I became aware of Northwest as a result of a chance email, detailing the release of their 2nd album. As you can probably imagine, we get quite a lot of these kind of emails at Sun 13.
What then was it that made me single out this particular message, made me click on the link and then made me listen to Northwest‘s album? Let’s call it fate. Maybe I was just fated to stumble across this lush gem of an album, something that would chime with my soul and fill a gap that I never knew was there until I heard this record.
This album is a beautiful thing. If, like me, you find it a great shame that This Mortal Coil only made three albums, the answer to your problems could well be at hand. Northwest pick up threads from the likes of Filigree and Shadow and use them to construct their own fabric.
Fans of early 4AD would be well advised to listen to this album at their earliest opportunity.
Opening track Wind is sparsely populated, opening with an accordion and almost whispered vocals. Other instruments and voices gradually fade in and the song grows around you as you listen, the glacial tone gradually warming up as it evolves. the effect is similar to sitting indoors in a warm blanket on a cold, grey day, comforting and unsettling at the same time.
As with This Mortal Coil, this is as much about effect as instrumentation, the music and vocals combine to create one glorious swell of sound.
Winterland takes this template and develops it further still by adding washes of orchestration, building to almost Beatles levels of noise in the mid section, before reining it back and reverting to subtle and beautiful instrumentation.
The Day and Interlude II follow suit, occupying a strange hinterland between sparse minimalism and baroque orchestration. This is not an easy thing to pull off, and twin traps of too much and not enough lurk either side of the path that Northwest have chosen to tread.
Thankfully their balance is perfect and they walk it with style.
All of a Sudden is a beautiful piano ballad and stands out as a single, having perhaps more body to it than some of the other tracks that make up this album. It is also one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.
Before the Spell starts with an oboe (possibly – I am no expert at naming wind instruments) and takes me back to childhood days listening to the likes of Peter and the Wolf on my parent’s record player. A skillful use of dissonance and developing melody make this one of the album’s stand out tracks. It grows from tiny strands of noise into a haunting and affecting song that would be perfectly at home in a David Lynch film.
In fact the atmosphere that this Northwest conjure up would go perfectly with one of Lynch‘s black and white films. Both take their audience into other worlds where the outside seems to be temporarily kept at bay.
This makes Northwest an intriguing band. Outside of their music, I know little about them. So, with a view to putting that right, I contacted them about a 13 Questions feature. The conversations we had are from a band who are courteous, polite and literate. A band who are responding to the current lockdown situation by keeping their artistic and creative flame alight.
This can only be good news, as the place we find ourselves is one that is in desperate need of illumination from the beacon of art and creative endeavours, the first of which will be a new music video released on the 16th of November. If we can come out of lockdown with more beautiful works like the ones Northwest have already created, maybe we can at least have something to be thankful for.
Here at Sun 13, we are already looking forward to seeing where Northwest take us next.
Read on to hear more about making music, toxic environments and going to Zombie clubs.
1. Where are you, what are you doing and how is that working out?
“We’re currently in Spain. We came here temporarily in summer to visit some friends and family before going on tour in October but because of Coronavirus the tour got cancelled so we decided to stay here until January when we’re planning to go back to England.
“Since we cannot travel, tour, go to concerts or meet with friends and family, we’re taking this time to work and focus on getting better at our craft by writing and composing soundtracks, writing and producing for other people, working on new Northwest material, new music videos, our individual projects.
“If 2020 has taught us something is being able to reinvent ourselves and our plans in a matter of seconds.”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“I guess like everybody. You go through ups and downs. It’s a very difficult situation with a lot of moral conundrums, fear and uncertainty. We’re trying to stay positive and let the best version of ourselves take over. Use this time and the privileges we have to make the best of the situation, otherwise there’s a big and comprehensive risk of getting depressed.
“But we believe a crisis can always have a positive outcome if you use it wisely.”
3. What do you miss most about pre-lockdown times?
“The freedom. We always thought about states of oppression (or at least this fundamental oppression) as something from the past. We never imagined we were going to be deprived of such basic rights in our lifetime.
“We understand why it had to be done. We understand there’s a public health emergency but we were hoping to rely more on the individual’s responsibility and solidarity. We find it’s sad that the governments had to get police on the streets and force everybody to isolate (not taking mental health and other very important issues into consideration) just because apparently people can’t be trusted to do the right thing.
“I believe this has created a very unhealthy relationship with the government (he’s our strict dad and we’re the irresponsible children) and a very toxic environment where some people see other people as enemies. There’s real police on the streets and then there’s another ‘moral police’ of neighbours snitching on one another.
“The other day we had a motorcycle accident and there were several witnesses and no one came to help us or even ask us if we were okay (which by the way, it’s illegal not to). We’ve never been in that situation. We thought: is this because of Coronavirus? Could it be? If that’s the case, we don’t want to live in that world.”
4. Recommend one band or album that you think we should check out
5. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“Everyday. This is a very good question because it touches a very interesting topic that is not usually talked about but we believe it’s important. There’s this general notion that if your job is your passion, then you’re the happiest person on Earth all the time and your job is effortless because you like it and when you like something then it’s easy. So thank you for giving us the opportunity to debunk that with your question!
“We love making music and we’re very happy we chose to quit our jobs 5 years ago and fully devote ourselves to it, but this is not an easy job. Most of the jobs aren’t, especially when you’re trying to do them as best as you can.
“Firstly, there’s a lot of parts of this job that nobody talks about because they’re not very romantic and glamorous like spending days sending emails, doing taxes, accounting, dealing with contracts, managing social media, having to learn about sales and marketing, about copyright laws, royalties, putting on and putting down a whole stage, carrying instruments here and there all day… which we, personally, don’t enjoy much but we have to do them if we want this to work.
“You don’t have a regular income or a boss who makes the important decisions for you. Everything relies on you and that’s a lot of responsibility. If you’re feeling tired, you cannot call your office and say you’re not feeling okay and stay at home and still get paid at the end of the month. Everything depends on your mental strength and willpower. You need to learn the hard way to live with daily rejection.
“On the other hand, the creative and technical part of the job is also hard. Concentrating day after day for hours on cognitive demanding tasks (such as the compositions of a soundtrack, getting better at an instrument or the production of a record) is hard work, especially if you’re forcing yourself to give your best and you’re pursuing doing something different, hopefully innovative someday.
“The body actually fights it, there’s even days when we feel physical discomfort because our bodies just want to lay on the sofa and watch Netflix and eat. That’s why there’s a thing called ‘procrastination’ that a lot of us, humans, have problems with.”
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“You know what truly makes us happy? Having a record we feel proud of finished and knowing we’re using our time on this Earth to make something meaningful. But the process of making it is hard and there’s a lot of days when you don’t want to wake up and spend hours in the studio frustrated because this particular sound doesn’t sound like you want and you fear not being good enough and you fear people are going to judge you, or even worse, ignore you…
“Since we decided to devote ourselves to making music 5 years ago, we’ve seen a lot of people who started at the same time as us giving up along the way, and this is why. The music business is especially harsh because the market is over-saturated and there’s fierce competition and the product itself is extremely delicate and vulnerable (it’s our soul, really. I would even argue that music is not meant to exist in the actual consumer society, but that’s a whole other topic).
“You have to be very sure that what you’re doing and pursuing is worth the pain. So, yes, we do things we don’t want to do everyday, but at the same time, that’s what makes us happy because that’s why we’re becoming the persons we want to be and why we’re even having this interview! because we woke up one day and did all the things we didn’t feel like doing.”
6. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“We personally don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I don’t feel guilty for liking what I like because music is something very primal and emotional. Like St Vincent once said: ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’.
“I, (Mariuca), listen to a lot of things that people would hate me for and even Ignacio, the other half of Northwest, hates me for. So out of respect for him and for our audience, I’m not going to share them. I will just say Justin Bieber is among them. But that being said, I don’t have a problem with what I like. I made peace with myself long ago.”
7. Can you cook?
“Yes! Ignacio is a very good cook. Since music has become his job, cooking is now actually his hobby and he spends hours in the kitchen making delicious dishes. He makes really good stews.”
8. Tell us a secret
“If we tell you, then it’s no longer a secret (I’m being super annoying and pedantic, I know (laughs). I’m sorry)”
9. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“It’s difficult to pick just one. Both Ignacio and I were party animals in our early twenties so there’s been a lot of crazy nights. I personally remember a lot of amazing coming-of-age summer nights in Santander (a town in the north of Spain) where I had some of my first kisses, got drunk and high for the first time in my life, went into the sea naked every other night with a bunch of my friends… and also great nights at Zombie Club in Madrid when I was 18 years old, moshing around to electronic punk music feeling like I was part of something bigger and amazing when in reality I was just a middle class kid drunk in a venue.” (laughs)
10. When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
“Probably watching an episode of The Simpsons or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“
11. What is your favourite view?
“The view of London from the walk along the Thames on the South Bank area. It reminds us of how we felt when we first moved there and started making music for real, the feeling of excitement and endless possibilities… we still carry that with us.
“I also love the view of high mountains and green deep forests on one side and the sea on the other side that I can see from my favourite spot in Cantabria (the north of Spain).”
12. When did you last shout at the TV?
(Laughs) “I love this question. Shouting at the TV is underrated. I think we shouted in this year’s Roland Garros final. Rafael Nadal is amazing and an inspiration for us. I love watching documentaries and reading about great sports people because I find there’s a lot of parallelisms between elite athletes and musicians.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“We want to say that there’s a very powerful way for each of us to change the world and become activists, and it doesn’t imply going to Africa and devote your life to a NGO or joining a political party (which is incredibly valuable).
“Every coin we own, every euro, pound, dollar… is a vote. It’s a vote in favour of a company with these values or that values, it’s a vote in favour of an artist we want to see existing in the world, it’s a vote in favour or against ourselves… We have more power than we think, because we all have votes in our pockets that can change the course of the world just by using them consciously on a daily basis.
“Thank you so much for the interview. We feel honoured you want to listen to us.”
Northwest can be found on social media here:
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