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On the Rise

12 April 2024, 11:00
Words by Jen Long

Lead photo by Jorden Brooks

As FINE, Leeds producer Finlay Vallance is making electric music from found sounds and instrumentation that balances collaboration with solo creation.

Having played guitar with a band for half a decade, Finlay Vallance initially turned to synthesisers and found sounds as a way to flesh out his solo creations. As his repertoire and experience grew, he began to partner with local artists, bringing together the collaborative sparks that informed FINE's upcoming debut album THEN, NOW, UNTIL.

“I never really set out to write an album,” shrugs Vallance across faltering wifi, a small home studio pixelated behind him. “I’d released that first EP and then I was like, right, I'm gonna try and write a second one, but my main focus was that I wanted it to feature some quite prominent vocal parts and also just involve collaborations as a whole. Going back to that band stuff and having that live connection with other people, I was beginning to miss that.”

Having released his Pachamama EP last year, a striking collection of organic electronica that balanced innovative production with expansive atmosphere, Vallance’s new offering brings together his love of incorporating outside influence with his formative experiences in collaboration. Getting a release via the new partnership between Launchpad+ and EMI North, THEN, NOW, UNTIL is a testament to FINE’s subtle talents.


Born and bred in Roundhay, Leeds, Vallance grew up surrounded by art and music. His grandfather’s record collection, a mix of world and classical, left an early, formative impression introducing him to the likes of Brahms, Vivaldi, and Mulatu Astatke. “I think I'm quite lucky that I have quite a creative family. My mum is an artist and art teacher so she always encouraged me to be creative,” he says. “My dad was probably a big influence as well. I grew up listening to The Smiths, The Clash, people like that. Amongst that within my dad's record collection was Massive Attack, Portishead, and it was interesting to see how they would use live instruments in an electronic setting.”

He took guitar lessons from an early age, picking up piano after a neighbour down the road donated one from the middle of their house move. By his mid-teens, as his friends were choosing their GCSEs, Vallance made the decision to focus on music over sport. “My best friend at the time would hang around with these two other guys that were spending a lot of time in the music rooms,” he says. “I was like, I don't want to do sport on my own, it's a bit boring.”


The group started making music together as Jabbawoki, rehearsing at break times and after school. For around five years they played shows, releasing a string of singles and an EP. But as real life kicked in and the various members took places at universities around the country, continuing the band became impractical. “No bad blood,” smiles Vallance.

He took a spot at Leeds Beckett to study music production, years of playing the piano suddenly proving invaluable. “When you're programming I think it's really important to have a grip on how keyboards and synthesisers work. You can instantly play hundreds of instruments because you can load up whatever you want,” he says. “When the band finished, I was just left on my own but obviously still wanted to have this creative outlet of music. I think that's where the idea of having synthesisers and loops and production software to then form my band came from. I think that started to take off with FINE.”


Working as FINE, Vallance replaced the collaborative influence of bandmates with a range of inspiration, from found sounds and phone recordings to the deep cuts of his grandfather’s record collection. “I didn't sample anything from the records directly but I like using found sounds,” he says. “There's this one piano part that I've been sitting on, probably for a couple of years. I heard this African horns record where the language paired with the drums and the pianos. I was like, ‘that makes sense now as how I can sample drums along with my piano part and to make it this full blown composition.’”

On THEN, NOW, UNTIL, out next month, Vallance uses his discoveries to invoke imagery, infusing his rich and melodic electronica with an atmospheric depth. “At the end of that record there's an iPhone recording of just walking in the Italian Alps,” he says. “You can hear all the cowbells on the cows as they're walking down the mountain. I guess that kind of pays homage to 'Grazing in the Grass' by Hugh Masekela. There's lots of little Easter Eggs hidden throughout the tracks if you listen carefully.”

Alongside the record’s more meticulous moments are a series of collaborations that further broaden Vallance’s approach. On recent single “Empty Space,” a wonky bounce of elegant soul, he partners with Leeds-based singer-songwriter Molly Rymer who he met while working as an artist liaison at a showcase night in the city.

The track also features close collaborator Jonah Evans. An old friend from his hometown of Roundhay, both musicians met through the jazz collective Mixolydian. Evans, who now studies at the Royal Academy in London, helped Vallance further experiment on his own recordings. “He's just got a great ear for harmony. He's also an incredible drummer as well,” Vallance says. “A very helpful asset to have writing the album.”


Lead single “Shade of Blue” features Manchester singer Jess Edie. The centrepiece of the record, Edie’s silky and direct delivery commands with an accomplished confidence over Vallance’s glistening production. A serendipitous collaboration, the pair were introduced by a mutual friend and clicked instantly. “I think we probably built eighty-percent of that record in the first day,” smiles Vallance. “A chance connection ended up feeling like a really nice piece of music.”

Through partnering with other rising artists, Vallane has continued to grow as a producer. On new album THEN, NOW, UNTIL he further proves the value of collaboration, and the rewards are ours to reap.

Then, Now, Until is set for release on 17 May in partnership with Leeds label analog horizons via Launchpad+ / EMI North, and is available to pre-order now.

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