The great thing about small music festivals is discovery. Wandering aimlessly from stage to stage guided by nothing but the beats and pulses pouring forth from the amps and speakers is one of the reasons we love these intimate shindigs. At Castlepalooza earlier this year we made a gem of a discovery, although, we must admit, the weather had a large part to play. (sheltering from the torrential rain outside) We were in no mood to go a-wandering! And boy, were we glad we stuck around.
When we glanced at the lineup for the Metro Herald Stage and saw Synaesthete was up next we half expected a five-piece synth group to swagger on stage replete with neon lazers and smoke machines. Were we ever so surprised when Sarah Tanat Jones sauntered on, alone. Soon after, with the rain still pouring outside, we had one of those “moments” that you read about people having but never really thought it would happen to you. As soon as she began to sing, our ears pricked. She was booming; captivating; but fragile and tender. There she was, all alone, whacking the s**t out of her percussion rack and casting a spell with her voice. That spell must have left the tent, as in a “if you build it, they will come” moment, all those punters that were outside were now inside, one of them turning to me and stating “she’s really good, isn’t she?”. “Yes,” we replied, and as we watched and listened, Sarah worked the audience with effortless charm and musical bravado. It was THE set of the entire weekend.
Hailing from Brighton but based in London, Sarah named her musical endeavour after the condition she suffers from: Synaesthesia, a condition where the person experiences a “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together. This condition may have helped when, after an emotional breakup, Sarah packed up and isolated herself in the Scottish hills to work on her Debut EP, “Earth & Air”. Her debut album, Array,was released earlier this year. CHASSEUR caught up with Sarah to talk about heartache, Synaesthesia and THAT debut Irish show.
Hi Sarah. We caught you at Castlepalooza in Ireland. You seemed to have a really good time. Was the crowd really that responsive?
It was the best crowd I’ve ever played to. It was full, loud, happy, and upbeat. Perhaps this was due to some magical mix of the terrible weather outside and the fact that we were in the big marquee, or the timing of my slot (7pm on Saturday night), the awesomeness of the Irish people in the mood for a party, or my recently refined mode of playing live – I was feeling on top of the world myself, and the crowd gave me 100% enthusiasm and joy. It was amazing.
Let’s talk about your music. You named yourself after the condition Synaesthesia; was that a hindrance or a help in making music and how did you get started artistically?
The fact that I have synaesthesia doesn’t really influence my music in any practical way. It’s more that I’m interested in the synthesis of two things being done at the same time – as the way synaesthesia fuses my perception of letters or numbers with colours, so I also practise as an artist as a musician. There’s also the twin roles of vocals and rhythm in my music. Or the songwriting and playing live. There are so many things that come in pairs, that totally support and enrich each other, and are inseparable. That’s what keeps me going and synaesthesia seemed a natural reference.
Ooh, it wasn’t a great time! But things are sorted again now, thankfully. It was actually quite useful to experience that type of emotional disaster. My general state is one of positivity and optimism so that period of sadness is definitely reflected in my first EP. But beyond that, it focused my mind into creating something, and learning a lot, teaching myself how to record and produce music – this sort of hunger to make something out of a bad scenario, as a form of therapy. I need to be alone to write and produce music, anyway. I do like my own company and I need silence in order to think. I also keep very antisocial hours. It’s nice to be able to bunker down and work, and then come back to the world.
Your debut album ARRAY is out now. What can you tell us about it and how would you describe its/your sound to someone who has not heard your music before?
It’s an album that comes with a picture book, which I made to partner the music. The idea was that it’s a small print run, and a nice object to have – more than just a download. I don’t really like plastic CD albums, and I don’t have the room to keep records, but I love zines and books so I decided to make one. And it’s got 8 songs on it – a mixture of disco influenced pop, quiet acappela layered vocals, folk elements, African-inspired drumming, and lots of other things – everything I love right now in one collection of songs. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out, and I had a great time making it. I love to dance and I love to walk around town in a world of my own listening to music and letting it really get to me – and I hope this album does the same for other people!
I’m going to be playing gigs throughout autumn and I’m planning a tour for Spring 2015. It’s great that these days, you can be quite informal about the way you do things, especially if you do it on your own or with the help of friends rather than a label. That’s what leads to these great experiences – like Castlepalooza – that’s made 100 times better by being surrounded by pals and just having a good time. Tours can be expensive and hard to organise so most likely I’ll be heading to towns where I have some friends, and just playing to as many people as I can get together. The music industry is in a strange place but I’m having more fun now, doing this on my own terms, than I’ve ever had before.