While at Barn on the Farm 2015, A Music Blog, Yea? had the pleasure of meeting Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham of Aquilo. Dive into our exclusive interview below as we discuss working on laptops, strange collaborations, creating a record, and eating terribly on tour.
AMBY: Hello! A Music Blog, Yea? is here at Barn on the Farm 2015 with Aquilo. How are you today?
Ben: Yea, great yea.
AMBY: How was the journey in?
Tom: It was interesting… [laughs] it took us a while to get through the border on the Eurostar, but we made it eventually. Just about.
AMBY: Is that one of the craziest things to have happened to you on tour so far?
Tom: It wasn’t that mental. Just sat waiting for a while I guess.
AMBY and Aquilo: [laughs]
Ben: Some crazy things have happened but I can’t remember off the top of my head.
AMBY: So you are both from the Lake District?
Ben and Tom: Yes.
AMBY: What was it like growing up there and has it influenced your music at all?
Ben: It was great. I absolutely love the Lake District, it’s a beautiful part of the world.
Tom: Yea, it’s good. I mean, I don’t necessarily think it has influenced our music as such. I think maybe subconsciously it has influenced our music but I don’t think we’ve thought about it and wrote songs around it. You take it for granted don’t you?
Tom: Living in such a beautiful place. And when you come out of it – we’ve just moved to Manchester – and when we go back it’s like “Wow” Actually, it’s just amazing.”
Ben: It’s nice to have proper peace and quiet. You know, where you go out at night and it literally is silent because in Manchester and London, you can’t really rest properly. But like Tom just said, I think subconsciously it’s played a part in our music, but I don’t think…
Tom: …we made an effort.
AMBY and Aquilo: [laughs]
Ben: We are not aware of it if it is there.
AMBY: You released Calling Me, your latest EP, last month. What was the experience like recording that?
Tom: The process has been quite similar throughout all the EPs. We’ve basically been sat at a laptop whether it be in my basement in Silverdale or our flat in Manchester. We’ve done most of it just on the laptops, working with limitations which I think is really important. We’ve upped our game in terms of maybe going into a studio to record vocals and things like that, making that a bit more professional I guess [laughs].
Ben: Yea, like Tom said, the process hasn’t changed really since the first song that we wrote. I think with this EP it’s a little bit more different because this time around we have people expecting something of us and it’s just about trying to ignore that and keep doing the same thing. And I think that’s the same thing with the album as well. I’d say that’s the only thing that’s different about this EP’s process.
AMBY: You’ve done a couple of collaborations as well?
AMBY: What was that like?
Tom: Well working with SOHN was amazing obviously. He’s a really inspirational guy and we do look up to him. We learned a lot from the sessions whether it would be production techniques or just songwriting. He’s just really good at everything! [laughs] Do you know what I mean? And then we did a track, Innocence with a French producer, Madeon didn’t we?
Ben: That was a strange collaboration because when he asked us to write a song for the album, we didn’t really know how to take it because it’s not really the sort of music we’d normally go in on, although we had heard the song called… I think it was Icarus.
Ben: It was like four or five years ago.
Tom: It was ages ago. He was like sixteen.
Ben: He was really, really young. When we heard it we were just like, “Fuck, this is so good!” We completely forgot about it and then our manager (Danny) was like “Oh, Madeon wants you to go on his album.” And we were like, “Oh… We don’t know who that is.” And then we listened to his music and we were like, “Oh! It’s his song! It’s him!”
Tom: He is a freak of nature that boy. Honestly, he is the cleverest person I have ever met in my life. He spoke English better than we did.
AMBY and Aquilo: [laughs]
Tom: He is so articulate.
Ben: We spent two days with him.
Tom: Yea, he’s French.
AMBY: Did you get to learn any French?
Tom: No! [laughs] Not at all! Our French is appalling.
AMBY: Where did you record the collaboration with Madeon? He collaborated with a lot of other artists and went around.
Tom: We did it in London. In…
Ben: I can’t remember what the studios were called.
Tom: I can’t remember what the studios are called but it was weird. So he basically played us an idea and then we sort of wrote and structured something on top of it. And you know what, I’m really pleased with the result of that track. It’s just as much us as it is him if you know what I mean.
Ben: That’s what he nailed with it as well. He was very aware of the fact that our music isn’t necessarily what he would normally do and he was really aware of not wanting to take us out of our comfort zone which is kind of nice of him as well actually.
AMBY: Speaking of collaborations and other artists, who would you choose to be in a festival of your own if you could curate your own festival?
Ben: Alabama Shakes. Radiohead.
Tom [sings]: D’Angelo.
Ben: D’Angelo headlining.
AMBY: Of course you’re in the festival.
AMBY: Are you staying around for the rest of Barn on the Farm?
Tom: We unfortunately have to leave after we play.
Ben: It’s Danny’s decision!
Ben: Danny ruins all the fun.
AMBY [to Danny] : I won’t ask you any questions about that! What else are we to expect from you for the rest of the year?
Ben: We’re going to be touring a bit. I think we’re doing a little bit in the US. We’ll be supporting Angus and Julia Stone in 2 weeks’ time.
Tom: Yea, ‘cos I don’t feel like we’ve gigged that much actually.
Ben: We haven’t gigged much at all.
Tom: We don’t really show that much.
Ben: No, I think what it is that our main focus and our main goal is making a record that we’re happy with. And I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I think that’s what we’re focusing on. So I’d say over the next year, we’re going to be touring a little bit, doing the odd shows, but our main goal is literally making this record.
AMBY: So you’ve toured in France and Norway recently?
AMBY: And you’ve just come from Amsterdam. What sort of food do you like on tour?
Ben: Oh! That’s a good one.
Ben: We eat terribly, we eat so bad.
Tom: It’s really bad.
AMBY: You’re touring more though.
Tom: Yea, exactly.
Ben: I always take my running stuff with me, but…
Tom: I don’t think you’ve run once.
Ben: I’ve not run once! That’s the same with the majority of the band, it’s just Danny that gets up at the crack of dawn.
AMBY and Aquilo: [laughs]
AMBY: He’s a morning person.
Tom: I hate the mornings.
Ben: Tom is not a good morning person, he is always asleep.
AMBY: We’re lucky we caught you for this interview then!
Tom: I think I’m gonna have a nap after.
AMBY: So to wrap up before you go to sleep, what’s the best thing about being in Aquilo?
Tom: What’s the best thing? The fact that we can do this as our job. The fact that we can make music and it’s our job.
Ben: Make music that we enjoy.
Tom: We are so lucky to be in this position. I think that’s the best thing about it.
Tom: So lucky. I mean how many other people get to wake up in the morning, well not the morning, afternoon… and sit on a computer and just make music and then eventually perform that music that you just made to hundreds of people.
Ben: Yea, we’re just really fortunate. We’re really fortunate to have the right people backing us and to have people that are genuinely interested in what we have to say. It’s just really nice. It’s kind of like a breath of fresh air really.
AMBY: That’s great. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
Ben and Tom: Thank you.
Thank you Aquilo, for giving us your answers!
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Interview by Jane Jimenez | @bporthos