Face + Heel


Written by Charlotte McManus
Photos and illustrations by Jon Pountney
21 Tuesday 21st August 2012

Cardiff-based act Face+Heel are in the business of creating sensual atmospheric soundscapes, complete with delicately poetic lyrics and a minimal electronic sound. Signed to Warm Records, the duo have only been making music for nine months, but their debut EP No Stars, released this spring, has already gained them widespread hype. Stay tuned – we predict big things!

So what first inspired the name Face+Heel? Do you have a weird foot/face fetish that your fans might not be aware of...?

Luke Taylor: It's not a fetish thing, although we like the suggestive imagery that conjures. It's actually wrestling terminology – a 'Face' is a good guy wrestler and a 'Heel' is a bad guy, but they swap all the time. You can be cheering a guy one week, and booing him the next. That represents our personalities pretty accurately.

Tell us about your sound. What kind of sources do you draw inspiration from when putting music together?

Sinead McMillan: The music we love is obviously a huge inspiration, and personally, coming from a classical background, I draw a lot from orchestral textures, and how certain composers voice chords and use space and silence.  Musicians often overlook the importance of space, and overcrowd their music so easily. Luke takes more inspiration from natural textures and sound design, as well as the lyrical aspect.

Though you've only been making music as Face+Heel for a short time, you've attracted a lot of attention already. What do you think people are responding to in your music?

L: It's hard to say. I try not to think about it, and just carry on writing regardless. To answer from within the band, there's a certain balance and harmony to us playing together that feels really good. Maybe it's that.

S: Whenever I worry about what people are thinking, that's when I write a bad song, so it's important for us to be confident in our music. Sometimes that's easier said than done, of course.

You've since dropped three new tracks. Have you got a full-length in the works?

L: We're still finding our sound; when we do an album, it'll have a strong singular theme – a proper long player – but our music is built on primal and sensory emotions, so we can't really predetermine that this far in advance. We've had lots of weird ideas for new tracks.

S: The plan is to have two more EPs on Warm Records within the year. When it's time to do an album, we'll start from scratch; it'll be an independent piece. We also have some great gigs lined up, supporting Plaid in Brighton and Breton at Scala.

So what are your live shows like? As an electronic duo, do you ever find it hard to create an engaging live experience for audiences?

S: Whereas a lot of electronic music is about an act recreating what they did in the studio in a DJ set, for us performing live with real heart and soul has been our driving force from Day One – we're musicians first and foremost. We did an insane amount of rehearsing and planning our setup before playing even to our closest friends. If anything, we're trying to get our recordings to catch up with our live shows.

I know it's clichéd when journalists compare artists to other artists, but listening to your music reminds me of work by artists like Holy Other and The XX. Why do you think these kind of atmospheric minimal sounds have become so popular over the last few years?

S: The need for an emotional side in electronic has grown stronger, maybe because electronic music and songwriting are so interlinked now. Music by artists like Burial and Holy Other is so sensual. I love their uses of organic-type sounds, like rain or the clattering of a train track... there's something so personal about this type of music that I think a lot of people find addictive. To me, electronic music seems to be reaching the stage where it's respected as both emotionally and intellectually intelligent.

Leading on from that, what do you think sets Face+Heel aside from other acts out there?

S: We aim to get a really delicate balance between songwriting and soundscape; sometimes verging on pop but not quite. We have live vocals, but we could quite easily do a group of tracks that are completely instrumental too. It's great to have the choice.

L: We also try and write lyrics that are a little different. I read a really interesting thing David Lynch said about his films, that the viewer does the work, and that they're open to interpretation and different for everyone. We try to do that with the few words we have in our songs.

Aside from the two EPs you mentioned earlier, what are your plans for the rest of the year – and beyond that, where do you ultimately want to take the project?

L: We've had a couple of offers from producers, which might be interesting. Other than that, lots of playing live and maybe a video or two. I wanted to do a single song ambient EP based around HP Lovecraft's Innsmouth, but Sinead was pretty violently opposed to that! In the future, I suppose, to make beautiful, emotional music we can be proud of.

S: It's really important for us to cement our sound within the timeframe of these three EPs, so that's the plan for now - to create a distinct Face+Heel sound that people can recognise.

You can check out more of Face+Heel's music at soundcloud.com/faceheel – or if you’re in London, see them live at The Nest this Friday 14 September.

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