Six Of The Best: Amateur Ornithologist | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Jenny Rohde

Tyneside indie-pop creator, Amateur Ornithologist releases Sunscreen, the fourth and final track from his forthcoming album Building the Bird. This latest track holds back the inevitable murky Autumnal skies with its Summery, Sixties-West Coast vibes, buoyant melodies and sharp and shimmery guitar tones.

Here, the artist gives us his six of the best…

I’m always soaking up influences and finding ways to channel the things I’m interested in into Amateur Ornithologist. And I don’t have to be completely immersed in something to find it inspiring, sometimes it’s the things a piece of art suggests to me that eventually show up in some aspect of my work. I’m heavily involved in every aspect of the music and its presentation in videos, photography and covers by working with Jenny Rohde , so take influence from across art and culture.

Film – Arcadia (Paul Wright, 2018)
I was lucky to be running an event at BFI Southbank when this was out; it was on a limited release and I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I tend to see the dark side of everything, even in the face of beauty or positives so this film really spoke to me. It’s a collage of archive film exploring the changing relationship the British have with the land as we try to assert control on it. The way the, otherwise innocuous, footage is cut together to create an often unsettling atmosphere has really inspired the way I make music videos.

Art – Bridget Riley
When I was explaining to Jenny Rohde what I wanted for the covers she was working on with me, she pointed to lots of art movements and creators to research together. One that really appealed to me was Bridget Riley due to the clean lines, repeated patterns and contrast in the colours. There was a documentary about Riley on iPlayer at the time and this was a great starting point for the various covers we’ve done together this year.

Zine – Weird Walk
Before I started Amateur Ornithologist, I was writing folk horror film scripts, but I didn’t have the infrastructure to make them at the time so got bored and started doing music. I still have a fascination with the genre, though, and that’s where this zine fits in. Featuring photography, artwork and articles on folk traditions, music and literature – even Stewart Lee has contributed in the past. I’ve enjoyed the zine so much it’s inspired a song called Weird Walking on my forthcoming album.

Podcast – Sodajerker on Songwriting
I started listening to old episodes of this when I was learning how to write music and it taught me a massive amount. The best lesson was that a lot of successful songwriters take elements from different songs they like and stick them together, or even try to write their own version of an established song, but fail and end up making something new – something with more of them in. The podcast has featured lots of songwriters I admire and a load I don’t know at all, but most episodes have at least one thing I’ve taken away to do (or avoid doing!).

Music – Cate le Bon, Reward
There was a few years where I didn’t listen to any new music, I just listened to back catalogues of artists I already knew. Then I heard this album and it was such a great experience. I liked to think of it as Kate Bush jamming with Wire but that’s probably a bit reductive. This is one of those albums that works perfectly from beginning to end, reveals more with repeated listens and has a cover that adds to the experience. That’s what I’m always aiming for in my work, although I know it’s a lofty ambition.

Community – Autism Twitter
2021 was a bizarre year for me, I had some of my worst experiences of anxiety and feeling worthless on account of a job that wasn’t right for me – but going through that helped me realise things about myself. When I was trying to explain the everyday things I find impossible, autistic people started reaching out to ask if I had thought about getting a diagnosis. I’m still on a waiting list 16 months later, but the autistic community on Twitter and their threads have helped me to deal with how I experience the world. And that’s all fed into the songs I’ve been writing.

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