Working out what you want do to whilst being scrutinised by the public can’t be easy. Normally a tribulation reserved for royals, child actors and reality stars, occasionally you get a music act that feels the need to evolve and grow when already on the road to stardom. We’re looking at you, Meadowlark. Hailing from Bristol and originally a three-piece, their early folk sound enraptured quite a few people with a keen ear for a nicely turned-out tune.
Spin forwards a couple of years and the band have discovered their place in the world and received an endorsement from the hugely influential BBC Introducing, something which led to a coveted Glastonbury slot. They’ve slimmed down their line-up and fattened up their sound with some complex electronic elements. “We should have maybe spent a few years writing together and getting to know each other, then found our sound and put it out,” Kate McGill, the band’s vocalist, tells me. “We did experiment in public,” agrees guitarist and synth player, Dan Broadley. “I think we’ve always had tinges of folk in the way we write songs. But with a synthetic sound you’ve got so much control. We can mix things together and make our own genre.” The Bristol-based pair might have started with a cutesier and more acoustic sound, but they’ve changed up to something much more glorious and expansive. Now they enthral listeners with layers of swirling ambience, topped off by McGill’s delicate vocals.
She had found herself notching up over ten million YouTube hits with some cheery cover versions as well as a solo album when she met Broadley. He’d been asked to direct one of her music videos and the pair found common musical ground almost immediately. After forming Meadowlark, he continues to create nearly all of their videos. As we talk the pair are about to head back to Bristol after filming their next single’s promo in London. “I directed the video, wrote and produced it. I like to keep a creative stamp on everything. We sit and mood-board our own song and make the video exactly how it should be.” Clearly this pair has a very strong idea of who they are how they want to present themselves.
Song composition is a similarly collaborative affair, which can range from sending WhatsApp voicemails back and forth, to sitting down at a piano together. Up until recently lyrical content was limited to discussing what they knew personally, until it came to writing their captivating most recent single. “We go to this little cottage up in Doncaster, it had a grand piano and no phone signal,” explains Broadley. “It’s where we wrote our upcoming album. We had a bit of a dry spell, so needed to change things up a bit.” What inspired them both was a heart-breaking article McGill found on the Humans of New York website. Continuing the blog’s vivid selection of real-life stories, the piece revolved around a family in Pakistan. The father had found himself working at a brick kiln, in an attempt to pay off a dubious loan. The debt only growing and ignorant of his rights as a worker, he was forced to enlist relatives to help. This served only to perpetuate the vicious circle he’d become trapped in. This tale of a modern day form of slavery inspired Quicksand. Even before they revealed the song’s back-story, interesting interpretations began springing up. It resonated with people who felt they were unwillingly stuck somewhere. “I’ve always wanted to combine my passion, which is song-writing, with compassion,” adds McGill. “If there’s any way we can help relate to or connect with people, then that’s the most important thing in my eyes.”
In a new musical world, where music buyers often have favourite songs instead of actually following bands, the pair is keen to reach out to fans. Highly active on social media, they seek to be personable and relatable to the people who listen to their music. This helps the fans know the band behind the music they’re enjoying. “We’re not caring too much in what’s cool,” says Broadley. “We’re just carving our name, sound and market. We’re only giving people what we’ve created personally. It’s not something we’ve made because we think they’re going to like it, we’ve just made our songs.” They’ve greatly benefited from being part of a vibrant live music scene in their hometown. Often shows will pack out from passing trade, opening the band up to a new range of fans. You don’t get that in many other towns. “It’s such a cool city like that,” McGill says with pride. “People just like getting involved.”
This year has seen a few festival appearances, but focus is shifting towards the impending release of the duo’s debut long-player. “It’s the calm before the storm. We’re getting ready to gear up for the live shows, then it’s the album next year.” These approaching headline shows, which include a show at Brighton’s The Hope & Ruin on Fri 23 Sept, will see an interesting new live set-up facilitating a much bigger sound. Due for release in February, the LP will see a mixture of treasured songs from previous EPs along with a healthy helping of unheard tracks. It will consolidate the duo’s progression from acoustic instrumentation towards a dreamier and more upfront electronica. Sounding deep, enchanting and sumptuous, these budding synth-pop superstars have found a style that properly defines them. “It’s so exciting,” says McGill. “I can’t believe we’ve come this far.”