New Morning Blues are husband and wife duo Ian de Sylva and Joanna Backovic.
The pair, who released their debut album, London, this summer, run a recording studio together in Soho, and are independent artists in their own right, but this is the first time they’ve collaborated musically.
“To be honest, we’ve always been pretty busy with our own music projects, and it never really occurred to us to work together,” says de Sylva, in an exclusive interview with Say It With Garage Flowers.
“I had a song called Polestar. It wasn’t something that really suited my voice, so I asked Joanna to sing it. It sounded great, so I just kept writing with two voices in mind rather than one. So far, I’ve written the songs and we’ve arranged the vocal parts together.”
Backovic is a composer and performance artist who creates scores for theatre and film – she also performs under the name ArHai – while de Sylva’s first band, Silver, released a single on Rough Trade Records.
Signed to Medicine/Warner Bros, Silver recorded their debut album with producer Craig Leon (The Ramones, Blondie). They toured with The Cranberries and Elastica, and de Sylva also recorded two solo albums.
London is an impressive and arresting debut, from the ‘take no prisoners’ opener, Fortune Teller Blues – primal, White Stripes-style, blues-rock with mean organ and dirty guitar – to the beautiful and spectral folk ballad The Mirror, with shades of Nick Drake; the twangy, widescreen country-pop of The New Messiah; the cinematic psych soundtrack that is A Face In The Mirror, and the dramatic orchestration of On The Horizon.
There’s a haunting, atmospheric and autumnal quality to most of the record. “It’s pretty much autumn all year round in England, so that may have come through in the songs,” muses de Sylva.
How are things? Have you got ‘new morning blues’?
Ian de Sylva: No – we’re both feeling pretty good today.
How did you find lockdown and are you getting back to some sense of normality?
IDS: We actually enjoyed lockdown up to a point, as it gave us both a lot more time to work on our music, which is what we love to do.
How has it been running a studio in Soho during the past year?
IDS: It’s been fine really, as we’ve been able to use the space for our own music more, so all good.
‘It’s pretty much autumn all year round in England, so that may have come through in the songs’
How did you approach the album musically?
IDS: It developed very naturally, without a definite vision or plan sound-wise. I think it reflects music we both love, from psychedelia to country, folk and blues.
Can we talk about some of the songs? I’ll pick a few, give you some of my thoughts on them, and then can you give me yours.
Fortune Teller Blues: This is a raw, electric blues song – the heaviest track on the record. It has some great dirty guitar and organ on it…
IDS: It was written more as a kind of Dixieland jazz-type thing, but once I had the guitar riff, then it changed into something more bluesy. I wanted to write something upbeat and hopefully danceable.
The Mirror is one of my favourite songs on the record. It’s a haunting, folky ballad, with shades of Nick Drake…
IDS: We’re both fans of Nick Drake and love all his albums. Vashti Bunyan is also a big influence and I think that comes through on this one.
The New Messiah is another highlight for me. It’s jangly country-pop. It has a bit of a Nancy and Lee / mid-’90s Jesus and Mary Chain feel, circa Stoned & Dethroned. I love the twangy guitar solo.
IDS: We were watching a few of Tarantino’s movies and to me it sort of sounds like it could be in one of those films – definitely the guitar solo.
A Face In The Mirror is moody and cinematic, with a dramatic string arrangement…
IDS: This is more of a psychedelic influence. I think maybe it owes a lot to Arthur Lee.
What did you learn most from making a record together, and would you make another one?
IDS: We’re already recording a follow up-album, and working together on music has just been great so far. You hear a lot of stories of how being in the same band breaks couples up, but we don’t feel any need to write our The Winner Takes It All just yet.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
IDS: More recording over the next few months, then some gigs this autumn.
‘We actually enjoyed lockdown up to a point, as it gave us a lot more time to work on our music, which is what we love to do’
What music – new and old – are you enjoying? Any recommendations?
IDS: We’ve been listening to John Grant, The War on Drugs, a great Spanish band called Carino, Kilimanjaro by The Teardrop Explodes, Scott Walker and Sandy Denny.
Finally, why did you call the record London?
IDS: It just seemed like an apt title. Having both lived in the city for a long time, it’s inevitably had a big influence on us, both as people, and our music.
London by New Morning Blues is out now on Berwick Music.