With their Holocene Shift album due out this week – you can pre-order it on Bandcamp right now – we decided to catch up with Amy, the musical maverick behind Still Forever. Read on to find out more about the person behind the music.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Still Forever, and how would you describe your sound?
Hello! I’m Amy, and Still Forever is my solo project as well as my first musical project. I’m entirely self-taught, mainly through sheer curiosity, stubbornness, online courses, and a significant amount of trial and error (and swearing and crying).
The name came about pretty simply – when I was first experimenting with teaching myself production, I began taking part in online music challenges. My Soundcloud account needed a name, and I’d probably had a bit of rum at the time, which doesn’t contribute to inventiveness. The name is literally part of a Mesh lyric I was listening to at the time. I’ve absolutely thought of a million clever, convoluted, and/or mysterious backstories about the origins ever since, but no. It’s all down to rum and synthpop.
If I’m honest, I have no idea what/who I sound like, or what genre to call myself. Broadly, I’ve settled on “elements of eighties post-punk, electro-indie, synthesised soundscape and modern gothic, overlaid with atmospheric, bipolar vocals.” But I’m developing my influences and ability constantly, so that’s subject to change over time.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic, and vibe?
I’ve always needed to create, ever since I was a tiny child. It’s primarily been an outlet for whatever it is I have to say. It’s part therapy, part dopamine release. I can pour my depression, anxiety, anger issues into it, and when I make something, when it’s a finished thing, there’s that little rush of “holy fuck, I made this.” Ultimately, I have to do it. It’s a compulsion, a coping mechanism, and a comfort. I can lose myself in it.
I’m not sure we have time to go too far into my influences. There are many, and not all of them are musical. It’s not a static list, either. I get really into specific things, aesthetics, or music for about a week, and that’s my whole life for a short period until something else sparks my attention. Then I’m running off in that direction instead – often dragging parts of the previous set with me.
If we’re talking purely musical influences, it will take an age to list everything. I keep a playlist of some of the things that feed my music, which is varied, but it’s not exhaustive. I’m hesitant to list much specifically, although I’ll name Coil, Mesh, Massive Attack, and Linea Aspera as four that jump out of the top of my thoughts. Make of that what you will.
It’s only in the last three years or that you’ve embarked on writing, performing, and releasing your own music. How did that come about? What inspired you to take the leap?
Like most of the things that have happened in my life, I fell into music relatively unintentionally. My original background and formal education is photography and visual art, and that was the love of my life until 2015. A five year, very co-dependent, and mutually damaging, relationship ended with a lot of chaos, mess, and fallout, and with it ended a lot of my inclination towards photography. Too many associations, lots of baggage. Plus, it’d reached a point really where, with photography specifically, I was just bored. I’d finished learning, I didn’t feel that there was anything more I wanted to know. Digital photography never interested me, and although I still adore the smell of darkroom chemicals, it’s a labour of love, and I’d fallen out of love.
Meeting a new crowd, finding my own mind again, and a heap of curiosity led to the purchase of a MIDI keyboard. The discovery that, holy hell, there’s a tonne of excellent music software out there for free helped. So it begins. Making music was, and still is, a great big world of potential learning to me, and that’s a massive draw. I love that there’s so much I yet don’t know, so much to discover. I never want to stop learning.
You’ve racked up quite a few remixes and cover versions in the last year – what was the creative process like for you then as opposed to making your own music? How did you find the experience?
I find it peculiarly relaxing, working with other people’s music. It’s also been invaluably educational, because it means working with sounds and ideas that are outside of my experience, outside of my comfort zone. With covers, it’s been interesting trying to match aspects, but equally, as illuminating finding ways to change the original. To make those changes work and give it a touch of my own sound. In fact, doing things like that has probably contributed significantly to me finding and developing my own sound in the first place. I’m certainly interested in doing more in the future – remixes in particular.
How easy do you find it to transfer your music from the studio to a live setting? And which do you prefer – playing live or being in the studio?
Honestly, I never wanted to perform live. I didn’t think I’d ever do it and had no interest in it at all. Then, I did some live backing vocals for Berlyn Trilogy around late 2017, I think, and the rush coming offstage afterward is like nothing else. Performing solo is a different experience, of course, and the first time I was a bag of nerves. But now, I love it. It’s one of my favourite states of existence, and I love the creativity that can go into a performance. It can be as straightforward or as dramatic as you like, and you can be anyone you want to be on that stage.
In terms of studio to stage, what I do is relatively tech-light. I keep things simple for the sake of necessity (nobody can play five instruments and sing simultaneously), and I think having a gear-heavy stage can weigh down a performance – certainly a solo performance. So at the moment, I can pretty much have a track go from writing to performance fairly quickly, work on the edges and test it out live over a period of time, and then go back in and create a really solid finished piece.
There’s no comparison I can make between studio and stage – they’re so different, but at the same time, a fluid part of a single process. You could easily do one without the other, but I feel like the combination is what makes it all shine.
You recently released a new EP called Beautiful Impossible. Could you tell us a bit more about it? You’ve described it as being ‘healing after hellfire.’
Beautiful Impossible is the second single from Holocene Shift, and quite possibly my favourite work to date. It symbolises a lot of things for me, not least a significant shift in the way I was thinking about, and dealing with, aspects of my life. It’s the point where things changed, or rather, where I realised that I could change things, that being scared is OK, and that staying tucked in a comfort zone is one of the worst things I could have done for my anxiety. It might sound bleak, but in many ways, it’s a love song.
What’s up next for Still Forever? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
Well, I can tell you that album three is written, although I’m giving my brain a little rest from it for a while now. The sound that’s developing there is a definite evolution again. A little darker, more rhythm-heavy, and certainly more refined. It very much feels like each release so far has been a bit of a demonstration of how my self-education has developed over time – a little like mid-term exams, I suppose – and it’s fascinating and useful to be able to go back and reflect on what was good/bad about earlier work. Maybe I’ll eventually rework earlier stuff after another few years of learning about production. Perhaps I’ll just leave it alone, warts and all, because there’s an appeal in imperfection sometimes. I don’t think anything creative necessarily needs to be technically flawless to have an impact.
In terms of live performance – well, none of us really know just yet, do we? I’m hoping that we can all go back to live events later in the year. I’m hoping that there will be venues we can go back to. But in the meantime, I’ve already performed a live-streamed show from my living room, which seemed to go down well, and I’d love to do it again. My downtime recently has been focussed very much on refining the tech for future ‘virtual gigs’ and creating connections with other folks who are doing similar things.
As people probably know, I’ve quite recently joined the ranks of St Lucifer. Alongside Ashleigh Talbot, I am regularly making a racket with David and Alice. It’s been quite an experience so far, and a good one. We’re all really positive and excited about creating and playing music together. Going back to the virtual gig topic, that’s something we’re discussing trying out as a band – although again, the present situation does present challenges there.
Finally, my other project SØTUL is something I began doing while out of the country earlier in the year, writing solely on my phone, and which I’ve continued developing ever since. It’s a more experimental, more raw and certainly less processed sound than Still Forever, and an unlikely contender for live performance, but never say never. There’s an EP up on Bandcamp, should anyone like to listen.