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Meet Ebbb, the Ninja Tune-signed trio mixing beauty and brutality

On debut EP ‘All At Once’, the electronic trio put opposing ideas together on music that pushes boundaries with restless energy.

By Will Richards

Ebbb (Picture: Vasilisa Skasca)

A number of our recent Play Next interviews have come with a theme. When speaking to Luton duo The Itch and Leeds-based collective HONESTY, both told Rolling Stone UK that their primary motivations for the bands were to break out of the restrictive moulds that their previous projects had put them under, hoping instead for something more fluid and less tied to traditional genre boundaries.

The same can be said for Ninja Tune-signed trio Ebbb, the brainchild of producer Lev Ceylan. Looking for something more formless than in his previous work, Ceylan started making beats that he then sent to vocalist Will Rowland, who possessed a singing voice not often associated with electronic music, in an attempt to make something unusual and new.

These ideas come to fruition on debut EP All At Once, a boundary-pushing collection that pits opposing sonic ideas together in a refreshing and unique new sound. Opening track ‘Himmel’ puts Rowland’s angelic, soft vocals in front of shining synths and a background of pummelling beats, while ‘Torn’ turns on a sixpence from being beautiful and idyllic to rough and rowdy. The genius of Ebbb comes in how they seamlessly mix these seemingly opposing styles into something that flows without friction.

In our Play Next interview, Ceylan, Rowland and drummer Scott MacDonald discuss how Ebbb represents a clean musical state after a period of disillusionment in other projects, and how the trio’s creative landscape only keeps growing.

Lev, how did the idea of what became Ebbb first come to you?

Lev: The first ideas came years ago. It was me trying to learn production and imitating stuff I liked. I had loads of tracks on my laptop and then asked Will if he wanted to try some vocals on these songs. That was the very start of 2023. It started as a studio project more than to get together as a band and jam.

When Will and I started recording stuff, it was definitely a new thing. This was so different to our other bands and not something you can just take ideas to a rehearsal space for. It’s all very synthetic. We looked at it as something new and different, where we can try stuff out – a blank canvas.

Will – what attracted you to the music that Lev was sending over?

Will: It was completely new territory, putting those kind of vocals in this context. He quite specifically wanted me to do something quite straight. I had this solo project where I did dream-pop stuff, and quite ballad-y. He was into the way I was singing in that, with a straight tone and crisp melodies. In other bands I’d done a more talk-y, post-punk thing, but I was deliberately not using my voice in that way here. I knew it was an interesting mix of things going on musically, and I hadn’t listened to a lot of the reference points that Lev was coming at it from. The whole thing was a very new sound for me and I tried to write melodies that I thought were fitting.

Was Will’s difference in knowledge of these reference points exciting for you, Lev?

Lev: I’m a big fan of when bands manage to have simple ideas put into different contexts, which then enhance a straightforward melody through an extreme or heavy background. I am really happy that Will is up for trying that. We had no idea what this was going to be, but enjoyed trying to let different worlds collide without making it sound too leftfield.

How and when did you join the project, Scott?

Scott: I was last to join and it was always in my head about the drums, working out how live drums could fit on it. Instead of it being drums that you play to support the music, it’s a bit more liberating to be able to play things that you want to play, and how it can enhance an already busy soundscape. It’s been the last piece of the puzzle.

Is your debut EP made up of the first songs you wrote together?

Lev: It’s a bit all over the place. ‘Himmel’ was one of the first ones, but ‘Swarm’ came much later. We recorded a lot, and went on a rampage of writing and writing. We really mined that formula we found for ourselves.

How has the sound and your way of writing changed since then?

Will: The original songs were more a case of having a pure idea that most of the song is based around. The song structures are more developed now.

Lev: It’s about digging deeper. At first, we got satisfaction from unlocking an idea, but now that doesn’t last too long. We want more.

Are you writing more stuff along those lines now then?

Lev: We have a draft for the album ready.

Will: The EP feels like the start of the journey, because there’s a lot more that we want to get out.

Lev: We’ve all been playing in bands for so long now, and there’s only so many loose jams you can do in your life and find absolute fulfilment in that. We wanted to crack on and compose music that really sticks with you. There was definitely a plan with this project. We skipped the first two years of a band, where you go to the studio and just jam and figure out what you want to do. We already knew what we wanted to do.