Based out of South London, indie-quartet Bleach Lab appeared on these pages back in March, around the release of their acclaimed debut EP, A Calm Sense Of Surrounding. Wasting no time in following up on that break-out moment, the band recently returned to the studio, to work with producer Stephen Street and record the tracks that make up their new EP, Nothing Feels Real, which the band released earlier this month.
The record marks a thematic change for the band, while A Calm Sense Of Surroundings found them processing grief, following the loss of band member Josh Longman’s father, here they focus their attention inward, trying to make sense of relationships both with others and crucially with themselves. The record is underpinned with a frank discussion about mental health, and a search for relationships that are constructive and positive, as the band themselves put it, “learning from past experiences to move forward”.
The first track the band shared to promote the record, was also fittingly its opening statement, Real Thing. The track starts with a complex programmed drum-beat, before chiming indie-pop guitars and Jenna Kyle’s soaring vocal enter, taking the song into similar territory to The Sundays, or more modern contemporaries like Night Flowers or Life Model. Lyrically, the track is a plea for a meaningful connection, the slightly nostalgic tinge to the music adding to the lyrical thread of never giving up on love, despite the knocks we get and the walls we build along the way. From there Nothing Feels Real flows into the sun-drenched jangle of Violet Light, a track where the bright disposition of the music is in contrast to the lyrical exploration of grief, “I think about that night and I cry it all away I think about that night when the sun never came”.
Elsewhere on the record, Inside My Mind might be the record’s biggest curve-ball, adding country-licked guitars to the slow clatter of drums as the lyrics aim for connection, even in the face of knowing things will probably go wrong, “I know you try to help its kind, even I don’t understand my mind, you know that I’ll try but I probably won’t get it right, on the first time”. After the shimmering joys of the recent single, Talk It Out, the album closes on the rather wonderful, Then I Know. It could almost be mistaken for a love song, yet throughout there’s a creeping sense that nothing is quite as serene as it might first seem, what starts with, “wanna be wherever you are”, soon becomes, “turn it round and make it out it’s my fault, but feeling sad sometimes isn’t a fault”. As with so much of Nothing Feels Real, there’s a tug-of-war going on in Bleach Lab’s world, happiness and hope are always something to be strived for, a destination to work towards, even if you know there might be obstacles along the way. This record is a leap forward in every way, a band growing into their own shoes, taking all the lessons life throws their way and making them into something really quite magical.
Following the EP release, I recently spoke to the band about recording the EP, hitting the road and why music is the perfect, “way to clear your mind”.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Bleach Lab?
We’re an indie/dream-pop four piece based in South London.
FTR: You’ve just released your new EP, Nothings Feel Real, what can you tell me about recording the record?
We wrote this EP in the second half of last year. we were lucky to get to work with stephen street as producer for the record. recording happened over a few weeks in May this year, and it all went pretty smoothly! it helped that we had such a long time to prepare, but working with Stephen really helped in bringing things together.
FTR: After the acclaim for A Calm Sense Of Surrounding, did you approach this record differently? Was there pressure to build on that success?
There was certainly an element of wanting to keep up the momentum we created from our first EP. Moving onto “Nothing Feels Real” was the first time we got to create new music with our recent drummer Kieran Weston. this changed our sound massively with more pop influences that he brought to the project, we balanced this with the guitar band heavy producer Stephen Street which helped reassure us in the recording process for sure.
FTR: Who are the influences on Bleach Lab music? What were you listening to when you wrote the EP?
The main influences this time round ranged from Cocteau Twins, The Sundays, The Cranberries, and more contemporary artists like Bon Iver and Phoebe Bridgers
FTR: It’s obviously a strange world to be releasing the record into, how has the pandemic affected your plans?
It didn’t really affect the recording process in the end but it definitely affected when we chose to release. we wanted to make sure we had some live shows to coincide with the release this time round (which we weren’t able to do for EP1) so we had to be patient. We are so happy we are getting to play shows again !
FTR: What’s the best way for people to support musicians at this time?
Go to gigs! and buy vinyls and merch whenever artists are selling them. we are starting to learn the realities of how little money can be made from streaming when starting out, so buying physical stuff from artists makes a huge difference
FTR: You’ve been pretty open that a lot of your music focuses on the pursuit of mental health. Do you think writing music is one of the tools you use to keep your mind healthy?
For us it is definitely a method of processing and releasing certain experiences and a way to clear your mind. Especially the process of lyric writing, it often feels like once you’ve written it down and put it out there it can give a sense of clarity about certain situations.
FTR: Now bands are starting to get out and play again, what can people expect from the Bleach Lab live show?
Its been so great this summer to get back on our live feet. Finally being able to play multiple shows and festivals has been such a treat. If we’ve learnt anything though, you never really know what to expect…every show is so different! Like this weekend for example in Cardiff, we doubt the crowd expected the smoke machine to lose control to the point they could no longer see us, but hey these things happen!
FTR: Why do you make music?
I’m sure it’s quite cliche to say, but music is just a universal language. There is a real sense of community involved and it brings people together in so many ways. Having some sort of creative outlet is so essential for us and we thrive on the whole process of making and playing music.
FTR: What are your ambitions for this record? Is music still a viable career?
Quite honestly, we just want it to be heard and to be enjoyed. We are hopeful that it is relatable and also, that it makes people who have had similar experiences to the kind of things we write about feel heard.
It is definitely a challenging industry to crack. There generally isn’t a huge amount of money to be made at the beginning of a bands career, for example we all still continue to have full time jobs alongside the band. It can be challenging to juggle the logistics of the two, but you keep at it for the end goal.
FTR: What’s next for Bleach Lab?
We have our first UK Headline Tour coming up in 2022, which we are incredibly excited for! We are also hopeful that next year will be our first proper summer of festivals.
Nothing Feels Real is out now. For more information on Bleach Lab visit https://bleachlab.com/.