Interview: A Conversation with Eliza Shaddad

The Castle Hotel is one of Manchester’s finest and most intimate of venues and it proves to be the perfect setting for the stark imagery and brutal confessions present on Eliza Shaddad’s latest EP Run. Unable to find a quiet corner of the venue to chat on a busy Friday night in the Northern Quarter, Too Many Blogs retreat to the cozy confines of Eliza’s car to discuss the development of the record with the London-based singer-songwriter, also discovering the unexpected beauty of Ramsgate along the way.

 

Congratulations on the amazing new EP. Previous EP Waters was full of evocative tales and imagery. Run feels more aggressive and urgent.

I think that sums it up quite well.

So it was intentional then?

Yeah, I thought that Waters was quite reflective, very much about looking back on things and sort of being a little outside the situation and being able to have a more controlled view of it. Run is a lot more about being right in the heat of the moment and not being very happy about it.

Without being too personal, what’s changed to go down this new direction?

I guess the relationships that I was in, with people, with work, with everything, but specifically with people!

There’s more layers and textures to the record. How did this come about in terms of the decisions you made to develop your sound?

Well, part of it is that the more familiar I get with the technology and the more I learn about the guitar. It just means that when I first write the song and then start demoing it at home I just add layer after layer after layer so it starts getting bigger and bigger at home and I’ve started adding a lot of different vocal layers, mainly to cover up how AWFUL my microphone was! But then I added guitar layers to give it a chunkier sound and then drum loops and wanting stuff to change and adding another drum loop and it would get bigger and bigger and even then it still doesn’t compare to taking it into the studio and hearing it all on real instruments, reimagining parts that fit better. Even in the studio, it was quite simple at first, it was just like the live set up, we played it as guitar and drums together, laid on voice and bass afterwards and then started adding things and most of the things we added stuck.

The shift is definitely clear. Waters is stripped back, more intimate possibly.

It was the first time that I’d worked with another producer on my music and it was quite a fast process with Waters so we essentially got together. I had demos that were quite well fleshed out anyway, and it was more about creating the right sound and atmosphere for the songs so that was all we were really trying to achieve I guess with the other layers we were adding. Whereas this time, having played with a band for nearly a couple of years at the stage when we were recording it was more about supplementing all the little textures that could go on top of this large sound that we were creating.

It sounds more experimental in a way then.

Yeah, like I said, a lot of things stuck. Chris Bond who produced it would try out a really raucous sounding synth and it would be like ‘yeah, great… let’s use that’ and you’d hear this horn sample and again we’d be like ‘yeah, definitely’.

It sounds like a really fun process

It was, it was wonderful!

I’ve never written a song before. I wouldn’t know where to start! Do you find it easy?

Oh, well it depends. Sometimes they come out in one go and you can’t stop them. Waters was like that. Sometimes they take a lot of hashing out and Run was like that actually. It can really vary.

Following you on Instagram and social media, it seems like you’re constantly on the road around the UK. The studio seemed to be in an amazing place. Where was it?

It’s in Devon at this place called Start Point and it’s on a peninsula and the studio is on the last farm before you get to the lighthouse so it’s surrounding by water on each side. You get cows walking past the window a lot of the time and when it rains, it’s a converted barn and you hear it on the rooftops and it makes its way into the recordings. It’s wonderful!

It sounds beautiful. It sounds like it was probably quite inspirational just being in that kind of location, particularly with the kind of sound that you’re after.

It is, it’s perfect, I really love it there and I think it’s a really large part of the sound.

You’ve touched upon it already, the significance of the producer on this record. Without really knowing the process, explain to us Chris Bond’s contribution to the record.

I think it varies from relationship to relationship between artists and producers. For me, first of all, Chris plays bass and drums on the record and occasionally synths, occasionally percussion, so he’s an amazing musician first off. He produced it and Bear Bond engineered it and as a pair they help me to get exactly the sound that I wanted out of the instruments that I was using. The amplifiers that I was using too. Chris in particular has got a really good over-arching view of arrangements and what needs to come in to move a song along and apart from just getting it sounding right. It’s about tying every single layer that you can potentially use, making sure that it’s necessary, making sure that it fits in and making sure that it enhances the song and also being experimental and when we work together it’s really relaxed and it’s fun.

Technology’s changing every aspect of our lives. How has it altered the way you create your music?

I still, to be honest, create it generally just on guitar and voice. Garageband is a massive, massive technological bit of help to me but I know people who have recorded on 8 track home things but it’s still technology.

So it is a positive thing then, because I read a quote from someone recently saying that they wish they had their pre-internet brain back.

Yeah, I feel like that sometimes. To be honest, I think for songwriting, I find the song is often better for me if its written 100%. It doesn’t rely on this amazing drum loop coming in, lyrically especially, and storywise it just makes better sense if it’s written pretty simply. I’ve actually been writing a lot of music so I won’t be writing for a while.

So that means an album on the way then?

Yes, hopefully when this tour is over we’ll be going straight into the studio. Yes, you’ll see it all… it’ll all be on Instagram!

As we mentioned, it seems that you’ve been on this constant road trip around the UK recently. Can you share any Spinal Tap moments from the road?

You know what, I went on a tour recently with a friend and nobody on the tour drunk which was a really different experience. But no, not really any Spinal Tap moments. We’ve had a lot of fun… On the last tour actually we went to Ramsgate and we’d been pre-warned about Ramsgate being amazing and that we’d have the best time. We were like ‘okay, what’s going on in Ramsgate!?!’ and we just got all these local tips about what the show was going to be like, the venue was lovely. There was this amazing Belgian beer bar around the corner to go to afterwards that did pizza after the show and then we went into the sea. We eventually went to bed at about 6am and then got up and had breakfast at this brasserie… it was incredible!

And all of this in Ramsgate! It’s the new holiday destination!

Right! I don’t think anyone knows. It’s not a Spinal Tap moment but it was fun!

Listening to Run for the first time proved to be quite an emotional, almost cinematic experience. Do certain films or film makers inspire your approach to music?

Recently, oh, it’s not that recent I suppose but Into the Wild…

Wow, you’ve just picked my FAVOURITE film ever!

It’s incredible… it’s so inspiring visually. It’s inspiring for life generally, but the views… I’ve been thinking, I quite like writing with the TV on or just with just the pictures on. I remember writing a lot during the Olympics because it was just like this nice little background hum but I was thinking about watching waves and water or surf films or something and writing to those with the volume turned down. I think it would be really inspiring.

Have any of your songs been used in a film or TV show?

I just got told actually! Run is going to be on BT Sport in between the Villa and Chelsea match during one of the pre-game VTs! Amazing, we’re going to try and find a pub and watch it!

What’s the response to the record been like overseas? Any plans to take it over there?

I actually found it was really great response, particularly after that show (Beats 1 with Zane Lowe). You can see that they’ve got a really wide and devoted listenership. I think we’ve had a lot of nice reaction from a lot of American blogs so that’s been lovely and also a lot of European radio so between the two it feels like we’re slowly starting to branch out. We’re playing five dates in Europe in a couple of weeks as part of this tour which should be amazing and I’d love to tour America one day.

Finally, the record is pretty stark and I was wondering what makes you laugh.

Everything! I’m quite a cheerful person!

 I certainly sense that. Is the music a cathartic way to explore emotions?

Yeah, and all of the dark stuff! All sorts of things make me laugh. My band mates make me laugh all day long, they’re great. I’ve been watching Blackadder again recently and it never gets old!