James Yuill has been a busy man. In March he made his second appearance at Austin’s South by Southwest. He’s just released his latest single, ‘Crying for Hollywood’ (from his third album ‘Movement in a Storm’), promising a new promo video to accompany it is on the horizon. We catch up with James to ask what’s in the pipeline next for him, what he had to eat in Texas, and about his good mates the Title Sequence.
Lazy journalists often pen the style of your music as ‘folktronica’. Do you agree with this label? If not, how would you describe it?
I’d describe my music as electronic or alternative. I don’t really like the term ‘folktronica’. It sounds a bit weak. There was a time when I used to say it was the closest thing to a one word description of my music, but I think now the electronic side is far heavier than the term suggests. I would love someone to come up with an alternative genre name.
How did the idea come to you to marry acoustic guitar and laptop?
Well I did a few years on the London acoustic circuit with just my guitar ‘Nick Drake’ style. It was when I came to recording my first album that I decided to try and mix my songs with a more ‘beaty’ style of production. Originally I had in my mind Amon Tobin’s music, but when I came to record I realised that everything sounded better with a house beat underneath it.
I started gigging the album, but it was frustrating to play these songs acoustically when I knew that the produced version was so much better. That’s when I decided to take a laptop to my shows. It used to be just playing the backing, but it soon evolved, especially when a friend told me about Ableton Live. Now I could control all the aspects of the songs live onstage.
In addition to your own solo work, you also do remixes for varied artists as the Answering Machine and the Brute Chorus. Would you say these two modes of work are completely separate entities and you approach them separately, or do you find one influences the other and vice versa?
The process is different to when I write songs. I usually start a remix with the vocals (sometimes that’s all I have). I then work out some chords and a beat and it seems to fall into place. When writing my own stuff, it’s all about the chords first.
Remixing is very inspirational for me. It’s where I can try out new ideas and develop existing ones. I’ll often make cool synth sounds for remixes and then end up using them on everything else.
What other artists would you like to work with, either for new material or doing remixes for them?
I’d love to do a remix for Thom Yorke or Radiohead. Having said that I’d also like to work with them, but I’d be far too intimidated. I’d love to be in Casiokids. They look like they’re having so much fun onstage.
‘Movement in a Storm’ was finally digitally released across the pond earlier this year. Does it feel weird that your American fans (or fans further afield) had to wait so much longer to get your new material?
It does feel weird. It’s a bit frustrating too. As an artist to have your music heard by other people is the ultimate goal. I can’t feel too bad though as at least my stuff is being released. I know hundreds of amazing artists who are way better than me who aren’t signed yet.
That’s why the internet is so helpful for unsigned musicians. You can shove something up online and anyone in the world can access it. You can have fans in Mexico without even releasing anything!
The American release timing fit nicely, as last month you played at South by Southwest in Austin. How was the vibe, how did the sets go? How would you compare it to the first time you appeared there, in 2008? And tell us about the huevos rancheros…
Ha ha. The huevos rancheros was good, but I couldn’t find the original place where I’d had it in 2008. To be honest by the end of the week we were all a bit ‘mexed out’. ‘Get me some broccoli!’
It was much busier than the first time. I had more shows too, which meant I didn’t overdose on watching bands. Saw some amazing music though. Two Fresh, Daedalus, Clock Opera, Casiokids, Gallops and Bright Light Bright Light to name a few.
Tell us about your connection to and love of the Title Sequence. How did you discover them? Did a friend turn you on to them, or were they a happy self-discovery?
They’re awesome aren’t they?! I was actually on a small Nottingham label called Folkwit for my first album. Another act was The Sound Of Bailey, who then became The Title Sequence. So I’ve known the guys for ages. They’re good friends and amazing musicians and songwriters. I love watching them perform. I think they’re the closest thing you can get to perfect.
What are you working on now? What new releases can your fans expect in 2011?
I’m writing a lot. Mainly stuff for a collaborative project that will hopefully come out at the end of the year.
What bands are you listening to these days? Who do you think will be ‘the next big thing’?
Oh… I’m very behind on these things. We only just got the recent Bibio album. The new Metronomy album is amazing. I’ve been listening to a lot of dance recently as I’m working on my DJ sets a bit more this year.
James Yuill’s new single ‘Crying for Hollywood’ is out now via Moshi Moshi.