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Ebbb are finding the flow

17 June 2024, 09:00

By finding beauty in paradox, London-based electronic trio Ebbb are using virtuosity, personal diligence and musical alchemy to create a unique aural experience.

Together, producer Lev Ceylan, vocalist Will Rowland, and drummer Scott MacDonald have managed to craft a sound that skirts any any strict genre classification. By blurring sublime vocals, intense techno-inspired beats, and a mix of ambient and heady electronics - usually within the same song - in the hands of Ebbb, these separate elements somehow merge to make complete sonic sense.

The band’s debut EP All At Once is an impressive amalgamation of these qualities, showcasing their deft ability to transport listeners into a space that could effortlessly fill the arches of a church, whilst simultaneously vibrating through the ceiling of a sweaty city basement rave. The record’s cover photo shows a pale, nude, slender torso of a human figure, carefully balancing a huge stone boulder between their shoulder blades; another hint at the trio’s propensity for coordinating their softer and heavier sides.


It would be a disservice to say that Ebbb’s level of musical intuition cannot be taught, as each member of the band has dedicated years of their life to studying, practising and playing. Music was both a compulsion and a passion for them long before they began performing together just over a year ago.

“I thought you needed to be playing for 15 years and be some kind of maestro with your instrument, so it blew my mind that someone I knew in my social circle knew how to play guitar,” producer Ceylan reveals. He’s referring to a time in his late teens, when he was enamoured with his friend’s ability to play guitar along with songs by The Black Keys. When he finished his studies, Ceylan, who is originally from Germany, worked at The Philharmonic Hall in Munich as a stage lighting and sound technician. “From then on, it was music everyday, at work and in my spare time as well,” he shares.

After three years of working and saving money, he decided to relocate. Ceylan opted for London over Berlin, as the latter felt too close to home, with his core thought process being, “as long as I’m young and naive, I just want to move to a bigger city and do something creative”. He describes London’s underground music scene as a “sensory overload” in terms of influences and genres, which he immersed himself in as both a fan, student and a musician. This absorption and stimulation was aided by his time spent studying at Goldsmiths in South London, which is where he met fellow bandmate and drummer Scott MacDonald.

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Growing up in Glasgow, MacDonald was surrounded by a musical family and “always knew” that he wanted to be a drummer. He began playing in emo and punk bands around the city, where he gained a lot of “real world” experience as a fifteen-year old sneaking into over-eighteen pubs in order to perform. Like Ceylan, MacDonald decided to take the leap and move to London, with the idea that it would push him to a higher standard of musicianship. “Being in an original band was a big thing for me too,” he shares. “If I could manage to do something that I’ve been involved in the writing process of, or that I’m at the nerve centre of; that was always my dream.”

MacDonald was looking for a “fresh start” and he found that at Goldsmiths and in Ceylan. The pair initially started playing together in 2019, with Ceylan on guitar. They met Ebbb’s future vocalist Will Rowland at a gig, supporting Rowland’s project at the time, and decided to stay in touch. The potency and potential in Rowland’s majestic voice resonated with Ceylan long after this encounter. When he began experimenting and producing new music in 2023, he approached Rowland to see if he would be interested in recording vocals on some of his “weird electronic ideas”. Luckily, Rowland said yes.

Rowland’s route into music was a more traditional one. His first memory of singing for an audience, however, errs on the side of traumatic. AT the age of five or six, his school allowed him to sing a song from the musical Oklahoma in front of an assembly of family and friends. As the pianist began playing it in the wrong key, Rowland attempted to match it with his vocal, which ultimately led to him singing too high, and breaking down in tears. “That’s my earliest memory of music,” he laughs, “It’s also my first memory of being embarrassed, because my Dad stood up in the crowd and was shouting ‘Wrong key! Wrong key!, because he’d practised it with me so many times. Everyone was probably like ‘who is this lunatic?’”


Fortunately, this stressful introduction didn’t deter Rowland from performing in public again. He attended the prestigious Westminster Abbey Choir School from the age of eight, where he developed the striking and seraphic voice that now flows over the idiosyncratic electronic textures of Ebbb’s music. Rowland confesses that his classical background initially made him dogmatic about music that did not fall under the “classical” banner. “I became quite snobby about it,” he openly admits, “but when I came out of that school, I started listening to bands and I decided that I wanted to be in a band, so I roped some of my friends in to jam with me.” Rowland’s brother was also key in establishing his broader music taste. “He used to send me stuff, including the band that Lev and Scott were in actually. He was the first person to show me their music.”

Thus, after these introductions, Ebbb was born. Drawing from their myriad of influences and experiences, Rowland and Ceylan began writing together in early 2023, and the results were fast, fruitful and eclectic. “We realised this sort of music for us was a blank canvas,” Ceylan recalls, “So we went on this streak and recorded so much stuff; two, three albums worth of material.” Speaking about their songwriting process, Rowland comments that it’s “not really a logical or rational thing.” He tries lots of “different melodic shapes” and ultimately leads with what feels or sounds best. “Sometimes it’s more instinctive and quick and natural. Sometimes we go through lots of different iterations of a tune to try and find something that we think is the ‘perfect’ thing,” he offers.

For Ceylan, the “perfect” thing is finding the harmonious middle ground on opposite ends of a sonic spectrum.I always feel like we’ve cracked it - or maybe we never ‘crack’ it, maybe it’s pure delusion? - but if it doesn’t sound like something super weird and leftfield…but like it just glues together and you don’t even realise how extreme the spectrum is between the vocals and the production. Whenever I listen to something and it just flows, and you don’t question the musical choices, that’s an indicator for me that this could be something good.”

As for the band’s name, there’s no “deeper meaning” to Ebbb. It’s not an acronym either. Ceylan simply explains that with his previous bands, there was always “a lot of explaining after shows what the band name was about,” so he wanted something that was easy and didn’t require excessive interpretation.

Armed with a simple moniker and a plethora of songs to pick from, Ebbb began performing live. Although Rowland jokes that there were about “five people” in the room at their first ever gig, the trio slowly, through posting about gigs on their social media and through word of mouth, began to build a steady and loyal following, thanks to playing at independent small London venues like The George Tavern in Stepney Green, and The Windmill in Brixton.

Reactions to their sound and their setup were initially mixed. “We were a full band, but without any guitars or bass, so people were a bit like ‘okay, what’s going to happen next?’” Ceylan shares. “Depending on set times, some people would be full on dancing to it, and then some people wouldn’t clap throughout the whole set and it would be dead silent.” Rowland also feels that during the band’s early performances, the crowd remained still because they were “observing” what was happening, or because of the sheer unpredictability of MacDonald’s beats in each song. The stillness wasn’t always interpreted negatively. Ceylan adds “As long as people don’t start rolling cigarettes or being on their phones too much, then it’s good”.

Ceylan’s desire is to make Ebbb’s live sound a truly immersive experience. To encourage this, he actively remained vague on the band’s social media accounts, pushing hard to get followers to come to Ebbb’s live shows instead of engaging with the fleeting content on their feeds. I guess that approach gave us a ‘this band is doing something underground’ vibe,” he reflects. Appealing to people’s curiosity worked, and after playing a string of support shows with Mary In The Junkyard, PVA, Folly Group and Scaler, Ebbb’s reputation for being a must-see live band flourished.

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With All At Once released into the world - entirely recorded and produced in Ceylan’s bedroom - those who haven’t had the opportunity to see the band live have been offered a glimpse of their genre-defying sounds. From the opening note of “Himmel”, it is apparent that Rowland’s vocal range is remarkable. As are Ceylan’s precise, yet fluid production skills and MacDonald’s propulsive, shifting, vital beats. Each element elevates the other - it feels odd to think of them existing separately, when they flow, interact and sometimes collide with such impressive grace.

Each band member has a current favourite track. Ceylan feels that “Torn” captures the “two extremes” of Ebbb, with its “ethereal and cutting vocals, and heavy intense production.” Rowland is particularly proud of “Himmel”, as he deems it one of the band’s “earliest successes” in terms of blending their binary opposites too. For MacDonald, “Seamlessly” perfectly encapsulates a melancholic and “reflective” mood that he personally enjoys when listening to music. The trio insist that there is no cohesive “theme” running through the EP, and that the five tracks are a “teaser” of what a full album could sound like.

The one thing all three members of Ebbb can agree on is that they do not want to be pigeon-holed. This extends to what festival line-ups they feature on too. Ceylan in particular wants Ebbb’s sound to be appreciated wherever they find themselves; whether that’s with the “classic BBC 6Music listener”, at Manchester Psych Fest, or at a late night slot at an electronic-based event. For MacDonald, his humble desire for people to “get as much as we did'' from the EP is also a key priority. “That sounds very generic,” he laughs, “but we tried really hard on it.”

Ebbb's All At Once EP is out now via Ninja Tune

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