Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Catching up with Scatterchild


Manchester-based, indie-rock project Scatterchild are only getting started. The BBC Introducing band are known for their seamless blending of big stadium sounds with soulful, intricate instrumentation. 

We caught up with Jay Plent, the brains behind the project, to discuss the upcoming album, goals for the year, and the wonderful cinematography of Scatterchild’s music videos. 


You've just released your first single ‘Bleep Test’ from your upcoming album. What's it like to have this song finally out in the world?


So, this song was originally not going to be on the debut album. I'd written it about a year ago, and typically I write a song and then it'll come out maybe two or three years later after I've done extensive demoing. With this, I played it live completely on a whim at a gig and it got a really good reaction. So I moved along the recording process more quickly. It’s been a frantic year's worth of work on that song to get it to the point of it being perfect for me. Now that it’s out, I’ve got to make sure everyone else cares about it as much as I have been for the last year working on it. It feels good because, more than any other Scatterchild track, it’s got a lot more of my personality in it.


It’s exciting to hear you’re releasing your debut album this summer. What can you share about the creative process behind the upcoming record? 


Well, it's taken far too fucking long. But you can’t rush art! I've always wanted to do a debut album, but for the longest time, I kind of put off the idea of committing to doing it because I was thinking there's no point in putting out a record unless you've got enough people who are going to actually listen to it. My desire to write an album was drilled into me mainly by my friend Michael, who's the head of Bread Records (who Scatterchild are now signed to). When I moved in with him, he was working on the Anyone's Ghosts debut album. It was really, really interesting for me to watch someone else grow and develop that album over the course of many, many months. It made me realise I want to have a record out. There's something about an album that has a definitive feeling of: I’ve collected together this body of work, and this is the statement about where I'm at now, as a musician, as a writer. 


Once I had decided to make an album, that mindset forced me to start making choices about what should be on it. I managed to whittle it down to a core ten tracks. Some of which will be stuff we've previously released, and then about just over just under half of which will be new material. It's exciting to have started that process; I’m now planning the album launch and I've got the cover art sorted. It's been a long time getting here but making this album has made me more conscious of how the tracks fit together. There's about eight years worth of writing on this album! It’s going to be called ‘An Everyday Landscape’. 


Do you feel like this debut album takes the 

Scatterchild project in a new direction, or do you feel like it's building on the foundations of the band? 


A bit of both - as I mentioned, there’s pre-existing material that acts as continuity glue. The newer stuff on the album gives a better indication of where stuff is going to go from the album onwards. 

Songs like ‘Bleep Test’ are not as kind of rock-driven in terms of arrangement, and the inspiration is taken from more disparate places, I would say. Scatterchild has always been about fitting musically and creatively into a cohesive package, but also hinting at what the next steps are. There’s a lot of cross pollination in terms of themes across the old songs. There are references to songs within songs and if you're paying close attention to the lyrics, you can hear how the lyrics across the songs interact with each other. 


Your music videos are incredibly cinematic and very professionally made. Do you come up with the ideas for them yourself, or is there like a wider team behind the scenes?


It's mostly just me to be honest! I think music videos need to be about more than just a band in a room playing. There needs to be something else going on. In terms of the concepts for the videos, I work in collaboration with the cinematographer or the videographer. I've always been really interested in the visual side of music and bands and artists. After doing a lot of videos on a shoestring budget early on, I started to think - how can we be more high content with the videos? How can we make them something that will be interesting to watch and by extension, make people listen to the music?


The trend across all my music videos is that I seem to somehow get injured on every single one! On the video for ‘Sleep Me Off’,  the day before making that, I got hit by a car. The video for ‘Arrogant Peace Protest’ - I didn't think to bring a warm coat in between takes so I almost caught pneumonia by walking through a blizzard in just a suit! 


You blend dreamy indie rock and orchestral elements really seamlessly in your music. Who are some of your biggest inspirations? 


The core ones that I would imagine anyone can hear from the music are bands like Radioheadand The Strokes. I really love Everything, Everything as well, they're a huge influence.Kendrick Lamar and Tyler the Creator have also been hugely inspirational to me in terms of thinking of different methods of production and how to be more of a storyteller. These guys make good use of foley sounds which is similar to the sort of stuff that The Beatles used to do too. I also loved Linkin Park as a teenager, and a lot of the production techniques I still use today I learned from watching band documentaries when I was younger.


What emotions do you feel most inspired by, and what feelings drive you to write?


That's a really interesting question, I haven’t been asked that before! It varies from song to song. I don't tend to know what a song is about until after I've written it. It's only after I've written a song and I looked back on the lyrics that I realise what I was trying to get out. A lot of my songwriting ends up being like a form of therapy, like journaling, where you write everything as a stream of consciousness. 


‘Bleep Test’ was written about feeling stuck in place. With a bleep test, the intensity increases as you go through the course. And if you don't keep up, you drop out and you get left behind. So by the same nature - when I was writing that song, I was struggling to keep up with balance of work and multiple musical projects, as well as maintaining friendships. I'd just gone through a breakup as well and am a bit lost in where I am at the moment. That all poured out into ‘Bleep Test’. These themes definitely cross pollinate in different songs on this record. 


Where does the name Scatterchild come from?


The boring truth is - I don't really know! It was something I came up with when I was about 14, and I always really liked it. I never ended up using it for anything because for the longest time. When COVID hit, it forced me to slow down and I was just like, “Well, now's a good time to think about this. Like do I want to commit to this as a name for the project?” I figured, you know what, the planet might end tomorrow so . . . that's how I ended up becoming Scatterchild. I think the name fits my music and tone quite well, in terms of vulnerability and pulling from a lot of different places.


You played quite a few shows last year. Do you have any big headline gigs planned for 2024?


We’re gonna do a launch show when the album drops, probably around September, and we might have a headline in Manchester in June. We’re announcing some exciting shows very soon! The main one is the album launch show which is going to be the biggest show we've ever done. We’ll play the whole record, and we’re going to have loads of really amazing guests. We're going to have an expanded live band that will probably be an absolute nightmare to arrange rehearsals for! I’m very excited about all of it.


Aside from the album release, do you have any big goals for this year as an artist? 


I want to collaborate more with other artists. I'm working in the background on some collaborations with some other local artists that I can't really talk about in detail yet. There's also some stuff I'm working on for the second Scatterchild album. So this year - it’s about putting out that record and creating music with other people.


Do you have a dream venue you would love to play one day? Anywhere in the world?


So, I'm originally from the Essex/Cambridge area. There’s a venue in Cambridge called The Junction which is sort of one of their biggest venues. I'd love to play there; it'd be wonderful if I was big enough to do a tour there and sell out that space. It would be cool to come back to this place where I grew up and cut my teeth playing live music, and to see that I can really do this and that all of the kids at school were wrong. Maybe it’s a weird dream to have, but I’d love to do that.


What bands/artists have you got on repeat at the moment?


I got to see The Smile last week, and it was great because they were playing with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood have had such a profound impact on my life and how I've chosen to write music, and I was totally starstruck. My really good friend Harry Hart has a song called ‘Sunk’ that I've been listening to a lot. That's a really nice track, kind of chill and placid at the same time. The new Junodream album is also amazing, I think they’re a really underrated band - I feel like a lot of indie bands would usually shy away from using spoken word samples, but not them. There’s a piece of advice that I got given recently by someone. They said when it comes to arranging music, always make the most interesting choice. Even if it’s not the most palatable or obvious one, it’s always best to do what’s most interesting because that’s what will be the most memorable.


Lina Adams

Image by Courtney Turner


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