Photo: The New Eves

The higher calling: An interview with The New Eves

They only have three songs officially out, but Brighton’s The New Eves are already one of the most vital bands emerging from the UK. To underscore the ‘vital’ part further: their music breaks the lane of possibilities of what a band can be wide open again. Violet Farrer (violin, guitar, vocals), Nina Winder-Lind (vocals, cello, guitar), Kate Mager (bass, vocals, dance), and Ella Russell (flute, drums, vocals) merge The Velvet Underground’s deconstructed minimalism, The Raincoats’ roguish spearheading, and the esoterica of folk music into something profoundly novel and revelatory.

Their shows truly feel ceremonial, with all four musicians pouring themselves into their music with the unchained fervour of a theatre play. At last year’s edition of Left of the Dial festival, they were a quite the brain-scrambling affair. “The New Eves sound like Margaret Atwood’s take on Fairytale in The Supermarket,” was my descriptor at the time. Nevertheless, The New Eves seem too locked into dabbling inside their insular space to be bothered by any sort of outside noise.

Speaking of time: it’s not a stretch by any means to call this sisterhood of four bona fide time travellers. Because listening to the enchanting cosmic elegy that is “Astrolabe” with no prior knowledge of The New Eves will most certainly leave your head spinning over what period their music derives from. Make no mistake, The New Eves themselves have no interest in becoming a quote unquote archaic band giving into twee nostalgia. If anything, The New Eves are picking up the thread where their spiritual forebears left off, towing words, objects and sounds into the future with maximum zest.

I read that some of you met while studying literature. Which makes me wonder: what type of literature did you bond over? And was this also a catalyst for The New Eves’ sound as a band?

Kate: Violet and myself both went to uni together, and we knew each other through that. But we actually met by going to the same gig. We noticed each other and we were like, ‘Oh, you’re from I recognise you from uni!’ So it was still music that brought us together. But all of us share all of us an interest, or passion or… I don’t know what word to use, for literary things. Not just the ones who went and studied it at uni.

Ella: We do have a lot of inspiration from literature. But I think all the things we are interested in are natural catalysts for this project. Beside our name, The New Eves. Violet, you were reading…

Violet: Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve, which we case studied at university. And that’s where the name came from.

Kate: I remember I was in the pub and I saw you and I we recognised each other from the course and you said that you were going to Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar to go to a Bitch Craft show. I said ‘Cool!’. And I went along, don’t remember who the bands were that played that night, but that was a great place that sadly no longer exists.

I haven’t been there but heard lots of great stories about that place. It’s a big talking point now over in the UK, right? The gradual dismantling of DIY-infrastructures for upcoming bands.

Ella: It’s a real problem over here. And in Brighton, it’s already gotten to the point where there’s just there’s not really much space for musicians, and especially young musicians, and people who don’t have much money. You can’t afford to go to the studios there. And a lot of the DIY spaces are closing down. And so it affects you before you even get to the point where you’re playing venues. You can’t even find a space to play with your friends. Venues are disappearing, and community spaces are disappearing, which is really sad.

Which brings me to my next question: did your friendship come before making music together, or was it fostered by your creative pact? This may be a bit of a chicken-egg question.

Nina: We were friends before we started playing together as a band. We didn’t even know that we were gonna be a band. It just kind of happened. And we’d all been in other bands before. And that’s kind of how we met. Then we all left those projects and wanted to make music and realised that we could start a band together. That’s kind of how it went.

Was there a specific moment that sparked that epiphany?

Nina: We were literally all saying, ‘Oh, I want to be in band.’ And then we looked at each other and we were like ‘Oh shit, we could be a band!’. And that was really exciting, because we didn’t have any set roles. Ella didn’t play the drums at that point, and Violet didn’t really play the violin. It was more like, we are musicians and are people, let’s just see what happens. So that was really exciting.

How long did it take for you to find your voice as a band?

Ella: A few months really. I think because we didn’t we didn’t have any expectations or ideas of what this project should be. We really just played together for a few months. And we just met up and hung out and played music and supported each other in what was happening in our lives. We were doing it every week, apart from we did have a break in the summer. But I think, just from doing that, we just became so connected. It was quite explosive, when we discovered a new sound. We started writing new material, and it was just this really intense experience, that was happening really fast. And then we never looked back as all this new music just came pouring out of us. And we’re still going now, but it did take a little while to get there.

Kate: We tuned in to something and then it suddenly started blasting out of us. But it took a while for it to kind of open up. And to play new instruments.

Nina: When we got there it made so much sense. It was like we had discovered the Holy Grail.

Ella: We discovered this monumental thing. And suddenly everything made sense. Like it made sense why we were in this like scummy studio every week with each other. And yeah, I think gave us a lot a lot of purpose in our lives actually.

Were there were any parameters, or maybe elements that each of you wanted to bring into the band that maybe wasn’t already in your individual set of skills or disciplines?

Violet: I just always wanted to play the violin. So I thought I’d give it a go. That was it, really. There was no set of rules, as in, ‘we have to try new instruments’ . We were just free to do whatever.

Kate: Some things that I’ve done before, it’s been kind very much like having a role. And you’re told by someone else or a group of other people what your role is and what you have to do. But when we came into this band, we didn’t have any of that. We learned we can do anything we want to do. And you don’t have to be like an expert at something to be able to get up on stage and share it with people. You know, we’ll just do what we want to and be real. And have fun with with that.

Ella: I didn’t even want to play the drums. I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t even consider learning to play the drums. I think at that point, I really felt like I knew how to play enough instruments and knew what my thing was. But then we were kind of jamming for a while and it just got to the point where we were like ‘Someone needs to play the drums, we can’t continue without someone playing the drums’. And in the end, I was sort of like, ‘Oh, fuck it, I’ll do it’. And unexpectedly, it opened a whole new world for me!

Kate: Now look what you got yourself into!

Ella: I know! Sometimes I can go on the stage being like, ‘What the hell have I done to hold this huge world on my shoulders!’. With the drums you know, you have to hold down a lot of space. And but that was a lesson I needed to learn and that’s what I’m doing, exploring the drums in this band. And I do really love it as well, as it was such a big and pleasant surprise.

Did learning new instruments also open up your perspective on how to express yourself through the instruments you are already proficient at?

Violet: It definitely made me try a lot more experimental things, just being in the new space of playing with The New Eves. I don’t know if the violin affected it. I already played guitar relatively professionally. Then I got really bored of playing the guitar in a normal way. And I started to kind of like, scratch it and tap it. And then I kind of developed my own weird thing that I do. It’s a kind of rhythm guitar, but I don’t really know what it is. But people seem to like it.

You’re not just a great band musically speaking. But a lot of the imagery, and the craftsmanship of tangible, handmade things appear to be as big of a part of it all as well. The clothing, the merchandise: did those things manifest out of the music, or has it all been this instantaneous projectile vomit of coinciding creativity?

Nina: I think, again, it’s us as four people, and just comes out of that in this meeting point that is the band. We come together musically, we also get we talked about literature there before. Some of us do painting, or writing and we just have all this… what do you call them?

Kate: It’s almost as if the music gives us an opportunity to do more of that stuff as well. Because we now have people listening, and interested in what we have to say because of the music. We now have this opportunity to bring in like so many things and it’s really exciting to be able to bring in all of these aspects of us, and share it with people. It’s really amazing to be able to do that.

There seems to be a strong instinct for really cool iconography in The New Eves too, like with the pomegranate logo. Does your love for creating things outside of the music feed back into the music, like a reciprocal thing?

Ella: Yes, completely. I mean, that’s what inspires our music. We’ve said this a lot to people: we never sit down saying ‘we’re gonna write a song about this thing’ or ‘it’s gonna sound like this’. Whatever is happening in our lives, and what we’re creating, and what we’re researching, and what we are passionate about comes into the studio with us. And that’s where our music comes from.

Nina: And I think because, The New Eves is that kind of space – it’s so open and so raw and undefined – you can bring anything into it, and it will turn into something of its own. So It really works in correlation to all the other creative things that we do, and that’s really exciting.

When I listen to a song like “Astrolabe” it really does sound like The New Eves could be from any era. And I feel your language kind of reverberates through time in this super elastic way, while also being acutely aware of this power, like good punk music tends to do. I feel a big portion of the post-punk bands of the past few years were – perhaps by creative necessity – looped in this Sisyphean defeatism. So it’s refreshing to see bands like yourself daring to capture a grander, more cosmic scope, no less with such economical means. It’s really moving stuff. Which brings me to this question: how do The New Eves filter out the modern experience within these very timeless sounds?

Nina: It’s not like we’re cut off from reality. I think we’re very, very involved in the society that we live in, and I guess we have our own language around that. And again, it’s not something that we sit down and talk about like: ‘Okay, this is our approach, and this is what we want to say’ It just kind of comes out organically. We have a lot to say, but we don’t mean to decide how to say it. It sounds strange, but it’s like it comes out in a way on its own almost. And yeah, we don’t really want to be on-the-nose. That’s not really what we do. Does anyone else want to say something?

Violet: You summed it up pretty well.

Ella: I think there’s something about honesty. That is very timeless and like I feel that’s an important part of our music, being very honest about who we are. And also quite embodied. And there’s like some thing about performing and music and being in The New Eves it is like being embodied and being present and being like, ‘Wow, I’m alive right now!’.

Kate: And I feel like the things that we are singing about, are of like these big things that have always been there in everything. And it’s kind of like when delving so far into what we’re feeling right now that it kind of gets down to this timeless thing. Or the things that are hard to just say out loud, like ‘This is how I feel about this thing’. It’s about making it universal…

Ella: …which is how the four of us talk about things. Which means you just kind of escape.

Kate: If you zoom in far enough, then everything is like kind of the same.

Violet: Or if you zoom out! (laughs)

Nina: You definitely could call it escapism, but in the sense that it’s kind of mystic escapist. Like you’re getting somewhere and you’re finding something out. Hopefully, I feel like we do that, at least in our process. Sometimes we don’t even know what’s going on. And then suddenly we’ve shaped this thing together. It’s sounds weird… it’s hard to explain.

There seems to be a huge fascination with the past in The New Eves. I mean, I’m 41 and I can still vaguely recollect the pre-internet age. And I feel technology and social media have disrupted a lot of ways we used to connect with one another. It’s all become more and more complicated for sure. That’s why it’s so cool to see a younger band reaching for that time before our lives got entangled with all this digital excess, and maybe salvage things we might have missed in our first go-around. Is that a conversation you are having right now?

Ella: Yeah, I would say that we all have interests in the past. And that is something that bonds us: a lot of our heroes aren’t around anymore.

Kate: I wouldn’t say that we live in in the past. We do look back into the past but we look at the now and also into the future. I don’t feel like we’re trying to romanticise the pre-digital world or have any kind of agenda like that. I don’t know if we really have any kind of agenda at all, really, that can be summed up easily.

Nina: I think something that is very important for us is that we acknowledge history, we acknowledge where we come from and how we got here. Our ancestors, everyone who paved the way for us to be able to be here right now and do this thing, you know? And I think that’s very present in our music. But yeah, that doesn’t mean that we want to live in the past. But we are definitely very aware of the past.

Ella: But I can see how our music can be interpreted like that. It might be hard for people to actually see that we are making songs about the modern world. About what’s happening to us right now.

Nina: For me, I need to go back to understand what’s going on right now. I thin a lot of the symbolism with Eve is you having to trace it all back, ‘Why do we live?’ ‘Why does the world look like this right now?’ ‘Why do we have patriarchy?’ And then knowing how to go back to when they wrote the Bible. So research is really, really important to understand the now. Yeah.

Ella: And it’s really important to this band, actually, I think that approach is part of all of us.

I know it can really be a bit deflating to talk about the inner dynamics of a band like The New Eves, so I’m trying my best to formulate this question in a non-lame way. But I do notice when you’re on stage, everyone sort of has an equal stake in the band: everybody writes and everybody sings. I’m wondering if each of you take turns penning songs, or whether ideas mutate to become this potent synthesis? Can you break that down for me?

Ella: It’s a big mixture. Sometimes the person who is singing has written the lyrics or came up with the idea. But even when someone comes with the lyrics and the ideas, everyone kind of builds upon that. And then there are other times when someone has actually written words for someone else, or people that take turns singing or take turns playing. Yeah, it’s kind of different each time from song to song, but we don’t…

Kate: …have a formula. There is no set formula. Yeah.

Ella: But I’m sure it’s like time goes on. People will be able to recognise our, different personalities and different parts of the songs and see who’s brought what to the music.

The New Eves have crafted their music by going a little bit out of your depth, which makes me curious whether there’s still an ongoing process of unraveling and (un)learning between the four of you. What’s on the horizon for The New Eves, and as individuals in this band?

Ella: Well, first of all, in my mind, we need to go somewhere together for like a month to just play music, someplace where no one’s gonna come and bother us. And that feels like that’s on my horizon anyway. I would really like that. But I think in terms of our music, we’ve never been able to collaborate with anyone and we’re not really ready to expand to another person yet. It’s quite hard to do that in this project anyway, because the four of us are so connected. But I think, at some point, we will get to the work with other musicians in the future. But it’s not like I don’t need to learn how to play the trumpet for us to have the trumpet included in our music. I think there’s a lot of exciting things for us in terms of composing that we have not even started to explore yet. And that’s exciting.

Kate: Yeah, I agree with Ella about the needing to take time and write stuff because everything has been so chaotic. Especially from the start of this year till now, it has been such a chaotic time. And just making space for creating new things feels very necessary. I feel like I’m making trying to make lots of changes in my life to allow myself, personally as well, a lot more time and space for creative things. And I hope that that’s gonna bring about something good. I feel like I barely play beyond playing shows, and then rushing somewhere else and playing more shows. So I’m excited to play and write on my own and together with the band. I think there will be new things that come from that I can’t even imagine.

Nina: I feel there’s so much we can bring to our live performance that if when we have more control over that sort of thing – in terms of sets, or like projections, lighting and wind machines, I think we could make such an amazing show. Because right now you turn up that venue and the light guy will maybe ask you what you want…but more likely not. And it’s very important to experience all of the environmental stuff. So I’d really like to start working on that. I think that’ll be really fun.

Violet: I don’t know what the future has in store for us. But I know it’s gonna be really big and beautiful. And yeah, I’m just gonna end with that!

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*some quotes have been compressed for legibility