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Another Sky: ‘We were ripping a guitar solo while a funeral was on upstairs’

As they release second album ‘Beach Day’, the London four-piece invite us to their crypt studio, where they discuss rebirth and fighting against an extraordinary set of circumstances to keep on creating and evolving.

By Will Richards

Another Sky
Another Sky (Picture: Darina)

“Hi, welcome to the crypt!” Catrin Vincent says warmly as she pops up from underground to meet me in a south London church garden. The Another Sky singer then leads me down a set of steps to the chamber that she and her bandmates have renovated into the studio where they made stunning new album, Beach Day.

“The vicar couldn’t believe what we’d managed to do with it,” guitarist and producer Jack Gilbert smiles as we settle down on a sofa in the studio’s control room, one of two tunnels in the crypt that Gilbert and his carpenter father stripped and made ready for the band to use in 2020. Before and after photos that Vincent shows me on her phone reveal the scale of the task, gutting a room previously used as a church nursery and turning it into a plush studio furnished with homely fairy lights, polaroid pictures on string and a whiteboard filled with the band’s grand plans for 2024.

If it’s all seeming a little too comfortable, bassist Naomi Le Dune then gives a chilling reminder of where we’re actually sat, casually telling me: “There’s a dead family from 200 years ago in the walls, by the way. They had anthrax but don’t worry, they’re in a lead coffin.” Her bandmates smirk in unison.

After their former base at Limehouse’s Cable Street Studios was flooded by a marijuana factory above – one of a catalogue of barely believable obstacles the band have had to overcome in recent years –Gilbert was told about the spot by the band’s manager, whose mum ran the nursery. After conversations with the vicar, the band moved in during the pandemic, just after the release of their debut album, I Slept On The Floor.

“There are so many things that you learn to love about the place,” Gilbert says. “We’re the first people to ever make music down here in 200 years of the building, which is pretty amazing.”

Another Sky’s debut album, released on Fiction Records in the summer of 2020, was a unique and refreshing blast of soaring post-rock, led by Vincent’s incomparable voice. Within the same song, she presented both a deep roar and a choral beauty, weaving around music both complex and spine-tinglingly powerful. Its lead single, ‘Fell in Love With the City’, was also interpolated by Fred again.. on his 2021 track ‘Catrin (the city)’.

As with every band who released an album in 2020 – especially those who shared their debut full-lengths – the summer that followed was long and strange. “We had got some really big momentum before COVID and were just so confused,” Gilbert sighs. “We’ve had to build all of that back up now.”

Work on what would become Beach Day had already begun when the band moved into the crypt that summer, but the band’s new surroundings – as well as some real-life turmoil – meant a largely fresh start on new material. “Our gigs were always really big, loud and energetic,” Gilbert says, “but in the studio, it was always just a room, and we had to piece things together.” Moving into the crypt, he says the band “were in a place where we could instantly make it feel like a gig.”

“I was a bit shocked at the state of myself. I was so sad and angry”

Catrin Vincent

As a result, Beach Day presents a louder and more feral form of Another Sky, led by apocalyptic lead single ‘Psychopath’, a song full of snarling guitar riffs and a new fierce version of Vincent. “I came down here once and Jack was ripping out a guitar solo and I had to tell him that there was a funeral on upstairs,” Vincent howls, with Gilbert grimacing in his producer’s chair. “Me and the vicar sorted it out! Every time we were doing anything loud we had to nip out the front first and see if a funeral car had pulled up. It’s all good now,” he adds. “I’ve got the shared calendar!”

Aside from dodging mourners, the band decided to use their unique surroundings to their advantage. “My guitar was picking up a sermon upstairs so I turned on the amp, and it’s all scattered in there,” Vincent says, while samples of the church choir also appear in new songs set for the band’s third album. “You have to include the space in the recordings,” she says.

It has also become a hub for local musicians, with Gilbert producing other artists in the studio and welcoming collaborators into the space. “With everything that’s happening to musicians at the moment, it’s so important that we all find each other,” Vincent says. “Especially the ones that aren’t super rich!” Gilbert adds. “It feels really good to be facilitating helping people. If anything, that’s the coolest thing this band has done for me.”

Another Sky
Another Sky (Picture: Darina)

Amid the move to the new studio and trying to promote their debut album in a pandemic, the band were also facing personal struggles that threatened to destabilise their livelihoods as musicians. “We nearly got dropped and had wait for months to find out whether we were going to get another deal,” Gilbert explains. “We didn’t even know if a second album would happen.”

Vincent then explains that her and Gilbert have spent much of the last three years sofa surfing, and also bought a van on a loan, “trying to keep the dream alive” and travelling around the UK. In another twist of fate, changes to ULEZ regulations to tackle vehicle emissions in the capital then made their van uncompliant, so they incurred a £25 charge every time they came back to London. “We used to find little deals in London to share a room, and it was doable,” Vincent says. “Recently, with the housing crisis, there really isn’t anywhere to go. For a musician, you almost feel like you have to quit to get enough money to live.”

“We’re not content creators. It’s stupid and it makes me feel sick”

Naomi Le Dune

“It takes so much work to do what we do,” Gilbert says. “That’s the things that people behind the scenes don’t realise. Everyone’s expected to be social media influencers as well as touring musicians who are also recording and making albums, rehearsing, and paying for it all. I know it’s an amazing thing, but people need music in their lives, and it’s important.”

Vincent adds: “When TikTok started becoming a thing, I was like, ‘Well I don’t have enough money for nice outfits to sustain that, or the free time to make a content calendar!’” Le Dune is stronger on the issue, saying: “We’re not content creators. It’s stupid and it makes me feel sick.”

With this backdrop, the band made Beach Day in a haze of anger and defiance, something which bursts out of the music. “Album two is a documentation of us really going up against it,” Gilbert says. “We’re now on the other side of it working on the third one, but Beach Day is witnessing people really in the moment. We didn’t get the opportunity to have the hindsight of seeing these things as character building yet – we were just breaking down over the things that were happening to us.”

For Vincent, it’s also a documentation of mental struggles and personal growth. “Because we were locked down, it was the first time that I was forced to write from the ‘I’ perspective,” she says. “The only person I had to write about was me, and I was a bit shocked at the state of myself. I was so sad and angry. I listen back to it now and it’s weird – it sounds like the beginnings of transformation and me figuring my shit out. It’s like seeing an old skin.”

Gilbert can hear “a lot of innocence” on Beach Day, despite its tumultuous birth, and it sounds like a band getting through it against all the odds. On the frenzied ‘Uh Oh’ and crunchy ‘Burn the Way’, this defiance turns itself into superbly powerful music. When the album was made, Vincent showed the cover to the children she teaches guitar for a part-time gig, with feedback from the youngsters including some concerns over her welfare. “I’m really worried about you,” one student said, reeling off song titles including ‘Death of the Author’, ‘The Pain’ and ‘I Never Had Control’. “A nine-year-old used the word morbid!” Vincent laughs. “I looked at the song names and realised I had to tell them to absolutely not put the record on.”

Another Sky
Catrin Vincent (Picture: Darina)

While I’m here to discuss Beach Day, the band are most animated when talking about their in-progress third album, which they see as a recalibration after the storm that was album two. It, they tell me, sees them return to softer and more sweeping textures and mixes the sonic styles of their two albums to date. “It’s always a journey,” Vincent smiles of the band’s evolution. “That’s what’s so exciting – what’s going to happen next? We don’t know, but it will just happen.”

She adds: “Everything’s just so much clearer to me now, because I know music’s my choice. Even when it feels like I’m absolutely not allowed to do it, I still choose to. Album two is the breakdown, the rock bottom, and I’m now starting to come to a real point of clarity.”

With a self-sufficient studio space, part-time work and unending determination, the band now see the future of Another Sky as a definite, regardless of whatever else life might throw at them.

“We don’t seem to ever quit,” Vincent says just before the band lead me back above ground. “There have been some really, really bleak moments in this last year. We didn’t have anywhere to live and thought to ourselves: ‘We have to quit, don’t we?’ But we never do. It’s so important to us to come here and do this, even when we feel like the world’s ending. We still come here and we make this music. We just have to.”