Egyptian Blue: Inspiration From the Urban Concrete Sprawl

Photo: Jon Kean

A universal truth of life, for better or for worse, is that we are all products of our environment. We absorb our surroundings like the pores on our skin when the rain of a greyscale day catches us off guard. Gestures and expressions from our peers or the performances of the faceless strangers who surround us seep deep into our bones, only then for their idiosyncrasies to be pressed out from inside of us in the form our own actions and conversations. The weight of this reality can be wearing for some, but for Egyptian Blue, the constant chatter and bombardment from others became the source of unadulterated inspiration.

Hailing from the sea weathered shores of Brighton, the sagacious four piece decided to build their musical foundations from paying attention to the surroundings which were ultimately molding them. Not only did this include procuring lyrics from nights out sheltering within the dimly lit ambiences of public houses, or from the on going mental health struggles of close friends, but also through taking time out and giving a nod to the built up and chaotic city living that most who are trying to make their way in the world are enduring.

Acting as an ode to that ‘urban concrete sprawl’ which surrounds us, Egyptian Blue’s sound is an amalgamation of the world as they see it. On their Yala! Records released debut EP ‘Collateral Damage’, guitar leads blare like sirens, the rhythmic counterparts shatter like smashing glass on a sidewalk, and the echo present in every sonic crevasse resonates as a flutter reflecting off of concrete. It’s a cohesive soundscape and one which succinctly portrays what escapes our eye with a certain deft clarity.

On the phone, lead singer Andy Buss is understandably enthusiastic about the opportunities which are now approaching the band. Setting out on a UK tour – their second, if you count the recent jaunt around the country with The Murder Capital – Egyptian Blue are now taking the world they so readily draw from head on, returning back to the environments which birthed them, but this time assuming the position of the influencers rather than the influenced.

Wax Music: So earlier on in the year you signed to Yala! Records. Can you elaborate on how the partnership with the label came about and what made it feel that Yala! would be the best place for Egyptian Blue to call home?

Andy Buss: We went to play a show for Yala! at Bermondsey Social Club with Willie J Healey about Christmas time last year, and in the whole history of Egyptian Blue, it was our best ever show. It was the first time we played to a sold out audience and the people at Yala! said we should do something in the new year. It all came about very quickly.

W: Knowing that much of Yala!’s ethos is that of community and nurture for bands in their infancy, what’s the experience been like working with Felix White and the subsequent team he has with him?

AB: Really good! They’re quite a good label for a new band or a band that hasn’t been recognised yet and they’re all really passionate and enthusiastic about working with us, which is really nice. It pushes us to think creatively more. If no one is interested I feel like you have a lack of inspiration or motivation, so it’s a nice pairing. The team at Yala! isn’t hugely massive, so they always work with every artist and we see Felix from time to time. I’m also a huge fan of The Maccabees – when I was a bit younger at school, I’d save up my pocket money to go buy their records.

W: I know you’ve often been quoted to say that Egyptian Blue’s lyrics focus more on the observation of others rather than the experience of oneself. What is it that makes you so magnetically drawn to character observation and the things overheard to use as the base and foundation of your lyrics?

AB: Sometimes you can’t pull inspiration out of nowhere, so in my head, I struggle to write about myself or what’s going on in my life. So things people say act as triggers and that can trigger a musical sequence or some lyrics for a song in my head. I just think that’s more interesting and I can personally relate to some of the things that I overhear, so it works perfectly. I think things that people say are a lot more interesting than what people would say if you were sat on your own for a whole week, you know?

I’ve been using this approach consciously in my songwriting for about a year because I feel certain visuals or certain words just trigger inspiration. Sometimes, when I’ve been at work I’ve had to go into the basement and sing into my phone because something has just sparked that creativity inside of me. I’ve picked up lines from my friends, from reading, being down at the pub when you meet random people who you wouldn’t readily associate yourself with. In each occasion I’ve always found a person who says interesting, inspiring stuff.

W: So with that in mind, what is one lyric which stands out as the most poignant or striking to you from the EP, and what is the intended meaning and context behind it?

The structure of this city
Is the means of talk
That keeps our unity
Well way beneath the covers

AB: I guess this relates to a sense of union with workers like ourselves, shunned by higher management and ‘higher beings’ as such. I heard something similar on the radio and it had me thinking for a while. The meaning will be ever changing as our lives evolve, however.

W: You’re embarking on a tour this Autumn with a string of headline shows, what kind of emotions are you all feeling on the run up to this?

AB: We’re really excited! We’ve got our first sold out show ever and it’ll be nice to travel around the UK a bit and play in Scotland and Wales, and do some more inner city festivals. We’re really excited about it and we’re recording on two days during our time off from touring, so we’re really excited about that also.

W: I imagine the regional tour with The Murder Capital earlier this year was a great source of experience and inspiration, did you learn anything off of that?

AB: You always learn from every show, but not consciously. By the end of every string of shows you’re a different band – you perform better, you’re more confident, less things goes wrong, I don’t know why, it just happens. So I think unconsciously, you do learn a lot.

W: Talking about live shows, I know you’ve emphasised in the past the significance of having a sense of tension and edge during performances. How important is it for you to have that connection of unpredictability with the audience and how do you go about generating that sense of energy when playing live?

AB: I think at least one can of Fosters (laughs), a little bit of beer and just staring people in the eye. We kind of feed off people who look bored because quite often there’s people enjoying it – and that’s really nice – but then there’s always someone standing at the front really bored and we feed off that, so I think that injects us with tension.

W: So looking towards the future, with all the acclaim that you’re experiencing from the industry at this time, are you feeling any sense of pressure now that the attention has ramped up a gear and there may be a sense of expectation when it comes to new music, or is this something you’re all taking in your stride?

AB: Not really, I think we have and always will write for ourselves. We’re not writing to please the crowd. If people like it that’s great, but we’re writing the music that’s in our heads that we want to express. We’ve got something coming out maybe in the first couple of months after the new year, and we’re really excited for people to hear it, so there’s not really a sense of pressure at all.

Egyptian Blue are now currently on a UK wide tour throughout the Autumn. To catch any of their shows – including the dates supporting YAK – click HERE

Words by Dan E Brown | Photos by Ross Jones

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