Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A New Trip: Skye and Ross’ Life Beyond Morcheeba

Photo by Daniela Glunz

For more than two decades, Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey of Morcheeba have been responsible for some of the finest music to ever come from the United Kingdom. Along with Ross’ brother, Paul, they’ve built a name for themselves by existing in an intriguing sonic world where Trip-Hop, Rock and R&B live as one. (Those who have never heard the trio’s classic 1996 debut album, Who Can You Trust?, is encouraged to do so immediately.) Now, Skye and Ross are striking out on their own with their extraordinary eponymous album out September 2 on Fly Agaric/Cooking Vinyl. For a taste, check out “Light of Gold” below:

Clearly, Skye and Ross have a celebrated history (and a recognizable brand) together with Morcheeba. Why did it make sense for them to release this latest collection under their own names as opposed to using their legendary moniker?

“We weren’t working with my brother anymore,” reveals Ross during a recent call. “I think on the last Morcheeba record, mine and his personal and creative relationship was kind of on the rocks. I really didn’t want to make another record with him. At one point, he was like, ‘I’m going to leave the band. You guys can buy me out of my share of the name.’ So we thought we were going to do that and carry on as Morcheeba, and then he kind of changed his mind. We had already started making the new record, and we just thought we’d [do it] under our own names, and that it would be kind of interesting as a fresh start for us. I think it’s a bit more of a challenge commercially, but at the same time, that’s kind of giving us a boost because we’re going to have to work on it. Also, because it’s the two of us and basically a duo now, having our own names on it kind of gives it a bit more profile... Morcheeba used to release records with no pictures of the band on the front cover; nobody really knew who we were unless you were a quite dedicated fan and read the small print of the credits.”

Despite the current creative hiatus between the Godfrey brothers, the Skye and Ross project is still a family affair. Musicians featured on the album include Skye’s husband, Steve, on bass and her son Jeaga on drums. Ross’ wife, Amanda, supplies backing vocals, while longtime Morcheeba keyboardist Richard Milner is also along for the ride. The closeness felt between the various performers led to a casual in-studio vibe that can be sensed throughout the album.

“It felt really natural,” Ross says. “It was the first time [in the studio] where it didn’t really feel like we were overproducing it or editing stuff. We just kind of played the way we wanted to. Skye and I have playing together for 20 years or more. We really enjoy that feel...We just wanted to have some kind of spontaneity to it that you can only really get when you’re actually playing with a bunch of musicians as opposed to staring at a computer screen… I don’t think there’s any instruments on the record that were made after about 1975.”

Not surprisingly, Skye and Ross’ album is full of treasures. While Skye’s voice is always a gift, it’s Ross’ impassioned guitar playing that steals the show on “Feet First.” He was inspired to create the track after reading a book of various personal correspondence from Jimi Hendrix, including the guitar great’s letters home to his father while he away serving in the military.  

“I thought it was a really nice inspiration for a song. It’s funny to write something about Jimi Hendrix and have it not be about being a rock star; it’s about him being a kind of amateur paratrooper.”

Ross’ guitar playing also shines on the beautifully sedate “All My Days.”

“I had actually written the music to that about four or five years ago,” he recalls. “It just kept coming up every time I listened to a compilation of old demos that I’d done. [I’d say,] ‘Oh, that track’s great! I should do something with that.’ [Skye] just came up with those lyrics pretty much straight away. I think ‘All My Days’ is just about being with someone you love the rest of your life. We were kind of laughing at the time, because there’s a saying that teenage kids here say, ‘Oh my days!’ They say that when they think something’s cool; they’ll be like, ‘Oh my days! That’s great!’ When we were doing the song and she was singing ‘All My Days,’ we were laughing and saying it more like ‘Oh My Days!’”

Another highlight, the Bluesy “How To Fly,” was developed after Skye and Ross took in a show by guitarist Gary Clark Jr.  

“He was having some really great fun playing kind of heavy Blues riffs,” recalls Ross. “We just kind of looked at each other and thought, ‘Man, it would be great to do a track with a riff like that!’ Obviously, people don’t really think of Morcheeba as being a band that would rock out, but we do enjoy that kind of thing.”

Two decades after Who Can You Trust?, Skye and Ross are still creating fascinating sounds together. Despite some occasional detours in their creative relationship over the years (including Skye’s four-albums-and-counting solo career and Morcheeba’s two-record stint with different singers), there remains a true sense of magic whenever this duo joins forces.

“It’s think it’s like an unspoken understanding,” says Ross of the partnership. “It’s almost like a subconscious partnering. If I come up with some music, she will just automatically find the best melody through it. There’s no need to explain anything; it’s really natural by this point. It just feels as if there’s like an invisible connection. In some weird way, we’re kind of twins.”

Skye and Ross perform this Saturday at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Go HERE for tickets.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

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