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Meet The Itch, the spellbinding duo with a revolving door of collaborators

After playing together in multiple other projects, performing at a Talking Heads tribute night lit a fire under Georgia Hardy and Simon Tyrie defined by fun.

By Will Richards

At the start of 2023, Hackney’s MOTH Club played host to David Byrne’s Night, a Talking Heads tribute gig made up of a who’s who of the young London guitar scene. Members of Shame, Goat Girl, PVA Lazarus Kane and countless others played together in different formations to cover highlights from the hugely influential band’s discography.

Also in attendance were Georgia Hardy and Simon Tyrie, a Luton-based pair who had made waves with a host of other projects including, most recently, post-punks Regressive Left. As they tell Rolling Stone UK, Byrne’s Night re-lit a fire under the pair after becoming disillusioned with making music, and led to the formation of their new project, The Itch.

“With our old projects, it was very much a case of writing the music, playing the music life, and all being very safe,” Georgia explains. “I think we were quite good at what we did, but it was never that exciting for us.”

Byrne’s Night, as Georgia says, made the pair feel “like we were 16 again and super nervous,” with Simon adding: “This sounds really stupid, but everyone came away saying they forgot how music was. That’s a really sad thing.”

On the back of this formative night, the pair formed The Itch at home in Luton and set about creating a project that exists outside of traditional boundaries and with a limitless vision. Debut single ‘Ursula’ is a spellbinding first taste of this new journey, a seven-minute monster that draws from Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 sci-fi epic Dispossessed and showcases a sound that draws from sky-reaching  ‘80s synth-pop in a brilliantly ambitious first step.

In our Play Next interview, the duo discuss their lightning rod moment for the new project, the disillusionment that got them there, and playing with a different band at every show as a way to keep things fresh.

Byrne’s Night sounds very influential for the start of The Itch – what did it represent that the music industry at large wasn’t?

Georgia: When you’re making music now, you get so wrapped up in your social media stats, your number of plays. You get wrapped up in that because so many people – managers, agents, bookers – hammer that down your throat of how important that stuff is. In reality, the important thing is that you enjoy playing music.

Simon: Every musician starts by doing that, and then they nail it, and as soon as they start getting anywhere with it, it gets smothered by everything that comes with a little bit of success.

Georgia: That’s why when we started [The Itch], we wanted to have that year of pure fun. It was partly why we had different line-ups when playing live. We wanted it to be more of a collective thing. From that night, two people ended up being in The Itch.

Tell us more about your revolving door of backing musicians…

Simon: We wanted to play as many shows as possible, but then it accidentally became the point of the whole thing.

Georgia: We wanted to say yes to shows without checking with five other people. If us two could make the date, we’d confirm it and then work out who would play with us later on.

Simon: A couple of the shows ended up being quite chaotic…

Georgia: We went a good five months where every single line-up was a different person. It was kind of chaotic but really fun. Now it’s gotten to the point where we’ve got so many shows coming in that we need to professionalise it a little bit more. It’s really fun having lots of different people collaborate, but it makes it hard to progress and get better.

And are you finding yourselves able to keep this essence of fun that defined the start of the project despite needing to professionalise?

Georgia: Because we’ve done other projects, we’re way more aware of how the industry works. Things that we should care about, we now know that it’s someone else’s problem. We’re much better at remembering why we’re playing music and being sure of ourselves. We’re not letting other people decide what our releases are.

Aside from the ethics of the project, what else did you want The Itch to be at the outset?

Georgia: We wanted it to be a lot more malleable and open to change and development. We didn’t want our faces in our first press shot or to give ourselves away with our first song. It’s just a song.

Simon: It comes back to the idea of everything being so professionalised. Bands feel like they need to have a firm identity when they start out. It’s all very Alan Sugar-ed.

Georgia: The music we like doesn’t do that. Bar Italia, Black Midi. They don’t really use social media that much, and if anything people respect them more for that.

Does this all tie in to why you wanted to release ‘Ursula’ as your first single?

Georgia: It’s probably part of the reason. We have other songs that would have probably made way more sense and that people were saying we should release first. We didn’t want to lead with a three-minute pop song. From there, it’s harder to go the other way into a seven-minute thing. Going with that, we thought that if people like this, hopefully they’ll like the slightly more straight-up stuff.

And what’s next? Are you working on an album?

Simon: We’ve always been quite against doing an EP. It feels like it’s a bit of a test product and not like you’re trusting people with the real thing.

Georgia: We had pretty much had the album written before we played a show. We wanted people to hear the band and the music from the live set first. We wanted to build word of mouth that way.

Simon: When everyone is releasing music all the time, playing live is the one thing that can set an artists apart right now. It’s easier than ever to release and distribute your music.

Georgia: …but playing live is where you gain genuine fans.