The iconic venue Notting Hill Arts Club launched a label last year and signed some artists with amazingly fresh sounds. New band Birthday Card are on their roster, and are something of a sonic brit-pop smoothie, gleefully blending and defying genre. Lead singer and occasional guitarist Josh Saw has a myriad of influences which are channelled into the bands diverse sound and the singers impassioned live performance. With the release of their single "Shy Away" we had a chat about the bands journey so far, fashion and the world of pop culture.
What was it like starting a band in a small town like Aylesbury?
It's a tiny town but we all live within 5 minutes walk from each other. It's weird starting a band in a small town that's just on the outskirts of the M25 so you are that close to London, but you do feel a million miles away when you're playing little pubs that sound terrible and barely anyone's there, apart from your mates.
What advice do you have for creative people stuck in a small town?
Just try to meet like minded people, that's what I've done. I just liked sitting in my room with an acoustic guitar writing songs. Generally in those sort of towns there aren't many people who want to create, so if you put yourself out there you will gravitate towards similar like minded people. Just be yourself!
You seem very into fashion, have you always stood out?
Yeah, I've always been into my clothes. I think we all are, so we always stood out anyway. Like if we were all in a Wetherspoons in Aylesbury people would be thinking "who the hell are those guys?!"
Do you have any fashion icons you look to?
Luka Sabbat, definitely. Jesse Rutherford would be up there. There's this guy on instagram called Avery Ginsburg he's really cool and he's got his own brand called Staatsballett. It's sustainable fashion he's into, he makes some really nice clothing.
Why did "Shy Away" become your first single?
I've had the lyrics and melody for years and I was just waiting for us to come up with the music behind it. Structure wise it hasn't changed since we first jammed it out. The bass line came about and it came together within half an hour. Then I was scrolling through my notes on my phone looking for what lyrics I had to sing over this music, that popped up and it was literally in the same key, same tempo and the lyrics fit over all of the sections pretty perfectly.
I like the art work, is it anime inspired?
Yeah that's it, that's what I wanted to go for. Ghost in Shell was one of the references we shot across to the artist, and Japanese 60's commercials like what you'd see on billboards in the 60's in Tokyo.
What was the feeling behind the lyrics?
Doubting yourself in many aspects, like when you first meet someone. And after you have met someone you thought was the right person, who obviously wasn't, trying to put yourself back out there while still having that doubt in your mind. It's that awkwardness of meeting people and I wanted that to reflect. The music is quite tense until it breaks at the end. It came out just how I wanted it to sound.
I love the way you're juxtaposing that self doubt with a dance-y, upbeat sound.
Yeah, it's really confident. All the music I listen to now does that juxtaposition of having either happy lyrics, but the music's really dark or visa versa. I like writing like that.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
A lot of Octavian, No Rome and a lot of The Streets. I'm listening to loads of Blur as well for some reason, I don't know why (laughs). Charli XCX's new album is cool. I thought she might have lost it after becoming so famous but the new album is really good in terms of pop music, she's doing it super tastefully, and Caroline Polachek as well. A lot us listen to Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), The National, James Blake... So a bit of everything really.
In terms of bands, we don't listen to many guitar based bands. So when we play guitar it comes across as quite weird to us, because we don't see ourselves as a guitar-y band but Shy Away is quite guitar and groove based.
Our songs aren't all up beat and groovy, there're a few sadder ballads and electronic ones that gradually build up. I don't want to be pigeon holed into just one genre. Leslie, our drummer, listens to a lot of garage music, so there're a few songs that are garage inspired, a lot of tunes that are quite RnB inspired, there's early naughties girl bands like Atomic Kitten, The Sugar Babes and Kylie Minogue or Cher coming through too. I love Cher!
I feel like we're in a moment of post-genre music.
Yeah, with Spotify I can go from one minute listening to The Streets and the next minute to Kylie Minogue. You can so easily go from one genre to another.
What's your favourite Kylie Minogue tune?
"I'm Spinning Around," it's just a banger!
If you could go anywhere in a time machine where would you go?
If I had a machine that could instantly take me anywhere, not in time just location, I would go to Budapest. I would live there if I could speak Hungarian and basically had the bollocks to move out there. I'd probably just go there to chill out, I've been there three or four times and each time I really enjoyed it, chilled vibes there.
What's your biggest film influence?
Visually I've always wanted to make a music video inspired by Fallen Angels, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, the way it's shot is like a reverse fish eye lens and he does super close ups of people and erratic fast movement that's quite stutter-y and blurred out. It looks super cool. So that visually, also anything by Wes Anderson.
What do you think the biggest issue in the world is right now, and what would you like to see change?
The most obvious and poignant is environmental change at the moment, there is an environmental crisis and I would like to see that change. I recently went vegetarian and that wasn't just because of the environment but for health reasons too. It's hard, like I had to drive here today but there are things everyone can do to be better. It is so difficult because we have it ingrained within us to operate in certain ways, so it's trying to change that way of thinking.
What would you like to see more in 2020?
Going back to Caroline Polachek, she writes really interesting pop tunes and I've literally listened to her album a million times since it came out, so I would like her to release more music. And more music like that, interesting pop tunes that actually get on the radio and get the air time they deserve. I feel like there are quite a few artists I listen to on a local scene level that don't get the appreciation they should get. Youth Sector who supported us sounded sick. There's also Weird Milk and a band from Oxford called Be Good, we listen to a lot of those guys. So I'd like to see them doing well.
Birthday Card are bringing the good vibes into 2020, can't wait for their next single! In the mean time find them on Facebook, Soundcloud and Twitter. If you'd like to hear more from me I'm @tasiathree.
Photo provided by Ioannis Kampanis.