profile When did you discover you could sing and how did you develop your talent? I’ve been in music in some capacity since I was fourteen (I’m over 21 now), with some breaks to keep sane and occasionally respectable - which I’ve since given up on. I was a guitarist in a band at school, was asked to do my first backing vocals and found I was massively louder than the singer! It transpired I could hold a tune too, so it evolved from there. (He outstripped me on guitar, by the way, so all was good.) We developed the “proper” way - we went out and played as often as we could to whoever would have us, until we weren’t rubbish any more. Who are your personal music influences and why? The list is far too long but includes Bowie, The Beatles, Tim and Jeff Buckley, Prince and sweaty, banging Electronica. I’ve been listening to Sly and the Family Stone, Air and Patti Smith today. How do you achieve the perfect marriage between music and lyrics? Not sure I always do but I try! I’d always hope the music would press the same buttons without the lyrics, they’re almost there to reinforce the point - to put the music into words, rather than the other way around. That sounds pretentious doesn’t it? But I can live with that. What inspires your lyrics? What are the stories in your songs? They’re generally personal, so whatever’s important to me that day. I’m quite simplistic or self-indulgent like that. I generally liked lyrics that touched me rather than impressed me - even with storytellers like Bowie or Dylan, I enjoyed them more when they let their guard down and showed hurt and vulnerability. I tried writing storytelling songs when I was younger and thought I was rubbish at it.
You signed with the label Creative and Dreams. What do you hope this deal will achieve? World domination, obviously. We spoke to a few labels and took time making a decision. (We’ve had deals before - there are early Act of Love singles selling for over $50 in America, but that may have more to do with collectors’ love of old British indie records than taste.) But over the months we talked, the guys there impressed with their enthusiasm, not just for our music but the other acts on the label. They’re experienced, hardened industry professionals but could talk about music they liked for as long as I can. Also, they didn’t just flatter us (which some did) - they told us what they didn’t like too. I feel we’ll be pushed, which musicians should be; we’re a lazy lot. How would you describe your personal style: clothes and look? There are times I’ll spend several days and nights in the studio without a break and I wouldn’t want you to bump into me then. Shaving, sleep and style in general aren’t necessarily high on the agenda. But when I escape into civilization I take a little more care and pride in my appearance. Brighton people are famously somewhat scruffy (although they’d prefer maybe, “funky”) but after my young punk days, a time under the spell of Hugo Boss and chilling out with the rave generation I’ve settled into what makes me feel good on the day. I still love a good suit and especially cufflinks but it needs to be one or to be worn in a way that makes being mistaken for an accountant or politician extremely unlikely. The ultimate style icon has to be David Bowie, who could get away with anything, but regardless of what he wore always looked exactly like David Bowie. I also love Patti Smith, who never seemed bothered about clothes but always looked (and looks) fantastic.
Describe the styles of your music - and how you achieve your sound. It comes out the way it wants to, frankly. I’ve always enjoyed different stuff, so I just go with the way the song seems to want to. Whichever way I try and go, there seems to be an Act of Love sound - although you might be able to tell that better than me? It’s been called (not by me) Electronica, Ambient Punk(!), EDM, Acoustica... I’ve even been known to dub it ‘Cosmic Soul’ - but not when sober. We have a tune on the record called Swimming in Air, maybe that’s it? We work out of AoL studios, so there are instruments around and we can capture ideas as we think of them. We like the combination and contrast of real, acoustic instruments with electronics but tend to focus on and build around the vocal - it’s all about emotion again. Although recently we seem to be throwing saxophones centre stage for the same reason. What emotional response do you aim to elicit? The obvious ultimate answer is tears - if your songs have made someone cry, for whatever reason, it’s worked. I just want to touch people the way my favourite music touched me. Although dancing’s a very welcome response too - I’ve always said if the audience want to cry, dance or - well, you know... I’m happy.
Act of Love’s album ‘Looking for the Light’ will be released in July, on Creative & Dreams label - USA & worldwide.
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What does being a “gentleman” mean to you? It certainly has nothing to do with any accident of birth or social standing. A gentleman for me is someone who gives equal respect, care and empathy to everyone and tries to put himself in another’s shoes (although that could be a saint - or a shoe thief ). What does being a “gentleman” in the music industry mean? Gentleness can be overlooked when working, as politeness can be a barrier to creativity when quick, honest, efficient communication is essential. “Magic” happens spontaneously and can be lost in an instant, so there’s no time for sensitivity or shrinking violets. I’ve found that all the best musicians I’ve worked with have suspended taking offence while creating - we don’t stop being respectful, we just call a spade a spade. I guess a gentleman in the music industry tells and hears the truth without making it personal, treats everyone the same and gets the beers in when it’s their turn. They shouldn’t be shy of giving a compliment when it’s due either - we’re a sensitive lot.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASMINE AT BRIGHTWHITEFILM (BRIGHTWHITEFILM.COM).
“We developed the ‘proper’ way we went out and played as often as we could until we weren’t rubbish any more”