Automotion On "Ecstatic Oscillations" | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, December 4th, 2022  

Automotion On “Ecstatic Oscillations”

London-based experimental four-piece tell us more about what makes them tick

Oct 10, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Meet London-based four-piece Automotion, whose experimental sounds have so far drawn comparisons with the likes of Slint, Pavement, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and John Cage among others.

The four-piece – Jesse Hitchman (guitars/vocals), Lennon Gallagher (guitars/vocals), Luke Chin-Joseph (bass) and Otis Eatwell-Hurst (drums) – honed their trade playing shows at the legendary Windmill in Brixton (where drummer Eatwell-Hurst also works as a sound engineer) over the past couple of years.

Their second and most recent EP Ecstatic Oscillations came out last month. Each of its four tracks (entitled “The Dicethrow”, “Desire”, “Dithyramb” and “Shimmer” respectively) showcase entirely different sides of the band’s make-up, taking in non-traditional song structures that veer from post-rock to freeform jazz with elements of shoegaze and grunge thrown in.

Under the Radar caught the band’s live set recently at London’s Scala and were suitably impressed, so decided to catch up with three of the four band members (bass player Chin-Joseph was unavailable) the following week to find out more.

Dom Gourlay (Under The Radar): Take me through the origins of Automotion. When did the band start?

Jesse Hitchman: Me and Lennon (Gallagher) started jamming. We went to school together so we started jamming back then. It started very informally and then when we were about eighteen, it became more of a driven thing. Then Otis (Eatwell-Hurst) joined after a year or so and we played a few shows at the Windmill in Brixton over the first lockdown, and then Luke (Chin-Joseph) joined on bass. From there on we wrote that first EP, In Motion, which came out last year.

Did you feel that lockdown gave you time to develop a sound and put some ideas together? Whereas if you’d have been thrust straight into playing shows and having to write and follow things up really quickly, they might not have turned out the same?

Jesse Hitchman: Well, we did have some shows before lockdown. So, we had a little bit of that. But yeah, none of those tracks sound like what we’re doing now. None of them survived.

Otis Eatwell-Hurst: None of those tracks would fit in the set any more.

Jesse Hitchman: We played a couple of socially distanced, all seated shows at the Windmill during the pandemic as well, which was pretty weird. Mainly because we were playing this really heavy music to people who were sat down. It was still fun, but also quite surreal.

When I heard the new EP then then came to see you play live, I could hear a wide range of influences. Stuff like Slint, bits of Pavement, early Smashing Pumpkins, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Mogwai to name a few.

Jesse Hitchman: Certainly Slint, but my go to with the question of influences is to think about influence rather than the influences. Because I think for us what’s been really important is this will for innovation. But then there’s also this tension. Of course, we love these bands, you know, Slint, King Crimson, Black Midi, Mogwai. There’s loads of different bands which I really love, and it’s this sort of tension between wanting to do something innovative and all those bands that, for me, have really stuck out. We’re very innovative. So, there’s this difficulty of being influenced by pretty innovative bands, and wanting to innovate, but then loving the music so you end up making something that is still recognisable. So, it’s a tricky thing to navigate. In terms of innovation, I mean, we’ve been maybe unsuccessful. There’s the question of whether we’ve been original, which may be different to innovation. Maybe, because innovation is revolutionary, so you have to do something that is beyond. Is almost unrecognisable. But originality is maybe something where you’ve got your own sound. It’s still within a tradition, but it maybe sits in a unique place. Perhaps we have achieved that, but maybe not?

The four tracks on the EP clearly highlight four different aspects of the band. During your recent live set at the Scala, you played another new three songs that again, introduced more reference points to your make-up. What’s also striking is there are four focal points on stage rather than an obvious frontperson. Is that something you deliberately set out to avoid from the outset?

Jesse Hitchman: Definitely. If someone takes too much of a leading role than it can lead to egotism. Egotism is not necessarily a bad thing. But when it’s like us or me, rather than it being me in relation to you, any sense of justified egotism comes from your relationship to other people you’re working with. It’s not like, it’s all you. So that’s why we want this to be about the four of us. Also, we all write our own parts and stuff. The writing process is very collaborative.

With regards to the writing process, does the music come first then the words after, or do the two come simultaneously?

Jesse Hitchman: The lyrics always come after. We will always create the song as an instrumental first, and then work the lyrics and the vocals on top of that. Maybe one of us will have an idea of a track, but then if I was to try and write a track by myself and bring it to the others, it just wouldn’t work. It would just change so much because you have to react off other people. That’s why jamming works for us, because it’s all about bouncing off each other.

So, in terms of future releases, are there any plans to follow up the EP this year? Will there be an album in the future?

Jesse Hitchman: Maybe. We’ll see. That’s classified information!

Where do you see Automotion’s sound going next? Would you describe as an ongoing, developmental journey?

Jesse Hitchman: I don’t think we’re gonna go into making music in any specific direction. We want to go in more directions. The direction we want to go in is splitting off into different directions.

How many shows have you played so far? How many of those have been outside of London?

Otis Eatwell-Hurst: We’ve done five or six shows outside of London, maybe more, but not much more. I honestly don’t know how many shows we’ve played in total as I’ve lost count. I’d say it’s probably no more than forty in total.

Jesse Hitchman: We’ve done a lot of shows at the Windmill and smaller venues. We’ve mostly played a lot of small venues across London. It’s only recently that we’ve played support slots in bigger places and ventured outside of London.

You played Manchester Psychfest a few weeks ago. How did that go?

Jesse Hitchman: It was great. Brilliant even. We just got there at four o’clock and we were on stage at six or something and the room was completely packed. The drum kit was a bit broken behind but that was fine. Yeah, it was really fun.

Do you get a different response in different towns or settings? Do you feel that because you’re playing to an audience who are less familiar with you that they respond differently? Do you tailor your sets depending on where you’re playing?

Jesse Hitchman: A little bit. I think we maybe play it a little bit safer outside of the Windmill. If we’re playing at the Windmill, we’re more likely to like try out new songs. Usually, when we play, we don’t have a mosh pit or anything like that. But sometimes at the Windmill every now and then there might be a little bit more mosh pit action. It rarely happens but when it has it’s always been at the Windmill. Most of the time it tends to be quite chin strokey!

Do you see Automotion as being part of the Windmill scene alongside the likes of Black Midi, Black Country, New Road and Jockstrap to name but three? Do you see yourselves as an extension of that or would you rather be judged on your own merits?

Jesse Hitchman: In a way it’s tricky. Those people don’t like calling it a scene. I think a lot of people have referred to it more as a community. Then at the same time, I don’t know Black Country, New Road or Black Midi personally. I’ve never met them. It does feel a bit like we’ve almost been educated a bit by going to the Windmill. Me and Lennon would just go to the Windmill whenever we could. We didn’t even know who was playing most nights. We’d just go to watch and take it all in. So, I do feel like there’s a certain sense of community around the place.

Otis Eatwell-Hurst: You end up seeing other bands there a lot of the time, so you end up becoming mates with them then eventually playing a show there together. That’s how the scene has developed at the Windmill. Most of the bands don’t necessarily sound the same but we’ve become good friends since we all started playing.

What are your future plans and expectations for the band? Have you got any specific ambitions or milestones that you want to reach? Is there anything that you want Automotion to be specifically remembered for?

Jesse Hitchman: It’s the impossible task of creating something new.

What advice would you give to other new bands that are just starting out? What would you tell them to do? What would you tell them to avoid?

Jesse Hitchman: I’d tell them not to view their heroes as being something unachievable or totally above yourselves. I think it’s cool to have heroes but to also view them on the same level as yourself. Otherwise, people then think they can’t do it. They can’t emulate their heroes. I guess this comes up a lot, but just having a bit of confidence and try to believe in what you’re doing.

Lennon Gallagher: Just keep on going. Don’t give up.

Are there any other new artists you’d recommend for Under the Radar and its readers to check out?

Otis Eatwell-Hurst: : Fat Dog. They’re great.

Lennon Gallagher: You should definitely check out Alien Chicks.

Jesse Hitchman: Regressive Left are good. Modern Woman too, and English Garden as well.

The EP Ecstatic Oscillations is out now and available HERE.

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