Meet our new music editor

Photo: Irene Baqué

In issue 33 we say a sad farewell to the wonderful Linnea Enstrom, who has left Oh Comely to start a creative writing course in Sweden. We're delighted to introduce you to Marta Bausells, who will be taking on the role of music editor. To get to know her a bit better, we sat her down for a little chat...

Hello Marta! Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I'm a freelance writer, editor and curator. I was born and raised in Barcelona. I started out by writing about music and culture at the same time as I studied politics. At the time, I thought they were two separate things and that I'd have to choose, but I later realised that culture is intrinsically linked to society, politics and social action. I then worked for a newspaper there, where I was lucky to report on all sorts of topics – social issues, environment, foreign news – before I moved to London four years ago.

I love that my work has allowed me to learn and explore all sorts of subjects and ideas. I always wanted to go back to writing about culture, though, and I eventually landed a job on the Guardian’s books desk, where I hosted discussions about books, created a series about books set in American cities, chatted to book-lovers around the world daily, and discovered the wonders of the literary internet. Currently, I’m really enjoying working with Literary Hub on covering books from this side of the Atlantic. 

I also do lots of other little things, like a collaboration with Subway Book Review (check it out!), which means I stop book-carrying strangers on the tube and chat to them about what they’re reading! It’s magical. No matter the subject, what I love the most about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people and share their stories. I can't wait to go back to writing about music!

What was the first single you bought? 
The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe'!* It caught me at the exact target age, and everyone at my school was crazy about them for a year.

*If by bought you mean copied on a cassette tape and passed on among friends countless times (oops). But I'm sure I ended up buying it too! 

What was the last gig you went to? 
Well, this is a bit random – but it’s the truth! It was this Catalan guy called Ferran Palau. I had gone back to Barcelona for a few days, it was the end of the summer and it was starting to drizzle (that sticky, humid end-of-summer Mediterranean rain). One neighbourhood was celebrating its yearly festivities, which means the streets are beautifully decorated by neighbours and there are gigs in almost every little square. I had just discovered this guy’s music a few hours earlier in the car, with friends – and there he was. One of those serendipitous musical moments.

What song will always get you up and dancing? 
Anything by Queen. I have a special weakness for 'Don’t Stop Me Now'.

Vinyl, CD or download?
The day I actually have space in the house and money to buy many of them, I’ll go back to vinyls – which is how I grew up listening to music. In the meantime, I’m a Spotify and downloads gal. 

Who, dead or alive, would you most like to interview? 
Frida Kahlo. I visited her house last year in Mexico and I was like “can I just move in here now?”. I would love to have been around her energy when she was alive, even if for five minutes. I am so inspired by how, despite being in horrific and crippling pain, she got up every morning, kicked ass and made the most amazing art – and lived her life in her own terms. 

And if I might cheat and add a couple from the realm of the alive, right now my musical dream interviewee would be Solange – what a queen! I’d love to interview Michelle Obama once she leaves the Oval Office and gets to talk more freely. And Tom Hanks, always. 

Outside of music, what else do you like to do?
Like I said, I love reading. My bedroom is ridiculously full of 'to-be-read piles' – it’s almost like I live around these book towers, and not the other way around. I also love film – I ran a film club with a friend for a while – good television and storytelling podcasts. I used to feel stressed-out or guilty about how little time there is to follow everything, but now I don’t mind being behind on TV shows or anything else. There’s this growing backlog of great culture waiting for me when I get home! What’s not to love?

Let us know a secret...
I don’t like chocolate… (!)


Find out more about Marta on her website, or follow her on Twitter

Adult Life Skills: An interview with writer-director Rachel Tunnard

The protagonists of debut films sometimes resemble their creators, but in keeping with Rachel Tunnard's impassioned advocacy of collaboration, the editor-turned-director states that her lead character Anna in Adult Life Skills is a combination of herself and two of her actors, Jodie Whittaker and Rachael Deering. The inspiration for the film – a sensitive comedy-drama about a bereaved twin living in her mum's shed – came from a holiday the three friends took together in 2009, where they commiserated over how rarely they saw women like them believably represented on screen. While Rachel herself has never suffered such a loss, at 29 she found herself in a similar morass of late twenties confusion, moving back into her parents' house “like a bloody teenager.” The experience was one of many to feed into the screenplay: “There's lots of stuff in there that I've taken from different areas of my life,” she explains. “You patch them together until it feels like a cohesive world.” Ahead of its release in cinemas today, we spoke to Rachel about making the film.


Do you think Anna would be experiencing the same existential panic if she hadn't lost her twin? How much is her lack of direction tied to her grief?

I think if you're somebody who's creative you can have a little bit of a crisis around the end of your twenties. You might have done an artsy degree and you imagine that you're going to work in the arts and get an Oscar or whatever, and then suddenly you're 30 and it hasn't quite worked out the way you thought it was going to. Your parents are looking at you wondering is this ever really going to work out. Potentially Anna would have had an early mid-life crisis anyway, but I was interested in twin loss because it manifests itself differently to normal grief. It provokes an identity crisis and in my work I like to explore big existential ideas in a really lowbrow way.


Film production notes are usually very staid and formulaic, but the ones for Adult Life Skills are covered in irreverent annotations by you. They have the same handmade quality as Anna's various projects in the film. Where does that impulse come from?

It's how I present everything really, mainly because I can't use Photoshop. I draw stuff and then I take a photo and that's how I've always done it. As an editor you get sent statements by directors and I always find them really dry. But the main reason it came about is because the credits says “A film by Rachel Tunnard” and I completely hate it. All the way through the production I said I didn't want that credit, and in the end my agent pointed out that it was something her male clients actually ask for. It seemed really arrogant. Even though I've done loads of jobs on this it's a collaboration between so many different people. It's our film, so I wanted a chance to add the words “and everyone else.”


Are small creative endeavours a useful outlet when you're working on one large project like this film?

I just do all of that stuff without thinking about it. My husband and I write pep talks to each other which are nonsense, and I started doing this thing called Tunnard Tasks, where I made my mum, dad and brother do a task every month, like write a limerick. My parents begrudgingly do them when I ask but it's really interesting to see what my 68-year-old dad writes in a limerick about our house growing up. I can't stop it. The film is one part of that continual amalgamation of crap.


Before making Adult Life Skills you directed a short called Emotional Fusebox that you've described as being a “pilot” version of the film. How did it come about?

The Adult Life Skills script was getting some attention from the BFI and Creative England but I hadn't directed anything. They asked if I wanted to direct it and I said no, so they suggested all these other people and I kept saying I don't know, I don't know. Somebody told me if I didn't direct it then I had no right to complain about the fact that there are so few female film-makers, and they were right. But before we received the money to do the film I had to prove I was going to be able to direct it, so I wrote a short film based on the characters.


Was it a good exercise?

Absolutely, because I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to do it. I knew that I liked editing and writing, but I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy directing. I'd never considered it before. Rachael Deering who plays Fiona in the film said it was like when we were at uni and used to make projects together, and I saw it a bit like that too. We were just going to make something and it could be shit or it could be alright, but we were going to have a go regardless.


So did you enjoy directing in the end?

Yes! I loved it. I felt very secure with the cast and the crew. I'd worked with a lot of them before and we were careful in trying to put a crew together that would all get on with each other. I was adamant that people had to be positive and friendly and have a good sense of humour, because low budget film-making is like going into battle. It's tough and you need to be surrounded by people who really care about it and want to do it. When we were making the selections for heads of department there was a pressure to choose the most experienced person we could possibly get, whereas I felt it was much more important to get the one who cared the most.


Did you find that making a low-budget film gave you more creative freedom? Was it important to have that sort of autonomy?

It depends on what you want to do. I'm in a relatively privileged position to have written, directed and edited a film, and what that means is that whether you like it or not it's got a distinctive style and feel. I'm not particularly interested in taking the big money and having no control – I'd much rather have less money and more creative freedom. But then I'd also really like a massive house with a water slide from my bedroom into a swimming pool.


Adult Life Skills is in cinemas now. You can read Jason's interview with its lead actor, Jodie Whittaker, in issue 31 of Oh Comely, also out now.

Meet Girl Boss & IBD Warrior Gabi Cox

 Meet Girl Boss & IBD Warrior Gabi Cox

Gabi Cox has been obsessed with paper since childhood, painstakingly smoothing out the foils from Easter eggs before she’d even touch the chocolate. Frustrated with the lack of quality notebooks available at an affordable price-point, she launched Chroma Stationery at University. Two years later, she has successfully turned a passion project into a living and built a cult following from her bedroom. We spoke about thriving with a chronic illness, throwing fantasy dinner parties and having the courage to work for yourself. 

Song Premiere: Xylaroo

words Linnea Enstrom

3rd May 2016

At first, Xylaroo’s carefree guitar melodies and high flying harmonies paint a sun-drenched scenery in the listener’s mind. An open sea. The wind in your hair. That type of thing. But there’s more than a sparkly surface to their songs. The London duo - consisting of sisters Coco and Holly Chant - write about being lost and lonely and drinking too much. And about the courage of carrying on, throwing your darkness aside for a moment and feeling unashamedly alive.

Born in Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong respectively and counting places like Sri Lanka and Maidstone their homes, the sisters seem to owe their music’s uneasy vibrancy to having braved the unknown time and time again. They’re now settled in London (at least for now) and have crafted their non-stop journey into songs from the heart.

Today we’re proud to premiere their new track Narwhal, the B-side of their new single On My Way. Over email, we spoke to Xylaroo about growing up on the road and their debut album Sweetooth, out in June.

What do you want to achieve with your music?

We just want to make good music and don't have many expectations beyond that. It would be nice if people found some kind of meaning in it and if our songs could touch people - make them feel something and maybe even make them think a little differently about things.

You contrast upbeat guitar melodies with confessional and sometimes rather dark lyrics - for example "the lake is big and I'm nothing at all" on Narwhal. What's the reason behind that?

It all started with Rilo Kiley. We always loved how sweet and innocent their melodies were when compared to the lyrics. If you’re talking about dark and gloomy things, it’s good to throw in a little happiness, sweetness and sunshine. We're just playing around with associations and expectations. Our music is confessional because writing is kind of therapeutic, so things we’re worried about, ideas we like and personal experiences all get thrown into the mix.

You've lived in a lot of places. How have the traveling and constant upheaval influenced your sound?

Moving around has had a great influence. We write about what's around us and every place we've lived in and traveled to has its own idiosyncrasies and distinctive overtones which evoke feelings and memories that colour our music and give it ‘Flava Flav’. Quite a few of the songs on Sweetooth were written in Sri Lanka and are about things that happened there or at university in London. We’re also half-Papua New Guinean, so there have always been a lot of singing and a love of music in our family - traditional and modern.

When and how did you first get interested in music?

Our parents always played music around the house and threw parties. Our dad's a civil engineer and we used to go on long car journeys, so we'd sing a lot in the car. One time when we were younger and living in the Philippines, we sang - or yelled - Christmas songs in the car and the army pulled us over because they thought our car was stolen and that we were kidnapped children screaming for help. Hopefully we don't sound like screaming, kidnapped children anymore!

What's it like making music together as sisters? How does working together creatively affect your relationship?

Coco: I fucking hate Holly. She's a bitch to work with, but she writes good songs so I can't really complain.

Holly: I think it brings us closer together.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Our last advance. Times are rough in London. No, but seriously… but seriously.

What's the idea behind Narwhal?

It’s about a breakup and feeling like a small narwhal in a big pond. It's kind of sad if the only shoulder you have to cry on is a narwhal's. They like to dance and are not good listeners. It's also just a song about being down in the dumps and drunk.

Interview with Colour Me Wednesday

words Laura Maw

25th April 2016

Colour Me Wednesday, in their own words, are a DIY feminist vegan indie pop-punk band, fronted by sisters Harriet and Jennifer Doveton, with bassist Carmela Pietrangelo. Infectiously catchy, their songs cover left-wing politics, mental health, feminism and veganism. Their new four-track EP, Anyone and Everyone, is full of their trademark sugary pop and punk candour, and accompanied by hand-made collaged CDs made from recycled materials in Harriet’s shed.

I met with Harriet and Jennifer before their gig at DIY Space in London, to talk about their new EP, riot grrrl and collaging.

Could you tell me a bit about making your EP?

Jennifer: I wrote Don’t Tell Anyone, the first song on there, for my solo project and Harriet really liked it. It’s about how there are certain things you just can’t change. The chorus is about not wanting people to know how hard you try if you fail. You can try and change yourself, but you just have to accept who you are.

Harriet: We’ve been playing that for about ten months, but all the other ones are really new. I wrote Two-Fifty For You Girls about white men telling me to stay out of politics, but they also want me to go out and vote for who they tell me to. A lot of the lyrics are based on real comments we’ve had, so they’re essentially quotes. Then we’ve got Horror Story, which is about paranoia when you’re making friends in your mid-twenties because you have no idea of their history. It’s about having that trust issue.

Did you make the artwork for the EP yourself? I love the collaged zine feel of them.

Harriet: Yeah, it was the size of this table! We did it on Jen’s floor and collaged the background and taped it down. We had to stand on a chair to photograph it and I was holding lamps by Jen’s legs. We live in such small spaces as well so it was quite hard! The vinyl isn’t made yet, but we have loads of handmade CDs.

And they’re all different, right?

Harriet: Yeah, it’s what we did when we first started the band. We just made everything ourselves from recycled stuff in my shed.

Do you just have a shed full of different collage materials?

Harriet: I do! It’s 100 percent collage.

Jennifer: And Stephen King novels.

Would you say the DIY/riot grrrl ethic influences the way you make your music?

Harriet: My first influence was Juliana Hatfield, but she was never put in the category of punk, which isn’t really fair because her music involved a lot of distortion. After I started playing guitar, when I was around 20, I got into riot grrrl.

Jennifer: I think it was part of a pool of influences, rather than being the only one. I’ve listened to a lot of Bikini Kill and what I’m most struck by is how bands like that inspired our generation. There are plenty of criticisms of it, like it was very white, but I think you can pick the good bits of the past.

You can choose what you bring forward... Speaking of riot grrrl and DIY, I was going to ask Harriet about Kate Nash, because you toured with her with The Tuts. She’s one of my favourite artists. How has she influenced your music?

Harriet: I remember being on Tumblr about four years ago seeing pictures of Kate Nash. She was playing electric guitar instead of keyboards and we noticed her transitioning into quite a punky style. We got in touch with her and sent her the music video Jen made for The Tuts and she just loved us. She’s really supportive of female musicians. I’ve got her album Girl Talk in my car, I listen to it all the time - it’s such an amazing album. That definitely influenced my songwriting.

What do you have lined up for the summer?

Harriet: We just got announced for a festival called Handmade in Leicester.

Jennifer: Our bassist Carmela’s solo project, Ay Carmela, is going on tour with my solo project, Baby Arms. After that we’re doing a European tour!

Colour Me Wednesday’s new EP is out now and available to buy here.

Our Little Sister: An Interview with Director Hirokazu Kore-eda

words Jason Ward

14th April 2016

It seems fitting that talking to Hirokazu Kore-eda closely resembles the experience of watching his films. The august Japanese director and his work share the same quiet, gentle, contemplative qualities: our conversation was filled with long pauses as he carefully weighed his thoughts. There is something respectful in the act, which finds its match in his films' humanism.

Kore-eda's latest, Our Little Sister, is no exception. A drama about three house-sharing sisters who invite their teenage half-sister to move in after their father's death, it delicately explores the inner lives of its characters and the complications and joys of sisterly relationships. Ahead of its release, we spoke to the director about making the film.

Our Little Sister is based on Akimi Yoshida's manga Umimachi Diary. What about the story made you want to turn it into a film?

I'm a fan of Akimi Yoshida so I've read all of her work, not with the intention of adapting any of it at all. I normally write original scripts so it's rare for me to adapt other people's work. It's not something I look for, but as I read this particular one I knew that it would make a great film and that other people would be trying to make it too. I really wanted to do it myself, which doesn't happen often so I trusted it.

The film's key dramatic action is the death of the estranged father, which takes place before the story even begins. Your work often looks at the aftermath of a big event rather than at the event itself. What interests you about that approach?

You're right that I'm attracted to the aftermath of events. I wonder why. It's quite difficult to explain.  Portraying people left behind and how they deal with that is interesting to me. I started as a documentary film-maker, and when I was 28 the first documentary I made was about a man who committed suicide. There was a big scandal in Japan about factory poisoning causing Minamata disease. He'd worked in the ministry of the environment, felt responsible and killed himself. The documentary was shot, of course, after his death, so while it was about him it was more about how his wife coped. That was my first proper film and I wrote a nonfiction book about it too, so maybe that's how I became drawn to aftermath as an idea. Sadness and new hopes are always together. I'm moved by the duality of life, that losses come with gains too.

What I like most about your work is that it's deeply humane. All of the characters in Our Little Sister naturally show kindness towards each other in both big and small ways. Why is the kindness between people important for you to depict?

“Why?” questions are the very hardest for me to answer. I was attracted to how the characters accept each other. The sisters are able to accept their late father's weaknesses, and the younger sister who felt guilty about her existence eventually accepts that it's okay for her to be alive. Kindness is reflected in acceptance. In Japanese society, maybe that is something that's disappearing. Everybody just wants to fight each other. I want to show that it's possible to accept others and therefore to be kind.

The film depends on the audience believing the relationship between the four sisters. How did you work with the actresses to make it feel authentic?

It's a combination of a few factors. We shot over a ten-month period to capture the different seasons and in between the girls did a lot of things together, they went to see movies or went for meals. They bonded quite well away from the filming. What also contributed is that I interviewed a lot of real sisters about their relationships and incorporated the research into my depiction. What came out of those interviews was that, certainly in Japan, a lot of the quarrels between sisters were about clothes – who borrowed what and who's wearing what.

At this point you've been making fiction films for twenty years. Do you think what you're fundamentally interested in is the same or has it changed at all over that time? Are the things that excited you about film-making in 1995 the same things that excite you now?

I think it has evolved through the years. It's not the same as it was originally. From a viewer's point of view I can't quite say how my work has changed, however. It may or may not be related to the way that cinema has changed over that period too. To bring in a baseball analogy, though: if you're a young pitcher you'd just throw straight with speed, but as you get older, two decades later you might start to throw curveballs. The sheer power can't continue over twenty years. So now I may try to do different tricks and throw some curveballs. That's an analogy, but it reflects what's changed within me. The more I make films the more confused I get, but it gets more fun, too.

Our Little Sister is in cinemas now. Images: Curzon Artificial Eye

High Rise: An Interview with Director Ben Wheatley

After four decades of abortive attempts, J.G. Ballard's dystopic 1975 novel High Rise has finally made it to cinemas. Set in a near future that happens to be the 1970s,  the film depicts a luxury tower block as it becomes isolated and descends into savage factionalism. Amid a cast of morally ambiguous residents, the film's nominal protagonist is Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a pragmatic survivor who is able to navigate intricate class loyalties and unafraid to eat dogs when he needs to.

One of the main reasons that Ballard has proved resistant to cinematic adaptation is that his formally inventive prose is so idiosyncratic that it requires an equally distinctive film-maker to successfully translate it. In the case of High-Rise, it required two: director Ben Wheatley and screenwriter Amy Jump, the husband and wife team behind Sightseers, Kill List and A Field in England, who are among Britain's most promising and ambitiously imaginative film-makers. Ahead of High-Rise's release, we spoke to Ben about his work on the film and having faith in his own voice.

High-Rise is often deliberately disorientating. How did you strive to get the tone?

It's kind of a taste thing and it's also intuition, how you make it all balance out. There was a lot of watching the movie again and again. During the six months that we cut the film, it was assembled within two months and the rest of the time we watched it every day, editing for thirteen, fourteen hours at a time. Every little change rippled up the whole movie, so we couldn't really alter anything without watching it all. That's a bastard on something that's two hours long, but it was the only way. We created the tone frame by frame across the whole running time.

It must be difficult to get critical distance at that point. When you've been working on a movie for years and you're watching it every day, how do you know what's right for it?

Because that's the job, you know? There are ways of working where you throw yourself at the mercy of groups of people and surrender your authorship, but I can't imagine ever working like that. There's two of us editing it, Amy and I, and she's written it as well, so there's enough oversight that that wouldn't happened. Amy is particularly ferocious when it comes to cutting. She'll strip it down and strip it down until it's as hard as a diamond. And then when we're happy with it ourselves, that's when we stop.

On a film like High-Rise everyone can have an opinion on what they'd change, but that doesn't necessarily make the film better, it just makes it different. We wanted to make sure that the translation of our taste and our decisions to the screen was as unfettered as possible. Where things go wrong is if you start taking on other people's ideas: even if in the moment they might be right, by the time you get to the end your film is slightly fucked because it doesn't have a proper viewpoint. It needs one voice, for better or for worse. We stand by ours, and it might not be to everybody's taste but that's just tough. If you feel too afraid and try to double guess what the audience are going to want then you've already lost. You've got to assume that the audience is within you. What you're doing as a creator is producing stuff that you want to see and then making the assumption that others will feel the same way.

The residents of the tower block all have very different objectives, so are we supposed to identify with certain people and not others? How much sympathy do you wish for the audience to have for the characters?

I'd like to think that I'm even-handed. That's important, as part of the emotional realism of a film is that the director isn't short-changing the characters and setting them up to fail. Audiences can detect that really quickly, and life isn't like that because everyone has shades of grey. One character commits an awful act later in the film, but at the same time he's a human being and though he does despicable, terrible things it doesn't necessarily mean that everything he's ever done is despicable and terrible. It's very safe to imagine that people who do bad things are evil, and I don't think that's true.

Other than the change in mediums, the most significant difference is perhaps that book takes place in the 1970s, while the film is set there. What interested you about that?

That's true, but then the book is also a predictive fiction to the near future. It was written in about 1974, so it's predicting somewhere between 1978 and 1983. We made the decision to not do the same and set it in our near future because too much of the technology would break the central core of the book. Social media totally destroys the idea of being able to hide away in a tower block somewhere going crazy because everyone would know about it.

We thought it was a look from our perspective of being born in the 1970s, knowing that our parents would have been like these characters, around the same age. At this point we're in the far future ahead of the story looking back, so we have an insight into what happens after its events. It's almost like we're reaching back from the future to join the book, and from that position is where the film exists.

High-Rise is in cinemas now. Images: Optimum Screenings.

Music Interview: Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

There’s a surprising exuberance to A Man Alive, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down’s new album. Not because the San Francisco band, fronted by Thao Nguyen, are in any way inconspicuous--their live sets are known for their raucous energy--but in the light of the painful story at its core.

This is the first time Thao has used her eclectic take on rock to look inwards and explore her relationship with her absent dad. The result is empowering in its resilience. The vulnerability of her lyrics and high pitched vocals are contrasted--elevated even--by the insistently assertive beats and bass lines. Speaking to Thao just before the release of her sixth LP, I’m reminded that emotional hardship is a nuanced experience, full of intensity.

What have you been up to today? I spent most of the day hiking and by the ocean. It was sunny and warm and almost windless, which is a rare gem of a combination for San Francisco, so everyone stays outdoors for as long as possible. 


What drove you to create A Man Alive? As I began writing songs for the new record the only ones that were taking hold seemed to be about my relationship with my dad. I think they had to get out and their insistence drove the making of this record. I was reluctant at first to make something so personal. But I'd also reached a point in my life where I was ready to delve and confront in a way I hadn't been before. I started to embrace the idea of making something much more personal and direct for my own sake.


What were you inspired by at the time? I'm always most inspired by what I'm reading, and when I'm in songwriting mode I'm especially susceptible and seeking. In the beginning stages, it was Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead. After one particular passage, I wept. I was struck by how much of my life and my dad I saw in one of the characters. Then I wrote Astonished Man, our most recently released single. It helped set the tone and precedent for the rest of the record. 


The tension between your feelings about your dad and the forceful sound is gripping. How did you go about this theme from a songwriting perspective? The two priorities of this record were to be more emotionally and sonically forthright. I wanted this record to better capture the emotion and energy we have playing live. I believe this record does that in a way none of the others have. I've always veered toward sublimation and it was very freeing and satisfying to be honest and express grief and joy and anger and hopelessness and optimism in equal, upfront measure. I also wanted to have fun and scream and dance and communicate with the audience on a more substantive and vulnerable level every time we performed.

Your previous album We The Common was inspired by your work in a women's prison. What prompted you to write about something more directly personal for this album? My early thirties. In all seriousness, I don't think I've allowed myself to be that vulnerable in my songs or my live performance. That's changed with age and experience. Writing, recording, and touring We The Common was so rewarding and rejuvenating and it led me first to my community and my city, and then to myself. There's only so much time you can go looking outward if you still have some inside business to sort out. 


You studied Sociology and Women's Studies at college. How has that affected your work as an artist? My intention in school was to go into social justice work. I found very quickly I didn't have the constitution to be on the front lines of that work, and I have so much respect and gratitude for the people who do. I believe I'm most effective using my job as a touring musician to help support the causes I love, and I promised myself I'd always keep those causes as close as I could. That allegiance gives me so much; it makes me want to make the best thing I can, and do as well as I can, that I might develop a sturdier platform and be of greater service, and it keeps me from getting carried away with myself and hopefully from becoming an asshole. 


What can you tell me about your song Astonished Man? It helped set the tone for content, but it also helped set the sonic tone for the album. It was one of the first songs recorded, and we knew pretty much right away that it would be the album opener. I have a lot of affection for this song because it captures an equanimity, compassion and optimism I don't always have. 


Also, making the video for Astonished Man was so fun. I had to call my mum and warn her about the - I think tasteful and nuanced - blood and gore. She did not take well to it upon first viewing, but has since warmed. It’s not a mum-friendly video.

A Man Alive is released on the 4th of March.

Film Interview: Nina Forever

Nina Forever is constructed around a single elegant metaphor. Depressed supermarket employee Rob (Cian Barry), still mourning the death of his girlfriend, begins an uncertain relationship with his co-worker Holly (Abigail Hardingham), but whenever they try to have sex Nina (Fiona O'Shaughnessy) comes back to life to harangue the couple. The internal is made physical: Rob's grief assumes physical form, and it's that of the loved one he's lost, appearing naked, bloody and sardonic at the symbolic event of him attempting to moving on

With its ambitious visual language and sensitive depiction of bereavement, Nina Forever is the striking feature debut of Chris and Ben Blaine. We spoke to the brothers about lost loves and the benefits of close collaboration. 

Bereavement is a sad, dramatic topic, but the film is also funny with horrific elements. Was it difficult to balance that tonally?

Chris Blaine: Not really. Partly it's a function of how we write, in a variety of different moods all at once, but I think it came out of our experience of grief. Often in films grief is the bit where you're sad and you look at the dead leaves and you go for a walk by yourself, and we both found that it was incredibly sad but also weirdly funny and terrifying. You have this strange embarrassment and almost magnetic sense of feeling everything all at once.

Ben Blaine: You also feel incredibly horny because you've lost someone and there's this big gap. So much of it is that presence of the person, their touch and their feel and their smell, so you've just got this desire and you kind of latch on to the next person that you see. I think Rob does that, where he's not jumping into this thing because he's thought about it, but because there's something deep within that craves the attention of someone else. He's lacking it from the person he really wants to still be there.

So many of Nina Forever's most crucial scenes take place during sex scenes that are using lots of practical effects. There's blood everywhere and the cast are all naked, and you're trying to tell an emotional story. How did you accomplish that?

BB: It was a challenge but one we knew we were getting into, and I think it was one of the things that excited us about making the film. We liked the idea of these scenes where the characters are totally honest and everything is absolutely stripped away both physically and emotionally. It was very difficult, that mixture of sex scenes with naked actors and the technical challenge of it all, but the emotions gave us something to steer us through. We could focus in on that, so we knew where our priorities were in the scenes. We knew that what really mattered was that the audience understands how these people are feeling, and as long as we were getting that we were on the right course.

As a film-making team how do you divide your labour? Do you do tasks together or do they naturally separate?

CB: In terms of writing we used to try to do individual passes of scripts, but we found that the best thing for us was to be in the same room and to talk about it constantly, and that's kind of how we do things all the way through to the edit. It's really liquid and it's not like there are assigned jobs. We slowly but surely we keep improving on each other's ideas because we're talking about the ideas rather than the words on the page.

BB: It's easy to fall in love with the way you've written something, and easy therefore to forget that no-one's going to see the script. The script is a blueprint and often not a particularly useful one, and so we find ways to talk about the ideas that we're actually going to put to the audience. Similarly that fluidity extends to the actors and the crew. It becomes a creative space for everybody who works with us, and anyone can come up with ideas.

That makes a lot of sense: the creative process starts as a conversation rather than the choices of a single person, and so it can easily expand.

CB: We really enjoy that. It's one of the things about film-making that's so great, the fact that you're working with loads of other people and it's not just you on your own. You've got a full cast and crew around you and crew who are all coming up with magical stuff and it makes the work and the experience so much better.

Nina Forever is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 22nd February. For a chance to win a copy courtesy of the Blaine Brothers, head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment on the post. The film will also screen at select cinemas throughout the month:

Images: Fetch Publicity

In Conversation with Director Ariel Kleiman

Told through the eyes of Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel), an eleven year old on the cusp of discovering his own moral compass, Ariel Kleiman's debut film Partisan is a cautionary tale about the effects dogma can have on vulnerable minds.

Alexander's father Gregori (Vincent Cassel) is a charismatic ringleader of a closed community made up of eight seemingly abandoned mothers and their offspring. Children are shielded from the dangers of the outside world and warned that curiosity can create vicious fires. Denied permission to wander, they barely leave Gregori's side, except when he sends them out on assassination missions.

Although extreme, at its heart Partisan is a story about the inevitable moment when every child realises the adults around them are fundamentally flawed. It's heartbreaking and quietly fantastic.

We sat down with Ariel to talk about innocence lost, growing pains, and casting Vincent Cassel as the lead in his first feature.

What inspired you to create Partisan?

The original spark came from an article in the New York Times about child assassins in Colombia. Everything I’ve made has been inspired by an image, and in this case it was literally the image of a child gunning down a man. Not only was it disturbing, it was so surreal and absurd. I immediately knew I wanted to turn that gut reaction into a film, but I didn’t feel I was the right person to make that specific story about Colombia. What I was more interested in was the human drama behind the crime: the tragedy of adults passing their insecurities and fears onto children.

The film has an ambiguity that adds an almost magical element. You don’t state where it’s set, or in which time period. Why leave those details out?

I didn’t see this movie as being a realist work. I wanted it to feel more like a myth, or a fable. A lot of fables use extreme characters and stories to tell tales about very ordinary things. At most points, for example, Gregori is incredibly paternally motivated. That’s what Vincent connected with most in the script: many of Gregori's anxieties and motivations are scarily relatable.

Another big inspiration was the decision to tell the story from Alexander’s perspective. He’s growing up with blinkers on. Like any child experiences, as you grow up the blinkers slowly widen, and it can be a mind-altering experience, realising that the adults in your life are just people too.

It was great to see Jeremy Chabriel, this tiny person, holding his own against an actor like Cassel. How did you find him?

That was really daunting. When I wrote the script, I was pretty naive. Then it got to a point where I thought, “Shit, how are we going to find this boy?!” He’s the hero of the film, he's in pretty much every scene, and he has to go up against Vincent. We knew we needed someone remarkable and ended up finding Jeremy through a French school in Sydney. He’s a very sensitive young man. He’d never acted before and his audition tape was shot on a really average camera, but his eyes just kind of glowed and he held himself with this real maturity.

The other child actors weren’t all stretched in quite the same way, but as director you still had to communicate the story to them. Given the difficult nature of the film, how did you accomplish that?

Jeremy read the whole screenplay and knew what was happening, but we mainly kept the other children away from the themes. They were all so different, each with their own big imagination and personality. One girl would hug my leg every morning and wouldn’t let go, and there was another who was always asking when he was going to get more lines. Overall the girls were very easy to work with, very professional. The boys, on the other hand, were mainly troublemakers, pouncing around the place.

What was your thinking behind commissioning musicians like Jarvis Cocker and Metronomy to record original faux 1980s pop songs?

When we wrote the script and started to shoot the film it just didn't feel right to use pop songs that existed in our world, because people have existing memories associated with them. The setting is constructed as this nowhere land, so we went about crafting pop songs that would have been hits in our no man’s land, pop classics that no one has ever heard of. I basically made a list of artists I’d love to see tackle that brief, and amazingly, some of them said yes.

One of those numbers, “The Hardest Thing To Do”, is sung by Alexander at karaoke. The music video made for it is so much fun to watch – so ridiculous and reflective of 80s styling. Where did the idea come from?

I got a good friend who I knew could bring the cheese to make those videos. We talked a lot about a need to make them feel realistic.

The karaoke scene in the film was actually inspired by my travels in Asia. We were travelling through Vietnam and were lucky enough to be invited over for dinner by a Vietnamese family. After dinner, they had this ritual where they all huddle around the TV to sing karaoke. The kids sang with such sincerity and deep emotion. These songs were about love and heartbreak and whatever adult pop songs are about, but somehow it was incredibly powerful.

What was Vincent like on set? Partisan is your first feature film, so working with such an established actor must have felt exciting?

He was a nightmare. Really difficult and arrogant.

No, he’s a special, special guy. The second he came on set, you felt the energy of the whole crew shift. Everyone wanted to be at the top of their game, and he made everyone feel more confident. I’ve seen him portray menace and threat and foreboding, and he does do all of that effortlessly, but some of my favourite moments of him on-screen are tender and vulnerable. Those sad, insecure moments. The way he brought those aspects of Gregori’s character to life was really something.

Partisan is released in U.K. cinemas on 8th January.

Images: Metrodome

In Conversation with Throwing Shade: Human Rights Lawyer Turned Producer

words Linnea Enstrom, portrait Mafalda Silva

16th December 2015

“I don’t like to box myself in,” says Nabihah Iqbal a few minutes into our interview, sipping instant coffee in Dalston. This turns out to be an understatement. When the producer  - also known as Throwing Shade - released her Fate Xclusive EP earlier this year, everyone agreed that her textured and soothing digital sound defied genre conventions. But Nabihah also holds a degree in History and Ethnomusicology from SOAS, which she followed up by studying African History at Cambridge. After spending six months as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, her music career began to kick off and she decided to give it a go, putting her barrister title aside.

Apart from dropping a steady flow of EPs since - the next one due in early 2016 - Nabihah DJs, hosts her own NTS radio show and once sampled porn sounds for a piece of art that was partly censored by The Tate Collective. What does 2016 hold for Throwing Shade? The answer is unequivocally; music of all kinds and forms.

What are you working on at the moment?

Apart from the EP, I'm putting together a soundtrack for a Belgian film. It's a challenge because I have to make 45 minutes worth of music, which is a lot. But basing it on the visual stimulus allows me to be more free with the music.

Have you worked with visuals before?

The most similar thing I’ve done was when I got commissioned by The Tate Collective, which is the youth branch of Tate, to do a piece of music that reflected a Turner Price artist’s [James Richard] work. It was fun, but it actually got censored. That was the idea I was trying to approach in the first place, so it was funny that it happened.

How did it get censored?

I sampled a woman receiving oral sex. It’s very intense. Listening to the sounds over and over again made me feel mental. The track divided into three parts, like three movements, and the first bit is a bit more poetic and you can’t tell what’s going on straight away, but then it gets… clearer. That was the bit I had to take out. The Tate Collective had to take into account that they're potentially catering to an underage audience. The art that I was given was so explicit, so obviously I thought I had the same freedom with the music, but I understand where they were coming from and why I had to amend it. I still have the unamended version, though.

The whole idea behind it was that pornography is such a visual thing and it's considered to be explicit because of the visual aspect, so I thought "what if you take away the visuals and just keep the sound, is it still scandalous?"

Apparently so!

Exactly. So that was the answer to my question.

What is your song Honeytrap about?

It's about a honeytrap plan gone wrong. Someone has set up a honeytrap to seduce the other person, but in the end they fall in love and go off together. That was the premise of the song. I read a dark article about a murder in South London that happened a few years ago, which was about a honeytrap gone wrong, but in a different way. The guy got killed. This one has a happy ending.

In the video, you turn the idea of the objectified female body on its head and make it from your perspective, with undressed guys rather than girls.

Both the Honeytrap and Sweettooth videos deal with that. It's done in a tongue-in-cheek way, not too serious, but I wanted it to be a little thought provoking. Also, I just wanted a video with hot guys in it. You never see that.

Although it’s so common for women.

That's something I'm really conscious of. Women in the music industry are always photographed in a sexual way or not wearing much clothes. The idea of Beyoncé wearing jeans and a t-shirt just seems scandalous because we're so used to seeing her in a bodysuit all the time. That’s weird right? I believe that everyone should be able to dress the way they want to, but at the same time those women's choices are really determined by the structure they’re operating in. They're selling big pop hits to a mass market and sex sells and everybody knows that, but I think there are other ways to go about it. I read this article about Adele on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and how it's a seminal cover because it's the first time they have a woman on the cover who’s not naked or portrayed in a sexually provocative way and how that's a strong message. But that's not the truth. The reason they don't portray her body is because they see her as fat. So it's not an important cover for women, not at all.

How do you pick the music for your NTS radio show?

I try to play music that haven’t been heard before and that I like and want to share. A lot of it is stuff I collected from when I was studying at SOAS. They have an amazing music archive of rare recordings that you can't get anywhere else. Sometimes I will have a themed show and base the music around that, but other times I will try to play every track from a different country and vary the selection. I also do research, so that I can speak about the songs. Some of the stuff I play is so weird that you need to contextualise it.

It must be a totally different process from doing your DJ nights?

Most of the music I play on the radio wouldn't be fit for a dance floor - unless you want to kill the party! When I DJ, I just want to put on lots of good tunes that will make people dance. I also try to mix songs together, because it makes it more memorable. Recently, I did a loop of the acapella version of Destiny's Child’s Say My Name over the beginning bit of Blue Monday by New Order and it totally worked and everyone loved it.

Throwing Shade is playing Corsica Studios in London on the 19th of December.

The Forbidden Room: An Interview with Director Guy Maddin

words Jason Ward

11th December 2015

For the past three decades Guy Maddin has operated on the farthest reaches of cinema, employing the film-making techniques of silent and early films in service of creating intoxicating, blissfully confusing works. The late Roger Ebert, as he often did, summed Guy up perfectly: 'You have never seen a film like this before, unless you have seen other films by Guy Maddin.'

Guy's latest work, The Forbidden Room, is his most ambitious to date: growing out of an online project to recreate lost films, it is a compendium of stories that travels deeper and deeper within itself.

A strange, sexy and comic sensorial assault, The Forbidden Room is almost certainly the only film ever to feature the dream of a murdered man's moustache, or a story told by a character's deceased ex-boyfriend who has transformed into a blackened banana. Ahead of its release today, we spoke to Guy about raising the dead.

What was the genesis of The Forbidden Room?

Back in late 2010 I had started this internet interactive project called Seances, without any notion that The Forbidden Room might ever exist. The plan was to shoot in public my own adaptations of about 100 lost movies or lost movie fragments, and I'd lined up a few museums where I'd do this. It would be financed through Telefilm Canada, this fantastically generous state-run film funding body, but it involved them bending their rules to go beyond their maximum allowable grants for new media projects. It was essentially as costly as a film, and after 36 days' worth of shooting Telefilm became uncomfortable and told me the only way we could continue is if I produced a feature film too. In April next year I'll break everything up into little bits and upload them into the Seances interactive, but meanwhile we figured out a way of fitting together all the pieces in a way that made some sense to me.

It might not make immediate sense to viewers though, who may feel they're being presented with a welter, or being tossed into a storm of narrative after two hours of which they're washed up on a shore having barely survived drowning, but that's how it came about. There was a practical, bureaucratic ordaining of the feature. I think it might be the only case in peacetime where a film has been ordered into existence by the government.

Did being forced to make the film help or hinder the creative process?

I loved it. The directors of westerns – which only have about five moving parts – would often say that the restrictions were very liberating, and it's true. When you're faced with too much choice it's paralysing, but it's strangely freeing to have restrictions. And I had extreme restrictions: I had to take the footage I'd already shot and figure out a way for it to make one film. Luckily they were all written and directed by the same people with the same temperament, the same world view, the same sense of masculinity and gender politics.

No matter the genre of the lost film or the actors, the passive or active tenor of each one, each film seemed to be about the same things. Even though there was something like forty different protagonists they are also maybe playing the same man: gripped by the male gaze but a little vaginaphobic, trying to navigate through a fearsome world with bulging eyeballs.

I don't know. I'm not going to analyse my own film, it's just the way I felt while making it. In the writers' room we gave free rein to our dreams, our fears, our autobiographical humiliations. So it was a simple matter of fitting thematic parts together so that the 17 fragments of lost movies, even if they are disparate, all seem to point in the same direction.

What was appealing about resurrecting lost films? Is there something interesting about early cinema or were you attracted to the idea of a film being lost?

At first I told myself I was haunted, that the complete works of Murnau and Hitchcock and Lang weren't available and I was haunted by the missing pieces. I've always been intrigued to try to figure out time's great flow through the twentieth century by the changing context of pop culture, film especially. However, I discovered that what really excited me was that there was a mother lode of fascinating narrative free for the taking. No-one else wanted it. No-one else was interested. I could have it, so I took it. I think it was greed mostly.

As a matter of fact when some lost films have been discovered I've actually felt disappointed, even angered in one case. In Paris I was going to shoot Hello Pop!, a lost Technicolor Three Stooges movie. I was really excited about shooting an all-female version with Elina Löwensohn as Moe and the film was discovered a couple of days before we shot. I was ghoulishly disappointed, so you could hardly say I'm haunted by the loss of cinema if I'm pissed off when some of it gets found. I came to recognise that it was some sort of mania, like a dream in which you find a pound note on the ground and then discover another and another and the next thing you know you've got all this free money. I felt like I was fiending for narrative, and I had this all to myself. I didn't want anyone else to have it.

As I watched The Forbidden Room I felt like it could go on indefinitely – I don't mean that as a criticism – rather it's the result of its structure, the way it goes deeper and deeper within itself. How did you construct the film and how did you find your way back out again?

The structure is one of the things I love about the film but it's also a problem. It's got three acts and there's a story within a story within a story: you go six stories deep in the first act, work your way down to the very centre and then back out again, then in act two you work your way down through nine narratives and back out again, and then in the third penetrating thrust you work your way down through another nine and pull out and climax. I may have gone too far this time. The trouble is I'm still introducing whole new stories with fifteen minutes to go! It gives the viewer no conventional indication of ending any time soon. I hope in the future people feel free to dip in and watch for a while here and there.

Had I known from the beginning that it was going to be a feature film that probably would have affected the writing so that we could have given an indication. But you're right, it could have gone on forever. We shot so much footage that I could have easily made another five or six feature films.

The Forbidden Room is in a fixed state but Seances will create bespoke randomised short films that destroy themselves after viewing. Why create art deliberately to be lost? Cinema isn't an ephemeral medium – do you like the idea of making it so?

I think there's a growing, possibly falsely confident sense that everything will last forever now and everything will be kept. I wanted to reintroduce a sense of loss into cinema, and if someone watches one of these things and the programme in the randomness of matters produces something really enjoyable, it would create a sense of pleasure as that person watches the film slip off into oblivion. It might be giving something to the internet that it's been missing. The missing has been missing! We'll see. It's just a big experiment. I feel for the first time in my life that I am experimenting. There are so many variables in this thing. No mathematician would take it on. I like the fact that there are so many ball bearings rolling around on the floor that no-one knows what they're going to get.

Does that feeling of experimentation come because of the interaction of two different mediums?

Yes, because it's both. The project has one foot planted firmly in the analogue realm, in a big roiling puddle of film emulsion – I picture that foot in a rubber boot – and then the other foot is in the digital realm. It's the 21st century and Internetty but it's also ghosts, it's ectoplasmic goo, and it's definitely made out of emulsion. I just like something that's exactly both.

You mentioned autobiographical elements arising when writing. If you're recreating lost films and then randomly altering them, do they still remain personal?

I'm the medium through which these things come. Evan Johnson too, the co-writer and co-director. We're the medium so it comes out in our voices and inevitably autobiographical details get stuck on the ectoplasmic flypaper. They come out in the scripts and in the direction and even in the gestures of the actors, although I didn't really direct the actors – I just put them in a trance and slapped them on the ass and let 'em go for a day. I was acting as a spirit photographer.

The Forbidden Room is out now.

Song Premiere: Wovoka Gentle

words Linnea Enstrom, portrait Sequoia Ziff

20th November 2015

Twin sisters Imogen and Ellie Mason have been singing together since they were kids, eagerly circling the piano with their family to the point where family friends would refer to them as the von Trapps. At six they picked up the violin and formed a string quartet with their siblings and, as teenagers, they began writing their own songs.

Teaming up with fellow singer songwriter William Stokes, Imogen and Ellie now go under the name Wovoka Gentle and make folk music draped with sparkling electronic and experimental sounds, fusing the soundtrack of their upbringing with a desire to create something new.

Today, we're premiering the London trio’s track Likeness from their new blue EP (the follow-up to their yellow EP, released earlier this year) - a song, fittingly, about family.

What have you been up to today?

Today we were celebrating our birthday, so we had a load of friends over for breakfast at our house in South East London. There were lots of flowers and bacon.

How would you describe your new EP?

It’s punchy and uncompromising and, at times, quite layered. It may take a bit of excavating, but at its core is a set of simple and approachable songs. The blue and yellow EPs are two parts of a single body of work which we made over the first three months of this year in Scotland. They were actually recorded at the same time, but because we mixed the blue EP after the yellow one with a different producer in a different studio, we feel that it still represents a progression of some kind.

You have made music together for a long time, but how did William fit into it?

We were mutual fans of each other's music for a long time, and since our individual projects began to wind down at similar times we naturally gravitated together. We were so excited by the band dynamic and the new sounds we were making that it seemed like such a natural transition to explore, turning the band into a full time project. Our first outing as Wovoka Gentle was scoring a physical theatre piece at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer.

You use your instruments in an unconventional way. How did that transpire?

It started with hitting guitars with drumsticks because we liked the combination of the melodic with the percussive, and then started to consider the sonic potential in all sorts of instruments beyond the ways they are conventionally used. We like doing things like playing the tops of synthesisers with drumsticks, putting vocal mics through guitar pedals and using mobile phones as part of our live set. Maybe there is no “correct” way to play an instrument.

You have previously said you want your listeners to be part of your music's narrative. In what way?

The music we respond to the most has often been stuff that has taken multiple listens to yield its best aspects. As Wovoka Gentle, we want to create music that is accessible but also intriguing and at times challenging. We want to experiment but not in an esoteric way, so maybe that narrative is one of coming around to find meaning in something you didn’t initially think of as easy or digestible.

When did you first discover folk music and 60s psych?

We have been surrounded by traditional folk and Americana music for as long as we can remember - it was always playing in our house growing up. More psychedelic bands, like The Beach Boys and The Beatles were also a big part of our musical upbringing. Will grew up listening to people like Paul Simon and James Taylor, but really got into folk music later on through his association with the West London folk scene in 2008 and 2009.

What is Likeness about?

Likeness is a song about inheritance and taking on characteristics of your father. It’s kind of like a response piece to Philip Larkin’s This Be The Verse

Wovoka Gentle is launching the blue EP with a headline show at London’s Elektrowerks on Monday. The record is released on the 27th of November.

Song Premiere: Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch

words Aimee-Lee Abraham

3rd November 2015

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch never intended to become a composer. Growing up in a non-musical family in sleepy Bordeaux, she tells me over tea that it happened purely ‘by accident’. Her mother blasted Bach every Sunday, but plucking strings and pressing keys were pastimes, never viable career options.

One afternoon, a ten year old Emilie discovered that she could put her own treasures together rather than just recreating other people’s music, and an unexpected infatuation planted seed in her stomach. Before she knew it she was spending pocket money on soundcards and cheap microphones, making her own mark in an industry that continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by middle-aged men.

"I surprised myself," she laughs. "It wasn’t a conscious choice. I just realised that I could create things, and was so excited about where it could lead. It happened naturally." Bored hands crafted melodies from scratch, and Emilie soon improvised her way out of France altogether.

In person, Emilie is so softly spoken that I spend the majority of the interview jiggling my knees beneath the bar, fretting about the recording when her dulcet tones keep getting drowned out by the hungry men securing business at the next table.

She’s almost swan-like in stature, but on record she’s an absolute tour-de-force; crafting complex pieces that have led to a record deal from 130701, the experimental arm of Fat Cat and the label who discovered Sigur Ros. Her work is difficult to describe. Combining electro with piano and string quartets, Like Water Through Sand is an instrumental artwork which defies classification: it is simply gorgeous to immerse oneself in.

Until now, solo-work has remained untrodden ground for Emilie. Crafting scores for budding filmmakers she met at university, personal favours for friends soon grew into a substantial, critically-acclaimed career as a soundtrack composer.

Emilie has a strong reputation in film, and I wonder how the process of going it alone differed from her usual collaborations. "It’s funny, I never dreamed I’d be a recording artist," she explains. "I was always a collaborator, and I enjoyed seeing my music as a part of something bigger, being inspired by a larger picture and making it fit. You become immersed in the director’s world, and it’s a dialogue, but it’s still kind of sad, because you rarely spend time on-set like other members of the team. You craft something together, but rarely meet, so it’s still lonely."

The album, on the other hand, has been a lesson in self-belief. "It’s a monologue - I had the complete freedom to say what I needed to say," she beams.

Having spent her masters acquiring a vast array of eccentric avant-garde influences to balance alongside a childhood love for cheesy French pop, she tells me she has since grown away from the need to innovate and shock. "I realised that my love for the process was enough, and that I didn't need some grand, innovative motive," she explains. In her pursual of simplicity and beauty instead, I get the impression she has grown tremendously as an artist, even though we have just met. Even to untrained ears, the recording processes used seem dizzyingly advanced, combining many genres and methods, but the output is soft and dreamy. It’s music to fall in love with on leafy walks home.

Here we premiere Emilie's new track Tulsi. Like Water Through Sand is out on FatCat records on 13th November 2015.

An Interview with Chastity Belt

words Words Linnea Enstrom, Portraits Mafalda Silva

2nd November 2015

“I just wanna have a good time,” sings Julia Shapiro on the last track of Chastity Belt’s second  album, Time To Go Home. The lyric has a sad twang to it, like she’s hunched on the curb outside a bar, feeling too drunk and restless to roll back home. 

The Seattle four piece can be described as a college party band that evolved into something more sincere. If their first album No Regerts (typo intended) was all about getting wasted with your friends and shouting “giant vagina” at frat parties, Time To Go Home is the moment the lights come on and you shuffle between the kissing couples, trying to find your jacket. Even a bluntly celebratory song like Cool Slut is melodically hesitant, almost unsure of itself.

That isn’t to say the fun is totally over. As I sit down with guitarist Lydia Lund and bass player Annie Truscott in the backstage area of Dalston venue The Victoria, their tour camper van parked on the other side of the road, I get the feeling they laugh a lot. Jittery with pre-show excitement, they tell me about how growing up has changed their sound.

There’s a sadness to Time To Go Home compared to your debut. Why do you think that is?

Lydia: Maybe part of it is coming to terms with being out of the college bubble. A lot of the songs on the first album were written for college parties and an audience that just wanted to have fun. The band was a mixture between being a reaction to the party scene and also playing into it and wanting to let loose and have fun and play songs that were so simple we could be wasted. In the beginning we felt like our lyrical content had to be sarcastic to be taken seriously. We felt secure within the sarcasm. 

Annie: We didn’t take ourselves seriously, like it was all a joke anyway.

Lydia: When people started to take us seriously, we started to take ourselves more seriously and speak more frankly.

When did that happen?

Lydia: If there was a moment, it was probably when we moved to Seattle. I had never thought that being in a band was something I could seriously do after college or even not seriously do - it was just not on my radar at all. We were offered a show in Seattle and the scene was just so supportive and full of wonderful women playing music. Before that, we were in a small town called Walla Walla. We weren’t in the town scene; we were just playing college parties and the only women making music…. And then obviously, slowly growing up.

Annie: We’ve become better musicians and older humans.

Did you know each other before you started the band?

Lydia: I was mostly friends with Julia and we came up with the idea of Chastity Belt…

Annie: … At a party!

Lydia: We thought it would be so funny if we just chanted that and if we were in a punk band. It wasn’t serious, so it was okay to do it.

Annie: It was a name before a band.

Does touring still feel like a party?

Annie: It’s a balance. If we’re totally sober, the performance isn’t as good, but if we go crazy it’s also terrible.

Lydia: We get along incredibly well and everyone brings something different to the table for touring. It feels like we’re in a relationship.

Annie: It’s like a four way marriage.

Lydia: A big part of it is just about being practical about arguments and things and having fun together and loving each other.

What are you working on at the moment?

Lydia: We’ve written a few new songs. Some are more jammy. One of them came out of us just playing together, in practice.

Annie: It’s more mature than the last two albums. We’ve all gotten better as we go.

Lydia: We’re more acquainted with our instruments. Julia and I had guitar lessons in middle school, but I had never played chords, which is why I had terrible rhythm skills when we started Chastity Belt.

Annie: You would just turn your amp down!

Lydia: A lot of it had to do with confidence. It’s so cool… Chastity Belt has given me so much confidence as a musician and a human, ha!

I consider you a feminist band that don’t want to be defined by your gender identity. Do you agree?

Annie: Totally. I think people want to pigeonhole you as a feminist band if you are all women and if you write songs from a woman’s perspective, like we do. Feminism comes into it, but we don’t have a specific feminist agenda. We’re just women - it’s the way we see the world.

Chastity Belt are playing Brixton Academy on Wednesday 4th November.

An Interview With Alela Diane

words Luísa Graça

19th October 2015

“A blue and windy day a month or so ago was the last gasp of summertime this year. And now the cold has come in, it’s damp and grey again,” wrote American singer songwriter Alela Diane about a year ago at a café in Portland. Words that can now be heard (and felt) in the opening track of her latest album Cold Moon, a collaborative work with producer and guitarist Ryan Francesconi.

When Alela and Ryan ran into each other at a mutual friend’s show, they were both feeling a little bit lost, creatively. Alela had recently become a mother and didn’t know how to approach music next; Ryan, who often tours with Joanna Newsom and arranges her records, missed playing the guitar.

Soulful, touching and incredibly beautiful, their collaboration presents simple, yet eternal observations and questions about life. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the cold days to come.

It seems like your collaboration with Ryan happened in a very natural way.

It really did. One week after we talked, around September 2014, he sent me some beautiful guitar pieces. I started working on the lyrics and we would meet in person about every other week. We didn’t make any decisions, but just focused on each individual song. By January, we realised we had a collection of songs that seemed cohesive and decided to record them. There was no pressure. It was very easy, very simple to work together. We recorded the whole album at Ryan’s house and he did all of the engineering. I hope people can discover the songs as the seasons are changing, just like we did.

How did collaborating with someone differ from working on your own?

It forced me to write lyrics that were not as innately personal and to explore melody in a different way. Initially, I wrote some words that fit into a narrative and I was trying to sing them over one of his guitar pieces and it didn’t feel right. There’s so much of Ryan in these songs that I needed to tune in to what he was trying to convey. It was a different lyrical process for me and it forced me to observe things differently, from a broader angle.

Is it important not to take yourself too seriously in order to remain creative and honest in your writing?

It doesn’t sit well with me when people carry their egos around and I make every effort to not do that. I want to create work from an honest place, work that I feel good about. And not worry too much about how it’s perceived or what I’m putting out in the world. I just try to be true to myself.

How has motherhood changed the way you work?

It forces me to be very conscious about the space and time that I have to write. I didn’t have that much time to commit to the project, but I used every little moment that I had to work on it, which was interesting.

How about subjectively?

It changed me and the way I see the world. I think a lot of the lyrics are influenced by it. Having a child, I find myself thinking a lot about the life cycle and how mysterious it is. The way we come into the world, the curious way a child sees the world.

I get a sense of hope in this album. Was that something you were going for?

That’s something I’m always looking for in the world - a thread of hope, observing the beauty even in the darkest things. And as much as these songs are broader than my other work, it’s still my perspective.

Alela Diane and Ryan Francesconi are playing Komedia in Brighton on the 10th of November and Bush Hall in London on the 11th of November.

An Interview with Girlpool

words Linnea Enstrom, portrait Mafalda Silva

5th October 2015

The experience of girlhood is avidly documented, fictionalised and capitalised on, yet it rarely shakes you in the way that LA duo Girlpool manages to.

Their debut album Before The World Was Big, released in June this year, questions identity, sexuality and coming of age with poetic lyrical depth and uncompromising imagery, like on the fourth track Chinatown: “Come down and visit with me / I’m lying dead on my knees / Do you feel restless when you realise you’re alive?”

Emotional honesty, intensified by their raw vocals, sung in unison, and simple two-chord melodies, is always at the core of their songs. It’s hard to imagine their music without it. Just like Girlpool breathes the artistry - and friendship - of two seemingly inseparable people, Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass).

Watching the band live at London’s Scala recently, the last gig of their UK tour, felt like standing beneath a wire walker you know won’t fall. Without banging drums or keys, the music becomes vulnerable, sincere, and forms a bond with the crowd. Which is why humanity felt pretty doomed to fail when, during their closing song Cherry Picking, someone shouts “You have nice tits” at the stage. The next day, Harmony tweets about the incident, calling it “isolating and awful”. The feminist poignancy of one of their earlier tracks, Slutmouth, is terribly sad, but seems all the more crucial for it: “I go to work everyday / Just to be slutshamed one day”.

I speak to Girlpool ahead of their performance at Scala. Cleo is ill and coughing and I’m told I have to keep it short. In a red coloured booth looking down at the stage, we quickly delve into the development of their creative bond, minimalism and why vulnerability is so important.

What have you been up to since your album was released?

Cleo: We’ve just been touring a bunch. Hanging out and playing shows. Since the record came out we did a tour with Frankie Cosmos and now, as we’re here, we’re going to do some stuff with Stephen Steinbrink.

What did you find in each other creatively, from the beginning, that felt right?

Harmony: We had similar intentions in terms of what we wanted to make and that was really powerful and cool to experience, so we pursued it. It was just a feeling. 

Cleo: We wanted the lyrics to be really important. We had a clear, minimalist vision of how we wanted to be as straightforward and pure with it as possible. Initially we thought about getting a drummer, but we just didn’t know who would be on the same wavelength, so we stuck with just the two of us and it has been very special.

In one of your previous interviews you talk about vulnerability as something powerful. Why are you drawn to it?

Cleo: I think vulnerability can facilitate closeness between people. It’s a pure way to be. We started the project with the intention of being as honest and forward with each other as possible. We wanted it to be as close as possible to what we felt - really concentrated music. Vulnerability is something that comes out of being honest and confronting yourself.

Have you been able to be honest with each other the whole way through?

Harmony: Yeah, I think we bring it out of each other. There just isn’t any other way to be. We are generally very straightforward and emotionally aware of ourselves and people around us, so to not bring those feelings out of each other would be impossible.

Cleo: When we first started Girlpool we grew much closer because we were spending more time together, writing and making music. When you start to get to know a person you get to know the things you have in common and the things you don’t align with. We both made conscious decisions and efforts to identify our differences and embrace them and understand them, which I feel is something I’ve rarely done before. That made us really comfortable and strengthened our writing process. We were able to accept the differences that might have scared us initially.

How would you describe your writing process?

Harmony: We’re constantly communicating about how we’re doing in our lives. Usually we start with a lyric or a melodic idea. If we talk about something, we’re like “how can we articulate this musically?” It can go in any direction within that, starting with chords or whatever. It’s about the most most natural way of getting there and feeling comfortable.

Have you had an interest in writing before or has that developed with the band?

Cleo: We’re both written on our own, but we’ve never collaborated with anybody else in this way, writing words together. It’s just an entirely different exercise. It’s about sharing an idea with another person and then exploring it with them, becoming sensitive to… it’s hard to articulate… like you become more malleable to be able to… I don’t know, how do you explain it?

Harmony: It’s like if you have a hat of ideas and words and they’re all really soft and delicate. You pick them out and see what’s yours and what isn’t yours and you have to be extra careful with those that aren’t yours.

Do you take on the other person’s emotions and experiences?

Cleo: We never try to wear each other’s feelings, but we try to…

Harmony: … find ourselves in the feeling.

Cleo: We try to understand it.

Harmony: It’s about finding words that capture two different ideas.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Cleo: We have written some new stuff. We’re always talking and drawing and thinking

What do you draw?

Cleo: Harmony makes cool comics. I like to doodle and draw weird things. I’m really into blank contours right now.

Does the different mediums of art you use inform each other?

Harmony: It all informs itself. It’s like a giant painting, everything that you make is part of you. It all goes back and forth. It can’t be articulated or understood entirely. Art is like empathy. It goes deep, like brainwaves, water shaking. We just want to be able to create freely and not feel confined by anything.

Dressed as a Girl: In Conversation with London Drag Legend Jonny Woo

words Aimee-Lee Abraham

2nd October 2015

Today marks the release of Colin Rothbart’s fly-on-the-wall documentary of London’s East London drag scene: Dressed as a Girl. In its depiction of the dizzying highs and devastating lows encountered along the way to cult superstardom, the film is unflinchingly honest, capturing a world where Queens fight to pretend “everything is fabulous… and no one is ill” while battling an array of personal and collective demons.

Having been at the forefront of the Shoreditch scene for over twenty years, Jonny Wooacts both as the film’s narrator and a primary subject. We sat down with him ahead of the frockumentary’s release to talk about drag, debauchery and the families we choose. Spoiler: it turns out they’re just as dysfunctional as the ones we’re born into.

Six years’ worth of footage was condensed into just two hours, and the narrative jumps very quickly from hilarity to heartache. How was it for you to watch yourself developing on-screen in such a measurable and visceral way?

For all of us there’s a great deal of revelation, especially with the benefit of hindsight. What’s great about the film is that it’s real; people aren’t trying to act up or be relentlessly positive for the camera. It’s not a sycophantic representation of drag that tries to falsely portray us as one big happy family. Thereis a real sense of camaraderie and community running throughout the scene, but the people within it exist as complex beings. Their relationships change and ebb and flow. There’s ambition, there’s disappointment, there’s friendship, and there are strains on those friendships. It’s messy.

It made for pretty difficult viewing at times.

Some parts are uncomfortable to watch. I felt like I was on trial at the premiere, up to be judged by a hundred people. Ultimately the film only presents a snapshot of each of our personalities, and we knew what was coming when we granted Colin access to our lives. We accept that as his subjects. The presentation is fair but it’s not wholly rounded. Certain segments make me wince, but when you look back on life as a whole it can all be a bit cringe-worthy. Audiences have appreciated that honesty so far.

Despite the conflict you’ve mentioned, there was a real sense of solidarity, and it was touching to see you all raising funds for Amber to have gender re-assignment surgery. On film we see some members of the public scoff at the validity of the cause, but it was such a transformative and redemptive experience for her.

Exactly. On screen it’s all dressed up as bit of outrageous fun, which it was, but these are real fundraisers with the power to affect real lives. Of course there are more pressing issues in the world, but if we want to raise money to help out a friend in need then that’s absolutely our business.

Dressed as a Girl goes beyond the humour and superficiality featured in glamorous mainstream shows like Ru-Paul’s Drag Race. Do you think it serves up an alternative version of the art form?

We all enjoy the liberation of dressing up, but we don’t all have this big, instantaneous personality change the moment the drag goes on, which you sometimes see in more mainstream drag. What characterises our drag is that you see the person underneath. The make-up and hair goes on and it generally falls off before the night is over, leaving you half made-up and half undone. You’re exposed, and the real person and the artifice are all kind of mixed together.

The film frequently references personal tragedy and substance abuse: Scottee reveals that his mother once stopped to pick up whisky while driving him to hospital in the middle of an asthma attack, and you discuss your own battles with alcohol. How has your life changed since sobriety?

It’s a miracle that I managed to do what I did for so long. I used to come home on a Monday morning and hibernate until Thursday. I was absolutely living for the weekend, I didn’t know how to stop, and I eventually suffered multiple organ failure. I don’t drink or do drugs any more and I have so much more time to keep up with my career and the business.

What’s next for you?

I have a few ongoing projects. As well as co-managing The Glory, I’m doing a rock-theatre show based around Lou Reed’s Transformeralbum and I have my East London Lecture which, to put simply, explores gentrification in the area.

As someone who has lived in East London for twenty years, are you nostalgic about the way things used to be?

I have this big hang-up with what I think is the overuse of the word 'gentrification’. I remember sitting in Geography class when I was fourteen learning about how it was just a natural evolution that occurred within urban settings, and change is certainly synonymous with the area. I don’t think East London has lost its sense of individualism or its sense of community. You only have to walk through London Fields or Victoria Park to see the an entire cross-section of the city enjoying the same beautiful facilities. The parks here really are the most fantastic things. They’re melting pots. I am proud to be a Londoner, and even prouder to be giving back through the business.

Dressed as a Girl is out in cinemas now, and released on DVD and On-Demand on the 7th of December from Peccadillo Pictures

An Interview with Director David Gordon Green

words Jason Ward

6th August 2015

David Gordon Green has made so many left turns as a film-maker that he's found himself back where he started. After drawing repeated comparisons to Terrence Malick for his stunning debut George Washington and becoming a reliable source of underseen but critically admired dramas, David surprised many by directing the stoner action comedy Pineapple Express. A sizeable sleeper hit, the film heralded the unlikely second phase of his career. However, just as big, broad comedies like Your Highness seemed to define his work, the film-maker shifted direction again and moved into deliberately unassuming character studies. The latest of these is Manglehorn, a lovely, low-key story about a brooding locksmith with little time for anyone except his sickly pet cat. As the eponymous near-hermit Al Pacino gives his best performance in too many years, matching the understated charm that the film exudes. Ahead of its upcoming release, we spoke to David about his exploratory creative process.

You conceived of Manglehorn after meeting Al Pacino about another project. What quality did you want him to bring out of him with this film?

Al does a lot of larger than life characters and Manglehorn is smaller than life. I was really looking to do an intimate, very vulnerable character study, inspired by the meeting I'd had with him where he was laughing and soft spoken and had this wonderful modest quality. It was something that I hadn't seen in a movie of his in a long time. I was thinking about his old films like The Panic in Needle Park and Scarecrow, early Pacino work that I've always admired. As a big fan I wanted to find a good reason to get in the ring with him. I thought one way might be generating a great character for him first.

I found it quite telling that both Manglehorn and your previous film Joe are named after their protagonists. What's the value of focusing on just one character?

A couple of years ago I'd just had kids and wanted to live in a place and make movies in that place, so I moved to Austin, Texas and started thinking less conceptually about big budget explosive content and more intimately about the area I was walking around in. The locksmith shop in the film is just two blocks from my house. I could walk to the set every day. When you have kids you have this epic mindset – the universe around you explodes, in a way – and I wanted to focus on something that was less extraordinary and look at it through a microscope.

Do you think you'll ever have the urge to make films again on a larger scale?

Actually just last week I finished a movie that's like that. There's a bus chase on a cliff and big name actors and set pieces and everything. It's fun to have money and toys, and there are a lot of Hollywood things that appeal to me, but it's nice to strip all the conversation away too. On the movie I just completed there were hundreds of people I needed to refer to in order to discuss visual effects and action sequences and safety and set design and construction. For a film like Manglehorn it's just three or four people walking around looking at the light and moving some set dressing from one side of the room to the other. There's something really calm and peacefully collaborative about that. It's more meditative. I think I have the type of mentality that needs to bounce back and forth between things.

How did that calmer approach apply to your working relationship with Al Pacino?

For many months before we shot I would fly to California and sit in his back yard and eat strawberries and talk about the character. We'd invite friends over and just read the script aloud, start to hear it and evolve it. There were some characters in early drafts that we decided not to incorporate. We wanted it to be organic, so we shot mostly in order and I didn't want to know how it ended necessarily. There was a screenplay, a roadmap for what we were doing financially and logistically but the film became very different because we found detours.

How did you come up with the name Manglehorn? It's evocative of folk stories.

That was part of the goal, to make something that felt like a fairytale. In an early conversation we said that we wanted to make a children's film. We got a little too melancholy for that, but still there's no profanity or violence or drug use. We tried to refrain from anything objectionable as a subconscious reference to the idea of a magical craftsman. I've always seen the locksmith profession in that light, like woodcarvers or the toymaker Geppetto or other things that might exist in a fairytale.

Were you interested in the symbolic idea of a man who can unlock any door but can't open up parts of himself?

Once you take anybody and start looking at what they do you invoke a world of metaphors. This was a situation where we weren't resistant to that. None of it was conscious but we started smiling our way through when we realised the fable that was unfolding had that little nod to symbolism. It was a very casual production process. It wasn't one of those calculated, storyboarded, pre-conceived type of movies. It was really just getting a creative, collaborative group of artists together and convincing Al Pacino to show up and then everybody felt their way through filming. That's a fun way for me to work, to carve time to do some unique weird shit during the day.

Have you always been that way, or did you have to establish your own voice to be confident enough to explore and experiment?

I think any film-maker evolves in their enthusiasm and their process. For me it's always changing and I wake up every morning with different interests. Sometimes that means to do a big movie or a little movie or a television show or  a TV commercial. I try not to think about the end result too much but I follow things that appeal to me, narratives that appeal to me, people that appeal to me. I just go with my intuition and instinct and sometimes everybody's happy and other times it takes me to strange and questionable places.

Manglehorn is released in U.K. cinemas and through Curzon Home Cinema on 7th August.

An Interview with Director Desiree Akhavan

words Jason Ward

29th June 2015

The release of Desiree Akhavan's debut feature Appropriate Behaviour earlier this year heralded an impressive new film-making talent. As well as being the film's writer and director, Desiree plays its protagonist Shirin, a confident-but-floundering newly single woman attempting to move on from her former girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson).

Between flashbacks that trace Shirin and Maxine's ill-fated romance, Desiree excels at detailing the minutiae of life after a relationship: the efforts to redefine one's identity, the abortive attempts at online dating, the fleeting melancholy of realising that an ex is wearing clothes that you haven't seen before, their life carrying on without you. In a film distinguished by its emotional honesty as well as its humour and wit, one of Appropriate Behaviour's most perceptive observations is the idea that heartbreak exists as background radiation in modern dating: to varying degrees, everyone's trying to get over somebody.   

Ahead of its release on DVD, we spoke to Desiree about making the film.

Appropriate Behaviour starts and ends with Shirin on a train. In superficial terms not much has changed in her life but there's a clear emotional shift. How did you approach the journey she goes through?

When you study screenwriting you're given all these books that tell you there has to be an inciting incident, a villain, a hero, an act one. I remember reading them made me want to gouge my eyes out. It was incredibly boring. I thought if this is what screenwriting is then I'm not a screenwriter. I loved writing plays, and I loved writing scenes and building relationships through character, so that's how I started: I wrote scenes between Shirin and Maxine. I built that relationship and the film was about examining it. Once I finished the first draft I shared it with my producer Cecilia Frugiuele and she said it was good but she wanted to know who this woman is, who is her family, what's her job. She thought I should pull from my own life. That's when it became a journey of how this girl changes without really changing. There are so many films that deal with coming of age and young people in Brooklyn, but I wanted to make something that was so specific to the way I see the world that no-one else would be able to lay claim to it. That's all film is: telling the same story over and over again through a different lens.

Throughout the film there are flashbacks to Shirin and Maxine's relationship but they're non-chronological. Were you trying to replicate how Shirin's mind works?

It was about following a train of thought and what triggers a memory. When you have a breakup it's like being haunted by a ghost. You're in a moment with someone new and just the way their hand moves or the song that comes on or the food you're eating brings you back to a specific memory. You have this ex relationship on your shoulder, constantly reminding you: “Remember when you were happy? Remember when you were loved?”

Are the flashbacks subjective then? Even when they're in love Maxine seems a little aggressive to Shirin. Is that just her personality?

I always thought they were accurate but also Shirin is inspired by me and I'm an asshole. Who knows? The whole film is a flashback of mine. I say it's not autobiographical but at the same time I play the lead, so in a way it's all indulgent to one point of view. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible and to make it feel like that was the truth of what had happened, but if you get the sense that Maxine is a one-sided character then I haven't done my job well and we'll just say Shirin's bad memory at fault.

If the film isn't strictly autobiographical, do you see it as a heightening of reality?

It is, because of a few factors. One is that my life isn't interesting for a 90-minute narrative. It's not convenient enough. I wanted to draw parallels between characters and shape scenes to create a little arc in each scenario. The elements of my life are there but then characters and details had to change to suit the narrative and the story I wanted to tell. Also I rely heavily on my collaborators. I get so much credit because it's my face on screen, but my producer Cecilia is my work partner and had her hand in sculpting the script, while on set my cinematographer was a collaborator in how each scene played out and the same thing happened later with my editor. It's not just mine, so it would be insanely self-indulgent and false for me to say that this is a diary entry, because then it would be their diary entry too. I think the only way to make very personal work that is also universal and speaks to people who don't share your history is to rely heavily on others, because they add their perspective. They can tell you if you're going off the deep end or to go further. It's really necessary and it's a great joy.

What's it like to write, direct and star in a film all at the same time? Even with collaborators, that must be complicated logistically?

Well I'm a power hungry bitch so it works out really well that I get to wear all those pants. Also Cecilia had her eyes on the monitor the whole time. I didn't have time to watch playback so we were just moving forward; with other people's performances I knew exactly what I wanted, but there were a couple of instances when I looked at her and asked if I had it. One moment that sticks out in my head is the threesome scene. I watched one playback and it looked very graphic. I took her aside and said “This is too gratuitous, I've made a huge mistake, I'm going to pull back in the next take,” and she said to trust her and not pull back. I'm really glad I did because that's how we got what we have.

Your depiction of sex is interesting: it's not trying to titillate but it's casually graphic in the way that real sex is casually graphic. People have brought up Annie Hall when discussing Appropriate Behaviour but it's hard to imagine that sort of sexual honesty in comedic films of that era.

I think people are shooting sex differently now than they did before. There was a lot of dishonesty in the sex I saw when I was younger, but then films were very different in a pre-internet world. Now we have such a different dialogue – kids are coming out earlier, our relationship to porn is different – there's a frankness now and that's reflected in movies.

Sex in films never really got messy.

Or it was all awkward. The characters have a bad date and then bad sex and everything is terrible, but in reality sometimes things weave in and out of being pleasurable. That's the worst: when you hold on to the nostalgia for a moment you had two hours ago, hoping that the person will go back to your first impression of them. That happens quite often and I don't see it depicted in movies. Films lied to me about sex, and everything I learned about sex until a certain age I'd learned from watching a movie. It wasn't a conversation I had with my parents or something I could find out on my own. When I finally started dating I realised I'd been fed fairytale lies about simultaneous orgasms and never-ending love.

Appropriate Behaviour is now available on DVD.