A sense of place plays greatly into Laura Groves’ music. Back in 2009, she released a self-titled debut album through XL Recordings under the name Blue Roses, a record that was produced over a year in and around her small hometown of Shipley, Yorkshire, with Groves often recording at the houses of friends and families. Her new EP Thinking About Thinking is Groves’ first solo release in nearly four years, recorded in her new home, London. It’s an exquisite effort, comprising four intimate, autumnal pop songs, and there’s an audible sense of dislocation throughout it—you can hear it in Groves’ voice, that feeling of being both in awe of, and slightly overwhelmed and isolated by, the city.
Besides her solo work, Groves is also a member of wistful pop group Nautic, profiled in a FADER GEN F earlier this year, alongside bassist/guitarist Tic and multi-instrumentalist/producer Bullion (one half of Blludd Relations), both of whom collaborated with Groves again on her EP. Nautic are another group whose music seems informed by location—their name is in ode to the British tradition of sea shanty sing-alongs.
I met Groves on a wet Sunday evening at the Barbican Centre, a performing arts centre in the City of London, before a concert from legendary Brazilian singer/guitarist Milton Nascimento, and our discussion focused on the disconnect of location and the importance of support and inspiration. Read the interview below, and check out the Thinking About Thinking EP (out now via Deek Recordings) in full below.
I wanted to talk a bit about your move to London. Why did you leave Yorkshire? I fancied a change, really. I was living in a sort of… cottage, which was very lovely and had lots of space, and a lovely garden, but it wasn’t necessarily inspiring me to do anything. I felt like I definitely needed to think about leaving home.
That was a while ago—why did it take so long to start releasing music again? I think a lot of it was down to meeting people that inspired me to do something. Meeting the Deek lot, like Nathan [Jenkins, aka Bullion] and Tic. I’d been working on the EP at home, in isolation, which is something I tend to do a lot, but I think it took meeting new people to really put it out.
Did recording in isolation make a change for you? The Blue Roses album was recorded with a lot of people around all the time, is that right? It was, in a way, but mainly it was just me and my friend Marco [Pasquariello, Blue Roses co-producer]. We did bring other people in, like we recorded some pianos in my friend’s piano shop, and brought in a choir of friends, and stuff like that. But this did feel like a much more insular project. The first flat I moved to in North London was so small that it was just me, in my room, and a keyboard. Most of it was done on my own initially, but it was working and collaborating with Tic and Nathan that really brought it to life for me, and in many ways it broadened my horizons when it comes to working with others and sharing what I do. I remember playing stuff to Nathan and Tic, and at that stage, even playing something I’d done was a big deal—actually sharing what I’m doing, which is obviously really important.
How did moving affect you? So much of your first record seemed to emphasise the place it was born, but London is as different as could be. It’s still just as important to me, it’s central. It just feeds into my imagination so much. I don’t think [it affected things], I think it presented a whole load of new things to think about, which is definitely what was needed. With “Thinking About Thinking,” the title track on the EP, I’d watched a film called London by Patrick Keiller, and there’s a little bit in it about what a lonely city London is. And it’s kind of about learning to hold yourself up and support yourself. Whereas in Yorkshire, I had that support all around me. In London, I love it, but you feel almost a little bit… adrift. That’s something I really felt when I moved here, just learning how to be alone. “Inky Sea” was inspired by the city at night, and again, feeling a little bit adrift. You can go anywhere and do anything, there’s so many options, so how can you make sense of that? It’s just a whole new set of situations.
What were the major inspirations for the new EP? Visual ideas. The music video for “Inky Sea” that we did, that kind of sums up a lot of the visual side—night time, in the city, streetlights, and driving around. I’ve always had a thing about driving around the city at night. That’s a really strong image. That’s why I wanted that for the video. Especially going across the river, over bridges—I don’t know why. And just living in a new place. I’s so different to Yorkshire in that you can get anywhere you want.
I’m in the South East, so you’re always crossing London Bridge on the night bus back home. And it still always excites me, that view. I always just thought that when I stopped being in awe of that, it’s time to move away.
But you are still in awe of it? Yeah, I think so. But I still go home as often as I can.
I read that you used to collect a lot of junk from car boot sales back at home. I know you managed to fill a place in Yorkshire, but how about here? Oh, God [laughs] The house that I live in now is full of my stuff. I have a lot of furniture, I took it all with me. I like collecting old instruments and records. I guess I’m a collector, but not in any disciplined way, there’s no real connection or order to it. I live in a house which I share with five other people now, it’s quite a big house. Luckily everyone’s okay with it. Sometimes I think I should get rid of everything. But I don’t think I could.
Why did you release the EP under your own name rather than Blue Roses? Was it a symbolic thing? It just felt like the right thing to do. I know that’s a bit of a vague answer. A lot of time has passed since that album, so it felt very separate in a lot of ways. Musically, it is really different, and it’s nice to have Blue Roses as its own thing. It definitely wasn’t a deliberate symbolic gesture… but in some ways, I guess it is, because it is a new thing. I just feel like I can say that now—that sounds really cheesy, but it is me, it is my music.
It was 2009 wasn’t it? I guess a lot’s changed in that time. Yeah, and things should change. But it did feel like quite a separate entity.
And you’ve been touring a bit as well. Yeah, we played the first Deek night. Nautic did a set. It was like a family affair, there was a lot of support.
Was it at the Servant Jazz Quarters? That place is like a living room. Yeah it was. It’s brilliant, it fit the Deek thing down to the ground. Talking about the family thing, the band is like that too—we get this group together and we play each other’s music, which has been brilliant, it’s the first thing I’ve done like that. Everyone really wants it to succeed, everyone’s behind it. And for all the right reasons! They care about it, it’s not ego driven.