INTERVIEW: Bulbils | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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At the time of writing, Bulbils have released 24 albums in a little over a month. This is clearly no ordinary project. Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington (of Hen Ogledd etc) have said they hope to “be of comfort/company” as well as helping themselves through lockdown. The name was chosen because it suggests spring and the outdoors and, as Dawson points out, “it’s hard to find a name that hasn’t been used already…Spores, Fungus, Soil, Weather, Mole…they’d all been snapped up.”

It’s tempting to assume that the Dawson/Pilkington household is one of constant creativity and that Bulbils is a reflection of that, but Pilkington points out this is only generally true when they’re practising for something. “Now and again we’ll just play for fun, but I guess it helps to have some kind of goal to focus on, it acts as a propellant.”

Bulbils’ soothing, gentle, often wordless music certainly serves as a comfort/company to the listener, but is it helping them as well? “It’s mostly been very helpful in bringing some kind of structure to an otherwise potentially shapeless time,” explains Dawson. “One or two days it’s felt like a pressure to make something…We had classic ‘difficult 16th album syndrome’ a couple of weeks ago, maybe we were forcing it a bit. But I think we’re back on track now.”

I’ve had a few days when I felt like I didn’t really have much music in me,” adds Pilkington, “but it’s still been good to play. So far Richard’s been doing all the hard work of editing and putting the tracks on Bandcamp, so he’s a bit more involved – I’ll often listen to back to what we recorded the previous day and have no recollection of playing it!”

It’s hard keeping the instruments reigned in sometimes, they often want to gallop away over the fields, but I reckon it’s nice to go at a slow plod, stick to the path

Recordings may start with a key idea or limitation, explains Dawson. “We might choose the instrumentation, or the sorts of sounds we’ll use and generally stick with them. Or have a particular mood we want to explore. It’s hard keeping the instruments reigned in sometimes, they often want to gallop away over the fields, but I reckon it’s nice to go at a slow plod, stick to the path.”

So far, the Bulbils recordings have only featured one other musician, Dawson’s long-time collaborator and friend Rhodri Davies, who added harp from his home in Swansea, but there are plans to involve more people and Pilkington hints at some ideas about a spoken word incarnation.

I wondered if there were plans to revisit any of the releases once The Awfulness is at an end. Pilkington sounds unconvinced. “I quite like the idea that we’ll only do it whilst lockdown is happening. I doubt we’ll expand on any of these pieces. I’ve been pondering what it would be like to try and replay some of the tunes, or perform them live. I think it might kill the magic.”

Although the pair are keen to pursue the project throughout lockdown, the pace may lessen somewhat. “One of the keys was to make something that might be of company and comfort to people,” explains Dawson, “and I don’t think we’d be failing in that if we put out two or three albums a week instead of five or six.  Let’s see though! If it dries up completely then we’d be fools to continue, and if it keeps coming up through the bottom of the boat then we’d better keep bailing.”

Bulbils’ releases are available from their Bandcamp page on a ‘pay what you want’ basis


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