Why the name PVA?

Ella Harris : In the UK, it’s a kind of sticky glue. When you’re a kid, you used to use it in class. 

Josh Baxter : t was our first show that we were putting on, and we still didn't have a name yet. So we were like: “guys, we need to come up with something”. We had a list of names, so we went through lots of different ones but were like “this one sounds pretty cool”. It came from a friend–Alex. 

Ella Harris : It was ‘PVA Presents’ for the first three shows.

Josh Baxter : Yeah, I thought it’d be a good idea because if we’d put on our own shows, then it would be like ‘PVA Presents’, but it was just a bit complicated and stupid, so we dropped the ‘Presents’ and left it as PVA. Good choice.

How did you guys come to play together?

Louis Satchell : So me and Josh were in secondary school together. We started playing in a band just before going on to college, but then broke up towards the end of that…

Josh Baxter : PYes, then I moved up to London, and started exploring some of the venues in South. I got chatting to Ella at a party – we were both into music and ended up playing together for like a year. To start with, it was just us two.

Ella Harris : It was a year and a bit before Louis started practising with us. A really good gig came along and we weren’t quite ready to play as a full band, but we were like “let’s just do it”. The show was interesting… It was bad and very chaotic! It almost didn’t happen either, because the speaker broke just before! It was a bit of a baptism of fire. We’ve been together as a three since 2019, but then you have COVID in between… So it really hasn’t been that long.

PVA © Sal Redpath

"Blush" is astonishing considering how young you are. There’s a lot of anxiety in it. Where does that come from?

Ella Harris : I think it sort of reflects the different states we were all in with writing records – three people coming from different places. There are moments where it's quite spacious, focusing on that feeling of release, then there are moments where it feels quite tense, and moments where it feels quite intimate. I think each person brings a particular energy to a song, so we tried as much as we could to let that energy ‘live’ as honestly as possible.

Josh Baxter : We use music to reveal the deepest parts of ourselves. In the past four years, in the lead up to making this record, we’ve grown a lot both musically and personally. That journey is reflected in our music: us discovering how we work together as a band, who we are as individuals, being in your early twenties and trying to figure out what you wanna do with music, or with your life… All those things feed into it. 

Ella Harris : It’s very ‘early twenties’. When you’re that age there are these periods that can last weeks – months, sometimes – where you go through so much. Almost like a second puberty. One minute you’re feeling one thing, and then you’re like “no maybe this is actually right”...

Josh Baxter : It’s that kind of angst where it’s like “oh my God…” but then like “actually it’s okay we’ll get through it”. All these different emotions are going on at the same time, and it bounces around a lot. I feel like all of that gets communicated through our collective voice.

Were you surprised by the results, at the end of it?

Josh Baxter :Some of it came out how I expected. There were other parts of it where something just came out. That’s part of what’s amazing about working with these two. Sometimes we’ll have started on a song and then after a year or two we’ll come back to it and figure out some more bits to it. You’ll let the song lead you down a path, and that’s what comes out. Especially with 'Transit', that’s a song that basically took on a life of its own, and over the course of two years emerged out of all these different things we were trying. It was very different when it started. We were still nailing in what the idea was and what the energy was. ‘Seven’ was another song that really surprised me. We saw a whole different side of music that I didn’t even realise we could explore.

Which bands influenced you? Did you listen to a lot of music during the process?

Josh Baxter : I don't really listen to that much music, but we had a playlist.

Ella Harris : We definitely did. We all listen to quite different stuff, so as part of the process of leading up to writing the album we spent a few evenings – a few group sessions, very informally gathering mutual influences and talking about them. It was almost like our homework. We’d be like “let’s listen to this song, let’s put five songs each into this playlist – what we’d love for the album to sound like”, then we’d listen to each other’s picks and see what we liked about different parts. Sometimes you’ll listen to a song and you’ll be like “oh, I like the vocal part in that song, and it’s different to how the vocals sound in my song, but actually we could make the vocal sound like that”. 

Louis Satchel : I don’t think we had anything set sonically, but we’d always go off some bands where they have the same setup and use them as a template to see how they deal with the arrangements, or deal with having three people in a band as opposed to four.

It only took 10 days to record the album. What was it like in the studio?

Ella Harris : It was insane – the most stimulating time of my life. We were just so locked in to doing those songs for so long. Before we recorded the album we were playing them out, trying to finesse them, and working out where they worked at different points in the night, and to different audiences. After the album it was more like a celebration. We’d be listening to the mixes on the tour bus, being like “oh my God it’s worth playing it through!”

Josh Baxter : We finished recording the album, then we had to deliver the first single ‘Untethered’, like a week later. So me and my friend Patrick did as much as we could on it – basically finished it – then had to confirm the masters on the bus we were staying on… I was losing my mind! I was like “I don’t know how this sounds”. In the end, it sounded really, really good, but it was quite stressful. So we went in feeling really good about it. We left a few songs to figure out more in the studio, but most of them had already blossomed into their own thing while we were in there.

PVA © Sebastian Kapfhammer

What was it like working with Ben Romans-Hopcroft and Jamie Neville (your producers)?

Josh Baxter :We recorded in a studio in South London: Teeth Studios. We knew Ben because he played in Warmduscher and used to play in Childhood, his old project, so we knew of Ben and we’d met him a few times. He invited us there for a trial session, because he knew we were looking for somewhere to record. At that point we’d been to a few studios, and they’d been fine but we weren’t quite sure. Then we recorded a demo for Kim in there, and it just felt right. They gave us a lot of space to do what we wanted to do, but they were also very supportive. I felt very creative, and they were just as excited as we were, being like: “What can we do? What can we create?”

Ella Harris : We had this one day with Jamie. We were working on ‘Seven’, which we basically wrote in the studio. We had an idea and a demo, but we wanted to make it a bit more folky, and a bit more ambient. We were all in the studio listening back to the recording and were like “this sounds really good”, but then Jamie suggested we put the mics outside and record the birds. We all had this moment where it felt like we were meditating. Moments like that, if we were in the studio with only us three, we’d be so focused on just getting the songs down. I don’t think we would have made the album that we made without Ben and Jamie. It has so much of their character in it.

Josh Baxter : They really fitted in, in the areas that we lacked, or couldn’t do as a three. Jamie’s an incredible engineer, and he’s very technical… always thinking “does this sound good… are we getting enough in?” And Ben’s just providing so much support and energy, and bringing such a vibe. 

Ella, your lyrics come from your poetry. Was it more natural for you to put your poetry into sprechgesang?

Ella Harris : I think so. I’d never sung before doing this project. I also think sometimes it feels quite nice to have a direct conversation with an audience. There are some beautiful recordings of some of my favourite poetry where they’re spoken in the speaker’s accent – as close to their talking voice as possible. I think that’s so effective, and so beautiful. With so many bands, I love to hear their accents and where they come from. Sometimes you lose that in singing because it’s easier to sing in an American accent. It’s easier to hit those notes, in their particular ‘twang’. I’m definitely going to try out different deliveries for future songs. 

The way you sing sounds a lot like Miss Kittin.

Ella Harris : On nous l’a dit aussi ! Mais je ne la connais pas du tout. Je vais écouter.

The track 'Transit' is definitely more lyrical..

Ella Harris : Yeah it’s more lyrical, I’m still getting there with that… definitely building up to it. As I say, I love poetry, and there are a few moments on the album like that. Where there’s space around the instrumentation for the vocals to sit on top; where there’s so much space in the verses that the vocals can be really direct, but then it goes really crazy. It’s nice to have those moments too.

Last question. Some of the songs seem to deal with the idea of sexual freedom. Is that something you wanted to talk about?

Ella Harris : When you write music, you’re always putting something of yourself into it, even if you try not to. If you make a song about a character, that character still reflects a bit of you. So yes, totally. That was something which was reflected through us and injected into the album.

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