Cliché: Do you remember the first song you wrote? What was it about?
Aidan Tulloch: I used to write songs all the time as a child with my friends. When I look back, the melodies were actually so catchy, but the lyrics were totally meaningless, and we just sung words we thought sounded good together. The first song I wrote with a proper message would have been a Christmas carol that I put together on commission for BBC Radio Tees when I’d just turned 13 after they’d spotted some other composition I’d done. I still remember it, it was about love, peace, and respect, and kind of tried to look at modern social and economic issues too. I’m still really proud of it, and look at it every Christmas.
Which genre appeals to you the most as an artist and why?
I’m an indie kid at heart, and that’s where my artistic journey all began. The music I write might start there, but it always goes onto draw from pop, jazz, electronic, hip hop, classical, and folk. I think that’s noticeable if you listen to this record. I can think of plenty of artists in all of those genres that I love and consistently learn (borrow? steal?) from. If I have to answer with just one, let’s say contemporary. By which I’m referring to all the really exciting music that’s happening right now. It’s such a good time for music, and to be a musician, and there’s no need to conform to a traditional genre category.
Tell us about your new EP, Somewhere Without Lights.
It’s my first proper record. It’s got three songs on there that I’m really proud of, and I’ve also included a more abstract sketch as well as a piece of instrumental piano that I adapted from a score that I initially composed for a stage play a friend of mine directed. Together it feels like a really cohesive work that really reflects the time it was created in, and the artist it was created by.
How would you describe the overall mood of the EP?
It’s primarily an EP of the night. The space where sound and light get a chance to go off piste. There’s something about the night that’s just so exciting and filled with opportunity. The mood of the music captures this, and articulates the sense of restlessness, sleeplessness, decadence, and maybe fear. It’s also nostalgic: the other place without lights, of course, is the North Yorkshire me and my friends grew up in. The iceberg on the artwork is vast and enormous, yet silent and empty. I think that’s an enthralling contrast that can be relevant to a lot of this record.
In your opinion, which track has the most creative complexity behind it?
Creative complexity?! Probably Song for Armageddon. It went through lots of different phases, and ended up capturing so many armageddons as I kept coming back to it over the course of a year. It started life on a coach during the heatwave last summer, and then also felt really urgent after the awful 2019 UK election in the middle of winter. Even after the melody and lyrics were done, the production process was complex too — I ended up deciding to intersect chamber pop and avant garde neoclassical with saccharine throwback EDM drops. And that just feels right, doesn’t it.
Would you say you’re trying to recreate the memories of adolescence through your EP?
Definitely, particularly on Goalposts. Being back at home for lockdown definitely got me re-approaching those memories and those situations. I felt the need to look back, and then to think about how I want to remember it all.
Now that you’re an adult, how has your self-perception changed?
It’s always changing, and I think it always continues to change. People always say that they behave so differently with different people that they don’t know who they really are, and I’m the same. It’s impossible to assess yourself as a fixed entity.
Why is it so vital to you to create music that acts as a sanctuary for listeners?
Because I’ve felt how powerful an experience this can be. The contract between voice and listener is one of the most special. Also, I’m so conscious of the fact that you can’t just take an audience’s time for granted. You’ve got to earn it, and have something valuable, meaningful, and worthwhile to share. I want to make spaces and moments that leave people feeling fulfilled, moved, maybe even rescued, and maybe even amused.
How do you expect your music to evolve from here?
For this project, I’ve got a second EP in the pipeline — like this record, it’s profound and reflective, but it’s already feeling like there’s even more of a narrative. There’s more space to breathe, and the riffs are even livelier. And throughout, I’m collaborating more and more with filmmakers, artists, architects, curators, and all sorts of talented creatives to — in the longer term — make multi-disciplinary moments where the music can still communicate even in between listens.