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

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A mesmerizing marriage of words, harmony and sonic adventure, Maius Mollis and Anna Hughes’ burgeoning partnership is generating some of the region’s outstanding emerging sounds. As Northering, the pair impart their own characteristic spin on folk’s guiding contours, belying both their years and listener expectations with a captivating, symbiotic brew of spectral drone, starkly aligned guitar and eclectic found sound samples.

“We met while studying at Newcastle University, and although we didn’t really know each other we decided to move in together,” Anna reveals. “Gradually we realised that we liked the way each other worked and what we were doing musically, and that’s where our friendship really started – through playing and living together at the same time.”

Unusually among students studying for a Folk and Traditional Music degree, both cite roots in classical music as opposed to a conventional family folk heritage. “I think that was one of the reasons why we got on,” Maius offers. “For us, it was more about a general love of stories, experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what folk music can be than any kind of tradition.”

“A lot of our songs have an element of darkness, for want of a better word, and I think the language of that traditional repertoire is one of the things that pushes us away,” Anna explains. “We’re drawn more towards cryptic words – their beauty, and the imagery they create – than to literal tales,” Maius continues: “It’s also important to us that they have some sort of contemporary relevance; that they exist in a space that’s relevant to an audience here and now.”

We’re drawn more towards cryptic words – their beauty, and the imagery they create – than to literal tales

For those yet to experience their synergy live, this month’s debut single Ghosts offers an effective introduction to Northering’s craft. Adapted from a poem by Robert W. Service, the song’s eerie, rumbling ambience was overseen by producer Lisa Murphy – a rewarding, collaborative session, albeit one which presented challenges. “We recorded live in a really small studio, so we knew we’d have trouble with the bleed from Anna’s harmonium,” Maius recalls. “It’s such a loud instrument – we were only a few feet apart, but we ended up having to build a wall around me, which meant that we couldn’t use our usual cues.” Issue resolved, their delight with the end product is evident. “The sound came out exactly as we wanted it,” Anna confirms. “There’s always a feeling in the room when we play Ghosts, and it’s often a song that people come up to us and ask about after gigs. I guess we thought that since they like it, they can have it!”

While each juggles Northering with a clutch of concurrent projects, both feel the duo represents a unique cog in their creative endeavours – not least with the more collaborative writing process they’ve adopted of late.

“I think we’ve developed a level of trust which allows us to be quite brave,” Maius concludes. “I’m definitely pushing myself more than I ever would do solo in terms of polyrhythms and time signatures, and lyrically we allow each other to be quite vulnerable too.”

“It’s unfiltered,” agrees Anna. “When you write on your own it’s tempting to self-edit to make everything sound poetic or beautiful, but we tend to keep things as they are. The earliest ideas are often the ones which stay.”

Northering’s debut single Ghosts is released on Friday 25th February.

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