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Escape Velocity

Stag & Dagger Preview: An Interview With Rayographs
Stuart Huggett , May 17th, 2011 07:56

Rayographs warm up for their Stag and Dagger show with The Quietus by discussing the musical and visual influences on their rather excellent self-titled debut

Taking their name from Man Ray's experiments in camera-less photography, London trio Rayographs draw influences from a wide range of artistic practices. Their self-titled debut album fires off nods of appreciation to figures including David Lynch and photographer Francesca Woodman, and the band all share extra-musical interests in fanzines, painting and cinema.

With the band set to play as part of our Stag & Dagger on May 19 at The Macbeth in London along with New Young Pony Club, Alexander Tucker and Banjo Or Freakout, The Quietus met up with Astrud Steehouder (guitar, vocals) and Jessamine Tierney (bass, vocals) on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Shoreditch to discuss visual art, Twin Peaks and why they shouldn't be lumped in as 60s copyists. Seated on beer barrels behind The Bricklayer's Arms, the pair apologised for the absence of drummer, third vocalist and sleeve designer Amy Hurst.

Jessamine Tierney: Amy went to art college. She creates most of our artwork with a friend of hers.

Astrud Steehouder: It's a project where she has complete creative control. We discuss everything, but she's able to come up with an idea that really means something to her and makes sense. She takes a lot of time to think about what she wants to put into it visually. The first single – that was a fun one. All hand printed.

JT: It's one of those things where you don't quite grasp the enormity of the task ahead. 500 lino prints, brilliant. You think it'll take a day, but it was such a long process, including leaving them out to dry on our kitchen floor. And the cat walked on them. Apparently quite a lot of copies were getting returned because they've got paw prints on them.

AS: At the time when we laid them out, she was completely avoiding them. We thought: brilliant!

JT: She understands.

AS: Then we went out, and when we came back there were paw prints all over them.

Are you all practising visual artists?

JT: Me and my boyfriend and Amy are going to be sharing a little studio. I've been making prints at various times, and my boyfriend upholsters chairs, so we'll be working on that. Amy just needs the space and time.

AS: I've been going on about making films for so long, but I haven't got round to it at all. A lot of people have said our music is very film soundtrack-y, but there's no-one knocking on our door, saying: can you do any film soundtrack for us? So we thought, why don't we do it? Why don't we create an audio-visual album? Just as a project for ourselves really, find out what happens.

The video for 'Space Of The Halls' has a Twin Peaks look to it.

AS: We thought it was hilarious. We just got all our mates down and said, 'You have to dress up as if you were in a David Lynch film'. We were in the back room of this pub in Stockwell. It was mid-summer - really, really hot - but we didn't realise the air conditioning could be turned on. People were practically passing out. I was practically passing out with the height of my shoes. I think I David Lynch-ed myself out last year. I even went to the Twin Peaks festival, and I think that was the death knell for that period of time. But I do love it, and I'll get a renewal of energy with regards to David Lynch. Angelo Badalamenti as well, I love his soundtracks.

Did you catch Twin Peaks' original transmission? It affected a lot of my friends at a vulnerable age.

JT: I remember my mum and my sister watching it, but it was on too late, I wasn't allowed to stay and watch. It was one of those things when you're a kid, you really want to watch it. You just know... Even that image of [Laura Palmer's] head, I was fascinated, but absolutely disgusted and sickened by it, probably being too young.

AS: I vaguely remember its presence. But I used to stay up and watch The Word. I loved Katie Puckrik. She was right on. She was quite a riot grrrl, wasn't she?

JT: What happened to her, is she still doing stuff? It was such an exciting time though. There would be the occasional thing on TV that was generally a little bit more alternative.

AS: There was a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion thing on The Word, where he plays a theremin, and it was absolutely amazing. Mind blowing. I didn't really know too much about Jon Spencer, but he did a theremin solo! That's cool, right? That's really cool.

How much of that garage blues influence is in Rayographs' sound?

AS: We used to get booked at a lot of 60s garage nights, mainly with girl bands. We don't fit into that really, but we've definitely drawn influence from that side of things.

JT: Probably more in the past. Also, when we're starting to write music now, it's quite different from how the album sounds. I think we have the potential to go a lot more pop on one side, but in the complete other direction as well.

AS: We're all into that kind of interesting pop, bands like Thee Oh Sees, who are really catchy but doing it in their own way. When we were recording the album we were listening to a lot of dark 60s stuff. Things like Celebration. A lot of Can. I'm not listening to that much 60s music at the moment, but I do like a lot of 60s psych stuff. That's definitely not our only influence whatsoever. Personally, I'm listening to a lot of really dark electronic music at the moment. It doesn't go with the garage, Headcoatees route, but I don't think that matters. Where we are at the moment, with writing and playing, it's quite minimal, and quite sparse, but kind of heavy, in a gnarly way. Less psych.

JT: We're aware we should probably be playing the album live at this moment in time, but equally we're thinking: how the hell are we going to marry what we're playing now with playing the album? But it is starting to make sense. Our set is starting to formulate itself, we just wanted to make it more interesting.

Rayographs play The Quietus stage at The Macbeth, Hoxton, for Stag and Dagger on May 19th.

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