Maria Hanlon caught up with alternative soul artist, VC Pines, ahead of his new release, the hypnotic groove-infused cut ‘Running’. The pair also chatted about his New Year’s resolutions, creative process, temporal lobe epilepsy, fashion, upcoming plans and advice for artists starting out...
Maria: Your 2023 has had a very strong start; you sold out your first show – which is taking place at MAP in Kentish Town, this Friday – in a day, your track ‘Satellite’ was played on Love Island the other night, and you’re releasing ‘Running’. Not bad ey!?
VC Pines: Haha yep not bad!
Maria: Talk to me about ‘Running’ as it’s about loneliness isn’t it? So, where did the inspiration come from?
VC Pines: I wrote this song ages ago. I was working with Kurisu, who’s a great producer, and we were still in between lockdowns and it was a lot harder to see your mates. I’ve always felt like I’ve never really had a solid group of mates that I always hung out with and people you chat to every day. I’ve always just known different people from different pockets of London and chat to different people at different times or I’ll see people and then disappear for a while. So it’s kind of about not really feeling like you have a social home which kind of makes it dangerously easier to develop bad habits and not really tell people about things. You don’t really open up to anyone as much. The whole song’s kind of about that and people telling you you need to just slow down a bit and take a breather.
Maria: I’ve seen a teaser of the music video for ‘Running’ on your socials and you’re dressed in a hospital gown. Can you give us any more clues? And when will the video be out?
VC Pines: Absolutely, the video will be out in a couple of weeks and the video starts with me getting a brain scan, that I had a few years ago to get my epilepsy diagnosis. It’s called an EEG. I had a sleep deprived EEG that means you have to stay awake for 24 hours to irritate the brain and hope that, whilst you’re being scanned, you have a seizure. Then they can obviously record it and get a diagnosis from that. There’s loads coming soon and it all ties into that… So yeah it starts with me getting a brain scan and unfolds into this performance and there’s a couple of other elements in the video that you’ll see.
Maria: You’ve mentioned before that you use your temporal lobe epilepsy and synaesthesia to write your music. How does it inform your creative process, and do you have to do anything differently, for example live shows, to accommodate it?
VC Pines: My epilepsy makes me quite sensory, all the time, so sounds and smells and textures can really affect me for better or worse. But I try to use that to create colours in my head, and project them through music. The type of epilepsy I have is temporal lobe, so it’s all triggered by and built on my memories, so all my music has a really nostalgic feeling to me. If a song doesn’t make me feel fuzzy in my brain, then it’s not finished yet! It’s actually a really small percentage of epileptics that are photosensitive. I think it’s more widely known because it’s one of the only direct symptoms people know of that triggers a seizure. But for me, I’m more prone to a seizure if certain memories are triggered or from an intense feeling of Deja Vu.
Maria: You’ve previously released live versions of a lot of your tracks, why did you decide to release both live and studio versions?
VC Pines: I’ve always been a ‘live’ artist. I make music to then go and play it live, so it just felt like an obvious thing to do, to project the version you’ve already heard, in a live setting with the rest of my band. It’s a totally different feeling, playing it all together, rather than bit by bit in a studio. I often find that that’s when the emotions of a song really come out too, is by seeing the artist perform it live, I don’t think anyone’s worked out how to truly get that across purely from audio.
Maria: For people who were too slow and didn’t manage to snap up tickets for your gig this Friday, will you be performing again soon?
VC Pines: Yes, I’ll be announcing another show after this gig and there’s also a few festival announcements as well.
Maria: Very exciting! So, speaking of festivals, where’s your dream venue or festival to play at?
VC Pines: I think it’s every artist’s dream to play at Glasto. I’ve never been and I’ve never played there, so that’s top of my list at the moment. I love big field festivals like that, but then I’m also a big fan of festivals like The Great Escape (in Brighton), where you’re playing in a dingy venue, but you never know who’s gonna be there. You might finish your gig and then go and stumble in somewhere else and there’s one of one of your favourite artists playing.
Maria: For sure, Brighton’s got a brilliant scene… So I noticed on Instagram you said that you’ve taken some time out ‘creating what feels more like me than ever and becoming the artist I want to be’. What changes are we going to see this year with you and your music?
VC Pines: I’m a lot more confident in the fact that my team is a bit smaller now, I’m more self-sufficient and what that’s given me is not necessarily more control over the music, because I always had that, but there’s less second guessing going on. I feel like up until now I would be gearing up to put a release out and then there was always this last minute panic of like ‘Is this right? What music is this? Where’s it going to be placed? What are people gonna think?’ Now there’s none of that and I’m just really confident in the music I’ve made. I love it, it feels like the things I’m talking about or singing about are a lot closer to home. I don’t feel like I’m ticking boxes anymore. I’m just doing music that is from me. The sound is a lot more alternative and contemporary, there’s still a soul element in there but I’m not taking as many influences from classic soul. There’s much more of a twist. I try to link music and fashion quite closely too and it really does feel like the clothing that I wear is kind of emulating the music. You can see influences from different places, but it’s all kind of cohesive and it works.
Maria: How would you describe your style and what influences your individuality in regard to your fashion?
VC Pines: I don’t really think about my style when I’m choosing what to wear, I just tend to wear what feels right on the day. But there’s definitely a crossover with my music, in that, I love juxtapositions and contrasts, like an electronic drum machine paired with a trombone or old sounding vocal. So, depending on how I’m feeling, I might wear an old suit with a pair of Salomon XT6s, or some gorpcore jacket with a shirt and tie and a pair of smart shoes. What I’m wearing will dictate the kind of music I make that day, and how I’m feeling that day, will dictate what I wear. Maybe my wardrobe’s just too big and I have too many clothes to throw at each other.
Maria: Whilst we’re on the topic of genres, before your solo work you were the former frontman of The Carnabys and your music had more of an indie-rock sound. How did your sound change and how would you describe your music now to someone who is yet to listen?
VC Pines: I always say it’s alternative soul. I think even before my old band, I started performing music by just playing in local pubs with my mates, and we’d play like three hours of covers. All the songs were old soul tunes like The Temptations, Bobby Womack, Otis Redding and stuff like that. So I feel like I learnt to sing or use singing as a medium by doing that. So I think my voice naturally holds that influence but what I’ve tried to do is make the music more contemporary and alternative. That’s why I call it alternative soul but there’s not an Apple Music genre that it fits in.
Maria: Seeing as we’re still at the start of the year, what are your new year’s resolutions?
VC Pines: I’ve actually really thought about this and I can nail this question! One was to read more books. I was reading loads during lockdown and then as life got busier and busier I kind of fell off that a little bit. The second one is to nail my chocolate addiction. Once I have a bit of chocolate I just can’t stop! The third one was to try and ignore my FOMO (fear-of-missing-out). I’ve been saying yes to everything and just burning myself. I feel like because I’m more confident in my music, I’m more confident in saying no to things or like skipping this, but going to that. Do you know what it was? I’d say yes to everything and then the things that were actually really important or really good to go to or see, I was knackered doing that and then not really enjoying it.
Maria: Those are good ones! So do you have any goals music-wise for this year?
VC Pines: There’s loads of things coming up and I’m gonna announce them bit by bit, but yeah this year is really well planned out and there’s loads coming…
Maria: As we come to the end of Jan and people might have felt inspired to start making music or maybe try and take their music to the next level this year…what advice would you give to them?
VC Pines: Work out what sound naturally comes from you and roll with it. See what people think but don’t take too many bits of advice as gospel. Take things on board but use them in your own way otherwise you get confused. You can ask two people from the same office and they’ll give you conflicting advice, the truth is no one knows what they’re doing in this industry. So just do what you think and then if it doesn’t work there’s no one to blame or you can just say the world isn’t ready for your music right now, but maybe they will be in six months time. I think that’s it, take people’s advice on board, but don’t listen to too many people and take it too literally.