Lucy Gooch: Post-War Cinema and Potent Atmospheres

Now established in Bristol’s emerging ambient scene, Lucy Gooch has been creating dramatic climates that shift constantly in mood and colour. Rain’s Break, out on new home Fire Records, is her second EP, as she continues to create dramatic ambience drowning in synths and stacked vocals. Lucy is balancing the serene with the explosive, as the songs on Rain’s Break evolve from minimalist art pop into huge cinematic crescendos.

Although covering multiple musical bases, the EP has a very specific set of influences. The emotional depths and vast landscapes of Powell and Pressburger films serve as the main inspiration behind Rain’s Break. Lucy explores the films’ themes of female repression, sexuality and sensuality, and honouring the 1940s tradition of using weather to reflect a character’s emotional journey. It’s a dense set of sounds and emotions, but they are revealed gradually, as songs evolve and develop into a climate of their own. Having revisited these films that had a profound impact during childhood, Lucy’s experiences since have altered how these films are important to her today. The added setting of rural Norfolk, in which she grew up, contributes to the great vistas and earthy textures throughout Rain’s Break.

Deborah Kerr’s character’s tense and twisted descent into madness in Black Narcissus is explored on ‘Ash and Orange’, expressing a huge emotional release in the second half of the track. Meanwhile, the title track evokes senses of yearning and renewal, both in its lyrics and its longing yet affirming sonic landscape. These landscapes often contain unpredictable song structures, inspired by Lucy’s love for songs that sound like never ending verses, heading in multiple directions.

As well as honouring the films of the 1940s, Rain’s Break also pays homage to the introspective art pop of the 1980s which Lucy cites as a primary influence on the development of her sound. ‘Chained to a Woman’ sees beats introduced and more direct song-writing. The thick ambience remains though, and the potent atmosphere of the whole EP makes for a lush and enveloping listen.

A new environment, outlook and synthesiser led to the creation of Rain’s Break, expanding Lucy’s horizons whilst reinterpreting some classic films.

How was it recording this EP? Has Covid skewed the process at all?

I started writing in early summer last year, living in a tiny flat in Bristol, when the heatwave was really intense and then we all had these storms. I was inspired to write about films id been watching since I was young, it then all kind of poured out. We moved house, which gave me more space to redraft and arrange properly with my producer. It was a very intense, pressured project and we were all exhausted by the end of it – I think I was then blocked creatively for a long time.

Has the process of solo writing helped to deal with all that’s happened in the last year?

We all had the luxury of so much time to devote to it and we worked super hard on this EP, and I don’t know whether that’s good or bad! Some people think the writing process should be all catharsis and not this painful, tortured artist thing. But I think it’s part of it a bit isn’t it?

Well, there is a lot of drama in the music and your lyrics! Do you think the intense writing process exacerbated the dramatic effect in this EP?

Yeah definitely. I tie it up with watching Powell and Pressburger films when I was a teenager, and thinking these films have so much emotional depth to them. Stuff about repression of women, sexuality, and even sensuality really struck me and I’ve always wanted to do something about it. It just seemed like the right time to make something inspired by these characters, because we were all trapped inside, and a lot of the Powell and Pressburger films are about people’s inner worlds and hidden emotional depths.

Did you feel differently about these films having first watched them in your formative years, but now coming back to them as inspiration for this project?

Yeah I definitely feel differently, coming from a place of more sophistication perhaps, and just having lived more. Particularly about Deborah Kerr’s character in Black Narcissus – she’s decided to isolate herself and become a nun in this really intoxicating place, and trying to block out memories and feelings about her former life. I remember being 17 and being blown away by it and not really understanding why, but relating to the madness in the characters, one of whom is driven to insanity by lust and jealousy. I think I can understand some of those feelings more now, just by having lived more and accumulating experiences.

The dream sequences in A Matter of Life and Death are breathtaking and have always stayed in my mind. And something about it’s spaciness influenced in my music music is just really necessary next to the other songs which are more passionate and involved.

The synths on the EP are pretty huge, how have your synth sounds developed? I know some artists works to ‘perfect’ their synth sounds for a long time.

I demoed everything on a Roland SH201 initially, because it was easier and I can start the creative process of writing before I get too ‘bogged down’ with all the technicalities. Some people are super obsessed with it and that’s amazing, but I’m not that person. I just had a few synths kicking around, and then invested in a Prophet 6 and did loads of it on that, developing our own very specific sounds. We were able to achieve these really satisfying stacks of synths.

This EP seems to feature more beats than your last, was this a conscious choice to develop your sound?

So initially the song ‘Chained to A Woman’, that has a beat, which was arranged by my producer Lax. He started out with something incredibly minimal, but it was gradually taken up a notch, so you’re left with something that’s more playful. I think the song needed that, and it was a bit of a leap for me to introduce a beat. But I love art pop and people like the Blue Nile, and I go through phases where I’ll only listen to that because it’s so beautiful and clever but still has these funky beats. So it was a bit of a homage to that.

The music sounds as if it evolves throughout its runtime, do these songs evolve gradually in the studio or is your writing process more direct?

I love moments in music, and twists and turns – something unexpected, and I love songs that are like a never-ending verse. The thing I like about some of my favourite songs from the 80s is that they never resolve, or that they only just resolve in a satisfying manner. Sometimes with songs particularly from the 80s, the chorus is nowhere near as good as the verse, and it’s like ‘wow why did you bother?!’

It’s playing with suspense, and I like to be surprised by music, so I think that’s what I aspire to do – to make things go in directions you wouldn’t expect.

I collect loads of stuff like drawings, conversations, things I see in gardens. And it’s a big mess to begin with, like a spider’s web of crap everywhere, and then I try to find connections. Usually, it is quite a quick process of coming up with an ‘idea’ or as series of ideas and then arranging them, and they usually change a lot. But I think just having faith in the idea is kind of what drives me.

I feel like tracks like ‘6AM’ and ‘Ash and Orange’ especially have these surprise turns and a never-ending verse feel, especially towards their endings.

Yeah, so we realised that the other songs on the EP were quite dense with a lot going on, and we needed more space. The vocals towards the end of that song (‘Ash and Orange’) were more inspired by the character who goes mad in Black Narcissus – she does some crazy stuff, some bad stuff!

There’s a fair bit of physical, earthy sounds and textures in this EP, did geography and landscape have any influence on the record?

There’s always ariel views of landscapes in my music yeah, but this time in a more substantial way. I was really thinking of the setting of Black Narcissus and the amazing painted scenery from that film. I was trying to build a more theatrical song that was ‘rocky’ and up in the clouds with eerie female vocals that were more dissonant.

A lot of that came across in the video for ‘Rain’s Break’, was this showing the visual aspects of your music?

Derrick (Belcham) made that completely independently and it was like a fairy-tale in being so pristine. He worked with a contemporary dancer called Stephanie, who features in the video, up in Knotty Pines which is an artist residency in the Catskill Mountains. We pitched the idea of it being a nod to women’s biology, and changes in seasons. I thought it was so crystalline, and I still can’t really believe its attached to my song!

How does your experience in choirs influence the prominent arrangements of vocals in your music?

It massively influences it yeah, more than anything, and I never expected that. With the music I started with a few years ago, I sort of wanted it to be ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ and impactful, and I didn’t really see choral stuff as being that. I associated it more with choir just being this part of my life. But when I started layering vocals on my first EP, it started to sound new to me, and people seemed to respond to that more when I played it live.

My mum messaged me recently and said that when I was young, she took me to see a really experimental choir and I had really strong reaction to it, like I was upset. It was probably like Thomas Tallis, really stark, and she said that it probably influenced me. As much as it made me uncomfortable and scared upon hearing, it probably programmed me a bit. Then I was in choirs, mainly as something to do as I lived in the middle of nowhere, and I was exposed to a massive range of music. Its funny how the things you reject can sometimes become really important to you later on. I think it was the resonance of being around other people, and singing together in a group that was special.

Words: Dan Webster // Photos: Richard Luxton

‘Rain’s Break’ is out now via Fire Records. You can purchase and stream the record via Bandcamp.

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