FOCUS: The Crying Violets

In melding soulful vocals with bright, harmonic guitars, Nottingham’s own The Crying Violets make music fit for sunny Sunday afternoons. In giddy anticipation of new single, San Francisco Blues, which can be heard from April 9th, frontwoman Katie Lyle talked improvisation and self-realisation with The Mic’s Matt Andrews.

The Crying Violets, delicate by name and by nature, are one of Nottingham’s most promising emerging three-pieces. Their music, as Katie Lyle (vocals, guitar) herself admits, is difficult to categorise; “I’m not sure if I can compare our music to anyone else’s, and I think that’s really special.” Though the band’s three existing singles avoid any concrete label, they do seem to exist in the blurred realm of bedroom-produced dream-pop – think Still Woozy, Mac Demarco, Arlo Parks – and accordingly carry an awareness of their own guitar-based DIY production.

It’s often here that emerging artists struggle to differentiate themselves – bedroom-produced music being highly saturated since it was popularised by Steve Lacy and his proficiency in Garage Band, not to mention the ongoing prohibition of recording sessions and rehearsals out of house – but The Crying Violets, by whatever means, always produce music with a uniquely professional finish. What is unique about The Crying Violets, particularly in terms of their production process, constitutes some of their most notable musical characteristics.

“I sit and write the song all at once – melody, lyrics, chorus; it’s a spurred three-minute moment of musical productivity.”

Lyle, often the conceptual origin of their music, pursues a self-created and proclaimed “weird” writing process: “I sit and write the song all at once – melody, lyrics, chorus; it’s a spurred three-minute moment of musical productivity.” It is interesting to note the spontaneous, almost improvisational, nature of such a writing process. To write so instinctively is almost to call on the traditional jazz solos that continue to influence the three-piece itself, and, though it could easily be dismissed simply as another personal inflection adrift in their music, it provides a fundamental entrance into the essence of the band.

Improvisation is considered beautiful because it necessitates an absence of thought. In fact, in art forms such as jazz and certain eastern visual arts – ones that encourage the artist to create spontaneously – to think is to jeopardise the art, to interrupt the process of the idea’s expression of itself. Outside of jazz, and perhaps most conspicuously in bedroom-based dream pop, this is a fundamentally subversive approach to music production. Lyle, by improvising entire songs, is, nonetheless, pulling at the same thread, one which unravels to reveal the beauty of music which is yet to be tinged by thought or deliberation.

For The Crying Violets, most of the music they work on, including latest single San Francisco Blues, originates in a form which, fundamentally, is improvisation. Though edited rigorously and collectively before release, it would be impossible to shake such music from its improvisational roots; it is in an awareness of such foundations that the power of this unique intersection between bedroom and subconscious makes itself known.

In understanding the processes that carry The Crying Violets’ music through conceptualisation, production, and release – this continued practice of writing from instinct, from emotion – the listener finds a re-informed and enriched experience in what they hear. The emotional authenticity of Lyle’s lyricism becomes inherent, a fundamental aspect of the music. Lines like “when it hurts to say a thing, when it hurts to say I love you… I’ll never let you go” are granted a more substantial and immediate weight; they come from the heart, quite literally.

[San Francisco Blues] is typically sincere and direct in its efforts to hold a mirror to an evolving emotional complex.’

Latest single, San Francisco Blues (available from 9th April), having undergone this archetypal process of self-realisation, does not feel out of place in The Crying Violets canon. Not only is this single typically sincere and direct in its efforts to hold a mirror to an evolving emotional complex, one which perpetuates its own flux-state, but it serves to indicate the three-piece’s ongoing effort to “combine all of these influences –jazz, soul and indie guitar music – into one coherent sound.”

Besides a progressive movement into a better-defined stylistic identity, the future, unclear as it may be, does hold various notions of concrete musical progression. The Crying Violets have been selected to produce 2021’s Confetti Record of the Year which is set to be released over the coming summer. The trio also intends to begin working on a debut EP scheduled for release before the end of the year, the conceptualisation of which exists in infancy now. As the knots tying the music industry to the ongoing lockdown are loosened and frayed, they are being re-purposed to fasten The Crying Violets to an upward trajectory, one which now seems a long time coming.

Written by: Matt Andrews

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured and article images courtesy of The Crying Violets via Facebook.