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

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We’re still a young band,” starts Matt Saxon, the mind behind The Early Purple. “I’ve got some class musicians behind me, we’ve got some of the lads from Lanterns On The Lake and Dru Michael from Sam Fender’s band; it’s ended up being a mini ‘who’s who’ of the Newcastle music scene!”

No stranger himself, Saxon has been involved in Newcastle’s illustrious music scene for almost a decade, as a member of indie rock giants Little Comets and the live incarnation of John Edgar’s atmospheric folk project The Dawdler, the latter of which ignited his long-running work relationship with producer Will Thorneycroft. The duo have reunited for The Early Purple, which shows Saxon taking to the stage and commanding the attention for himself, albeit with it a little help from his friends and fellow local luminaries.

As a solo writing project, The Early Purple is an uncompromising vision, created with the intention of “being something I can be proud of in 10 years time” as the songwriter elaborates: “I’ve not been the leader of a project in a long time. Be it as a drummer or the keyboardist, I’ve tended to be in the background, helping out. The Early Purple gives me an opportunity to fully embody a project and produce something from my heart. I want this to be my legacy, I don’t want to cut corners or make people happy, I want this to be something for me.”

The result is frankly beautiful, as is evidenced on The Early Purple’s debut EP, Summer Hide, released this month. Stripped back, sparse instrumentation and light harmonies flutter across tracks like Big Mistake or the stunning Giant, yet nothing ever distracts from the intimacy and warmth of the hushed vocals and plucked guitar. Citing Neil Young’s Harvest as an obvious source of inspiration, Saxon places an emphasis on minimising the trickery or technique used on capturing the sounds. “I get told off for saying it time and time again, but from the get go what I wanted was a really organic sound. I get told off for that because people don’t always understand what I’m saying. I want to use the rooms, those acoustics and those spaces, I want to hear the gaps, the creaks, the breaths. I want everything to add to the sound, naturally.” 

I want this to be my legacy, I don’t want to cut corners or make people happy, I want this to be something for me

Saxon reflects on buying Grizzly Bear’s 2006 record, Yellow House. He giddily details the story behind the recording process, in which the record was predominantly captured in an old, rustic house that belonged to the frontman’s mother. Waxing lyrical about the peeling wallpaper, the wooden floorboards and niche, dated decorations, Saxon is steadfast in thinking that each of the house’s idiosyncrasies play an integral role to the final sound of the record. This ethos has been adopted beautifully on The Early Purple’s EP, where each of the five tracks bubble with personality. Having recorded the songs in the house they were written in, it’s immediately evident that using the building as a character and a colour to shade the record is important to the writer. 

Touching on musical influence, Saxon talks about his most recent excursion to Sage Gateshead to see the pristine musical stylings of Big Thief. “That was a special night. There may have been some technical issues or sound problems at the show but I got a lot from how they dealt with that. The show contained a lot of silence, which they used beautifully as a tool. It added an emotional weight, they were so true to themselves throughout it all. They were so comfortable being quiet and still, breathing. It was so human. Moments like that add so much to a performance, especially in a venue like that. I’ll confess that I have two goals for The Early Purple – one is to play Sage Gateshead, the other is to get on the front cover of NARC. magazine. Halfway there!”

Talking in detail about the live prospects of the project, Saxon explains that The Early Purple are placing an emphasis on interesting venues that mean something to them. “It may be because we’re not a punk band or a rock band, our sound is more soft and melodic than that, but we’d always rather go for interesting venues. Our upcoming gig at Wylam Brewery on Thursday 4th May is a perfect example; I want the room to add a flavour. I guess with indie and folk music, it’s rooted in the heart of its environment, it’s a product of its location. Utilising those spaces is important.”

Touching briefly on folk music and its origins, the conversation turns to analysing the North and the songwriter’s relationship with it. The songs on the EP tell stories of family, friends and the world they inhabit, and Summer Hide is a record undeniably inspired by Northumberland. “When I was younger I found Newcastle too claustrophobic, I had to escape,” he confesses. “Something happened over lockdown though; I started walking more, noticing nature, birdwatching. I became completely enamoured with nature.” The peace and tranquillity Saxon found in these calming walks is palpable across cuts like the title track, where you can feel the solace of nature.  

If organic, natural sounds is the intention of The Early Purple, then Saxon has delivered beautifully, both as a musical project and as a reflection of the artist creating it. A natural, humanist depiction of its songwriter gushes from each moment of the record as Saxon’s personal trials, emotions and triumphs are depicted with a sincerity that is majestically echoed by the simple, affecting instrumentation. Without theatrics or grandeur, the straightforward, earnest tracks of Summer Hide are as poignant, affecting and philosophical as The Early Purple could have ever intended. 

The Early Purple release Summer Hide EP on 4th May. The band perform at Wylam Brewery, Newcastle on the same evening.


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