Both halves of the UK based Pop/Dance act July Child are not strangers to the Infrasound section of 2020k. Songwriter, producer, and engineer Kiyon “Kiks” Samavat has interviewed with us before and his song “Tell Her,” featuring Amber Clara, was featured in our Top 20 songs of 2012. Seeing as though Clara has been featured on all of the solo releases by Kiks, there’s no surprise the two, who share a birthday on July 29th, would celebrate the creative friendship through a shared project.
With one major release under their belt, a song called “Liquid Form,” and an acoustic version of a song called “Electric Chair,” it seems like an interesting A-side/B-side based release schedule, which is all done under their own independent record label Paper Thin Records Ltd. Described as haunting, brooding, and vulnerable, the duo have been so-far compared to the likes of Late Night Alumni and 90′s-early 00′s Madonna, with their way of presenting romance in a tangling assortment of complex metaphors atop accessible productions, and upon the kick off of their musical endeavors found a few moments to set aside and speak to 2020k about music, silly arguments, studio jokes, and the future.
Living down the road from each other makes for a great friendship. Does the bond make its way into the music, or does it seem like July Child stands alone, in a different section between the two of you?
Kiks: We still live near and see each other all the time. I feel like our longstanding friendship translates into comfort, there is a lot of comfort in our working relationship. Neither of us are scared to experiment or voice an opinion and that’s allowed the two of us, and July Child, to grow beyond something that is just two people writing and recording music.
Are the lyrical and instrumental concepts behind your songs bounced back and forth between one another in real time/from the beginning or is it a solitary experience that comes together later, after each individual process has been completed?
K: We’ve got a very weird way of working but it’s slowly becoming more concrete. I carry a tattered notepad around with me and every day I write words, phrases, lines into it, just whatever I’m feeling at the time. I sit down with my acoustic guitar and go through what I’ve written. 99% of what I write is discarded, but every so often there’s a phrase that has a certain feel to it, and with that I start putting together a chord sequence, an arrangement, and go from there. Then, I share what I’ve written with Amber and get her feedback. There’s usually a lot of blanks that need filling, both lyrically and in terms of structure, that she contributes very well to. After that, I sit down and try and figure out in my head how the whole song should play out in terms of production, structure and instrumentation, sitting for days and experimenting with different sounds on Logic Pro or Ableton Live. Finally, I bring in what I’ve got into the studio, where we usually lay down a demo take of the vocals just for me to be able to get a feel of what the track will sound like.
Kiks tracks are available and have gone so far as to to be featured in the visual world (“Dirty Secret” by Sam Rowland). These songs have had Amber providing vocals, but were released as a Clara feature, not as July Child. What sparked the decision to switch over to a singular musical entity?
K: I feel we had too much going for us not to. We’ve been making music together for several years, and until now, most of it wasn’t worth mentioning, but in terms of the way we work and the way we understand each other, I couldn’t think of a better person to go through this process with. Until now, a lot of the solo and commissioned work I’d done had been top-lining for tracks that have already been produced, or writing and producing single tracks every few months. However, the decision to make an album has given me so much more freedom as a writer and I’ve been able to open up, and to experiment more.
July Child represents everything we both want to say at this moment in time.
What’s the inspiration behind your debut track “Liquid Form”?
K: “Liquid Form” is a song that will always be so personal and significant to me. It was one of the last songs on the album that I wrote and in a lot of ways it goes against the messages given across in our other songs. The main theme that runs through the album is the fact that I personally kept myself closed off from people I was sharing relationships with – I never let my guard down, but “Liquid Form” advocates the opposite. It talks about how much there is to gain from going against how you’ve done things before and whatever is holding you back, as well as giving in emotionally and physically to your urges. It’s about two people bearing themselves, everything they are, to each other.
What should we expect in terms of sound and lyrical content from July Child?
K: The dark lyrical themes run through the whole album, even our up-tempo, bolder material. “Liquid Form” is just a taste. It’s certainly one of the slowest, most melancholic tracks on the record, and probably one of the lowest points emotionally. It’s one of our least electronic tracks, opting for a string section, grand piano and acoustic guitar; the rest of our stuff has busier instrumentation, using synthesizers, trumpets and samples. I like to think there’s a strand, both lyrically and sonically running through our music, which has given both of us the courage to produce music that we were maybe a little bit worried about at the start.
Kiks, you’ve mentioned in a previous feature on the 2020k blog, “if I haven’t written a vocal line that sticks in my head and drives me crazy, then the song needs more work.” What approach did you take to the composition process of July Child?
K: The mantra still stays. When you’re working with such a unique voice as Amber’s, it feels wasteful to not write catchy vocal lines and harmonies. Thankfully, through this last year, we’ve learned that catchy doesn’t necessarily mean commercial or unoriginal. One of our other stripped down tracks “Electric Chair” uses a Celtic scale, and has a very unique vocal melody and timing.
Amber, is there a specific approach you take when recording vocals & lending what you have to bring to the table?
Amber Clara: When recording vocals we’ll do a few practice takes, and then I’ll get in the booth. Me and Kiks have a love hate relationship when it comes to recording! It sometimes takes me a while to warm up and get the feel for the track, so in these moments we’re just figuring out what sounds right and what doesn’t work. The vocals are up to me so I feel like I need to be performing my part of the track as well as Kiks performs his. There’s a certain pressure to it at first but we always get it to where it needs to be.
We know Kiks is influenced by Fleetwood Mac. Amber, who are some of your musical influences?
A: I didn’t get into singing properly until I was about 12 or 13 – I could never really sing when I was younger! My whole family sings, so growing up that was a big influence. I used to play a lot of KT Tunstall and Corinne Bailey Rae tracks when I learned the guitar, so they inspired me a lot in my early teens, and nowadays the female artists we have around us mainly influence me. I’m a massive fan of Jessie Ware, and I absolutely love her album Devotion. It’s hard for me to pin point exact artists and bands as I have so many different influences from different genres throughout distinctive times in my life.
Collaborative experiences are always interesting because there’s two individual outlooks creatively searching for a common creative goal. What’s something you two can always agree on when it comes to making music?
K: Well first of all, at the very heart of things, we both love making music. We’d feel very blessed if we are able to make a career from it. We have the exact same ideas of the message we want to give across, and most importantly we believe in the importance of good songwriting. Something like image or marketing has never concerned us that much, which is a little worrying, as those two things are very important nowadays. But, our idea is that our job is to make the music the best we can, everything beyond that will eventually fall in place, which it is starting to do.
A: We’re very similar when it comes to making music, I guess that comes from being born on the same day!
Alternatively, have you two been met with differing directions? How is common ground reached?
K: We argue all the time. I think it’s conducive to the creative process. Amber’s very quick to let me know if she doesn’t like something, and I’m the same. Thankfully, that is happening less frequently now.
A: As I said before, we have a love/hate relationship sometimes! We will always voice our opinions and work through whatever the other one disagrees on or isn’t comfortable with. I think we’ve started to realize how the other is feeling which is why our arguments are never very big.
What’s the inspiration behind going fully independent as opposed to looking for a traditional way to roll out music via a more established record label?
K: Over a year ago, we made the decision to sit down and write, produce, and record an album, and we said from the start, until that is done, we are not going to look elsewhere. Right now, the climate of the music industry, especially in the UK isn’t the best. Labels aren’t willing to invest like they were in the past, so it leaves bands like us with a bit of a moral dilemma. Keeping full artistic control and being able to work the way we want, and with the people we want was crucial to us, so I decided to set up my own record label and get a whole team in of young and hungry individuals, all of which have complete faith in our project and put all their weight behind it. I feel like this is the best way to go about things.
I playfully bullied Kiks into making sure I would be the first follow on the official July Child Twitter account. Is there any moment that stands out in any creative session as the most silly or fun?
K: We mess around a lot. Amber and me aren’t exactly the most serious people, we’ve got a playful side and a lot of that comes out in the studio when we’re locked away at ungodly hours recording the 15th take of a track. There’s always the moment when Amber catches me swearing at her under my breath, not realising the talkback mic is on. I love to wind her up whenever she coughs or clears her throat and the tape is running, I’ll stick some reverb and delay on it and insist it stays as part of the song.
A: That’s so true, we even have a sample of me coughing at the beginning of one of our tracks. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. When the work needs to be done, we do it even if it takes a while and we mess around in between.
A website, debut song, plethora of internet resources, and a talented duo have been revealed so far. What can we expect next from July Child?
K: The hard work never stops, and it shouldn’t do. We’re in the studio rehearsing and recording all over Christmas. We’ve got a whole album ready to go, but just like with “Liquid Form,” we’re being patient with it and taking our time fine-tuning things. Hopefully, at some point during the next year we’ll be in the position to release our music physically, which would be great. We’re going to be spending 2 or 3 days a week rehearsing our live show and trying to make it as musically and visually appealing as possible, as until we recruit some additional musicians, it will be just the two of us. We will hopefully be able to play some great shows over the next year, both in the UK and abroad, and it would be an absolute dream come true to play a festival this summer.
Connect with July Child at their official website where you can sign up for their mailing list and download “Liquid Form” for free. You can also follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. 2020k has also reviewed “Liquid Form” in an article at Avenge the Virgins.