Friday 1 June 2012

K&A with Echo Arcadia

This interview has been on my to-do list for quite a while, ever since I fell in love with their debut Broken Chapters EP (available from all good online stockists i.e. here and here) and even-more-so with their reworking of the gorgeous Lucinda specially recorded for KEP#13.  So now they're back, after a somewhat eventful year, with their outstanding follow-up Prisoners Of The Present EP, it's time to get to know this sextet a wee bit better.  Ladies and gentlemen... one of the finest unsigned bands this country has to offer... Edinburgh's best kept secret, Echo Arcadia.

Or to be more precise, here's half of them, drummer Dan Ciesielski (also of Toy Machene) and husband-and-wife-songwriting-team Leigh and Siobhan "Vonny" Moyes...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Echo Arcadia?
Dan: We are a 6 piece Edinburgh band, playing satisfyingly unfashionable music, at least according to those in mainstream Scottish radio haha.
Leigh: We also discovered very recently that we may have been putting ourselves in with the Indie/pop/rock lot unnecessarily though; our sound has gravitated towards 'The National' and other bands of that ilk, and they have been branded as post-punk revival, which we are apparently falling within the realms of...which is nice, and open to debate no doubt ;-)
Vonny: That's an interesting one. I'm not really sure we know what we are yet, other than the sum of our parts. To me, we are six people trying to write music that makes you feel something. Something other than, "I need a new haircut and skinnier jeans,"

Kowalskiy:  It's been a wee while since the release of your Broken Chapters EP. What have you all been up to in the meantime?
Dan: Changing keyboard players, raising kids, writing new tunes, raising kids, changing keyboard players and raising kids.
Leigh: We have also introduced a trumpet player called Kev to our line up, and he has added something soulful and brassy to our sound, as you would expect i guess, as well as guitar skills and a deeper third harmony.
Vonny: Broken Chapters was a really good time for us. We'd just started to find our stride musically, and we'd begun writing music with a common meaning. Unfortunately immediately after giving birth to Felix, we were mired by my serious health problems for a large part of the year. We lost one of our members through it, so we were left with a question mark over Echo's future. A few months ago I started playing again, and did some writing. We brought Kev on board and things are looking bright again. Resultantly, I think Prisoners is a bit of a Pheonix-from-the-flames record for us.

Kowalskiy:  Considering all that's gone on since your last release has brought about the end of many a band, what do you think kept Echo Arcadia going through it all?
Leigh: I'd like to thank Jesus... He's a guy that runs a local burrito store and gives great music advice.. Sorry. For me it's about thinking of the band as a living, evolving entity. With each new member has come new passion and drive (no matter how short lived their stay with us) that has lifted up and carried forward any waning souls within Echo. Personally, it's a desire to make music, music that I love, and I would hope that rubs off on the others.
Dan: It's because we have same dream - make it in the music business and die happy snorting cocaine while pointing at our kids laughing because our planet is dying and their future is dark, bleak and messed up.
Vonny: I think a deep love of making music. I can't imagine my life without it. It's been a constant through all the hard times, and is an outlet for all of us. Also, I think having a marriage in the band has really helped. Leigh and I met through the band, making music is a huge part of our life, and it continues to be so at home. We both share the same vision for where we'd like Echo to be, and that means we stick together and do what it takes to make it work.

Kowalskiy:  With the new personnel, especially the introduction of Kev, how has this influenced or changed your song-writing process?
Leigh: Kev has been a breath of fresh air for Echo, his drive and no nonsense attitude has certainly rekindled my love of what we do. As far as song writing goes it still works with either me, or more commonly now, Vonny and I writing the songs. The rest comes when I describe how I want the song to sound, and the guys scribe based on that. The only difference I've noticed is that it doesn't take any longer with a 6th member, but the depth of sound we can achieve now is really quite something.
Dan: I don't really know. I hit things.
Vonny: I think our process is essentially the same at the minute, though we have all the added goodness of Kev adding horn and a third harmony, which has really lifted our sound. We've had one song-writing session with our new keys player, Pete, and it was brilliantly productive, though it did descend into a reggae version of Lucinda. He writes music too, so I'm looking forward to having a third person to bring tunes to the table.

Kowalskiy:  You're about to make your triumphant return with new EP Prisoners of the Present. How does it compare to Broken Chapters?
Leigh: It is natural continuation of it really, the songs we write are developing as we do, as a band. It is a richer and more mature sound for us i think, we have the same heartfelt tone as we always have, but with 25% more harmony for your buck.
Vonny: Prisoners is a maturation of our sound, I think. We're more comfortable with the songs we're writing now than we were 18 months ago. Broken Chapters marked the departure from pop-rock to something a little darker, and more substantial.

Kowalskiy:  Joker-related question... who's the joker in the band (I'm sensing Dan for some reason...)?
Leigh: Haha Dan is cheeky, Our bassist Euan is the joker of group I'd say though. He used to be a stand up and time certainly hasn't dulled his ability to take the piss and make us laugh.
Dan: I don't really know, I hit things.
Vonny: Euan, definitely. Dan is just a cheeky shit. Euan used to be a comedian...
Leigh: Haha used to be, like it wears off
Vonny:  ...and we often end up doubled-up in laughter, though I'm never, ever going to get in the kitchen and make him a sandwich. We're all really good friends, and we do stuff together outside of Echo, so the banter is plentiful!

Kowalskiy:  Are there plans afoot to tour the EP?
Dan: We unfortunately can't afford any extensive touring.
Leigh: But we will play as many gigs as we can in our hometown and in the other beautiful (and not so beautiful) cities around Scotland, it just might take us longer to do it is all.

Kowalskiy:  I won't ask what the not-so-beatutiful ones are.  Quick subject change... what would be your ideal gig?
Dan: Supporting Fleetwood Mac. We like to think that we are a bit like Fleetwood Mac - except all the cocaine and success.
Leigh: I've more current aspirations really, as I tend to not listen to much music other than a few bands I really get into. I would love to tour with The National, Broken Records... REM too actually, bands that I love and respect.
Kowalskiy:  If only!
Vonny: Manchester, mid 80s, line up provided by Factory Records, somewhere small and crowded. I was only a baby at the time that was all going on, but it's the music I grew up listening to, and I spent a substantial part of my childhood living there. Being a part of that musical epicentre would have been incredible.

Kowalskiy:  What do Echo Arcadia have 'high hopes' and 'low expectations' for in the future?
Leigh: High Hopes - to have people want us to play our songs to as many of them as we can. To gain more success at what we do, some bigger gigs would be lovely! Low Expectations - I wouldn't say my expectations are low, just managed, like it'd be nice to get some love from our national radio stations and presenters, but that's not going to happen. It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised.
Vonny: It'd certainly be nice to gain some new fans with the EP, and take our music to new places, but who knows?

I for one, have very high hopes for this EP.  I've mentioned before that this year has seen a huge spike in the number of amazing EPs, particularly from the other side of the M8.  This certainly being one of them (incidentally, one of the others is Toy Machene's... that Dan's been a busy one).  Keep an eye on their twitter and Facebook for release details.

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