Interview with uplifting & anthemic rock band Giant Sky

Coming together in times of uncertainty, band Giant Sky has released their touching and anthemic mellow rock single ‘Snow’ via Bloody Sunset Records. The single was compiled in lockdown with bassists Jay Amesbury & Jon Hatch, Drummer Toby McFee & vocalist Olivia Bond. This band proves to be a tenacious act with their efforts to compose this track during strict lockdown restrictions, and ‘Snow’ reminds the listener that anything is possible when you have a positive mind. Human connection will triumph any restrictions, and the band has a strong belief that it will with this single release.

We chatted with the awe-inspiring band below.

Stream / Download ‘Snow’ 

Describe the process of producing ‘Snow’ amidst lockdown, did you encounter major challenges?

 It went the way of the others – we started off with a demo Jon made and shared with the group. We each went off and developed the parts to see where they would go. This is one of the softer tracks on the record and it has a natural tenderness to it, and probably has a wider audience reach than some of the others.

Written around the pandemic and times of forced isolation, what other takeaways result from this release, besides the connection triumphing isolation? 

My wife was working in intensive care in London during the height of the pandemic. She’d come home and share her stories of being with people in their final moments. It was quite extraordinary what she was doing – she was one of the NHS workers in another department called to the front lines. She saw it all. She was writing in journals for family members, holding the phone so loved ones could say goodbye, among all the other things that go along with caring for profoundly sick people. Of course, an experience like this made us both profoundly aware of how fragile life is, how lucky we are, and just how much we both love each other. I just remember thinking how I didn’t want to ever be without her. And how there were probably lots of people all over the world at that very moment wishing the same thing about the people they love.

This song in particular holds a special place for me in other ways too. It’s my Mum’s favourite and she tells me she listens to it on repeat which makes me so happy. She’s not well at the moment so the song has taken on a new layer of meaning. I’m really looking forward to playing this live because I think it’ll be a cathartic experience.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

Jon, Jay and Toby have played together since they were young teenagers. There are even some surviving recordings of their adventures! Back then it was all pretty analogue, recorded with whatever means necessary. Practices were loud and fun and formed the foundation of their musical experiences. On their paths with their chosen instruments early, they were influenced by the music of the late nineties and early 2000s. As they developed their style and technology progressed, they shifted to Garageband and ultimately Logic Pro to record demos. 

Olivia kept it solo for a long time, just recording at home and experimenting with lots of different instruments and sounds. She’d started off learning the piano as a kid but ended up moving to the electric guitar. She enjoyed constructing songs from scratch on Logic and naturally gravitated toward an electronic sound. And after years of quiet development, she decided it was time to venture out of the bedroom and do something different. She met Jon, Jay, and Toby and they became Giant Sky!

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

The pandemic has given us a unique challenge for writing. There haven’t been any opportunities to ‘jam’ or let things progress organically. The process for writing our album has been entirely over an internet connection (with the exception of two songs that were written years prior). It usually starts with one of us sending a rough demo with all musical parts in our Whatsapp group. That original Logic project is uploaded to Google Drive and then individually picked up by each of us and we add our own parts, building off whatever was in the original shared audio. Surprisingly, this works well. We managed to write more than enough demos for the album and chose our favourites. Luckily we’ve all individually got good sets of equipment so the demos we produce in this way come out sounding decent. The major setback is not being able to rehearse together. But everyone’s in the same boat there. But with this method working well, perhaps we’ll naturally carry on writing early demos in this way in the future.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

We share a lot of stuff in our Whatsapp group that we like – whether it’s influences, what we’re listening to, something cool that reminds us of a moment in our own work. It keeps us in a constant state of engagement with what we’re doing. Jon and Olivia tend to have plenty of moments of emotional inspiration and will use that as a springboard to come up with something new.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

That’s tricky. We’re only just formally getting into “the industry” and so it’s hard to comment as insiders just yet. On pure observation, it would seem that there are problematic features that relate to money. In the sense that it’s very difficult for any creative person or group to monetize their venture, even if they put in an extraordinary amount of work. (Both Jon and Olivia have self-published books so have experience outside of music too). The money goes to labels/publishers, managers, PR, marketing, you name it – the piece of the pie that the artist gets is small. Often not enough to justify pursuing. And yet, the music industry and the publishing industry, even the film industry, are flush. It’s not like they can’t afford to share. It creates an inverted sort of pyramid where a handful of artists who are with the biggest players get everything and leave everyone else in the dust. That’s not a secret by any means. It’s generally accepted by everyone that becoming an artist who can live off their art is tantamount to winning the lottery. And yet – these are billion-pound industries. 

But that does appear to be changing, or at least evolving. There are plenty of artists who have created something successful completely outside of the traditional realms, relying entirely on Social Media and the integrity of their art. And that’s pretty amazing. All these online tools have democratized music production, in a sense, and given everyone the opportunity to put themselves out there in some way. It does create a problem with saturation but who cares? Making art should be encouraged and celebrated. Hopefully, these tools are empowering people to just get out there and do it. 

Jon – My one concern is that the power has shifted from radio DJs and label execs to playlist curators in terms of gatekeeping. Even though there is more opportunity than ever to get heard, the same problem of a handful of people having a huge amount of sway into what gets exposure persists. I will say, though, that it does at least seem to be a level playing field when it comes to submitting your songs, which was certainly not the case in the past, but it is difficult to cut through the rest of the noise. It’s an interesting time, though. Streaming hasn’t been around for very long, and the current ways of getting yourselves heard are bound to evolve.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

We all think that there are pluses and minuses to both. From a creative perspective, of course, the studio work and the building of demos are great. But there’s something special about that energy that comes from performing live and feeding off a hot crowd that can’t be beaten. Not being able to play has really highlighted this. Watching concerts from home just isn’t the same. 

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

I think when we heard ourselves on the radio was pretty memorable – especially because the host compared us to some groups that we admire. Any time someone uses your band name in a sentence with people that have either influenced you or that you admire, it sticks. It makes the grind to produce the music totally worth it.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

We’re releasing our first studio album in July 2021. We’re working on it right now, as I write this! Toby is laying down some drums. We’ve teamed up with Chris Coulter again and we’re really excited about that. In 2020 we worked with him to record four songs that we were originally going to release as an EP but held off from doing due to the pandemic. We loved the results and have had great feedback so far. We’re hoping that by the time the record is out that the pandemic is properly under control and we can have some kick-ass shows.

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