Photo: Mike Abbott
“Initially, making music, it felt like we were soundtracking a film we couldn’t see…”
Tom Ridley has not long returned from seeing Tame Impala at Citadel Festival when I talk to him and bandmate Finn Mclean, and whilst he considers his experiences to have been tainted by “a crowd full of dickheads,” both express a passionate buoyancy as we discuss the past, the present and most importantly the future of both Poisonous Birds and the Bristol music scene.
Fresh off the back of the June release of the Dirty Water EP, a follow up to enthralling EP, Big Water, containing both new material and remixes, Tom offers his reflections on the band’s journey toward recent creations: “Finn and I are from rock backgrounds, but got disinterested in the classic format and more into the electronic, so we started playing with those sounds and instruments.” There is indeed a clear progression from their debut, Gentle Earth, and whilst fundamentally impressive and sonically recognisable, its frantic guitar-focussed foundation is a far cry from the intriguing and immersive experience of the two recent releases. Commenting further on the development of their sound, the band state: “Big Water felt like what we were really going for, treading that line between experimental electronic and rock music.”
Although the band appear to be satisfied with the progression of their sound, they do not intend to halt this passage, posing that: “We want to keep changing. Our interests change so quickly that it can be hard to know what to do next.” Whilst it may appear on the surface as though the duo are somewhat uncertain about their future direction, they remain resolute upon their process. “The answer is that we’re going to keep doing whatever we want to do; we’ll know when the work is right to be a Poisonous Birds record as it’ll be a certain vibe that we feel that project represents. We definitely have a hunger to keep challenging people and what they think of the project.”
“We’re going to keep doing whatever we want to do…”
Part of a collection of Bristol-based artists bubbling on the cusp of greater successes, Finn conveys a sense of both pride and excitement at the band’s place within it: “The current Bristol music scene is thriving and I think it has its own sound in the same way that Liverpool would have had in the Beatles era, which is quite special.” The pair assess their favourite local acts, reeling off a Who’s Who? of emergent bands, before Tom considers their relationship with the city’s musical heritage: “We’re certainly not first generation, or even second generation of Bristol music. Portishead and Massive Attack are the originators of a certain sound but we weren’t there; we’re hearing of it second-, third-, even fourth-hand and responding to that, so for better or for worse, we haven’t taken much effort in exploring that history.”
Conversation turns towards the band’s video work, specifically the intriguing and rewarding visual experience for the superb ‘Little Puzzle’, and how these aesthetics translate to their live performances: “It offers some context for where we’re coming from. Initially, making music, it felt like we were soundtracking a film we couldn’t see. But now, especially with the videos, I feel like we’re tapping into something a little less literal and something a bit more abstract. When people see us, I want them to feel like they understand where we’re coming from.”
With so much already behind them this summer, Poisonous Birds promise that they’ll have even more soon, as part of their October tour, as well as teasing the arrival of a bigger body of work in the not-too-distant future – something we’ll have to eagerly anticipate.
Poisonous Birds’ Dirty Water EP is out now via Be Softly.