The first piece of music writing we ever wrote was a review for the website Soundsxp. It was of a track called Los Elefantes by Haiku Salut; you can read it here if you like. Oddly we compared their electronics to Elbow. It was those first few attempts at writing that inspired us to start our own site, and re-kindled both a love of new music, and really listening to records not just letting them pass you by. So consider this a public thank you to Haiku Salut for being the start of this rather magical journey.
The Derbyshire trio return with their second album, Etch and Etch Deep at the end of July. It is, unsurprisingly excellent, taking the basic influences of their debut album Tricolore and painting them with darker, more electronic and adventurous shades.
Ahead of the release Sophie and Gemma were kind enough to sit down and answer some of our questions about their influences, future plans and the world in general.
FTR: Who are Haiku Salut?
Louise Croft, Sophie Barkerwood and Gemma Barkerwood
FTR: Your name is a juxtaposition of a Japanese poem and the French word for Hi. Does it just sound nice when you say it or is their a deeper explanation for the name?
Gemma: A bit of both. When we first began we took a lot of our influences from French and Japanese movie soundtracks and the two words rhymed aannndd ta-da!
FTR: Your second album Etch and Etch Deep is out next month. Talk us through the recording process, did you produce it yourself?
S: We co-produced the album with Snug Recording Company in Derby. All of the tracks were written at home and demos were patched together so we could experiment with shaping sounds and rhythms and textures. When tracks were finished we booked an odd weekend here and there to record instead of booking a big block of time, this way our ears wouldn’t get tired and we would have more time away from the studio with the mixes to decide upon any creative changes with the mix or effects. It was also sent to be mastered by Joe Caithness at Subsequent in Nottingham who did a super job of making it sound dead spangly.
FTR: What inspired this album?
S: We were always going to write an album this year. As an instrumental band it seems pretentious to say the songs are about war or love or politics (which they’re not) but there were some chronic realisations and emotions that came about whilst we were writing these songs. Some of the titles have an existential feel to them but that’s not to say the album is particularly dark. Feeling small can be quite humbling and uplifting. Musically we’ve taken more of an influence from producers like Baths and Nathan Fake.
FTR: Were you surprised at the success of your debut album, Tricolore? Did you feel the
pressure writing the follow up?
S:Yes, we were very surprised. It isn’t a pop album and some of it is pretty unlistenable if you’re not used to that sort of thing. In some ways it made it easier to write the follow up, we did what we wanted last time and the recipe worked. Again this time we’ve written the songs that we wanted to write, it’s nice if other people enjoy them of course, there will always be a slight nagging narcissim with that. But if you write for other people and they still don’t like it then what are you left with?
FTR: What did you differently on this album?
S: We used two different audio workstations on this album, which doesn’t sound like a noteworthy difference but creatively it made a huge improvement. We’d shape sounds using Logic and then load them into Ableton and play around with structures and and warping. Some songs came together quite quickly this way. Others took months to get where they needed to be.
FTR: Why do you make music?
S:Lots of reasons! Initially it was hearing bands and artists and having a huge respect for them and wanting to make those sounds and feelings too. Secondary to that there’s having Louise round for tea and making her eat soup. Thirdly is the privilege of being able to go to so many super places and meet so many super people.
FTR: There’s a line in the Control (the Joy Division biopic) where Annik Honoré says to Ian Curtis “Tell me about Macclesfield” so tell us about Derby? How’s the music scene? Has it always been your home?
G: We all met whilst studying at Derby University and have stuck around since. Its got a lovely music scene and has some ridiculously good bands including Grawl!x and Ghost Twins.
FTR: Do you think being based in a smaller city is a positive or a negative for your music?
G:I guess it has positive and negatives, this way everyone is a big fish in a little pond but it does limit what opportunities there are locally. We love visiting new places.
FTR: Do you ever feel the pressure, or desire, to move to a bigger city?
G: Nah. Although we do love to explore all the places we go and play in, Me and Soph live in a cottage in a village in the Peak District and its bloody beautiful!
FTR: You make instrumental music, what challenges does that create as opposed to traditional song?
S; Creatively that’s no challenge at all, we listen to a lot of instrumental music. I find that some of the time the vocals just get in the way of the music I want to hear. We’ve heard from some people that they would have liked to hear vocals on our songs or that they would have liked us to say something as if that’s something that’s really important when really it’s irrelevant to us.
FTR: What were you listening to when you made the music? It reminded us of some of the music coming out on Erased Tapes, people like Peter Broderick or Nils Frahm.
S: We haven’t heard of those people, will check them out! To be honest if we’re going through an intense period of writing I tend to stop listening to anything at all, it can be too influential and getting some peace and quiet in is good for the brain.
FTR: Tell us about your live show – in the past you’ve incorporated visual elements, such as your lamp show. Is that something you’ll continue? Do you feel it’s important to do more than just play your music?
S:We do think it’s important to present music in different ways yes, it’s good to keep thinking laterally. Spread ourselves about a bit. It keeps it fulfilling for us and the dancing lamps add an element of depth and voodoo.
FTR: What are your touring plans? Are you doing any festivals?
G:We’re playing Cosy Den in an anarchist village outside of Stockholm which we played a few years back, looking forward to doing lots of lake swimming. Also Cloudspotting in Lancashire which we’re excited about. We’ve got the album launches in August – one in Derby on the 7th and one in London on the 9th and also we’re in the process of organising our first full UK tour of ‘The Lamp Show’ in September.
FTR: You wrote a book of haikus, Japanese Poems Steal Brains, what attracts you to haikus? Are you fans of poetry and literature generally? What should we be reading?
G:We’ve written haikus on tour for ages now, mainly as a way of passing time in the van! It’s a really fun way of remembering what we’ve been up to though and recollecting things that we’d normally forget.
Haiku are all readers, we love Murakami and have all just read In Watermelon Sugar. Poetry-wise we love Tim Clare, John Osborne and John Hegley.
FTR: You recently shared the video for Bleak and Beautiful (All Things) directed by James Machin of Grawl!x. Have you got further plans for videos? How involved were you in the making of the video?
G: Mach is a Haiku hero! He’s an extremely talented artist and musician so we trusted him to develop something that would fit in with our interpretation of the title. Him and Lara (camera woman) were a pleasure to work with, it was a really fun day. We’re working with Beau Fowler, a screenplay writer based in london on the second single – Hearts Not Parts. The tracks quite eerie and the video certainly lives up that!
FTR: What’s your opinion on Spotify? Does it make it harder or easier to make a living as a musician?
S: It’s difficult to gage. We’ve had exposure from being on spotify playlists which the effects are difficult to quantify but I do think the model is totally fucked. If one person pays £10 a month and only listens to haiku within that month 99% of the subscription fee will still be split between Beyonce or U2 or Shirley Bassey because they have had the most plays out of everyone the entire month overall. If spotify were to change the model and split the individual subscription fees to who only *they* have been listening to (i.e. haiku get £10) the royalties would be distributed fairly and more money would be injected into the bottom again. SEE?
FTR: There’s been a vinyl revival and recently there seem to be cassettes making a comeback as well. Is it all retro nonsense? Do you still think physical releases have a place in the music industry?
S:It isn’t retro nonsense at all! It’s lovely to see the artwork and flick through people’s record collection. I think psychologically you listen more intently if you’ve physically had to take the music out of it’s case and put the music on the player. You’ve already invested more into the choice than flicking through the endless possibilities on spotify. I admit I’m not sure on the tape thing yet, you lose a lot of the sound quality and our only tape player is in the post van which isn’t the most ideal way to listen to music.
FTR: Do you think labels are still important in the digital age? Would you consider self-releasing?
S:Our experience with our label How Does It Feel To Be Loved? has been nothing but a hugely positive one. Ian at the label who is now our manager has a brilliant mind and vision that has really helped us. It’s good to have an external opinion on things, especially from someone that cares as much as we do. We’ve been very lucky in that respect.
FTR: You famously described yourselves as “Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical- Something-Or-Other” obviously that was slightly tongue in cheek, but do you think there’s any point to genres? Do you feel part of any particular scene?
S:I do think there is a point to genres. If I wanted to tell people I liked a type of book but genres weren’t a thing then how would I ever find the type of book I liked? The music we make does stitch together different genres but it has meant that we’ve been appreciated within different scenes too. And unappreciated by some too of course.
FTR:You use a vast array of instruments on your records, do you learn to play them first or just dive in head first? Any new favourite instruments on this album?
S:Dive in head first. Write the song first, think about how you’ll play it later – that way you don’t compromise or limit the possibilities of the song. I play guitar on the new album! That was exciting!
FTR: You released a collaborative single, Periscopes with ambient-producer Jilk. Will there be more music with Jilk? Do you like the idea of collaborating?
S:There has been talk of swapping wavs again with Jilk which is very exciting. Collaborating is a great thing! It broadens your perspective and things twist in ways you might not have thought of. I hope we’ll do more of this in the future yeah.
FTR:What’s next for Haiku Salut?
S:We’re going to Sweden on Friday!
Etch and Etch Deep is out July 31st on How Does It Feel To Be Loved? Haiku Salut play Cloudspotting Festival at the end of July, prior to their album launches in Derby, at The Voicebox August 7th and London, at The Lexington August 9th.
You can Pre-Order Etch and Etch Deep by clicking HERE