lessons years ago but the majority of my musical training has just been from being in this band and trying to come up with creative parts. My knowledge in music theory is pretty dreadful so I tend to just rely on what sounds good to me, I feel like this might be semi-responsible for the way I apply myself to rhythm.
Isak: What hobbies do you have outside of music? What do you study at University? How do these things fit into your music?
Jake: I have a background in fine art, which reaches out to animation & film-making. Before Jo, Sam & I moved out to study music at ACM in Guildford I was doing a course in digital filmmaking at SAE Institute, Oxford. We each have separate hobbies outside of music which come full circle and support the band in one way or another.
Simon is a bit of a tech wiz, he’s kind of like our manager/admin. We don’t really know what he studies as he’s just so damn cryptic, but we can only assume that it’s something to do with computers. Bek has a passion for photography, which she’s currently studying. Sam’s hobby is being the popular guy who’s a little more socially accepted than the rest of us, he’s basically the Ed O’Brien of the band. Jo just does music, that’s all he does. I should really rephrase my initial statement.
Isak: What’s your favorite album from this year?
Jake: That’s a tricky one, there’s been a handful of great albums I love for different reasons. For the sake of having a definitive answer I’ll go for Sketches Of Brunswick East by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard w/ Mild High Club. It’s a super relaxing jazz infused record interpreted with their Danger Mouse-esque production/simple psych rock songwriting style, and there’s plenty of flute which I’m always a fan of. Listen to the track ‘Rolling Stoned’ and float away on a warm fuzzy cloud above eargasmic sonic landscapes.
p.s. God First by Mr Jukes is well deserving of an honorable mention, I would choose that record as my number one pick instead, but I’ve already talked about King Gizz & who cares?
Jo: I really enjoyed Everything Everything’s latest record A Fever Dream, I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time. They are a group who are overtly very pop, especially if you just listen to some of the singles, but if you dive deeper into the record there are some really stand out moments of the more experimental kind too, such in as the song Put Me Together (the middle section in particular), which serve as a nice counterpart to the undeniably super catchy pop stuff. Night of the Long Knives and Ivory Tower are also standout tracks which are super punchy, texturally interesting and extremely enjoyable. I think there’s a real art to combining the accessible and the experimental and they are one of the best bands out there at striking that balance.