Midlands duo NORTHERN KIND have been a key part of the UK’s independent electronic scene since the release of their impressive debut ‘Fifty Three Degrees North’ in 2007. Comprising of vocalist Sarah Heeley and instrumentalist / programmer Matt Culpin, their YAZOO fronted by THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Susanne Sulley after singing lessons template is best sampled on the album’s key track ‘On & On’.
Their 2009 follow-up ‘Wired:’ was less immediate but a far weightier proposition with observational social commentary such as the brilliant ‘Dirty Youth’. Anticipated to make a breakthrough during the reinvigorated female friendly electronic scene spearheaded by LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS and MARSHEAUX, a misguided collaborative venture with the now defunct Electronically Yours website to support the album’s release did not achieve the desired support or results. NORTHERN KIND were back to square one but a support tour with KAJAGOOGOO later that Autumn went some way to repairing the damage and got ‘Wired:’ exposed to potential audiences.
2011 saw the release of an interim single ‘Euphonic’ b/w ‘Dreams’ but now after a long gestation period, NORTHERN KIND are finally to return with their long awaited third album ‘Credible Sexy Unit’.
The Electricity Club spoke to Sarah Heeley and Matt Culpin about the new long player and the future business model for independent electronic musicians…
‘Credible Sexy Unit’ is finally complete. Why has it taken so long to finish when the duration between ‘53 Degrees North’ and ‘Wired’ was not so large?
Matt: Procrastination probably; In reality a change in circumstances for us both. I sold my stake in a design agency I ran for 12 years, expected to have a year off but was offered an opportunity that was too good to miss and which consequently took up a lot of my time.
Sarah: I also started my own marketing consultancy in 2010 which took off pretty quickly. I was working on a children’s book and doing a bit of travelling, so NK was side-lined for a while.
Are ‘Euphonic’ and ‘Dreams’ which came out in 2011 indicative of the new album’s direction and sound?
Matt: I think they realistically present the quality of music we are now producing. They’ve had a reworking for the album so probably sound more in line with the other new tracks (from a production point of view).
Sarah: There’ll be some surprises in terms of style, I’d say we’ve both broadened our influences over the past couple of years. I’ve seen a lot of live performance; ROSS SUTHERLAND (performance poet) and THE TEA STREET BAND stand out as the most exciting and have really inspired me.
What key musical influences have there been on the album?
Sarah: I’m addicted to BBC6Music…it’s literally all I listen to and the breadth of music totally inspires me. It’s always on in the background while I’m at home, so who knows what influences I’ve subconsciously soaked up whilst washing the dishes
Matt: ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ – a weird kid’s programme introduced to me by my daughter Jasmine; this is what makes it cool…
Have you bought any new kit? How do you balance between the use of hardware and VSTs?
Matt: I’m still very much into the VST stuff, but now have a healthy balance of real analogue synths from Analogue Solutions, Moog and Arturia.
Which have been the pivotal songs for you on ‘Credible Sexy Unit’?
Sarah & Matt: ‘Piece of Me’, ‘Free Prescriptions’ and ‘Life’
When ‘Wired’ came out in 2009, it was anticipated to be a breakthrough in widening your audience but that did not quite come to fruition despite the tour supporting KAJAGOOGOO. Looking back, why do you think that was the case?
Matt: Whilst the KAJAGOOGOO tour was a brilliant experience, it kind of pigeon holed us into being a retro 80s band.
Sarah: We kind of suspected that touring with a band that had its main success in the 80s wasn’t the best way to reach a new/younger audience, but as a current electro band it can be a challenge to reach new audiences without drawing on the kudos of popular bands from a previous era.
So how will you be releasing ‘Credible Sexy Unit’? What is the business model for the independent musician these days?
Sarah & Matt: We find there are still a devoted group of people willing to buy physical CDs and the project also feels completed when we hold the product in our hands. We’re considering doing a special edition with A Different Drum label in the US along with the iTunes and digital releases.
‘Wired’ featured a symbolic smashed up acoustic guitar in the inner artwork. With quite a gap since even ‘Euphonic’ b/w ‘Dreams’, how do you see NORTHERN KIND’s position within the current UK electronic scene now that acts like CHVRCHES, VILE ELECTRODES and CURXES are breaking through?
Matt: There’s still no guitar in the new material!
Sarah: As for fitting in or competing with other acts, that’s never been our cup of tea. We make music for us.
You’ve been keeping yourselves in touch via remixes for VILE ELECTRODES, DUBSTAR and SOUNDS OF SCIENCE. How does your approach differ from when you are recording your own compositions?
Matt: It’s nice to be asked and it’s interesting to do them. The remixes often spill over into ideas that we then use in our own music.
Martyn Ware is releasing his BEF ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ covers album while it’s also been busy for other classic acts such as KARL BARTOS, DEPECHE MODE and OMD. What did you think of their albums and can they still cut it?
Matt: As a big DEPECHE MODE fan I always wait with anticipation of a great album, unfortunately I’ve been let down by the more recent ones, ‘Delta Machine’ however is great. Some classic Mode going on and I’m really enjoying the production and approach to the sounds. Still too much Ben Hillier distortion for my liking going on though I prefer the KARL BARTOS material more than the last KRAFTWERK album, you can definitely hear what he gave them and also what is now missing. I’ve not played the new OMD album very much, but from what I have heard I like it. Again it seems to be a return to form.
In 2011, there were a spate of electronic music festivals like Short Circuit, Back To The Phuture and the Vintage Electronic Revue but things on that front appear to have gone a bit quiet now. Do you think a festival celebrating electronic music is still viable in the current climate?
Matt: Short Circuit Presnts Mute was one of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had. BTTP at The Vintage Festival was another great example of this , seeing MIRRORS was the highlight for me – so great to see young artists bringing something unique yet overtly influenced by all the bands I love.
What next for NORTHERN KIND?
Matt: Revisiting the first two albums and doing Reggae versions of the tracks…
Sarah: A greatest hits album
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to NORTHERN KIND
NORTHERN KIND will be appearing on the Dave Charles’ Harborough FM show on Sunday 12th May where they will be playing tracks from their new album. Listen anywhere in the world online at http://www.harboroughfm.co.uk/
‘Credible Sexy Unit’ is scheduled to be released in Summer 2013
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th May 2013