Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with London’s ghosts and leviathans ahead of their upcoming release “Geek Tragedy.” Together we discussed ghosts, being a songwriter/producer/pianist, their creative process, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them. How are you doing today?
Thank you for having me Mustard! I’m doing good, super busy and a little stressed on the week lead up to my album release, but feeling super excited!
2. As a condiment they have heard (and possibly even encountered) ghosts. Could you share with us your first experience with a ghost?
I’d like to know more about your encounters Mustard, this sounds fascinating! Unfortunately I’ve never experienced any apparitions or things that go bump in the night, but without being too melodramatic I encounter ghosts all the time – ghosts of people past, ghosts of experiences you once enjoyed and things like that. Sometimes a photograph, or a piece of clothing borrowed from a friend, or the smell of someone’s cologne on the tube will make it feel like someone or something that brought you immense joy is right there, in the room with you, and I quite enjoy those visits.
3. You’re a songwriter/producer/and pianist. Which came first? How do you balance each? How do they intertwine?
Producing came first – I downloaded FL Studio 8 when I was about 12 or 13, and was determined to make trashy EDM/dutch house in the style of Afrojack and Bingo Players, and that has always been the most exciting, interactive and immediate form of artistry for me. I started writing songs a couple of years after I got the knack for production, writing songs about heartbreak and all things macabre without any point of reference or life experience, which certainly made for bizarre, and usually cringy writing! Piano came last – I had taken lessons briefly as a child and hated it, but at around 15 I started again and fell in love with it – I would practise for hours a day and excelled really quickly, with the support of an amazing teacher.
Nowadays, I work as a piano teacher, which means I’m always playing and continuously learning more about piano. Production and songwriting are more of a hobby to me now, I do it whenever I have a bit of free time (which is becoming increasingly rare these days!) and whenever I feel inspired or have feelings I need to get out of my body and into the world.
As I learned more about the piano, which informed my knowledge of chords and music theory, this helped me to develop a more interesting sense of melody and harmony within my music. I often have piano parts in my music, and often improvise melodies on my MIDI keyboard for synth parts in my music which usually end up being my favourite parts of my songs!
4. Mustard has had the pleasure of interviewing Izzii Grace whom you play piano for. When did you first meet Izzii? How do you help each other?
You do have good taste, Mustard! I first met Izzii at my first ever live gig in London just over a year ago. I was immediately intimidated by her – cool fashion sense, immensely talented and a really eccentric and engaging on stage presence. We ended up chatting to each other after the gig and realised we had the same bizarre sense of humour and just clicked instantly, and have been friends ever since! Now that I live with Izzii, she helps me in all sorts of ways. Creatively, she is such a hard worker and has such a strong artistic vision, and seeing her do it all by herself inspires me to push myself to do more constantly. She also gets me to eat vegetables when she cooks meals for us (sometimes without my knowledge), and she inspired me to get a Nectar and Asda Rewards card quite recently, which is probably the most fiscally responsible decision I’ve ever made. I think I help her by giving good hugs, and by being the funniest person she’s ever met, but you may have to double check that one with her!
5. What song (or album) had a significant impact on you?
This is truly an impossible question for someone as indecisive as me to answer, and there are just so many albums and songs that have. I can’t name any one album specifically, but all of the Frankie Cosmos Bandcamp albums, especially ‘donutes’, ‘much ado about fucking’, ‘kaleidescoping’ and ‘sickerwinter’ changed me as a person. I couldn’t understand how someone could reach so deeply into my soul and speak every thought I had ever had. Frankie’s power lies in her ability to tackle the most complex of thoughts and emotions, with the most economical use of language. Her strength lies in the simplicity of it all, and how when you boil emotions down, it’s never really as complicated as us humans tend to make it. Frankie’s music feels like my inner teenager, full of emotions and never really knowing where to put any of them. It feels warm and hopeful, but a little mournful and nostalgic.
6. What is your creative process?
My creative process varies a lot – at times, I am inspired by another song, and try to emulate something in that song that I found enamouring. Other times I start to write, and try and find a way to build the melodies and sounds around the words – this is often the most challenging. Sometimes, a melody or chord progression will find me when I’m playing piano and I’ll end up producing something simplistic, and then writing to that – I find this the most effective way of writing, as it gives me a better idea of how to place the words and give things a sense of rhythm.
7. For those who have not listened to ghosts and leviathans, how would you describe your sound?
Again, a very difficult question to answer. My music really is a bit all over the place – a little bit dream pop, a little bit classical influenced, with large servings of industrial noise, and distorted screechy synths with more traditional, wistful kind of melodies that hurt your heart a little bit.
8. 2020 saw the release of your EP “quarantine dreamz.” Was this EP written during or before the quarantine? How did the quarantine affect you creatively?
It was written during. I’d just come home to Ireland and I suddenly had all this free time, and now that I wasn’t paying extortionate London rent prices, I could afford to buy myself some decent equipment and it all started there. The whole project took about 3 weeks in total to write, record and mix. I think during quarantine I feel a very acute sense of doubt, about my abilities as a musician and about my future in music. Looking back, I definitely utilised the time very effectively, but in the midst of it, I felt like I wasn’t writing enough, or practising piano enough, and I was really tough on myself. Luckily, I didn’t succumb to these feelings, and I was actually the most creative I think I’d been in a very long time.
9. In 2021 you released “spells to bind us.” What are some of your favorite spells? What was the inspiration behind this album?
I’m very fond of candlework, and did this all the time during the genesis of this particular project. I would anoint a candle, write manifestations, carve words into the candle of things I wanted to attain or achieve, and I would sit with the candle, reciting mantras. It was incredibly peaceful, and I do believe it worked – I have achieved so much of what I wanted to, perhaps not in the way I expected to or at the times I expected to, but I believe the universe has an interesting way of reminding you that you are on the right path when you least expect it. The album was inspired by a lot of my spiritual practices at the time, and about friendship, and the joy and sense of belonging that my friends have given me over the last couple of years. I didn’t feel the need to be as melancholic and sad as I did on previous projects, I wanted to create something that extended out of myself and that could connect people by being more joyous, more simplistic, more universal.
10. This Friday you will be releasing your newest album “Geek Tragedy.” What can fans expect from this release?
Sheer, unbridled chaos! There’s excerpts of poems from Emily Dickinson, covers of Classical “Lieder” songs, and plenty of hyperpop drops and even some clarinet! I’m really proud of this project, and feel more in control and less self conscious than I ever had before as a creative, and this project is a culmination of all of the themes, and sounds that I feel truly exemplify the ghosts and leviathans experience. It really sets the scene in the creation of a ghosts and leviathans universe, I feel, and it’s one that I can’t wait to continue exploring.
11. Geek Tragedy is a play off Greek Tragedy. Will any Greek figures be making an experience?
Not any greek figures that people know, but in a sense, the people these songs were written about, feel like greek figures to me – they are people who had, and continue to have, great power over me and have changed my life in ways I never thought possible. These people will probably continue to have great influence over the songs I write for a long time to come, and I guess in a way, I’m trying to immortalise them in the same way many Greek mythological figures have been.
12. How would you describe a ghosts and leviathans show?
Extremely noisy, extremely chaotic, and a room filled with nothing but love and good energy.
13. Where can readers listen to your music?
Everywhere you can listen to music! Go listen to it!