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

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Wild Spelks is the music project of Newcastle-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathon Sabiston. The name references “the pangs of anxiety that can appear out of the blue”, and I ask how helpful he finds music. “Personally, it’s been a vital outlet for expressing and processing my own anxieties. You can hear those themes in the lyrics of the songs, as well as in the overall tone and atmosphere of our music.”

I go on to ask how he deals with the anxiety-inducing elements of being a performer. “Dealing with anxiety can be challenging, which I always try and be public about, especially when it comes to the vulnerability of sharing your work with others. I focus on the connections we are making through music, the love and support I receive from friends and fans is immeasurable.”

The focus on mental health has progressively increased in music, and Jonathon explains what more can be done for artists: “Providing resources and support systems for artists and industry professionals, such as access to appropriate healthcare, is crucial. Creating a culture of openness and destigmatising discussions around mental health can make such a difference, which is where I try to play my part.”

These discussions appear in Wild Spelks’ debut EP, A House Full Of Strangers. Lead single Help Myself talks about the struggles of heavy drinking and the substances that often accompany it. However, the narrative gradually shifts from despair to optimism as Jonathon explains: “The record starts with references to insomnia, agoraphobia and clinging to youth, but finishes off in a much more hopeful place, with lyrics of forgiveness, love and particularly friendship.”

The record starts with references to insomnia, agoraphobia and clinging to youth, but finishes off in a much more hopeful place

Sonically, the “Jimmy Eat World meets Manic Street Preachers” inspired EP is rich in catchy hooks, vocal melodies and ferocious punk guitar sounds, creating a dynamic and engaging setting to draw attention to the deep, introspective lyrics.

Despite the solitary origins of the music project, which started as a collection of songs Jonathon wrote and recorded in his home studio, and the fact that he produced, mixed and mastered the EP himself, Wild Spelks contains a collaborative element. The drum takes were recorded at Newcastle’s Blank Studios with engineer Chris McManus (Pit Pony, Du Blonde, TV Death). “The room they have over there is brilliant for drums, as a drummer myself, they are always quite high in the mix, so this is massively important to get right. Once I’d recorded my other parts at home, Chris and I got back together to go over my mixes which was so beneficial. When you’re doing it on your own, you can concentrate on the wrong elements of a mix and lose sight of the song’s original energy.”

Live, Wild Spelks becomes a full-band experience which gives the project an extra dimension. “I’ve been so lucky to have many kind, talented musicians to perform with, bringing their own different energy to the songs.” He adds:: “I’d say we perform with a lot of gratitude to the audience, we don’t take anyone at our shows for granted. We play with a lot of emotion as that’s just who we are! We also try our best to find a balance between recreating the recorded songs whilst also changing the energy and composition, to create something new.”

Wild Spelks release A House Full of Strangers EP on 21st June.

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