Pozi: Instinct Makes Sense

Only the most industriously-minded band could realistically name themselves after a type of screwdriver. A versatile tool with the power to make things feel taut and strengthen structure, Pozi are a trio from London that reflect the work of the humble instrument in their ethos. There is a mechanical feeling to their approach to composition, with each of the three members being a vital component that contributes to this driving energy that they possess.

Having only formed in 2018, Pozi opted to not hesitate and plunged straight into releasing their debut album barely a year later. The resulting record, the urgent PZ1, demonstrated a knack for minimalist post-punk grooves a nervous energy that turned heads, and was swiftly followed by the 176 EP that came out during the height of the pandemic which showcased plenty of sonic expansion over its five songs. As resourceful as ever, the band now have their second EP of the last 12 month ready for release in Typing, which dives deeper into the dystopian themes they’ve been ardently exploring on their previous outings while somehow managing to further tighten an already compact sound.

With new singles ‘Detainer Man’ and ‘Typing’, the listener is thrown further into the frightening realism that Pozi paint with their lyrics, musing on the subjects of corrupt law enforcers and social media attachment. Over these two tasters, they inject excitement into the doldrums of modern life with the dynamism that their music offers, often brooding and eerie with the rumbling basslines of Tom against shrieks and plucks of violin from Rosa Brook and pounding drums of Toby Burroughs. The intriguing melting pot of instruments put to use soundtracks the imagery that they conjure up exquisitely and comes across as a true collision of minds on the same track.

Speaking to Wax in anticipation of the release of Typing, the trio discussed how they’ve built upon the sound that established them in the first place, their relationship with record label PRAH, and the hub they have found for writing and recording in Margate.

First things first, I guess I want to ask you about the preparation that’s gone into the Typing EP that is coming out in October. How are you feeling about it as a finished product and how have the previous singles been received so far?

Rosa Brook: Well, we’re feeling good about it. ‘Sea Song’ wasn’t a single – it was just a taster of something different that we don’t normally make. I thought that was quite well received in terms of some nice articles about it, which I wasn’t expecting at all seeing as it wasn’t promoted. ‘Detainer Man’ I think has gone down okay. I’m really proud of the video – it’s the proudest I’ve ever been of a video because I had nothing to do with it at all. I literally turned up on the day of the green screen and found out the character I was playing that day, so it was crazy and fun. And I think it should be doing really well too.

Toby Burroughs: We recorded it in my studio, but the person that mixed it is called Tom Carmichael, and I think it was the best experience we’ve had working with someone that was mixing it. I think he was just really easy to work with and just kind of got it. We had to do the final mixing tweaks over Zoom, but it was actually quite good doing that. We’d like to work with him again, because it’s not that easy to find someone that gets your music, that you trust with the sound and is also good to communicate with and work with, but he sort of ticked all of those boxes.

How did you come by him?

TB: Rosa’s known him for a long time through South London and friends of friends, but our label, PRAH, has a studio/residency space and a place in Margate. We go there roughly once or twice a year and work on writing stuff, and he rents a unit there. Rosa coincidentally saw him and asked “oh, what are you doing here”, so we chatted to him, and then heard some of the stuff he did and thought why not do it with him?

RB: He works with bands in the same kind of similar sphere. He’s doing a lot of good work.

It’s obviously good to have someone that just understands what you’re going for and is able to bring the best out of you.

TB: Yeah, communication is really important. It’s not always easy, but when everyone feels they’ve got a voice it’s important, and I think we felt like that.

You say about the fact that you’ve got this space through that through the label that you visit regularly, but I wanted to know how it’s been for you – this is your second EP during the pandemic times and I wondered how putting together two short bodies of work in this time has been for you and how it’s made your process shift in any way.

RB: When 176 came out, we’d already made it in October. Obviously it was then in post and everything was coming together. It wasn’t a direct product of the pandemic, but it came out, as you say, right during lockdown, so that was pretty exciting. It actually really filled me with a new lust for life during lockdown. The songs were coming back on the radio and it made me really happy, actually. The second one was obviously a product of it, and yeah, I think that we were able to really express how we’ve been feeling during the time when we made those songs as well. ‘Sea Song’ would never have happened had it not been for Covid, I don’t think. The bassline that Tom made up was like very much – I don’t know how you put it, Tom

Tom Jones: An anxious and lonely bassline. [everyone laughs]

RB: ‘Typing’ is obviously about how much you start to rely on WhatsApp even more than normal. Typing and seeing those dot dot dots I think is very emblematic of the whole time we went through. It was good to have that product of it.

It’s definitely pertinent to the situation, I guess.

TJ: Without sounding corny, I find it the most therapeutic piece of music we’ve created because obviously, the way the world was at the time was so difficult. I know making the music helps me take my mind off that and just being around Toby and Rosa and jamming and going through the whole creative process was really helpful.

What about in terms of actually putting things together – I don’t necessarily know how you come up with ideas and whether it’s a completely collaborative thing where you jam in a room or whether there’s already ideas in place.

TB: It varies from track to track – for example on ‘Sea Song’, Tom had written the bassline, and then we just jammed it together, and Rosa came up with the vocals and probably shaped it into having the musical parts that defined different sections. Usually, it’s a bit of a mix, sometimes we will have ideas independently and bring them to the table and then sort of work on them together. When we go to Margate, that’s when we make the tracks that are just jamming really, and let them form naturally from that process. But yeah, it’s a bit of a mixture.

Those two EPs were really different processes in terms of recording, because the first one was more like we just went to the studio, recorded it, and then someone mixed it. The second one was a bit more casual.

RB: We did it in your studio, and some of it was done in just one day – we’d come in and play it and then that was the final recording. It wasn’t like going into another studio with someone recording it, for me it felt more informal, which was cool. I felt more relaxed doing it because you have all the stuff there in your studio to record it with. We feel quite at home in Toby’s studio in Willesden Junction.

Is that essentially the place where you formed and you built all of the first things you ever made together?

TB: For me and Tom initially, I guess yeah. That and back in Margate are probably the places we spend most time working on music together.

TJ: They’re our two musical hubs, I suppose. I wonder if there’s something that links the two.

Would you say that the teasers are necessarily indicative of the rest of the sound of the EP? I feel that on 176 there were quite a few developments from what the debut album sounded like, and while still having those minimalist elements to it, there were sort of more expansive songs like ‘The Nightmare’. Is there more of that or is it pushed even further on this one?

RB: ‘Typing’ is the next single from the EP, it’s kind of in the same vein as ‘Detainer Man’ in that it’s not very lyric based and it’s more kind of onomatopoeic noises and interplay between us. It’s more kind of sound effects, so that was something that we’ve been exploring in there. It is a different style of music that we’re going for, I think that Tom is using more of a different voice than he’s used ever I think. The other two songs are very different, and they’re mainly written by Toby.

TB: From the EP, it hasn’t necessarily continued to get more expansive. I think the thing that we want is just to always make a variety of music, and not to have ‘a’ sound or anything. We’re also working on some other new stuff for the next releases, and I’ll say that the direction we’re probably going is just more of a range, maybe exploring a few electronic sounds.

TJ: I’ve enjoyed exploring more synthy sounds with the bass. I’ve got a pedal for it that can get those sort of noises, and it’s kind of amazing how a bass synth in a lot of respects.

I guess it is just a case of seeing how far you can push yourselves as a trio, but I was wondering whether there are any musical or non-musical touchstones that you always fall back on or if it literally is a leap of faith into what you feel is naturally going to come next?

RB: I realised in Margate this time around that we are functioning with these limitations, and as Toby pointed out, that is one thing that is really useful in creation. Sometimes you can want there to be loads of different polyrhythms and synths going on, but the challenge that we have is making these all happen live naturally without a backing track. The more I think about it, having had that discussion, the more I’m excited. Limitations are a fruitful method sometimes. We’ve actually got a track on this EP that I think is really cool; it’s like an eight minute long one and it’s actually just a loop, but we did put piano on that one. So that is something we couldn’t do, like the B-side on 176. It’s something literally you would never expect to hear live in a million years, but it shows a different side to us. It’s very much inspired by Stephen Bass of Moshi Moshi saying “go crazy, just put something fucking crazy on the B-side, do what you want”. Both times we’ve done it in four hours in Toby’s studio. This one was a loop I made for my dad about his loss of a friend, so I was quite emotional about it, but I think I’m happy with it.

TB: I think it’s more of a just leap of faith, to be honest. I mean, I’m sure there’s subconscious influences, but they’re always going to be in there. I can’t pretend that they’re not in there, but I just think it could be unhelpful. It’s just more fun to not try or want to sound like anyone else and do our own thing.

RB: Some songwriters are always saying “well, I heard this song and I really wanted to recreate that”, and sometimes I’m really intrigued and tempted to do that. David Bowie said the opposite though. He always said “just don’t listen to the all the new music, don’t let yourself start thinking how you can make that sound”. I guess it’s a debatable one.

TB: It’s hard to say anything against doing your own thing. I couldn’t see any reason not to focus and no-one should be harsh on themselves. For me, I don’t actually listen to that much music and I just quite like not thinking about that. You’re not comparing and you do what feels right. There’s always stuff going around that you’ve heard over the years. It’s all in there.

RB: You love live music, don’t you, but when we’re in the Margate house or wherever, I’ve always got the radio on. I just want background noise; I want music on all the time. Toby’s more like “it would be nice to have a bit of silence around here”. But you go to way more gigs than me.

TJ: I think the leap of faith element is quite an interesting point though because for me, I hadn’t been in a band before I played in this band. I remember on top of that, when Toby described me the lineup they had in mind of bass, drums and violin, I hadn’t thought of that before. So although I probably have a lot of influences that I may draw on subconsciously, or maybe sometimes consciously, when I started playing in this band, I didn’t come to that with anything I just kind of dove straight in. I feel we’ve kind of continued to do that. We don’t sit down and listen, we don’t go around by cherry picking things, we kind of just do something. Sometimes that sounds like it naturally makes sense.

RB: It’s probably the most instinctive project I’ve ever been a part of for sure.

It’s been three years since you first got together – in that time there’s a lot that you’ve developed upon as we’ve talked about, but would you say that there’s anything that you’ve outright abandoned over that time?

RB: When Toby first told me his idea of the band, he said opera and violin player. Even though I do sing opera, there’s only really slim moments where that’s suitable for Pozi. But that was the main thing, I was way more of an opera singer than a violin player. I literally hadn’t played my violin in ten years when I started Pozi, so I honestly think that’s quite helpful in this style of music. If I’d been classically practising every day, I do think it could have been a bit different, like my reactions to some of the music, you know? I do think it’s important to keep in touch with practising your instrument.

What drew you to PRAH or what drew them to you? What was your relationship with the label and how is it working with them? They’ve got some really great stuff coming out at the moment.

TB: The band I used to be in were with Moshi Moshi, and after that ended, I kept in touch with Stephen and I had a bit of a break from music. When I started Pozi, I just got in touch with him. I’ve got a studio as I said, and he was building the studio at PRAH so I was kind of giving him some advice about that. It was a relatively new label and an idea, but I was aware of what was what he was doing. I’d done the first album, played it to him and he really liked it. He thought that it might be more suitable for PRAH than Moshi Moshi. I really liked the variety on PRAH, they had at the beginning some new classical music, to electronic music, to stuff like us. And yeah, like, this is a real mix. Even though we might get defined as a sort of post punk band, which is fine, essentially what makes us buzz is having the freedom variety to not feel constrained to one thing. PRAH reflects that in its ethos, and in the range of artists they have. I think it’s a good fit for us. It’s been nice being part of something that’s evolving and developing in its infancy.

It does feel like a good hub for artists to try ideas see what works. It makes sense that Stephen would put you forward for that and I guess that it’s nice to have been able to fall back on an old relationship.

RB: Yeah, I’m happy about it personally.

TB: He’s always been interested in what people are doing. It’s been nice to have his support.

TJ: It’s been a really nurturing label to be part of.

Moving onto the live side of things, how are you feeling about trying all of the new stuff on the road?

TB: We’ve done a couple of gigs so far, we’ve only played one of the songs so far off the new EP. It took us a while to get back. I mean, obviously, it was a bit strange starting to play again. Before, we probably wouldn’t rehearse that much, because we just felt quite comfortable knowing our set, and now we’re getting closer to that level of comfort again. We didn’t play all the songs off the 176 EP, and we’re not gonna play all the songs off this EP, because although it’d be nice, sometimes it’s just about what works well in the live set and what we feel comfortable playing live. There’s some new songs that will be not on this EP that we’ll probably start playing on tour in the autumn.

TJ: It’s been a relief to play live again, actually, there was a time when I thought it might not even happen again.

RB: We’ve had a few shows recently where they’ve said “oh, do you want to play this?”, and it’s next week. That’s been basically our summer, and I think that’s the reason we’re not playing these new songs. We actually didn’t have enough time. We’ve been writing new songs for our album when we’re together, so it wasn’t about rehearsing because we didn’t think we were going play this many shows. And we’ve now got quite a few coming up.

You mentioned another album as well – is PZ2 on the way?

TB: Well, it may or may not be called that, but we’ve got a bunch of songs that we’re putting together. I think maybe next year at some point, it will hopefully be ready. That’s what we’re aiming for.

Words: Reuben Cross // Photos: Guy Bolongaro

‘Typing’ EP is out 29th October via PRAH Recordings. Stream the singles and pre-order the record via Bandcamp.

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