Bleach Lab Discuss Their New EP, Lockdown, and Logistics | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, March 4th, 2021  

Bleach Lab Discuss Their New EP, Lockdown, and Logistics

Living proof guitar music is very much alive, kicking and atmospheric

Feb 23, 2021
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Atmospheric four-piece Bleach Lab are one of the most exciting new bands to emerge from the UK of late. Their evocative collage of sound harks back to the halcyon days of shoegaze and indie while also drawing comparisons with newer acts like Wolf Alice and Nightmare Air.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, they released two excellent singles in the shape of "Heartache Of The Season and "Burnt Orange" before unleashing a third, "Sleep" in the middle of last summer. Having been heavily tipped at the start of this year by several publications including Under the Radar, their latest single "Old Ways" has brought them to the attention of BBC6Music who recently playlisted the song. "Old Ways" is also the lead track on their forthcoming EP A Calm Sense Of Surroundings, which exquisitely showcases the band's precocious songwriting and sonic capabilities.

The four-piece - Jenna Kyle (vocals & guitar), Frank Wates (guitar), Josh Longman (bass) and recent addition Kieran Weston (drums) - are currently based in various locations around the South of England but as Kyle and Wates explain, that's been beneficial in helping them cope throughout the pandemic.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar):  How did Bleach Lab start?

Jenna Kyle: Josh (Longman, bass) and Frank (Wates, guitar) started the project together. I'm not sure how you guys met? Frank?

Frank Wates: I got introduced to Josh towards the end of 2016. We actually met online as part of another musical project the following year. But then we both realised soon after that we didn't like that project at all, so left along with the drummer and started something ourselves instead. We didn't have a singer and had no idea what we were doing, then Jenna came in a couple of months later and things started to take off from there.

Jenna Kyle: Josh and I studied music together at college, which is where we became friends and stayed in touch. So, Josh messaged me, asked if I'd be interested in getting involved and it all went from there really.

You're originally from Buckinghamshire but have now relocated to South London. Has that proved beneficial in raising the band's profile?

Frank Wates: We're a band that has logistics as a problem. Jenna and Josh are both from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, I'm from London and our drummer's not from any of those places. So basically, we identify as being in South London now as being an average of where we're based. I live in South London now, as does our drummer. Josh lives in West London and Jenna's based in Brighton. We've never had a place that we've all been able to call home at any one time.

Jenna Kyle: It's always been a little spread out.

Frank Wates: It can be difficult to get stuff done but if anything, its meant that we've been better prepared to adapt to the realities of the pandemic. We've always lived remotely so it has not been that different.

Jenna Kyle: I think we'd have struggled a lot more if we didn't already have the logistical situation before the pandemic.

What's been the biggest challenge for you as a band during lockdown?

Jenna Kyle: Not being able to get in a room together. We've managed to sort out a method for writing virtually. But actually, getting together and hearing it as it would sound live has been a challenge.

Frank Wates: Just bouncing ideas off each other in a room is a crucial component of getting a song written. We've managed to write a lot over the course of the last year and its probably my favourite of all the stuff we've done. There's been an adaptation to it for sure. Trying to get on the same page with a song is just so much more difficult. It means we have to take a bit longer to write a song, but then I think it also means we've thought it through more. Which is probably why I'm happier, even though I am so critical of everything we do.

Has the pandemic and subsequent lockdown changed your schedule around releasing new music?

Frank Wates: It has, but mainly because we've lost momentum in terms of playing live. It's also been a bit of a blessing in disguise for us because we had a very different set up before everything went to pot last year. Shawn (Courtney) who played drums on everything we released so far has left now, and we've got a new drummer (Kieran Weston) whose given us a bit more capability with what we can play live. That's opened quite a lot of doors with what we do when it comes to writing music as well. So, although impetus was lost, I think we'll look back on this as quite an important and lucky break in that its given us an opportunity to reconsider how we want things to sound.

Jenna Kyle: I agree.

Your lyrics seem quite personal, particularly in songs like "Old Ways" and "Heartache Of The Season". Is that something you're conscious of when writing songs?

Jenna Kyle: With the lyrical side of things, some songs are split equally between myself and Josh. But for me personally, I can't put something into a song if it doesn't resonate with me or isn't relatable. My writing process is quite lengthy because I do have to feel that I'm portraying my emotions in everything in the most accurate way possible for myself. If it doesn't meet that then I tend to take quite long. Me and Josh compliment each other a lot.

Bleach Lab have been hotly tipped by a number of publications this year (including Under the Radar's 21 For 2021 piece) as well as "Old Ways" being playlisted on 6Music. Did you expect such a wave of critical acclaim this early on?

Jenna Kyle: No, definitely not! It's really surreal. We find it quite overwhelming because we spend a long time working on things and perfecting them that I think we sometimes forget ultimately, loads of people are going to listen to it. Then when we start getting all these positive responses its really overwhelming, but also lovely at the same time.

Frank Wates: I think it has also been a huge relief because going back to last May when we knew we were sitting on a lot of material that had already been written and recorded, we were in a similar position to a lot of other musicians in thinking whether these songs would do anything for us if we weren't in a position to play them live. We were worried it might be a complete waste if we just put these songs out there and nothing happens. Every time we've done a release, we've been so uncertain about whether it was a good idea. So, we're quite relieved things have gone so well and we made the right choice. I'm so glad we have because it would have been a big mistake had we sat on things even longer.

What are your plans for the rest of 2021?

Frank Wates: Our next EP entitled A Calm Sense Of Surroundings is out on 19th March which contains five tracks including two on the current seven-inch single, "Old Ways" and "Never Be". One of the things I'm extremely relieved about over the last year is the quality and amount of new music coming out hasn't really changed.

Jenna Kyle: A lot of artists and musicians have had more time to work on new music. Especially recording as there's been no live shows, so I think it has been a good opportunity for people that normally have a very manic lifestyle of gigging to actually focus on being able to write and record then release for people to hear.

Your music has been likened to a number of artists ranging from Mazzy Star and Wolf Alice to Nightmare Air and The Boxer Rebellion. How do you feel about those comparisons?

Frank Wates: I always worry when we get a comparison that people think we're just copying them. One of the things I really like is when we get compared to a band that we haven't really listened to before because that's completely organic. For example, we recently got compared to The Sundays who we'd never listened to before. So, we discovered their music as a result and found we really, really liked them while accidently sounding a bit like them without ever knowing who they were. We're really humbled by some of the comparisons but the one I like to hear the most is Mazzy Star.

Jenna Kyle: Especially vocally for me, a lot of the comparisons I've had I find very humbling and nice to hear because I do think most of them are vocalists I've taken inspiration from. I think all of the comparisons we've had have been valid and its positive to hear that our sound reminds other people of them.

Frank Wates: I'll be curious to see if the comparisons stay the same the more music we release or whether they change. Our listening habits are changing all the time so I'm excited to see whether we start sounding differently as a result.

Jenna's cover of "Archie Marry Me" by Alvvays at the start of lockdown was quite an interesting diversion from Bleach Lab's own output. Is that something you're planning to do more often?

Jenna Kyle: We were trying to find stuff to keep our social media going and keep people engaged during lockdown. We'd done an interview around that time about our favourite songs and which ones made us happy, and that was my song. So we thought it would be nice to do that version straight after and follow it up. I'd definitely be up for doing more covers. We were talking about restyling a cover and doing it as a band although we've got no idea which song to cover just yet!

What advice would you give to a new band just starting out?

Frank Wates: Live in the same city! Ideally, just down the road from each other or maybe even live together. Although maybe that would be a recipe for disaster? I don't know!

Jenna Kyle: It's difficult at the moment because you do have to focus everything around writing rather than performing live. So, I guess it's important to be able to adapt new ways of being able to write and continue to work in the situation we're in at the moment.

Frank Wates: The other thing I would say is don't rush. We've certainly taken our time before we started releasing music. Josh and I met at the start of 2017 but didn't actually release anything until the end of 2019. I think that was really crucial because if I find a new band, I don't tend to engage with them if their early material is drastically different. So, I believe it's really important to spend a lot of time carefully considering what it is you're going to do, then waiting before unleashing it into the wider world.

Jenna Kyle: Don't be afraid to take time to perfect things and make it exactly the way you want it.

Are there any other new bands you'd recommend Under the Radar and its readers should be checking out?

Jenna Kyle: I listen to a lot of old stuff but my good friends from Brighton are worth checking out. They're called ELLiSD. It's very psychedelic, post punk with almost post-apocalyptic lyrics. They're really great.

Frank Wates: The band which I've really been loving over the past few months are from Ireland and they're called NewDad. I really like them a lot. We're living in a time where until recently people were saying guitar music is dead, so it's really reassuring to see other bands who fall into that category doing well because it gives us hope. But also, it means we're hearing more music that we like.

The single "Old Ways" is out now as a limited edition seven-inch on Flying Vinyl.

An EP entitled A Calm Sense Of Surroundings follows on March 19.

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