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

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Image by Ste Bardgett

After their spellbinding Wake For The Dreaming release in 2020, North East storytellers Nel Unlit are bringing more enchantment with their latest album, Ephemera; or, Tosh and the Girl. Placing emotion at its core, this album tells the story of floundering single father Tosh, exploring his co-dependent paternal partnership with his teenage daughter and his fractured relationship with her estranged mother.

Speaking about the beginnings of the project, singer and guitarist Jon Horner explained that the story originally began as small, personal pieces that he’d written, which the band picked up and worked on together. As many major structural elements of the record came together during lockdown, threading together a narrative, building characters and the swapping of initial recordings took place via regular meet-ups on Zoom.

As drummer Daniel Allan tells me, this came with benefits. It forced us to all go away separately and think about it. It gave the story room to breathe and gave us time to take out things that had maybe gone a bit too far.Starting out as phone recordings and Garageband demos, the band gradually shaped their record remotely until lockdown eased, and they could finally get together to do some recordings. Now, the album is a completed studio record, ready for listeners to experience its chillingly emotive sound.

theres been some kind of trauma in a family and its caused a rift or fracture, and its about each person developing ways to cope with that

Unlike Wake For The Dreaming, which was based on Neil Gaimans fantastical Sandman series, this record presents a narrative that as listeners we can perhaps more ably relate with. I think people can certainly relate with family drama,said Jon, theres been some kind of trauma in a family and its caused a rift or fracture, and its about each person developing ways to cope with that.

As a band, their musical influences span not only across musical genres and styles but also into different art forms, and they take a lot of inspiration from film. The release of the record will be accompanied by a lyric video which audiences watch and read along with, becoming fully immersed into their dark, magical sound world. In addition, they’re building an art installation of the flat where the story takes place in the attic of Westgarth Social Club, where they’ll be screening the film.

Their hard-to-pin-down style boasts an eclectic blend of musical textures and rhythms, connected through feeling as a central theme. The title track White Gods immediately creates a spooky, unnerving environment, with its head-rocking rhythms and abrupt changes in mood setting the scene for the deep, soul-felt story that is to come. Beautiful melodies, emotive lyrics and a ruthless electronic drive reveals the bands masterful folk rock tendencies. Later on, Mirror brings a new energy and addictive beat to the music. Its dark, inner meaning is revealed through an unsettling monologue prevalent through the track: Youve always suffered from stage fright, now you couldnt even die right.Their poetic way with words, unique musical colours and clear artistic vision creates a truly powerful, absorbing sound.

The band have become adept at weaving narratives into their work, and the new release more than shows off their skills as songwriters and storytellers. For me, it’s giving yourself a world to live in whilst youre writing music,said Daniel. If you have an overall concept, it’s like a world you can inhabit while you write.

Nel Unlit release Ephemera; Or, Tosh And The Girl on 13th May. They play Base Camp, Middlesbrough on Sunday 22nd May. Film screenings at Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough take place from 6pm on Friday 13th, Friday 20th and Saturday 28th May.


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