To celebrate his anthemic second release from Big Richard Records, 'No Sunshine', we speak to Kipper Gillespie about navigating the music scene in lockdown, reconnecting with his roots and where he wants to take his music next.
MN: How are you today?
KG: Been a bit of a silly boy. Little bit hungover.
MN: How are you feeling about the new release?
KG: Good. It took me a while - I’ve had this song for ages, since last April - I always really liked it, but when I came back to it about a week ago I thought, you know, that’s actually quite a nice song. It’s got a good review there, too, so I’m happy. It’s very different to other stuff that’s gonna come out later - like it’s more...rock-and-rolly, more upbeat...but it’s a similar tone to my other tracks lyrically.
MN: I think that’s something I really liked about the track. On the surface it sounds a very upbeat, happy sort of track, but there’s that sense of tongue-in-cheek tone of dread in the lyrics. It’s interesting you wrote it last April, right at the beginning of lockdown one, and it’s now being released in the middle of lockdown three. How has the pandemic affected the way you write, or your process? KG: It’s given me more time to get to know where I want to be. Everything’s on hold at the moment. University feels irrelevant to me, now, which is a shame, but it’s not what I have my heart set on, like I do with the music. Lockdown’s not affected what I’m writing about so much; I’ve always had topics that I’ve wanted to touch on - being human, technology, social media - but it’s helped me work out what it is I really want to do. I guess it’s also made me more patient. I have so much music that I want to release and I can’t yet, so I’m having to be more patient.
MN: That’s even harder at the moment - you’re more sensitive to that time passing because you haven’t got normal life filling up the space in between, like gigs etc. You moved to London fairly recently, right?
KG: Yeah, in October. At that point everything was okay - you could still go to the bar and stuff - and then all of a sudden everything disappeared again. I remember a mate said to me ‘oh, it’s a good thing we didn’t move to London in Spring, cos that would have been shit’ - and then it happened again. But I’m lucky, I’ve met a lot of people. Obviously Dom (D’Entrecasteaux - Director at Big Richard Records).
MN: Yeah - what’s it been like working with the Big Richard guys?
KG: Good! It took some time. Obviously at first it was like, you have to have your songs, then we have to go to the shed, then you have to do all the guitars...and I realised that just didn’t work for me at all. I’ve always done my music in my bedroom. I feel better working around that flow. And that was fine. They’re great - their being so independent means that I’ve had complete free reign. If they don’t like something that I’m writing, they’ll tell me, but they won’t tell me not to release it. It’s freeing, it’s helped so much - and it just sort of came out of nowhere. Good things are going to come of it.
MN: It’s amazing to have such a positive, collaborative set-up going on in such an isolating time.
KG: It is! And he’s a friend, you know, too, a housemate.
MN: What inspires you lyrically?
KG: Honesty, I guess. We’re so smothered in music nowadays where everything’s, like, party party party, everything’s great, and I’m trying to say it as it is, and not hide anything too much. I’m also really guilty of reminiscing at the moment. You know, like, thinking back to two years ago or so and thinking ‘wow, that was such a great time’, so I’m finding I’m writing a lot about that. I’m also thinking a lot about my roots - I’m Irish, and I want to use that and talk about that. I do miss home, but I’ve never really spoken about it, so now within the music I’m trying to address that. We’ll see what happens.
MN: Where do you want to take that? KG: I want to reconnect, I think. I had good friends there that I grew up playing music with, and I just don’t know them anymore. I want to reconnect but I’m not with them and none of us ever really kept in touch online, so I guess I’m trying to write everything I’d like to say to those people.
MN: How do your musical and lyrical processes intersect? Are they separate?
KG: It’s random for me. I’m one of those people that thrives on social interaction. If I’m out and about, on a night out, I’ll come back that night and I’ll write lyrics and the music will come later. It’s random though. If I have a riff I really like, I’ll hum along and see what I’m thinking about at the time. But I’m starting to try and force myself to find a topic that means something to me.
MN: It’s hard trying to find some kind of structure to writing music when you’re used to writing sporadically; have you found it’s something you’re finding you’re having to train yourself to do since deciding to properly pursue music over the last year or so? Is there ever a tension between treating music as a career and writing because you love it?
KG: Most of the time when I write something, it’s because I’m writing something that I want to hear, but the music stuff has really picked up in the last couple of months. It changes. Sometimes I’m recording and stuff and I’m really really loving it, and there’s other days obviously where you have your doubt, and think maybe I’m not cut out to do this. And then when one track gets a lot of listens, you sometimes feel like ‘what now? Are they gonna like the next song?’ You really start to feel the pressure. It’s just finding that balance between taking it seriously enough, but still remembering to enjoy it.
MN: What are you working on at the moment?
KG: I’ve got some stuff in the pipeline. I obviously can’t say too much. If it’s going to be an EP, an LP, I don’t know - I don’t want the pressure of it having to be either, I just want to keep writing. It’s been so therapeutic. I’m writing stuff I never thought I would say. But I am, and it’s helping me out.
MN: Writing can be so cathartic, but particularly writing music - it gives you a mask, or a conduit through which you can say those things, in a way that’s easier than a conversation.
KG: So true. You can write something that’s really dark and depressing, but as long as you can bop your head to it, it’s fine. And I like that. I love the sound of melancholy. A lot of the stuff I write tends to follow that sort of tone.
'No Sunshine' - Kipper Gillespie Cover Art
MN: What other musical influences do you have?
KG: I got compared to The Velvet Underground in a review, which I’ll take! I love that sort of rock-and-roll attitude, letting it all come out. I also really love dance and house. I’m trying to incorporate a few of those elements into my music, little things and beats that sound like they belong in a house song. It’s very early on for me, and I haven’t really shown people what it is I want to do yet.
MN: Anxiety plays a bit of a role in your music - what has it been like navigating a scene that is so social?
KG: The music side of it is the escape. It’s the only thing that puts me into a proper meditative state. If I’m feeling shit, I’ll sit and talk into the mic, play around with effects and stuff, and usually I’ll land on a line or two that works. Being in lockdown, I haven’t really had to navigate the gig side of stuff yet. It’ll be one of the last things to come back, so when it does everyone will be so pumped. One thing that’s a big stress at the moment is trying to get a full band together. At the moment I’ve got Dom on drums, and possibly Jon on guitar, but that’s two guys from Brie -
MN: Kipper Gilles-brie.
KG: Haha. Yeah it’s strange - I know how the tracks sound in a studio setting, but it’s weird not knowing what they sound like live yet.
MN: Sum up ‘No Sunshine’ in three words.
KG: Wait it out.
HOSTED BY MILLIE NORMAN