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So Below - So Below Interview

08 Mar 2018 // An interview by butch181

Alex (interviewer): What got you started in music?

Madeline (So Below): I always had a lot of musician friends when I was younger. I kind of always thought it was something that was not necessarily something that you could just dive into, it had to be something that you'd been doing your whole life. I had friends that had been doing music since they were 12, and I didn't think it was something that was possible for me. But it was always something that I've wanted to do. 

One day I just was having a really crappy day and I sat down at my computer, opened GarageBand and made a demo. I sent it to my friend Alisa Xayalith from The Naked and Famous and she said "Wow, this is really good. I didn't know this is just something that you wanted to do. I didn't realize that you were serious about doing this." I spent a couple of years just doing demos on my laptop, and eventually, I showed one of them to Sam McCarthy from Boyboy and Kids of 88. He said "Yeah, this is great. Let's work on it." That was Drift, one of the first tracks I released from my debut EP, one of the first songs I ever properly finished.

Alex: Drift was the song that went "viral" garnering 100,000 views in a very short space of time?

Madeline: It's had a few listens. I wasn't expecting a lot; I was kind of expecting to get a couple of listens from my mom and then I'd be like "Cool. That was fun."  I woke up the next day and I had all these emails from labels and blogs asking, "Who are you?" It was crazy. It was not expected at all. That's when I realised this is actually something that I can do.

Alex: That must've been pretty shocking to wake up to?

Madeline: It was super shocking. My friends were telling me that it was good, but they're your friends and they're going to tell you what you want to hear. So, for strangers, someone you have no relationship with, and they listened to your music and they feel something and have a connection to your music, that is what makes music so fun. To have a complete stranger DM you and be "Wow, this song is my breakup song" It's the best kind of validation, when even just one person, is motivated and inspired by your music. It's the best feeling.

Alex: How has it translated to performing live?

Madeline: Yeah that is not the most fun transition. It's so different to writing in a little studio, wearing my pyjamas. Crafting the live set up takes so long, practising, and then actually doing it. It's maybe the most uncomfortable, horrible, but also the most rewarding experience I've ever done. The whole time I'm wondering "Am I going to throw up?", but I did a tour in the UK, six or seven shows, and by the end of it, I was fine. No one's there to bring you down. Everyone's there to have a good time, but you always think "They're judging me. They hate me." In saying that, it's fine playing in front of strangers; as soon as you have to play in front of anyone you know, like your family or friends, it's so much worse because they know the real you.

The first show I played was in Auckland and it was like a really intimate show. 50-60 people and it was like every single one was someone that I knew. My Dad brought all his friends from the tennis club, Mum brought a million people. It was my worst nightmare. And then a week later I opened for The Naked and Famous in front of 3000 people and it was the best show ever. There were 3000 people, but I don't know any of them.  I could fall flat on my face and it wouldn't matter because you don't have a connection with these people.

Alex: Was that one of the high points so far?

Madeline: It was definitely the biggest show I've played, and the feedback I got was really awesome. I had people coming up to me after the show saying how awesome I was, they were really excited to follow me, and asking if I had any merch.  The funny thing was I had Aaron Short and Jesse Wood in my band, who are in The Naked and Famous, so they had to wear black shirts for my show and then jump backstage and put on like a white shirt before playing in their own show.

Alex: Tell us about your song writing process

Madeline: Some songs I've written by myself; for example, Sleep, I wrote most of that on my laptop myself and then brought it to Sam McCarthy and we finished them off together. I usually just go into a room like a blank canvas with a couple of references; Maybe a word, an idea of what topics I want to sing about, and just go from there. Tempo is important; if I want to do something more upbeat and then I'd generally do drums first, and melody and lyrics after that. I always need a really strong line or hook in the chorus. My next single has the line in the chorus, "I know you think about me", and that is the vibe of the whole song. It's different for every song, and some songs take an afternoon to write, while others can take two years. For example, Visions, which is getting released tomorrow, took two years to finish. It was like pulling teeth and got reworked so many times. We've got it to a really great point and I'm super happy with it. But it did take a bit of finessing.

Alex: Do you think New Zealand, in general, is kind of starting to move away from the usual mainstream "nonsense" lyrics in pop music, towards something more meaningful and emotive lyrically?

Madeline:  I don't really know in terms of New Zealand radio, there is still a demand for that kind of pop music, and I wish that the radio played more New Zealand pop because there's so much good stuff out there. I have so many friends that do such great stuff and it's just not really being played on the radio stations outside of the "New Zealand hours" and "local" segments.  I would say that there has been more of a shift. Lorde in a way created a little bit of a shift because her stuff is not generic, typical Top 20, it's super original and unique, and I feel like she's kind of almost created a little bit of a pathway for the other people like her to get on mainstream radios. I wish that there was a little bit more support for New Zealand music in New Zealand. Kiwi music is awesome.

Alex: What kiwi artists would you recommend?

Madeline: I'm just going to recommend my friends because I love my friends. Um, well obviously love The Naked and Famous who are releasing an acoustic album soon, Boyboy just put out a song this week, and Chelsea Jade is amazing.

Alex: How is it spending so much time abroad, compared to New Zealand?

Madeline: The people that are a lot different, not necessarily in a bad way. It's a mild version of culture shock until you realize that there's really cool stuff in every place. I still find myself most comfortable in New Zealand because everyone has the same sense of humour; Americans don't really get sarcasm. It's raining outside and you say, "What a beautiful day", but they are all "What do you mean? Can't you see it's raining?". 100% sarcasm is a New Zealand thing.

Alex: Let's talk about the new EP II. Have you been working on this since the debut EP was released?

Madeline: Some of the songs we even wrote before I finished the debut EP. It's been about two years in the works.  Close is the latest song that I've finished, but Visions is the oldest song I've had. Visions was the trap.  It was like pulling teeth; every time we would get it out, we need to change this, adding things and taking things out. I re-recorded the vocals maybe four times.

Alex: In the past, and you've used a lot of reverb when recording your vocals, you were a bit shy when it came to your voice. Has that changed with the latest EP?

Madeline: I think it's changed a lot. The first EP, every song I needed the vocals to be drowned in reverb and delay; it was also the style that I really liked at the time, which I still like. With this EP and the album that I have coming out later in the year, the vocals are a lot more intimate. There is even some solo vocals and really dry vocals; I just wanted more of a dynamic range of vocals, so there are some songs that have similar vocal style to the first EP, but definitely more of a range which I'm super happy with. I'm just not necessarily scared of people hearing my voice anymore, and I'm finally comfortable enough that I can have just completely dry vocals on the track and be happy with it. I've matured a bit and that's always good for my song writing process.

Alex: What would be your favourite track?

Madeline: Out of all my tracks? Hard. One of those things musicians always talk about is finding a sound, and this is what I want to sound like. When I released Hard, I knew this is the sound I want to have. Although another song would be Drift, which was the first one. Drift had a very similar aggressiveness in the production, which is definitely the sound that I like. To me it needs to be aggressive but also really poppy. When I write a song, I don't want you to forget it. I want them to be able to remember the song and then be walking down the street and not be able to get it out of their head. That's my goal. For Hard, the chorus is really catchy, but the song is super aggressive and dark.


About So Below

Since making her musical debut with her single Drift and attracting over 100,000 SoundCloud plays in just a few short months, So Below has become the mysterious goth pop chanteuse that everyone can’t stop talking about.

After leaving her native New Zealand, Madeline North began exploring her vocal talents inspired by her new surroundings. Layering heavily processed vocals and harmonies over simple yet dark laptop beats, North began to formulate her style into what would so uniquely become So Below. Wanting to carry on this darker, moodier style of electro-pop, North reached out to fellow Kiwi musicians Aaron Short (The Naked And Famous), Sam McCarthy (Kids Of 88) and Leroy Clampitt (Taste Nasa) to help her produce her demos and ultimately complete what has become her debut self-titled EP.

Having a combined 1 million plays on Spotify, 300,000+ plays on SoundCloud, the support of notable sites such as i-D, HillyDilly and Neon Gold and receiving high rotation on New Zealand radio, So Below is poised to be one of 2017’s artists to watch. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for So Below


Year: 2018
Type: EP

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