Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Bernard + Edith

15 April 2014, 15:00 | Written by Joe Goggins

“We didn’t want to call ourselves anything with ‘the’ or ‘a’ in it. It seemed a bit too serious.”

Greta Carroll is explaining the rationale behind the name Bernard + Edith. She and her bandmate, Egyptian Hip Hop synth-troubler Nick Delap, have used their respective middle names for a moniker that hints at the twee and playful, but ultimately belies something much darker.

As I meet the pair in our native Manchester, the first thing I notice about Delap is his t-shirt, emblazoned with Laura Palmer’s prom photo from Twin Peaks. Its hardly surprising that they’re fans of the cult series; their music shares its sense of superficial beauty masking something far more sinister. Their first single proper, “Poppy”, debuted over on Dummy last month; it’s a deliciously dark slice of off-kilter art pop, positively dripping with the kind of alluring menace that they’ve been perfecting at shows across town these past couple of years.

Bernard + Edith are one of a slew of local bands that comprise SWAYS Records’ formidable roster; the label’s base of operations is the Bunker, a disused industrial space a stone’s throw from Strangeways prison, but the duo cut their teeth here in the Northern Quarter, which now has a more vibrant music scene than at any time in its history. It’s a fitting place for us to meet up and discuss where they’ve been, where they’re going, and the dramatic transformation of our hometown’s music scene.

How long have you been making music together?

G: We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. I think we met at Soup Kitchen, at a WU LYF gig; they were called Vagina Wolf back then, though. I was doing art at the time, not music, and Nick was in Egyptian Hip Hop.

N: I was actually still in a band called Copycats when we first met, I think. Greta started to sort of dabble in making music a couple of years ago, and I helped her out; teaching her how to use software, things like that. Eventually, we started making things together that sounded good, got a few gigs and things have kept on rolling from there.

Was it a case of shared influences bringing you together?

N: We’re both really into The Knife, and Fever Ray. Portishead, too, and Massive Attack.

G: And Japan.

N: Yeah. All of that stuff that’s electronic, but difficult to pin down, to put in a box. We’ve taken bits of influence from each and put them all together.

When did you start to get the sense that things were beginning to pick up for you?

G: Last summer, wasn’t it?

N: Yeah. We got involved with Sways Records; when they started putting on gigs, I was doing visuals for some of their nights, and we ended up making friends with them that way. We played them some of our songs, and they liked it enough to put it out. Things have been slowly moving in the right direction ever since, I think.

G: We’ve only just put our first single out online a couple of weeks ago, and it’s not out properly until the end of the month. It’s still very much early days.

N: We premiered “Poppy” on Dummy and, since then, we’ve had a few festival offers and things like that, and we’ve been recording tracks for an album down in London.

How far along are you with the album?

N: We’ve almost finished recording, actually. We met a guy from Bella Union a while ago, who liked what we were doing and asked us to go down and maybe do enough for an E.P., and we’d see where it went from there. We ended up being asked back again to do another five tracks, so there’s enough for a full-length thing now, but we’ll see what happens. There’s nothing official with those guys yet, and I’m not sure when it’d be out. Late summer, maybe.

G: We’ve still got a few things to go back and finish. We’re going to put a tape out ourselves in the meantime, I think, just of loads of little experiments that we thought we might not end up using for a proper release.

Have you got a title?

N: Yeah, we’re going to call it Jem, after Greta’s dog.

G: No, we’re not.

N: In all seriousness, we’ve not gotten that far with it yet. We need to have a proper think about the track listing, too, because that’s so important.

G: Yeah. I know a lot of the records I love are really well balanced in the way the running order is set up. The Cocteau Twins were good at that.

N: Ah shit, The Cocteau Twins! They’re another band we were really into, before we started making music.


Bernard + Edith Press Shot 3

How would you describe your sound to somebody who hadn’t heard you before?

G: Experimental, I guess? It’s hard to say. The album is all over the place; there’s old songs, new songs, songs that Nick or myself have done alone. There’s a real mix, and the tracks all seem to have turned out differently to each other. I used to do jazz singing, so it’s got some jazz influence on there, definitely. I suppose you’d say we’re an electronic band, first and foremost.

N: We use a lot of field recordings as well, so there’s a really atmospheric side to it, and then beats are a big part of it.

G: We tend to cut our ideas up and play around with them, putting them over different beats. We’re definitely very experimental.

Where do you think that atmospheric aspect comes from? I couldn’t help but notice your t-shirt, Nick…

N: Oh shit, yeah!

G: We love Twin Peaks; that’s one of our biggest inspirations, definitely. It’s funny, because when you’re asked what influences you, you’re expected to name a band, but we take a lot of cues from other artistic things, too. The soundtrack in that show is incredible, and it’s difficult to figure out what it is about it that makes such an impression on you.

N: It’s just the vibe of the whole series, isn’t it? That eeriness, the sense that everything isn’t what it seems. We wanted that in our own music. It is a big thing for us; David Lynch in general, really.

A lot of his work seems to have had a big influence on bands…

N: Yeah, I think it’s just the way he plays around with music. It’s fascinating. The soundtrack always completely suits the film, but it’s hard to put your finger on why. You could completely change the feel of the footage if you were to put something else over the top of it. I do like that ambiguity.

G: We covered a song from Twin Peaks, actually, and kind of connected it with a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. We used to open our early shows with it, when we were first starting out and really experimenting.

Would you say other areas of art are a bigger inspiration than music, then?

N: It’s probably half and half, to be fair.

G: We do really love a lot of current bands. Connan Mockasin, especially, and Ariel Pink, too. I really like his melodies. I take a lot of influence from Indian music, too, in that respect; there’s some incredible Indian singers that do really unusual things with their melodies.

How do you make things work live, with just the two of you?

N: Greta sings and has pedals for reverb, that kind of thing. She has a theremin, too, which comes into some of the songs. And then I play synth and the drums are through a sampler, and we’ve got a laptop for a little bit of backing. We want to have it be as live as possible, but we’re still figuring it out, and it’s difficult without much money. If we could, we’d get drum machines and sequencers, and I hope we will, eventually.

Why did you choose “Poppy” to be the first single?

G: That one had the best response from our friends, I think. Everybody was telling us that it was the one that they really couldn’t get out of their heads, and we got the feeling that it was the one the crowds seemed to be remembering from our shows around town. It’s a good introduction.

N: We’ve fleshed it out quite a bit; the original was pretty different. It’s definitely developed as a result of us re-recording it.

Do you think your sound is changing all the time?

G: Definitely. When we were down in London, we were constantly writing, even in our hotel room, and everything we did seemed a little bit different.

N: I think we do have things about us that hold everything together, though. We do have a bit of a process to the way we write, and a lot of it is based around Greta’s singing, because her voice is so powerful.

What do you think of Manchester as a city to make music in?

N: It’s fantastic. London obviously has the music industry pretty much based there, but I find that it’s quite a competitive environment, and it’s easy to get distracted by the lifestyle. It’s much easier to focus on your music up here, and everyone seems to be on the same wavelength. Everybody’s friends.

G: In London, I get the impression that everyone’s trying to one up each other all the time. We definitely don’t fit in with that; we’re not really the kind of people to bitch about other bands, you know? There’s such a good crowd of people supporting musicians in Manchester; great venues, great promoters. You know there’s going to be plenty of your friends turning up when you put something on.

Do you think things have changed in that respect over the past few years? How does the current scene compare to, say, how it was in the early days of Egyptian Hip Hop?

N: Oh, it’s miles better now. When Egyptian Hip Hop started, the music scene in Manchester was pretty shit. There were only a few good bands, and a lot of dodgy promoters. I think that’s why it’s changed really; the reason it’s good now is because it was shit then. People came to realise that something needed to change.

G: You’ve got Now Wave here now, too, and they’re amazing. They’re so respectful of bands. The first time we played with them was only our second ever gig, and they paid us. We hadn’t even thought about it, and then at the end of the night, they were going, “Oh God! We need to pay you!” and we thought, “what?” They’ve made a massive difference here, I think.

N: And now, you’re getting a lot of other people from different parts of the country, and even further than that, coming here to make music. There’s another band on Sways called Naked (On Drugs), and their singer, Sebastian, he came here from France because he knew it was a great place to be a musician. That’s why there’s such a good scene now, because there’s such a mix of people. When Egyptian Hip Hop started, everything was a lot more guitar-based – it was all very lad-rock – and it wasn’t for me. People are far more willing to experiment here now.

Who are your favourite bands in town at the minute?

G: Definitely Naked (On Drugs). There’s a woman from Chorlton called Die Hexen, who’s really dark, really ambient.

N: Kult Country, as well; they’re super energetic, really noisy. I think a lot of people are getting to hear about them now.

G: Temple Songs are amazing, too, and Ménage à Trois. Their singer has a really beautiful voice.

What’s the plan for the immediate future? Are you going to tour?

N: We’ve just a booking agent, and he’s sort of testing the water and seeing what he can get us in Europe. We’re playing Sounds from the Other City in May, on the Now Wave stage, and Liverpool Sound City, too.

G: We’re doing Lock Tavern Festival in London as well, on Record Store Day.

N: We really want to get to France and Germany, as much of Europe as we can. Hopefully, the single’s going to help us pick up a little bit of traction. I think you need to tour for people to take you seriously as a band, to be honest.

Poppy is available now, via Sways Records.

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