It’s been a few months since I (and many others) fell hook, line, and sinker for Genevieve Miles’ last release – the brilliant Magic Man / Sad Song – and so it was a pleasant surprise to find a new track tucked away in my inbox this week. Nicer still to find that it’s another absolute gem from the Birmingham artist christened the “sunny indie queen” by BBC Introducing.
That said, Storm Before is quite a different beast to the more indie-pop sound that Miles has dabbled in (with great results) previously. Although it retains all of the interesting quirks that mark her out as a writer and performer of interest, this time out it’s a slower, more luxurious soul-pop vibe that feels utterly impossible to resist. Taking inspiration from acts such as BADBADNOTGOOD and Crumb, it’s a more refined and elegant sound that’s in keeping with the mature outlook of the lyrics.
“…it’s a love song, but looking back at it now I’m also talking about the long cyclical process of healing. “This rain could not compare to the storm that came before last summer”: healing and growth never end and when pain randomly comes up again, even though it’s hard each time, maybe it’s a little different, a little better than the time before, ’cause you’ve learnt so much since then.”Miles on Storm Before
Produced by Carlos de los Santos (Neon Islands, Simple Fiction), Storm Before represents a new high watermark for Miles; with her ever-growing skill and confidence as a writer reflected in an arrangement which, although slick, still feels playful and airy. I particularly love her trademark jazzy Jaguar subtly underpinning the track, and the sax that sprawls out like a jar of honey that’s been kicked over. Also, it would be remiss of me not to mention Miles’ vocals – which carry the track with such nonchalant conviction – and that the chorus is highly likely to be lodged in your brain for days. You have been warned.
Last time around I wrote that Miles was making “smart, fun, and inventive pop music that doesn’t take itself too seriously”. Not much has changed, apart from the fact she’s getting even better at it.
A conversation with Genevieve Miles
• Hi Genevieve. Thanks so much for agreeing to this. It was only yesterday I heard the song for the first time, and I must have heard it at least eight times now and it’s still sounding fresh. I was interested when I read you saying that it ‘sounds like your soul’. It gives the impression you think it’s a step up from where you were before. If so, what do you think is different, and what made it happen?
Yeah, I definitely do feel it’s a step up. I started releasing music when I was really young (too young haha). All I ever wanted to do was to make music – I grew up in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t much of a music scene and I thought that putting my music out there was the way to do that. But it meant I often rushed releases and didn’t really know what I was doing and it was kind of just stabs in the dark; I had all this ambition and creativity but looking back I’m not sure I was using it in the right way, I was just super young and didn’t know anything. But I try not to regret (or cringe at) all that because it was all part of the journey. Like, it led me to now and this is my first release with a label so that’s pretty exciting. Life looks so different for me now than it did before I moved to Birmingham, I think that’s the main change – I’m now surrounded by creative people who are so amazing at what they do and work so hard and it’s so inspiring and motivating. I felt so lost in myself and what I was creating for so long but this song was kind of a pivotal moment with that – shifting the stagnancy. As soon as I jammed this song with a load of my friends and we slowed it down and made it jazzy, I think I cried haha, it was a relief, like “oh, this is what I’ve been trying to get at all this time, this is what I’ve been trying to make!”
• The press release mentioned a couple of artists that have influenced the track – Crumb and BADBADNOTGOOD. I have to admit that I’m not familiar with either, but it did get me wondering what it was about those artists in particular that resonate with you, but also who your main influences are in general?
BADBADNOTGOOD are so cool – they were one of my lockdown 1.0 favourites, their sounds are always so raw, the bass tones and the drums… oh they’re just amazing. Their track ‘Time Moves Slow’ is just so beautiful: so much emotion. The more psychedelic edge of Storm Before is definitely inspired by Crumb, I think just encouraging me to take that step forward in allowing my music to mature. I think my answer to the biggest influences question would vary every week, depending on what I’m obsessed with at that moment. I’m still loving Bicep’s new album and I’ve had Pixies’ Doolittle album on repeat lately. Connan Mockasin is definitely a massive inspiration at the moment too, I don’t know anyone else making music like him, he’s so cool.
• I love the artwork too…
The artwork is by James Evans – he’s so cool! I sent over a load of pictures I’ve taken in the last year and he came up with that. All the pictures used have meaning to me – nice memories of comfort and happiness. Those sunflowers on the artwork are pictures of ones I grew myself in lockdown 1.0 – they were my babies. Me and my friend Felix (DnB producer Kippo – he actually mastered this track and I’ve done a couple of features with him) had this amazing day in between lockdowns last year where we spent an entire day in Spun Out, a record shop in Northampton, where he grew up, and when we’d found the perfect records we took them back and played them on his dad’s sound system: that’s the one in the artwork. That was a special day for me in letting go and moving forward, I remember when I first heard one of the records I bought I breathed this sigh of relief, and felt an amazing feeling of finally being able to let go and just enjoy a moment. I think that’s quite relevant to Storm Before’s lyrics.
• The arrangement feels more expansive, and slicker in general. I saw that Carlos de los Santos is credited… is this the first time you’ve worked together, and how did it come about? (Oh, and that saxophone is insanely good…)
That’s Benjamin Dady on the sax, he’s a very clever man! He started joining me and the band for gigs last year and man it’s so fun playing with him. I met Carlos probably two years ago now! We met up in Birmingham and we just chatted about Julia Jacklin’s album that had just come out, and we’ve worked together ever since. He’s always been a massive support and has always been so wonderful giving me time and advice. This time last year we started making music together remotely and whenever it’s legal (lol) I travel to London and he has a little studio in his flat where we work together. I’m excited to get back there to him. He’s a super talented producer.
• Last year was obviously a write-off in pretty much all respects… but, ideally, where would you like to be come 2022?
I’m hoping to move to a new city this year to start a new adventure so that’s definitely a main goal. I have a load of stuff I’m hoping to release and hopefully people will enjoy that music! And just to get back on gigs – I’m so excited to play new stuff live and we have a couple of new band members too and we’re having a lot of fun with it. This year, I’m really keen to try to organise and promote my gigs myself ’cause I want to make my gigs creative, safe spaces and I have loads of ideas to put on really special events.
Like what I’m doing with I Said Yeah? All content on here is free, however you can support the blog (and help sustain my caffeine habit) here.