Utrecht popped up on our radar after the recent release of two incredible tracks. Along with vocalist Joe Ayer, Utrecht performed his Live show at The Pickle Factory- with a performance less like a band at a gig and more like a DJ playing to the crowd at a East London rave.
Before their performance we spoke to Utrecht (real name James) and Joe to find out what inspired the EP and what goes into their unique sound.
How did you get into doing this live show?
Utrecht: The Utrecht project kind of began 4 years ago maybe. I always had an eye on eventually doing a live show but it was a lot housey-er at first. And then a year and a half ago met you (looks to Joe) and started writing tracks and he’s got an amazing voice. And it just a bit poppy-er and so I got Henry and Owen and we’ve been practising for a year now really and it’s been pretty intense.
Have you always been singing and writing music? And has it always been this style?
Joe: I always kind of been singing, I started kind of later, I was 14 when I took singing out of the bathroom. I was in a choir actually – so I moved to London and I was in a choir and their was a girl in the choir who knew James and knew that James was after someone with a certain kind of voice. Initially it was just for one song.
Utrecht: The fit was good, then one song turned into four or five. We were originally going to do it a lot more bandy. So play a song, stop for applause and then play another song. But then my manager Simon was like why don’t you do almost like a DJ set but with live instrumentation so now all of the songs bleed into each other and it’s a lot more of a club experience really which is a bit unique to alive act.
What are you playing today? Are these all songs for an upcoming EP?
Utrecht: There’s an EP out on February the 18th called ‘Next Time’. It’s got four tracks two we’ve released already. ‘Lately’ was released in December and ‘Élan Vital’ was in January I think. Hopefully, the last track ‘Next Time’ is the big lead single- and that should hopefully be really well received.
So with both of the tracks I’ve heard them and they’re a bit of a twist on a love story or love song. Is that the theme of the EP? Are they going to have a similar kind of sound?
Joe: Seems to be…
Utrecht: How we write, I’ll write the music and then we’ll get together and we’ll do the lyrics. Normally we just write from experience really.
Joe: Even if we don’t necessarily plan on it, we’ll both come back with lyrics and be like ooohh.
Utrecht: So we’ll go away and both write lyrics and then mold them together into a narrative. So Elan Vital is about me being kicked out of my girlfriends house and walking the streets of London. And what’s Lately about?
Joe: I remember what Next Times about.
Utrecht: Next Times about..
Joe: A bad boy experience for me. So it seems to keep happening, it’s the strongest emotion that comes up when you’re thinking about your past. Love is obviously the thing that comes up.
Utrecht: Love in London. There’s a strong London core running through the songs, I mean I love London so it’s natural that it comes out really.
With the Live performance you mentioned it’s going to be moulding together like a DJ set. Are you going to be feeding off the crowd or do you have a strict set list or songs you want to play and the order?
Utrecht: We know the order and then we have these transition bits where it’s a bit more flexible dependant on what the crowd is like. It’s nice I got the idea from watching SoulWax doing their ‘Nite Versions’ Live and that’s kind of a similar thing where all the songs kind of bleed into each other. It’s just a better experience instead of seeing a band and songs end and you clap and it’s over.
Joe: It flows a lot better.
Utrecht: I’ve been going to clubs since I was 16 and to me the atmosphere in clubs has always been better than gigs. I’m never really big gig guy, festivals but never like the Astoria or anything. Rest in peace the Astoria.
What else is coming up? You’ve got your EP in February and then do you have any big plans for the summer? Any gigs we can look out for you guys at?
Utrecht: We’ve got a couple in the pipeline but nothing concrete yet. The plan is I’ve written the next EP so ideally I want to go April May time with the next EP and it’s just about getting as many tracks out there as you can. Keep the momentum going and hopefully maybe do a smaller festival- that would be the idea but we’ll see. See how tonight goes first.
It’s coming up to Valentine’s day and your EP is all about Love so what’s your best chat up line?
Utrecht: There’s a famous story in my friend group. I went to uni in Sussex so I was down in Brighton and was very drunk and there was an attractive girl across the room in this house party and I walked up to her. I don’t really have any memory of this but I walked up to her and started with, you’ve got very lovely teeth. We didn’t get together so it wasn’t going to work but I think it’s the only time i’ve ever used a chat up line.
Joe: I don’t often use them to be honest.
Utrecht: Nothing to crude, i’m not a crude man – romantic at heart.