With three EP’s, a handful of singles, and a forthcoming album, Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham of Aquilo are on track to a successful year. A band that performs their fourth ever gig at Glastonbury, is featured in Rolling Stone, and catches BBC Radio 1’s attention without even having an album out yet is sure to last a while. With their soft and emotional electronic & ambient synth, their music is sure to get you hooked.
Despite living a stone’s throw away from each other in their already-small town in England, Aquilo weren’t formed until after they had already met multiple times. With their differing ages, they never really thought of each other as the potential bandmates they would soon become. Playing positions opposite each other in rival bands, although they claim “it was always too nice to be a rivalry.” they faced each other time and time again due to the their hometown’s small nature with a limited number of gigs to play.
There’s something interesting about the way the internet can pull together people who were already so unknowingly close. Living just a few doors down from each other, they never realized the potential they had together until Tom heard a song that Ben had put on SoundCloud and offered to play music with him sometime, thinking of it as nothing more than a jam session. From there, things only grew. This new creation’s naming process became frustrating, only coming up with names that were far too corny or just plain terrible (some examples they recalled were “Oculus”, something reminiscent of a spell from Harry Potter and/or a Transformer, and “Factor and Hime”, their last names). After endless lists with names they just didn’t like, they settled on Aquilo after Tom’s mother had suggested it, defining it as “Greek mythology for northern wind”. It began to resonate with them.
This tedious naming process came just before the releasing first single, “Calling Me”. However, there were songs that came even before that; the specific song thatdrew Tom into Ben’s Soundcloud was called “Oh My God”, something that Tom now describes as “really, really, really sad.” It was notably very acoustic and calm, targeting exactly what they were both inspired by at the time.
As they began to write and play music together as a group instead of individuals, their intent became clear. The acoustic roots they were founded on starting delving into something much more electronic and complicated than what they had started out with. Songs that were written with guitars were developed into something much more than just that. When reflecting back on this time, Ben remembered how slowly it all happened, and how it’s still happening; their influences, and therefore overall sound, is constantly changing.
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact place their inspiration emerged from; inspiration is subjective and can result from anything. When asked if their hometown at all shapes their music and creativity, Ben replied “so many people say it, it must be the case.” It’s true that music journalism projects connections that aren’t really there onto artists, but in certain ways, it must be true. Inspiration comes from what’s around you, either good or bad. The duo grew up in a small, sheltered little village where they could go downtown, get a drink, and play a gig when they wanted to. The question in its entirety seems obvious, yet questionable itself; Tom joked about how he doesn’t look out his window, notice the grass and sheep, and use that to write. Instead, they began to explicate their inspiration based on experiences they’ve had.
Experiences are often great for reflecting back on your life and choices. While their hometown was a weaker inspiration, the duo absolutely agreed that experiences shape their music almost more than anything else. They noted their interest in writing in different points of view and thinking about how other people perceive specific situations. Perspective is important, especially for the topics they named as recurrent themes, such as relationships. They like to look at the “bigger picture” and looking at a situation from afar, rather than projecting their own selfishness onto the other person in order to seem like the one who’s always right. It not only makes for a greatly written song, but also an eye-opening process.
Ben grew up listening to his dad’s English soul and folk music, as he was in a band when Ben was a child. He recalled loving Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, and Laura Becker as his first encounters with music. His love has not faded, however; hetold an anecdote of a Steely Dan concert he attended in New York last year, catching only a few songs as it was in between two concerts Aquilo had booked for the night. He confidently named it “the greatest night of his life”, even if his love for Steely Dan doesn’t directly show up in the traces of Aquilo’s music.
Tom, on the other hand, was always into the progressive scene, citing it as what he grew up on. He named Explosions in the Sky as one of his all-time favorite bands because of the amazing atmospheric vibe of their music. His love for metal music began as a kid, which is admittedly hard to picture when you look at Aquilo’s soundscape. The two bickered over the universal love for Pearl Jam in their hometown, with Tom telling Ben, “I think all of your mates loved them, all of my mates hated them.”
Tom recalled some of the artists and genres they looked to for influence when Aquilo began, such as progressive music from the U.K. scene, specifically an artist called Fake. He recalls exactly what he loved about it: “great lyrics, great melodies and that was exactly what I wanted to work with.” What really impacted their gradual change to electronic were bands such as Mount Kimbie, which Ben described as “really minimal electronic.” As Aquilo keeps releasing music, we can begin to see which points mesh together and point out the changing style of the group.
As for their new music, the band was very hush-hush on the release date of their new album (but they do exist -both the release date and the album-and they are coming). Many people have helped out in the process of making it; artist Oliver approached them with an interest in developing Aquilo’s music and helped them make “Silhouette” as well as three songs from the forthcoming album. When Oliver approached them, they were joyed because “that’s the world [they] want to be in.” Everything seems to be going smoothly and they feel like the album is going well; it has exactly what they want on it (which is why it seems to be taking so long).
Read the rest of the feature in the December 2016 issue here.
Purchase the print of copy of the issue here.
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