Starting with the release of Crystalised this week (21/11/16) 5-piece Bristol band Rozelle, are set to fire off a string of eclectic singles, each song uniquely and carefully crafted, from disciplined pop pieces to left-field brooding grunge. First release Crystalised is born from the emotionally charged, philosophical storytelling of Hayley Smith, met with the experimental methods of the diverse and collaborative band. Padding out her songwriting with different sonics and textures, together they bring dark guitar riffs, heavy reverbs and mahogany vocals, to fuel its haunting atmosphere. Rozelle’s admirable reliance on self production and a fascination and affinity with pop music, allow African rhythms and catchy harmonies to provide complementary relief from the humid fog of its stirring guitar and pained lyrics.
I had a chance to catch up with Hayley and Alex (guitar), to chat about their most recent releases, both Crystalised and previous release Closer, as well as what’s coming up next. It seems they’re busy editing self made music videos, mastering stagecraft to pull off impressive live shows, and continuing to spin the positive on deep philosophical debates. They also have a remix coming up from London based electronica and techno artist, Halina Rice. She’s cut up Crystalised, mashing it together again to form what Hayley describes as ‘postmodern’, Alex – ‘a car advert, or the sound of robots’.
Where are you now in terms of your musical direction? You seem to be becoming more poppy whilst still exploring darker elements in your music.
Hayley: We brought out Closer which is quite experimental and alternative in terms of its structure. I’d say Crystalised for us is the transition period towards our next batch of self produced singles. They still sound sonically like us, but they’re just a bit more disciplined in terms of their structure and are easier to digest. We’re just not a lighthearted happy band, we are quite dark and aggressive and all these things, but the main thing is to find a way to condense that down and communicate it on a bigger and broader scale. You don’t want to change your style but you want it to be accessed by everyone so they can enjoy it.
Alex: I’d say Closer is for Bristol, the Bristol scene where everyone’s more musical, and Crystalised is for everyone and is a bit more of a straight track, more poppy I guess. I’m pretty sure there will still be some left-field stuff as well though, because we do like being crazy sometimes!
That’s really interesting you’ve considered that, a lot of bands would be precious about simply ‘creating’…
Hayley: I do think its right to ‘just create’. But I think a lot of people would be lying if they say they don’t absorb what is going on outside their musical world. We live in a society where everything is meta – we take in everything and we regurgitate it and that’s the same for social situations, for phrases, for tv, for media – it’s all recycled.
Can you tell me a bit about your writing process for Crystalised.
Hayley: We write songs acoustically and simply, because I think any good song will hold up via chord progression and melody whether it’s on a piano, acoustically or with a guitar, but you can choose how to put those establishments and those tracks in their own unique environment.
Crystalised had lots of emotional value to me at the time, with what I was experiencing. I didn’t interpret what was going to happen with it when I brought it into the practice room. It became this monster, in a good way! I knew it was not a happy tune but we really brought that out with it with different different sonics, textures, guitar riffs, stuff like that.
Alex: A lot of the heaviness comes from my guitar sounds because I listen to a lot of rock and grunge and blues and stuff with quite big over-drives and distortion.
Your music is very eclectic, something which is said to remain with the release of your singles. Where does this come from?
Alex: A lot of genres are dropped into them, it goes back to absorbing what is around us, being in Bristol you see a jazz band playing in one venue, then rock in another, hip hop in another, that has reflected on to us.
Hayley: We all need to be fed with lots of genres. Les Baxter is one of my favourite artists, he has flamboyant orchestral music, and I like electronic DJ music. Alex is the same.
Alex: Yeah I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music. We are wanting to write music that is more contained and to the point…but I like listening to pop anyway. Especially people like Tom Odell, with that hybrid movement, Glass Animals, Imagine Dragons – those traditional bands together with a lot of stagecraft. I love that. We want our gigs to be shows.
Why did you make the decision to be self produced?
Hayley: I’ve always known I wanted to produce Rozelle’s records, with assistance of obviously all the band members. I’ve been into production since I was 15 yrs old. I studied it before my music degree at a production course in Wales, where I was the only girl, it was all boys on the course. I used to stay there after school till about half ten, 3 days a week. My dad would pick me up. So it’s doing that from early on that’s now allowed me to expand my knowledge and grow with the band. We’ve all nurtured our production skills in different areas.
Do you have any videos coming out and what are they like?
Alex: We’re in the middle of editing for Crystalised. Delving our heads in to Premier Pro! Crystalised has been done by ourselves, we had help mixing and mastering, but we produced it ourselves… this is going to be a product of Rozelle and only Rozelle.
Hayley: I find this age really exciting it terms of what you can do, you can do anything yourself, it’s easy to create, that’s a natural thing, but it’s easy to piece it all together with softwares, and we want it to be from us. This one is inspired by a Halloween haunted house.
Thats interesting, so you think it’s an innate ability to create?
Hayley: A lot of people say that creation is an outwards rage or a dysfunction, but I think everyone in some form wants to create, whether it’s a conversation or a piece of music, it’s still a part of the brain that wants to release something, and it’s a natural thing, its an expression. I think everyone can do that, it’s just depends on how you define creation.
You’re also really interested in evolution…
Hayley: Yeah I’m really intrigued and curious about philosophy, and how we ended up here and the possibilities of where it could go. Many people see that as a heavy topic, but I see the good in that. It’s something you can literally keep talking about and writing about because there are infinite possibilities. Same as creativity, infinite possibilities. I have got into deep debates, like why we laugh. I write short stories about all of these things.
You started those stories as a child, did you get into music as a way to express them?
Hayley: I did feel like… diving into academic subjects from a young age… it wasn’t necessarily for me. It’s not that I wasn’t capable it’s just that my mind was on something else. And my parents really appreciate music, my mum really loves pop – Robbie Williams and chart pop – and my dad is someone who enjoys and indulges in 70s and experimental music. So those 2, combined, formed this desire to bridge the gap between this alternative realm and a more poppy one. I guess their love of music encouraged me to actually start playing. My dad bought me a right handed guitar, and then realised I was left handed, so I just played it upside down, sounded good, ‘she’s playing!’.
Do you think there is natural tendency to start poppy and go more alternative?
Hayley: I think it can go either way. I think people usually change because they feel suffocation from a certain environment within, so if you started poppy and then got a negative response or just felt quite confined, quite claustrophobic, and you wanted to explore the parameters of your creativity, that can happen. Or you can start off alternative and see there is this kind of ‘In’ club with pop cultures, and want to confine to that.
It really depends on your mindset and actually how positive you are about being versatiles, how you perceive it. Like you were saying before, people can see bands going poppy as a negative thing, because music should just be what it is – which it completely is. But then I find it fascinating, pop culture, and how there are so many genre types, how everything has to have a label, why a hand has to be a hand… cause it makes sense, it makes us feel comfortable and then from that we can grow…
So Closer is about two friends having a Religious debate. What do you find so fascinating about Religion?
Hayley: I’m a non-religious person, but I’m really open to take in different religious perspectives. I think everyone wants to find comfort, whether it’s a religious point of view, whether it’s having a house, whether it’s having a new raincoat.
With Closer… you hear so many people criticising different religious groups and then religious groups battling, and sometimes walking down the street you do get people trying to push their views on you and some people react very angrily to that, and I do understand why. But if you put yourself in the mindset of the other person, (really hard to do), if you are enjoying the religion that much, then you want to express how you’re feeling about that religion. But then the other channel is this person is expressing that much because they are trying to convince themselves of their belief.
So Closer looks at all the different notions of belief. Whether it’s a sincere comfort zone, a need to feel hope, or if those people are feeling inferior and lost to it, so they are trying to convince themselves they believe in it.
If you could support anyone who would you choose?
Alex: I really like Pumarosa at the moment.
Hayley: Massive Attack – not just cause they’re from Bristol, but because of the messages in their songs.
Coldplay – if you listen to their catalogues of songs, they’ve really worked for their success, and if you listen to their song craft they’re really amazing.
Get to see Rozelle at upcoming gig on the 26th November // Rozelle and Turquoise Llama at the Globe at Hay //Hay, Monmouthshire