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Introducing: Nimmo and the Gauntletts

Since they started making music together as kids, Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett (aka Nimmo and the Gauntletts) have gone to university, changed sounds and generally grown up. Their original material, a folky blend of emotional lyrics and guitar laden tracks, has matured as their sound progresses into something rather special.

Coming to prominence with their debut, ‘Change’ (and the associated video, which was directed by Agnes Deyn), it was the follow-up, ‘Others’, that really caught our ears. With a slight nod to the XX, the minimalist accompaniment played up to the intimate, almost telekinetic quality of Sarah and Reva’s vocals, creating something dreamy, subdued and emotionally wrought.

With their discovery of synths well underway, Nimmo and the Gauntletts have let rip with their new single, ‘Jaded’. The track, an homage to the confusing nature of leaving university, embraces the group’s pop sensibilities. While not quite something you would shake your tail feather to, the stomping beat and gliding harmonies are the tightest the group have ever sounded. We met up to have a chat with the girls about the song, making the rather morbid video and deep house music.

Planet Notion: What you guys have been up to recently?
Sarah: We’ve been recording loads of demos and bits and pieces, and starting to really collate all our  finished pieces of work that we’re going to put towards other projects later in the year. There’s been a lot of writing. We’ve got one show in March at Concrete that we’re always rehearsing and working towards. Other than that, we’ve not be doing much else; writing and recording has been the main focus.

PN: What can you tell me about your new single, ‘Jaded’?
S: It’s not really about a person, although it sounds like a love song. It’s more of a metaphor for feeling like you’re being pulled from two corners.
Reva: We wrote in parts. We didn’t write the chorus until six months after we’d started. It was that end of uni period. That transition.
S: It’s like being on the frontier of something and being a bit terrified or leaving everything behind, but excited at the same time. It’s quite simple, really. It’s black and white. Really simple contrasts of ‘tough love, soft touch’.
R: It’s a bit of a dichotomy; back and forth.

PN: So, you were working on it for a long time?
R: We always do this. Parts of ‘Jaded’ were probably floating around a year ago, lyrics and melodies. We’d try and put it to one song, and then scrap it, but instead of scrapping the whole song we might start writing something else instrumental and say, “Oh, that melody works over it.” So in that way it’s kind of pieced together. But it worked really nicely with ‘Jaded’, it just all seemed to make sense.
S: It was quite difficult to record. It was a real transition period for us in terms of stepping our recordings up. So we spent quite a lot of time re-drafting bits, and re-working bits and realising that we’ve not we’re not thinking enough about the record, and too much about it live. It was just getting through all those barriers. It was quite a slow, intricate project, but it happened quite organically.

PN: The production is very tight.
R: ‘Change’ was written and recorded when we were at uni. ‘Others’ was written at uni and recorded in that summer after uni. That was really fresh and the time that we’d given to those songs was probably 40-50 percent of what we had after we’d finished uni. We were creating our sound at the time. ‘Jaded’ was when we had our time off to look at it. We’d had all these different things floating around, but we knew it could actually work as a song.
S: It’s the one that sits completely on the fence after university and experimenting.

PN: How involved in the production process are you?
S: We’re too involved. We’re learning that we need to be a bit less involved.
R: We are learning that, but we’re also dipping our toes in production wise. We’re getting that natural hold on it, where you’re like, “No, I want that drum tweaked a tiny bit.” I think everyone in the band is turning into that.

PN: That’s a good thing, though.
It is a good thing. We’ve never been perfectionists and it’s always been a bit more about moving on to the next idea, or just writing as much as possible, whereas now we’re really learning to perfect everything.
R: I’ve been surprised by how much individually we have for each thing. How many notes we all have. How much we can spot what we want changing. It’s neurotic. It is verging on wanting to produce it ourselves. It must be a nightmare.

PN: I thought the video was quite funny, but it is dark. We’re you involved in the concept?
R: Good! That’s how you should feel! We were involved, but not necessarily conceptually.
S: It was a friend of ours, Mike Glover, and he came up with the idea. He hadn’t done much film work before, so we involved a guy called Paris Zarcilla, who works for a production company called Sudden Black. All of their work is very cinematic, and they’ve got an amazing production team behind them. So we paired the two together in order for them to gain something from each other. I’d say that we, as a band, produced it. It was unbelievably DIY. Dangerously DIY.

PN: It doesn’t look it.
S: But that’s all favours. But at the same time, when you’ve got an idea that is that good and interesting, people want to be involved.
R: Mike has so many good ideas, it’s just teaming it him up with someone who can execute it. For Sudden Black to work on it free of charge is pretty incredible. Mike’s idea must have had a huge impact on them for them to do that. It all happened quite naturally.
S: We had someone called Dan Bliss, who was on set during the day. He’s really experienced in making sure things run properly. I guess on set producing. But it was stuff that happened on the day that was hilarious.
R: We had this one afternoon. We had three days to get everything together. Sarah gave me the prop list and it’s like ok cool. But you realise, shit, you’ve actually got to crack on. No-one had a day off work, so it was all after work and before work trying to build up props and making it happen. Sarah was auditioning the dead guy in her back garden. It was mad, but I’m really glad that we did it.
S: I would like to say publicly how grateful we are to the whole crew. They were all amazing. We got one guy in the Thames, without any towels because we’re so fucking disorganised that we left them at home. It was the middle of December, and his head went numb and he was shaking. I was thinking that we were so out of our depth. We’ve killed a man. (They both laugh). 

PN: The stuff that I heard years ago was quite guitar driven. What’s inspired this change in direction?
R: It wasn’t so much a direct inspiration. It’s more about being 18 at uni and sitting in your scaggy uni room with two acoustic guitars and putting that up.
S: We didn’t even have the instruments we have now. We didn’t have synthesisers. We wanted them, we just didn’t have them.
R: Sarah and I have written music together for ages, and it’s been primarily about vocals. We’ve been harmonising since we were 16. When you’re broke and sat in a room, the guitar is the first thing that’s accessible. So I think acoustic guitars and folk and those taglines come from that. I didn’t grow up knowing what synths were.
S: Yeah, we had to teach ourselves all of that stuff, which was quite difficult, really.
R: We basically taught ourselves. It was very organic. It’s that essence of what we’re about, where it all came from. That sort of carried for so long, lack of knowledge, a lack of money. It wasn’t until we were listening to other things that we thought that it might make it more interesting. We just toyed with that. Invested in buying a couple of things. It’s come from a year of being obsessed with that.

PN: I would say that the material is becoming more pop.
I think we’ve always wanted to write good pop music. I think we’ve always tried to write good pop music, even if it’s just literally been in the bedroom. I don’t think that’s ever changed. We’ve always been about strong vocal melodies and good instrumental hooks, with the songs a good punchy four minutes. We will always be, in our heart of hearts, a pop band.
R: I’m not scared of the term pop anymore.

PN: Musically where do you take inspiration from?
S: All of us listen to different music. We show each other what each of us is listening to, but we don’t all have one main influence. There’s a lot of hip-hop, a lot of deep house. Our drummer is the biggest R&B head.
R: We’re all massive Little Dragon fans. They’ve been an important band. Moving into that electronic thing blindly, I think they were the first band where I could actually hear R&B in her vocals. Her vocals are amazing. I think people can draw different things from them.
S: It’s weird. Recently deep house has influenced our song writing. Just in terms of the way we’ve been driving out melodies.
R: It forms most of the references, which is crazy.
S: Yeah, because there’s no songs.
R: But I guess the songs are the bits that we find easiest. The electronic elements don’t come as naturally, so I guess that’s why we draw most inspiration for them from house and dance.

PN: What else have you got planned for the year?
S: We’re in the limbo period now where we’re not in the loop.
R: We’re not allowed to be in the loop until things are confirmed. It’s at the period where we get an email asking if we’re available on this date saying, “tell you why soon.”
S: I think this year is going to be really busy. We’re going to headline our own shows, unless we get a really good support slot. We’re trying to keep it as our shows, our big party. But we’re going to do a couple of festivals, and then we’re going to be working on the album to the end of the year. Which is very exciting!

PN: It must be quite exciting to live constantly on the edge.
S: I will remember this period of my life forever. It’s very strange. We all have day jobs. It’s just weird. I’m in two places.
R: Yeah, we’ll have a meeting and I’ll wake up and feel like something is different and be reminded, “yeah, it was that meeting!” Just silly little things like that. Sadly, I’m sure if anything broke you’d get used to it.

PN: I don’t know about that.
R: I really hope you’re right.

Nimmo and the Gauntletts play a sold out show at Concrete on 27th March. ‘Jaded’ is released March 24th

- Alim Kheraj

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