Interview: Five Minutes with Giant Sky
London – let’s be honest, there’s always a somewhat “London Calling” air about it that captures the imagination of rockers and music lovers alike. Take Giant Sky, for example. While the band have spent most of their time apart due since their conception in 2019, they’ve still managed to seal the alternative indie-rock spirit into their sound. Their latest single – ‘Snow’ via Bloody Sunset Records – highlights the endless possibilities that a passion, persistence and a great internet connection present. Written during lockdown, we’re hoping the band will produce equally unique creations when they have the opportunity to come together in person.
Join us as we investigate each member and what makes them tick in the interview below.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
Jon (bass) – Because we’ve tried commerce, and commerce is boring.
Olivia (vocals) – I was expressing myself creatively before I could even define it. It’s something that just sort of spills out of me, that I never have to consciously force. It’s more the opposite. I have to work hard not to let creative indulgence take over the practicalities of my life. Music is an extension of that creative expression. For me, it’s another tool to tell a story or to express something innate.
Jay (guitar) – Family affair. I have been around music all my life and don’t think there has ever been a time which I haven’t been producing some sort of noise.
Toby (drums) – It’s pretty cool and required
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Jon – The sound. I like to just play with little riffs and melodies then build from there. It’s usually reflective of the mood I’m in anyway. I know Olivia is more about the idea, so we work well together.
Olivia – Definitely the idea. My songs usually always start as poems that get built up and expanded upon. And I write poems when I’m overwhelmed, or curious, or confused or angry. Any intense emotion really. But when I’m picking up a demo that the guys have written, I have to work in reverse. Which is fine because I can go back to the gazillion poems I have and use those as springboards.
Jay – The idea. My mind is always making noise. This progresses to my mouth then to my hands.
Toby – Sound
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Jon – Only with each other. Passing demos between the band has got me through lockdown.
Olivia – Not yet, but I hope it will one day! I used to work for a tiny label in New Zealand when I was at Uni – some of the people I worked with have gone on to be quite successful. I’d love to hit them up to collaborate one day, I think that’d be really special.
Jay – I think everyone and everything around us inspire music
Toby – Not yet, but it would be pretty cool to have Michael Buble come in for one?
What’s on your current playlist?
Jon – Really enjoying Anavea, they create a lot of noise for two people. Also a lot of Pine Grove and Run The Jewels. I seem to switch between delicate and beautiful and super aggressive at the moment.
Olivia – Lana Del Rey’s ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’; ‘The Last Man on Earth’ by Wolf Alice; Grimes’ album ‘Miss Anthropocene’.
Jay – Mogwai, Pom Poko and Humanity’s Last Breath
Toby – Too much to recall!
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
Jon – We haven’t even played a show yet as Giant Sky. . We had our first shows scheduled for April last year, but Covid-19 happened. We’ve had to build our fanbase digitally. We’ve had such a great response from our music so far, and our shows are starting to get booked up, I can’t wait to play in front of people again.
Olivia – We don’t know just yet as we haven’t been able to play live the entire time we’ve been together! At the moment it’s hard to imagine having real ‘fans’ at all – in my visions of what it’ll be like, I just see our friends, family and colleagues… and me dying of nerves.
Jay – We are yet to play live so excited to find out
Toby – Hopefully lots of love
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
Jon – Logic has been our friend. We’ve all really enjoyed receiving projects from eachother and working out how we can improve it. Usually, we write in the room, which is great, as we can be together, but writing during lockdown has allowed us to be a lot more thoughtful and measured with our approach.
Olivia – My wife always tells me she can never hear what I’m singing in the demos. But that’s on purpose. A lot of the music I like has vocals that are impossible to understand or blend into the general noise of the instruments. I really love the band Polica and the way that the vocalist uses all these ambient and reverb effects. Grimes does it too. It’s funny because by the time we get in the studio my vocals are the opposite of that. But I’m always messing around with weird plugins or experimenting with effects, but those things tend to stay in the demos. That style probably does suit the electronic stuff I used to make but is harder to integrate into a heavy track with really punchy sounds.
Jay – Noise, I like to layer a lot of distortion on things.
Toby – Random swishing
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Jon – Basically just Chris Coulter (our producer) working us to the bone. He really knows how to get the best out of us, but that can be exhausting. It’s totally worth it, though, as we’re so happy with our sounds.
Olivia – There’s a lot of Pokemon Go. A lot of snacking. A lot of listening. After a couple of days things start to all blend together (a bit like the pandemic!?) and time and space lose all meaning.
Jay – Coffee coffee coffee music coffee
Toby – Cups of tea, lots of tapping.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Jon – Ever since I picked up my samick p-bass aged 11 this is what I’ve wanted to do. Real-life has got in the way a lot, but now we have Olivia on board I really feel like we’ve got something.
Olivia – I remember the moment I finally decided to try and join a band. Up until then, I’d been quite content just playing around and experimenting – the act of sitting down and writing and recording was the fun part. I enjoyed seeing what I could come up with and what weird things I could do. I didn’t feel the need to share the music with anyone because I didn’t have any ambition to be a musician. I actually wanted to be an author. To add wanting to be a musician on top of being an author felt ridiculous. In my mind, I felt like I had to choose one and be serious because choosing two would be to water everything down. Writing was the obvious choice because I was always doing it and had been validated along the way. But music? Didn’t take it at school, didn’t come from a musical family, had no taste what-so-ever until I’d almost left home. I just didn’t think I had any skill or anything of value to offer that wasn’t already out there. But ten years is a long time to have stuck with something. In 2019 I finished this really tough work project and thought, I’m done. I need to push myself mentally in a different way. I wanted to collaborate with others and stop sitting in my room making sad-girl-moody-vibes alone. And I met the boys about a month after that!
Jay – I’ve always enjoyed making some sort of noise. I don’t think there has been a moment that I’ve not had a passion for music be that playing, making or consuming
Toby – Upon birth
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Jon – A towel. I can get a little sweaty.
Olivia – Buckets of water!
Jay – My Orange Rocker. It has given me 12 years of distorted joy and I hope for many more
Toby – Water, and sugary chocolate power.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Jon – The aforementioned Anavea don’t get enough love.
Olivia – I love the band Leisure. They popped up on my Spotify a couple of years ago and I was surprised to learn they were from NZ (I’m also from there, if that wasn’t clear). Apparently, they have quite a big European following. ‘Chaii’ is also a totally awesome artist from NZ – she’s one of the people I met back in the day and she’s totally killing it. She sings in Persian and English and her videos are amazing. I’m also really into ‘Cosmo’s Midnight’, an Australian band that’s doing pretty well. Petrie is another favourite of my wife and I – we saw them perform at a Sofar Sounds a few years ago and have been following them. The lead singer’s voice is stellar!
Jay – One of my friends has been writing loads of MotR and should have an album out this year. That’s pretty fun.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Jon – Having a muddled brain. Being creative helps me sort it out.
Olivia – General existence. I have emotional reactions to pretty much everything. But usually, I’m struck with creative urgency when I’m alone. Or, (frustratingly?) when I’m trying to sleep. It’s like 11 pm hits and I’m alive with the desperation to write or play something. I think it’s something about the general noise of the world being quietened at night. All responsibility has faded away by 11 pm and my imagination is finally ‘allowed’ to be unleashed.
Jay – Sitting in my studio with all my toys spread out across the floor
Toby – General Rhythm
Any side projects you’re working on?
Jon – Couple of years ago I wrote a story a day for a year. I’m currently putting one a day out on Instagram and online under @MuddleShorts
Olivia – I’m writing a sci-fi series about a young girl who finds a spaceship parked outside her house at night. Musically? I’m just focusing on the album for now!
Jay – I have a penchant for sludgy noise and am aiming one day to release a doom album under the moniker of Flaming Maces
Toby – Not in music… Just a few DIY projects sawing way too much wood
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Jon – I’ve learned a lot, and I have definitely improved as a songwriter. But you don’t want to be too refined, as you should be malleable and not overly precious.
Olivia – I would consider this moment as me ‘entering the industry’. I suppose privately, it’s just loads and loads of practice. Lots of experimentation and following lines of curiosity. I’m looking forward to getting proper critical feedback because that’s one thing I’ve lacked completely.
Jay – Having worked with a producer for the first time recently I am now more aware of getting things tight regardless of how dirty you are aiming for. That and making sure everything is in tune and in a well set up state is key (if not rock and roll). Also keeping close to your bandmates goes without saying!
Toby – Putting out the sound to see the feedback
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Jon – Our album is out July 16th, and we’re going to play as many shows as we possibly can once we actually can. I also can’t wait to hug everyone I know.
Olivia – Hopefully some live shows! We’re super excited about the album and can’t wait to play it outside the confines of the digi-sphere.
Jay – An album and gigs! Woooo
Toby – Smashing tunes
Famous last words?
Jon – Forget it, Jack. It’s Chinatown.
Olivia – Probably a quote from Alice in Wonderland
Jay – Always make sure there is coffee in your cupboard and fuzz at your feet
Toby – Grizzly Adams had a beard?
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By Sarah Britton