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

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Arguably, the most important component of incisive songwriting is recognising inspiration and drawing observations which lie somewhere between the mundane, profound and absurd. David Littlefair, aka O’Messy Life, manages this beautifully on Challenger 2, an EP which encapsulates both beauty and tragedy. After a four year gestation period, O’Messy Life’s incredibly vulnerable and cathartic record will finally see the light of day this month.

“The release of the first Challenger EP coincided with me – the official songwriter of O’Messy by default, being the last person standing – moving to London. O’Messy Life had always been a mutant band without an especially coherent creative identity, and I am a chronic dabbler. Challenger 2 shows O’Messy as a piano band; it’s likely to be the last record.”

Taking influence from the likes of Perfume Genius, Randy Newman and Neil Young, Challenger 2 is a profoundly vulnerable and sincere piece of work. David talks about opener Awkward Animals, often played towards the end of O’Messy’s lifespan as a band. [It’s about] living to the end of your biological peak years, realising that life is painful, nothing goes to plan, your heart is a landfill of mixed feelings and the debris of your younger self is laying all about you. Finding consolation in the fact love is chucked together and imperfect.”

David reflects on how his move to London informed the record, which he finished recording in late 2015, but stayed inert due to a “lack of money, time and assumed lack of interest”. London was, to David “the complete anathema to anyone wanting to make art that isn’t from wealth”. He found that a change in priorities, a lack of free time, even the notion that anything as trivial as writing songs (once such an integral part of his personality), would get in the way of starting a family.  

[It’s about] living to the end of your biological peak years, realising that life is painful, nothing goes to plan, your heart is a landfill of mixed feelings and the debris of your younger self is laying all about you

“The sense of futility and lack of creativity in my life, combined with the inability to earn enough to meet the constant, punishing cost of living took me over and I began to feel like an abject failure. The thin layer of water that was my self-esteem evaporated on the baking tarmac of London adulthood. I had a breakdown. In being ill and suffering self-doubt, it became apparent that the relative amount of investment my partner and I had in one another was askew. We broke up, and I lost most of my savings.”

As much as the record is embroiled in these associations for David, he found it an important chronicle of a period of his life. “I didn’t want to bury the record, because I’m proud of the person I was in those years, how much courage it took to really commit to someone else and how that reflects on the kind of person I am. Which, as a depressive, is the kind of thing I’d have really struggled to say about myself for a long, long time. And the one really magical thing about a song or a bit of art you might make is to put it out into the world and have it hold forever the sentiments of the time: ‘I was there and I felt this’.”

That’s not to say that it’s been an easy transition for David, but ultimately the EP’s release is a step towards positivity. “The printing of this record was part funded by Kickstarter and part funded by money I had been saving in order to cover maternity leave. I launched a Kickstarter on my 32nd birthday to try and have something positive in my life. After months of psychological effort to put music behind me, I’ve reverted to type…because I don’t really know how to do anything else.”

Returning to Newcastle to launch the EP at Blank Studios on Saturday 8th September, David’s discovered a newfound enthusiasm for live performance, despite its limitations. “Truthfully I still see the future of being involved in making music as a struggle that’ll soon cease. If a fly breaks a wing and a leg free from a web, it’s still in a web. But it is sweet to be doing gigs again. In the past year I opened for Lake Poets at St Pancras in London and Willy Mason in Newcastle, and both of these gigs were incredible and probably the most confident I’ve played. I just hope I can keep going a bit longer, while accepting that things can’t be approached with the intensity they were before.”

However, David’s also aware that the release of this, perhaps final, EP, signifies the end of a painfully introspective process. “The Challenger records were and are themed about recognising inside yourself – and in every person – the potential for the kind of ambition that sends a metal boat into the atmosphere, and the unforeseeable Achilles heel that might cause that boat to blow up. For the longest time I looked at my life and would compare weighing it up to the few long, frozen moments that parents at the Challenger launch site looked into the sky at an indistinct plume of fire and smoke and couldn’t tell whether the mission had succeeded or failed. Was I in outer space or in pieces?

“This record and the one before it show I’ve come up and down and seen beauty and tragedy in both, and they encapsulate a time when I wanted to say to the woman I loved some equivalent of what JFK meant when he said that ‘I don’t go to the moon because it’s easy but because the challenge is one we are unwilling to postpone’, and for most of us love is the closest we’ll ever come to the true, incredible adventure of an astronaut.”

O’Messy Life launch the Challenger 2 EP at Blank Studios, Newcastle on Saturday 8th September.


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