The Guardian said their songs had something of the quality of The XX, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to us that the new EP by Swindon quartet Colour The Atlas is an atmospheric and harmonious four-track beauty. Released in August by Ugly Truth Records, the EP includes the live favourite Blue Eyes, in addition to three new songs – Paper Wings, Revolutions and Rise. Taking inspiration from the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, vocalist Jess Hall is something of a revelation, a voice that’s both delicate and powerful in equal measures. We chatted to Jess about what listeners can expect from the EP, her love of Eva Cassidy and what touring with a bunch of boys is like when you’re the only girl.
So Building Skyscrapers is the name of your EP, what was the inspiration behind it?
Jess: Well, all the songs were written at different points of last year but a lot of the songs had the theme of taking a leap of faith and kind of putting yourself out there and not really knowing what was round the corner, and feeling pretty small in the scheme of things. It was a big time for us with music and lots of good things we’re happening, but at the same time it was equally as scary and daunting, as it was exciting. We learnt so much about the industry and performing last year, and the EP was very much about feeling slightly lost, but just going for it, so i guess that inspired a few of the songs lyrically.
What was it like recording the EP?
Jess: The recording process was good fun! Revolutions was mainly recorded in Guildford, then we finished/fiddled with it in London, where we recorded the other 3 with Malcolm Carson from Tape the Radio. Blue Eyes has been knocking about since we were 14/15 or even before that, so to us thats a classic oldy but to everyone else it’s new.
What can listeners expect from it?
Jess: Hmmm, what can listeners expect… I’d say they can expect another glimpse of who we are and what we’re aiming for! Each EP we’ve done has slightly progressed in the direction we want to head, the trip hop slightly dark but very relatable kind of vibe. We feel like when it’s time for the album, we will be where we want to be musically. When we first started we we’re pretty young and our music has grown with us throughout each EP, which is kind of cool – so I think the album will take the best bits from what we’ve done/learnt so far and wack it all together and hopefully make something beautiful!!
Describe your sound in one sentence…
Jess: Triphoppy-meaningfulish, hopefully emotive, dark/vibey and pretty cool, sometimes it makes you want to screw your face up and nod in slow motion…
Who are your musical influences?
Jess: Portishead, Massive Attack, Bon Iver and Sigur Ros.
What do you think is the best album ever written?
Jess: Stefan says Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I’d say me and Alex probably agree For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver is pretty damn beautiful and Andy says Bonobo Black Sands!
What’s been your best gig so far?
Jess: We had so many amazing gigs on tour with Newton (Faulkner)… I think we could all agree we probably had the most fun in Liverpool just because the crowd were so funny and really got into it, but it would be so so hard to choose. Possibly Guildford, the first time we toured with Newton Faulkner, all the way back when we were the Jess Hall Band. I think it was because it was the biggest crowd we’d ever played to at that point and we were just blown away. That will stay with me forever!
If you could duet with anyone, who would it be?
Jess: For me it would be Eva Cassidy or Frank Sinatra. Eva Cassidy was basically who taught me to sing, I’d just sing over and over to her songs! No one sings like her, so much soul and emotion! And frank cause he’s really cool.
What TV show would you like to hear your music featured on?
Jess: Are we allowed to say Jools Holland? The only things I watch on TV are Total Wipeout and Duck Dynasty (everyone should watch Duck Dynasty, it’s amazing), but I can’t imagine our music on either of those to be honest! Any TV programme with lots of tension or something crime sceney haha! I’m pretty sure our song Shockwaves was played on Made in Chelsea at one point? I guess that’ll do!
Where in the world do you most want to perform?
Jess: Everywhere, please! We all have this undying need to travel the world and see everything in it, so literally any country would do. I really want to do a gig in a rainforest or in the middle of a lake on a floating stage, or just somewhere really different! Failing that, Australia would be incredible. I’m pretty sure we were meant to live there in the first place.
What’s your fondest musical memory?
There have been many! For me it was living in the camper-van for a month on tour. For most girls it would have probably been a horrific experience, sharing a confined living space with 4 smelly boys including our driver, Charlie, but I’ve literally never had so much fun in my whole entire life! We stocked the fridge up at the start, thinking we’d make all these extravagant meals on the road, then forgot all about it, then realised at the end of tour we hadn’t even turned the fridge on so everything in there was pretty nasty by that point. That is a smell I never want to experience again. But that month really did just make us love what we do even more. I get to make music with my 3 best friends, to me not much could top that feeling!
What are you listening to right now?
Jess: I’ve been listening to a lot of Delilah – I love what she’s doing!! Also we’re all into Chet Faker right now! Vibey stuff!