On their debut single, Robbie & Mona (Will Carkeet and Ellie Gray of Pet Shimmers) test their stylistic boundaries with ‘Fidelity’.
With distorted and disintegrated instrumentation at its core, sonically the song is a lo-fi anthem. An anxious bass dominates the mix, steadily punctuated by subtle synth motifs which weave around a continuous and similarly fidgety hi-hat. Ellie’s vocals accentuate this tension, extending into lines which then tail of into the background with an eerie quality. Here the production captures all the haunting detail of Ellie’s original acapella vocal performance, which was recorded alone in an empty house and formed the backbone from which ‘Fidelity’ was created.
The concept of fidelity finds further meaning in the lyrics: “I look, I look past your eyes” croons Ellie, conjuring imagery of a relationship yet to burgeon and find its full voice. Here the lo-fi fascination imbues the song with an impulsive and endearing quality which only adds to the tension which built up into a cinematic climax. By their own admission, Robbie & Mona’s music is influenced by cinema, in particular titles such as Daisies by Vera Chytilova or David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. This is no more evident than in the structure as we near the final act of the song, when sweeping synths take over.
Like all good collaborations, Robbie & Mona started organically. It grew from the original aim to produce Ellie’s own solo work, an objective which was soon abandoned in favour of a joint artistic statement which borrows from the strengths of both constituent parts. Despite what its title evokes, this is a visceral and clear opening statement to an exciting new project for Robbie & Mona, which will be unveiled at a performance tonight at The Lanes, Bristol.
On ‘Fidelity’ you really explore the boundaries of lo-fidelity sounds. These sounds have become such an incredible sonic tool for artists making music at the moment. What is it about this technique that fascinates you?
Will: A lot of people think of lo-fi as a genre, but it’s a recording process that can be used in all types of genres. For me, lo-fi recording is such an abstract philosophy that trying to articulate it in mouth words isn’t going to do it any justice.
Ellie: I think I see Will enjoying the restriction and difficulty and long-windedness that comes with lo-fi equipment. It means he can use it or play with it in an unorthodox, odd way and arrive at exciting things. It fits in with our philosophy of spontaneity and automatism.
I understand that the song originated from a stream of consciousness acapella vocal recording which Ellie did alone in an empty house. Despite the subsequent stylistic disintegration of the audio, what did you want to preserve from that original recording?
Will: We wanted to preserve the isolating nature of cold sweaty walls and damp feet.
Ellie: We wanted the acapella recording to be the sort of underbelly of the song, the beginning spark of the song. Even though you can’t hear any of how it originally sounded, its time-stretched weight is there underneath. I like that the original recording is a little world in itself sitting sinisterly in disguise underneath it all.
The mood of the song is set by the bassline which is then punctuated by a continuous hi-hat. This is bold and tension-building instrumentation that gives each instrument real personality. Looking towards future releases, will these personalities shift and evolve or remain static?
Ellie:Each song we make has its own world, so I’d say they will shift and evolve, but they are all weaved together by the constants of a sonic palette and ourselves, and a kind of spectrum of specific colours in our heads that match the project.
There is a huge release of emotional weight within the outro with soaring and expansive synth sounds that give the song an incredibly cinematic quality. Why was it important for you that the track resolves in this way?
Will: That soar of emotion is there because that was Ellie’s response to my first idea of the track’s progression, which then had a ripple effect and became the final outcome that is heard on the track.
Ellie: It’s mine and Will’s unconscious minds dancing away together. There’s no pre-formula – it’s a collaboration of inspired movements altering and steering the next movement of the other.
How do you plan to continue to build upon this cinematic and expansive world in your live shows?
Will: Aesthetics and personalities in cinema play quite a big role in stirring the imagination for the songs we make, so we bring those to our live shows.
Ellie: I like dark, dingy, smoky stages; one day we would like to have fake rain fall on us at a show.
Will: We feel surrealism celebrates a multitude of identities as do we.
Why does ‘Fidelity’ feel like the perfect introduction for Robbie & Mona?
Will: Ellie and I see our music in colours – ‘Fidelity’ has always stood out as midnight blue, and for us that felt like the best colour to be the first colour felt by the listener.
Ellie: ‘Fidelity’ feels like the beginning of something unsettling, which seems like a fitting starting point to experience what is to come.
View the new video for Robbie & Mona’s debut single ‘Fidelity’ – via Spinny Nights – here at Wax below. The duo headline a sold-out, socially distanced show at The Lanes tonight (5th October).