Gumtree; good for finding last minute gig tickets, odd jobs, free to a good home furniture – and now, apparently, a musical partner. In The Dark, an Ayrshire-based new dance-pop act made up of singer Sophie Rose and producer Andy Paton, met in this unusual way.
Sophie explained: ‘Andy posted an advert expressing the need for a singer. I replied, in need of a musical outlet during my university studies, and we were in the studio a week later. It’s a great collaboration for both of us as we are very similar when it comes to our influences and genres. One year on, we are enjoying the release of our new EP.’
Somewhat surprisingly, the duo’s musical background is far flung from In The Dark’s nightclub-belter tunes. Sophie used to be involved in a bluesy jazz band, Jack Can’t Dance, who gained quite a following back in her homeland of the Scottish Borders.
‘Jack Can’t Dance was fantastic, as I was collaborating with one of the best live guitarists I know and exploring jazz and blues for the first time. I owe my experience to that band. Unfortunately, like most, when I moved to university it became harder to make regular trips down to the Borders, and so Jack Can’t Dance was amicably put on hold.
‘It was a very big change going from singing the sweet little jazzy numbers in the local pub to belting it out in the studio on big dance tracks. It felt like I had ‘graduated’ in a sense as I learned the ropes on blues and jazz. I had to change to try to push myself out of my comfort zone. ‘
The pair feel that the songwriting process and performing the finished product is very different to that of working in a band, too.
Andy stated: ‘for me I just think a memorable gig doesn’t have to involve four guys playing instruments. There are many ways to make a show engaging that don’t involve a live band, and I think we’re going to surprise people! Dance music isn’t the easiest to pull off live given that the instrumentation is programmed and not “performed” per se, there are a few electronic artists who I love who have managed to pull off an incredible and pretty dynamic live set, namely Roisin Murphy and Peaches who are amazing live performers. Their shows are crazy and totally theatrical, they like to play around with different elements and push boundaries.’
In The Dark reveal that they do not feel their songwriting process is complete until the public get to hear the songs – unlike most acts who feel the songwriting is complete before moving on to record it. They explained that to get the music to that stage, Andy will work long and hard in producing the tracks, send them over to Sophie to learn, and usually the duo are in the studio a mere day or so later, ready to record.
‘It gets very exciting when you hear something coming together, where you forget that you’re still in the studio listening for that bit of magic, and manipulating a track around that,’ Sophie said.
Andy broke down the structure of recording the vocals.
‘We will record a good few takes of Sophie just singing and getting a feel for the track, then we will add harmonies, etc. Always, at the end of the day when we’re doing the last couple of takes, Sophie does a last ‘ad lib’ take of the track. Of course, the process doesn’t stop there. There’s the mixing and finishing of the track which takes a while too.’
Their passion and determination is clear to behold; I’m surprised by how engaged I feel by In The Dark already, despite their songs being a far cry from my typical musical taste. I wondered how, and why, this was.
‘We think there is a real desire at the moment to revive the dance music scene from the late 80′s and 90′s, at least from our point of view,’ Sophie rationalized. ‘There is a revolution in dance music going on at the moment, which really reminds you of the sense of real culture and rebellion the music possessed, which is a fantastic starting point for live performances. Of course, it can be tricky to pull off, but the best part about hearing dance music live is the energy. We aimed to give a lot of energy to the tracks, and I think that this will be a real attribute when we take the tracks live. Another great part of this culture is the network of artists and different musicians you can build up, simply by keeping yourself in the loop. There is some real talent in the underground dance music scene in Scotland at the moment, and we are happy to be sitting at the table.’
And sitting at the table they certainly are – perhaps, even, at the underground throne. After releasing their EP onto ReverbNation only a few weeks ago, In The Dark reached number 1 on the Glasgow dance chart. This was soon followed by a high of reaching number 5 on the ReverbNation dance chart for the whole of the United Kingdom; an impressive feat for a record which has not even been out a month.
‘At the moment, it would be fantastic for our music to keep spreading at the rate it is going,’ Andy enthused. ‘We would hope to really excite our current fans and build a following before we release any gig dates. That’s exactly where we aim to be in a years time – a known and exciting new part of the scene, putting on live gigs and really getting to know our tracks in a way we don’t already. The experience of recording in the studio and performing tracks live is incomparable. The songs become something bigger than just the band when you share them with more and more people, which is an experience you don’t get in the studio. In a years time, it would be fantastic if we were able to do that. At the same time, it is always important to keep working on new material. We are working on another track to release for the EP called “Stars”. There are a lot of things going on and a lot of ideas going around at the moment.’
‘I’ve now finished university for the summer,’ said Sophie, ‘and so we can put all our efforts into putting the finishing touches on our live set and getting our name out there. We are entering a few competitions for unsigned artists and some for remixes, which will hopefully expand our reach. Our release of “Stars” will mean our set list is ready to go for gigs. Please watch this space!’