Egyptian Blue: Post-Punk and Paint
Momentum, motivation, your keys – all tough things to lose, and sometimes even tougher to try and pick up again. But it’s especially hard when you have the momentum, the motivation and your keys, and a global pandemic stands in your way.
Almost overnight the world's music industry shut down, with gigs cancelled, tours postponed and releases delayed. For many artists this can mean the end, but failure to adapt is failure to survive, and to survive, is to evolve.
Following instinct and allowing this natural progression to take over plays an integral role in Egyptian Blue's latest release Body of Itch. To the ear, the sharp precision and razor-like edges may seem calculated and laser-cut, but it was the knack for songwriting that Egyptian Blue proved they had with 2019’s EP Collateral Damage that got these edges so fine. Andy and Leith take us through the process.
“The first EP was very much just me sitting in my room and doing the whole thing there, and then taking it to the band. This one was more of a, ‘Let's just get in the rehearsal space and just jam’”, explains Andy. “It's pretty instinctive, and very much off the cuff, you know?” adds Leith. “Well, we were trying to work out one song, ‘Four Is The Last Four’, just trying to perfect it in rehearsal studios," Andy continues, "and all the other songs came out of that, by accident basically. We might break strings or something, but just experiment and the other songs will come along randomly.”
Body of Itch possesses a raw cleanliness that you wouldn’t expect to come from following impulses, but the outcome shows that Andy and Leith have an ingrained understanding of what it means to be Egyptian Blue. “I wish there was an interesting story about it, but there isn't. Most bands have a great dialogue and their band name...but we just got it from a Dulux colour chart,” laughs Andy on the subject of their name. “For me personally I’ve fallen out of love with it a bit,” Leith admits, “but it keeps growing on me.”
Growth over time is something that Egyptian Blue seem to experience a lot in their music and not something they’re afraid of. “I think as time goes on the tracks mean different things to us. ‘Nylon Wire’ was probably our least favourite on the EP, on our last tour we only maybe played it once or twice, but now it means something else to us, just because there's been such a positive reaction to it,” says Andy. “I know for me and Leith in particular, the song ‘Never’ really hit home emotionally; it felt like it was the first thing we wrote that could potentially affect somebody else. That's the kind of music I want to make: music that makes people feel something.”
As the name Body of Itch would suggest, the music does make you feel something, be that internal or outwardly, given their reputation for spirited live performances. For Egyptian Blue a crowd's reaction has significant and lasting effects on the meanings of songs and how they themselves perceive them. “We've been playing ‘Four Is The Last Four’ for quite a long time”, Andy explains, “but we've played all of Body of Itch live before, and the reactions have been really good. You never know exactly how it's going to be until they're out. I mean we didn't know which one of them people were gonna like more. And it was the one we least expected that got the best reaction.”
The supporting tour for Body of Itch could have been a pivotal moment in the band's career, with an already dedicated fan base and a string of releases under their belt, but like so many others in the music industry, it didn’t even get a chance to get cut-short. “We had toured with The Murder Capital, and then we did a festival in France called La Route du Rock, and then we were supposed to go to Barcelona and we got told the night before that it was cancelled, then after that, everything just got cancelled. We hadn't started the UK tour. It's a real shame.”
Fortunately for Egyptian Blue, the music had already met its reception before the record was released. Some other musicians haven’t had the luxury of foresight to test their music before its release, and now, who knows when they will be able to? But the resulting lockdown has presented strange opportunities amongst the seemingly endless barrage of problems it’s caused. “What else is there to write about? All of these musicians are stuck in their homes with fuck-all to write about apart from this,” says Leith. “Do you think people will be influenced by this? Not just the musicians but people listening to music?” “Absolutely”, nods Andy.
Influence and social change have always gone hand-in-hand with post-punk, and after receiving high praise on social media from poster boys IDLES, Leith weighs in on the relationship between music and societal progress. “Well it goes hand in hand. I think inevitably there's going to be some sort of influence from music and people are gonna gather and brew their views together.”
There's a definite yearning on Body of Itch. It's almost crying to be let out into the world and to be experienced. As with so much else, it’s going to be interesting to see what makes it through the lockdown and what doesn’t, but as long as Egyptian Blue keep trusting their gut feeling, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them on the other side.
Body of Itch is out now via Yala! Music.