CIEL are one of Brighton’s most exciting new alternative acts, with a sound all their own that encompasses the dirtier side of rock and electronic soundscapes, complemented by their knack for addictive hooks. We caught up ahead of their Great Escape shows to talk songwriting, the artistic influences that feed their music and inclusivity in an industry that still has much to do in the name of equality.
Your new track Fine Everything is such a banger, I was listening to 6 Music when it came on the Roundtable to everyone’s delight. How did that track come together?
Fine Everything used to be quite an old demo I made years ago back in The Netherlands. It was just a really lo-fi recording with me singing some gibberish over it. One evening I showed some ideas to Jorge and Tim and they really liked this particular idea a lot. Last year we reworked it as a band. We completely took it apart and rearranged a lot of the parts and I wrote new lyrics.
How has the last year treated you? Any highlights?
Our first BBC Radio 1 play in Jack Saunders’ indie show, as well as being discussed in Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable and being booked for The Great Escape was a good start of our year!
What themes are you most interested in exploring lyrically right now?
The lyrics I write mostly come to me subconsciously. I always start with making the music and write vocal melodies over them, singing gibberish. Sometimes the meaning is there when I start writing the song, sometimes I have to search for it. I am quite an analytic person, I like analysing situations and my own and other people’s feelings and thought processes. I think this often reflects in my lyrics, they tend to be quite introspective.
How do you approach songwriting? Is it with the energy of a live show in mind, or is it more about craft, or purely a cathartic exercise?
When songwriting I like to let go of the idea of how it should sound live, just to not limit myself creatively. I write what I am excited about in the moment. If one day that would be to make an album with only synths and percussion, I guess we would adapt our live set to it. I always try to songwrite from different perspectives to keep it exciting for myself. Sometimes I start with writing a drumbeat, sometimes a bass or guitar line and other times I start with crafting an interesting sound that inspires me. This could be a synth sound or my voice processed through equipment and plug-ins. We also work a lot on the ideas as a band, reworking them and trying out sounds together, which keeps the process fresh and inspiring for us.
What are you most excited for at Great Escape?
I am quite excited about our show at Paganini Ballroom – that venue looks sick! I will also definitely try to catch Goat Girl, Pretty Sick, Momma and Highschool.
What would you change about the music industry right now?
More space for women and gender minorities in music! Especially in underrepresented roles. This may sound like the cliché answer and has obviously already been a hot topic over the last years – it’s great to see that a lot of organisations, labels and festivals are doing their best to make a difference. However, a lot still needs to change in my opinion, so it is of importance to keep addressing it. As a woman in music, I still often experience not being taken seriously in what I do. People sometimes presume that I am just a singer and don’t write the songs, have no vision on sound or any knowledge about sound design and technical stuff. I see this a lot with female colleagues in music too and it gets tiring at times.
Are there any influences in your music that fans might not expect, musical or otherwise!
Visually, I think, the art of Miró and Kandinsky. I like the darkness and chaos but at the same time beauty and cohesiveness in those paintings. I like the imperfections as well, that is what I like in music too. Although I think our music is more polished, the initial ideas always sound a bit more messy, as it’s really made quickly in the moment. We clean this up but at the same time try to keep the good parts and catch the essence of the original demo.