This week we are changing things up a bit with a feature about an electronic rock band by the name of The Singularity. We spoke with the lead singer Julian Shah-Tayler recently, and he filled us in on his history with music, the forming of The Singularity, and the inspiration behind their new album. Julian was a pleasure to speak with; he’s a big proponent for ‘music with intelligence,’ and that certainly shows through in our exclusive interview with him. Give the tracks some listen, and enjoy the interview below!
Tell me about your time with “Whitey Band.”
I was in Whitey for around 3 years, and it was about seven years ago that I joined. I’ve been out of the band for 4 years now. We took it from basically an unknown band, or an unknown artist. I just want to be clear, that the reason I left was it was a solo project for the guy that was involved with it. I was writing with him and recording with him, but it was only ever going to be a solo project, so I just felt a little bit like that wasn’t where I wanted to go.
So, we parted ways. But, we took it from the state where we had one single out, or he had one single out on Rough Trade Records, all the way to when we were over here and we had the number one record on Indie 103, and placements all over the place. It was a very exciting time.
The song that did really well, the one that we did together, was called “Wrap It Up,” I don’t know that you remember that song. It was interesting, it was a popular song at the time, this was about 5 years ago. But we toured with Peaches in the U.S., we were headlining festivals in Europe, we played a lot of prominent stuff in Europe. It was a good time.
When was The Singularity formed?
We’ve been playing live quite a lot around town; in Los Angeles particularly. We’ve been offered a tour down in South America, but we can’t afford to do it. It will happen. Over the next year; because basically at the moment, we are in the process of trying to raise funds because a couple of record labels have shown interest in the album.
The album is something that I’ve been recording over the last 4 or 5 years. I released a solo record last year; January 1st, 2011, which was really well received. It got fantastic reviews, people liked it a great deal. Because of the marketing budget, I didn’t tour the record. It was more for me to just get material out that I’d been sort of percolating during Whitey.
I’ve had placements on television shows for some of the songs, so it’s done its business, but I mean, as far as sales are concerned, I couldn’t report any major sales. The new record, which is The Singularity record, is a bit more consistent than the first record.
So I’ve noticed you have a bit of an accent, where are you from and what brought you to the States?
I’m English. I’m from Leeds, in England I was born. But I have Welsh blood in me, Pakistani blood, and all sorts of different things. But I lived in England for a long period of my life. When I came over with Whitey, I just really loved California; beautiful place, sunny weather, never lived anywhere where it was hot before. People are actually friendly in California, which is unusual (chuckles). I mean, living in London, you just get used to people being a bit grumpy. And I just don’t want to feel grumpy all my life. So, I found that moving here was quite inspiring.
So yeah, it was on tour with Whitey, we first played the Avalon Theater and the Filmore West. Just coming over here, the whole experience, was completely different to anything I’d ever experienced before, because Europe is much more entrenched in its cultural heritage. I feel there’s a bit more of a positive attitude over here. And then I met somebody, so it’s all going good (laughs).
Tell me about this latest album; what’s inspired you so far, and made you want to continue working on it?
The new album is much more positive in its outlook, which has definitely been inspired by living in California. I feel that writing in that genre, the sort of more electronic-based stuff, the more sort of fun– I wouldn’t say ‘party’ music, because there’s still a certain degree of thoughtfulness behind. I mean, it’s been inspired a little bit by being in America, and little bit of just being in a more resolute period in my life. The whole last couple of years with Whitey was a little bit depressing; being somebody else’s ‘go-to’ guy.
So now, I get the chance to write my own stuff, and record my own stuff; it just sort of blossomed from that point, and I’m a bit more positive about things. The shows that we do with the band, we have choreography, and we have projections of different films that I like, and different conceptual ideas that fit with the songs quite well.
So one thing that stood out while doing my research was that you had done a collaboration with Joaquin Phoenix. What was his role in the collaboration?
Funny enough, it was him and Antony, from Spacehog. They had the enormous hit single, and they’re actually from Leeds which is my home town. So anyway, when I came over to the U.S., a friend of mine, is Alan McGee, who is the Creation Records head guy, who signed Oasis, Primal Scream, My Buddy Valentine, Jesus and Mary Jane. He’s a kind of big player in the U.K. music scene.
So, when myself and my best friend, who was also in the band Whitey, moved over to the U.S. together, Allen had been working with Joaquin, and Joaquin had asked if he could manage his new musical project. So, he wanted to put us in touch with Joaquin, to become part of his band. So what we did was went and recorded with him and Antony, in a studio with Mark Lannagan’s drummer; Norm Block. And so we did about two weeks of work with Joaquin on this great, really really excellent, kind of rock music.
I believe Antony did most of the writing, but Joaquin was doing the producing, and contributing vocal ideas, and percussion, and all that sort of stuff. So he was very instrumental, and very interesting producer style character. I’ve worked with lots of producers, and Joaquin was one of the most idiosyncratic styled producers that I’ve ever worked with. So Antony was singing, and then Scott and I also sang.
I think that Joaquin was very instrumental in getting that record made, but unfortunately he wasn’t instrumental in getting it released (chuckles). I wouldn’t feel it appropriate to release it myself, as it wasn’t my work. I mean, I did work on the record, and I am on it, but it’s not my music to release, so I wouldn’t really feel that would be appropriate.
Tell me about your band now; how did you all meet, how did you get together, and how did you first approach it?
I’ve actually been working with all of the members except the bass player prior to this sort of incarnation in my solo project. The guitar player, Chris, who I’ve probably been working with the longest, was working with me when I first put a band together when I first moved to L.A., which was about 3 years ago. He is a very talented guitar player, Chris Lopez.
His friend Trent, is a brilliant– he’s incredibly young, I think he’s like 19 or 20, or maybe he’s 21 because he can obviously get into all these bars we’re playing (laughs)- he’s just a good friend of Chris’. And a brilliant bass player, really good guy, I don’t know that much about him.
And then Denise, who is the backing vocalist; I met her through Allen as well actually. She used to DJ at the Standard hotel, which is where I used to run clubs. The Standard in Hollywood. The Standard downtown, she used to DJ, and then she came to DJ for us at our clubs, and she was kind of a fan of the music. So she ended up coming and singing with me, and she’s been singing with me ever since. Now she’s a permanent member of The Singularity.
Also the drummer, is an old friend, who I actually met through Som Wardner, who is a singer of a band called My Vitriol, in England, who I was good friends with for a while. And he is also a long-standing collaborator. So now we’ve finally sort of crystallized into this unit of six of us.
Oh, and then there’s Cathy, the keyboard player, who’s my partner. She’s a very talented young lady- a documentary journalist, in the main, but she’s also a keyboard player for me (laughs).
As a musician, what do you think people should know about you, or what is one thing that sets you apart?
I think it’s the idea that we’re not really constricted by a specific genre; we can bring in any- we like to make music that spans all the genres. It goes from rock, to pop, electronic… but I also think we’ve been described quite a lot as thoughtful dance music. I’m definitely a proponent for music with intelligence.
I’m a big Bowie fan, and Prince, who most people wouldn’t describe as that kind of music, I think Prince is very thoughtful and I think John Lennon.. You know all these people that have a message to their music. I try to put a message in at least 20 percent of my music (laughs). So lyrically, it’s important to me to convey a certain mood or an idea. I mean, I studied philosophy at university, and came out of that with a very sort of philosophical head, and I believe that sort of transfers over to the music. I think music is the most important thing in our lives; it keeps us sort of separate. It can bring you up, it can bring you down. It’s the most important thing in my life anyway.
What’s next for The Singularity?
Well we’re getting the album together. What you’ve heard is basically my demos. We are talking to a couple producers about maybe working it into a proper version of the album. I mean, the album, to all intensive purposes is done, but I would like to- one of my good friends, this guy called Nick Launay, who’s a producer, who works with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, he’s done five or six Nick Cave albums, he’s worked with Kate Bush, Talking Heads.
This guy is the guy I want to get in the studio, but trying to pin him down, with our lack of budget, is impossible (laughs). So, what’s next for us, is we’re trying to find management; which we have a couple of leads there, maybe a label or perhaps an investor. I think our most kind of resonant idea is to get an investor, because we have the infrastructure set up to be able to do it ourselves, it’s just having the money.
I’m talking about a substantial amount of money, because we need to reach people. The people that hear the music tend to like it, it’s just getting the music to the people. And of course, with the way that the internet introduces people to music nowadays, there’s such a huge amount of fantastic music out there, how do I find that conduit? Because there are no sales anymore, if people don’t buy CD’s, then there’s no way of building up large amounts of money. It’s tricky.
I’m quite lucky that some of the songs get used in television shows, so that brings me an income to be able to survive on, but it certainly doesn’t make me rich. It doesn’t make me able to launch it. What I want to do is take it on tour; I want to go down and do the South America thing. But it’s all about money, really.
I mean, musicians in the 1920’s, 1930’s always had to work really hard to make money. and it’s just come full circle. So I’m not complaining, but I’m trying to figure it out, because obviously with Whitey, and other bands I’ve been in, we’ve had the backing to support that infrastructure. Now, since the collapse, it seems like we need to find different ways of doing it. And that’s exciting (laughs). To put a positive spin on it.
So we have a show on May 20th, at the Dragonfly, which is a big sort of collaboration show with some friends called Piell and Kate Crash. That was quite a boost for us.
We have a review in the May edition of Music Connection magazine, which is great, because I understand it’s national. I think it’s the one they give away at like Guitar Center, and those sort of stores. So that’s nice. Hopefully they like the record (laughs), but I’m quite confident they’ll find some good things to say about it.
We also just won the ASCAP/Homegrownhits competition by beating 100s of bands to the Number 1 slot in their chart!!!
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