WORDS: Alex Caslano
“I went travelling the world for 8 months and I really missed Glasgow. There’s just something in the atmosphere here.” Judging by the endless stream of talent emerging from the city, it does seem like Glasgow has a unique vibe, and it’s certainly inspired something special with synth-funk electro-wizard, Tongues. With only two (self-released) singles to his name, the burgeoning producer has already smashed the #1 spot on Hypem as well as amassing over 200,000 plays on Spotify and Soundcloud for one song. That was for his ludicrously catchy summer jam, ‘Religion’, and it’s a pretty good indicator of what’s to come.
With automated vocals, razor-sharp synths and a top-line which will buzz around your head for days, it’s the type of irresistible pop which catches like wildfire, igniting the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park as well his own headline show at King Tuts this summer. “I’ve been amazed by the response to my releases” he tells us. “There are hundreds of incredible artists and bands who are creating something really unique and special just now and it’s great to be a part of it.” With a full EP forthcoming, expect Tongues to be on everyone's lips this time next year.
Listen to a playlist of Tongues productions below and read our interview in which we talk influences, production and taking his sound to the stage:
SynthGlasgow: There's been some really positive reaction to your music and it’s easy to hear why. How did you originally get into music production and in particular, the electronic side of things?
Tongues: I started out on the electronic side of production when my parents bought an ‘e-mac’. It was this desktop computer with an inbuilt mic and it had the first release of Garageband on it. I started recording vocal loops and harmonies, adding library sample beats as I went along. I was so proud of my tune and the addiction began. I bought an interface and a mic and started by manipulating acoustic guitar sounds; I then bought a midi keyboard and experimented with synths and programmed beats using samples I recorded. I hadn’t regarded myself as particularly musical at this stage, but the production side really got me into it. God bless Garageband!
SG: Your recent singles ‘Religion’ and ‘You Never Knew Me’ have been burning up the blogosphere, hitting #1 on hypem and attracting some incredible feedback. Who or what would you describe as the main influences behind your music?
Tongues: I’ve been amazed by the response to my releases. I grew up with Radiohead and was a particular fan of Kid A - it got me through those early teenage years and sparked my interest in electronic music. Early influences were also Four Tet, Daft Punk, DJ Shadow and Boards of Canada, but I’m also heavily influenced by post-rock, math-rock and hip hop. There are hundreds of incredible artists and bands who are creating something really unique and special just now and it’s great to be a part of it.
SG: Your sound seems to be really rich and full, with big bass tones and some seriously sharp synths. How do you go about creating texture and colour in your tracks? Does hardware play an important role in your productions?
Tongues: Thanks! It takes months - listening, re-listening, adding and removing. Sometimes I add so much embellishment I feel it’s lost something and I need to strip it all back, but eventually it clicks. I would love to use more hardware but have never had access to much. I use Ableton for the midi sequencing and sampling; UHE Diva is an incredible synth VST and I use analogue synths whenever I get the chance. Samples often bring organic life to a cold electronic landscape, and I like to hide things in the mix. I’m obsessed with delays, effects, reversing and automation! Just applying filters and increasing and decreasing delays and reverbs - keeping everything in motion brings loads of life to a mix. The problem is you can go too far, and there’s beauty in subtlety.
PHOTO: Elina Lin
SG: You’re from Loughborough originally and now live in Glasgow; would you describe the city as having a creative, nurturing atmosphere? And where are your favourite places to chill when you’re not making music?
Tongues: I went travelling the world for 8 months and I honestly really missed Glasgow. There’s just something in the atmosphere here. Most of my youth was spent in Carlisle and when I reached 17 I was dying to get out to a city. Glasgow didn’t disappoint and I’ve loved it ever since – there’s a real creative buzz to the place and an authenticity and freedom of expression that I haven’t found elsewhere. I’m a big fan of Paper Cup’s coffee, West on the Corner’s beers and the various parks (when it’s not pissing it down).
SG: You played T in the Park for BBC Introducing as well as King Tuts earlier in the summer; how did you find translating your music to a live environment and what’s the response been like?
Tongues: The live sound has been a massive challenge, but also a lot of fun. Fortunately I’ve gathered a band of incredible musicians and a great sound engineer, so I’m in safe hands. I was always a bit disappointed when an electronic band sounded just like their recordings, so I wanted it to be dynamic and raw; we’ve tried to find different ways to reproduce sounds using guitars, percussion and effects pedals, so if the Mac dies we don’t just have to end the show! The live drums have since made it into the recorded tracks and we make space for embellishments and instrumentals. Practices are a highlight of the week and Andy (drummer) even comes up from Liverpool for them! Commitment.
SG: It’s already been an exciting summer for you and we gather there is an EP on the way; what can you tell us about the release and when can we catch you live over the next few months?
Tongues: We’ll be releasing the ‘Religion’ EP at the end of the month online, with limited physical copies. There will be 5 songs that have been in the pipeline for over a year, so we can’t wait to share them with the world! We’ll be playing The Mash House in Edinburgh on the 16th Sept and Belfast Culture Nights on the 18th and 19th of September.