- Words Josephine Amstad
- Photography Cal McIntyre
Orlando Weeks returns with the first single from his next record, “Blue Skies Silly Faces”, which explores the opportunity for a silver lining around every dark cloud.
One year on from the release of his debut solo album ‘A Quickening’ -which tackled the excitement, anxiety and anticipation that comes with being thrust into newfound parenthood – Orlando Weeks’ latest project seeks to build on these themes and alleviate the tension that pervades his last album, honing in on ideas that are joyous and uplifting.
Drawing inspiration from both his own experience of fatherhood but also other art forms such as the Mike Leigh film Nuts in May, “Big Skies Silly Faces” shimmers with this joyousness, layering dreamy production with ethereal vocal harmonies aided in part by collaboration with Deek Recordings founder Bullion and artists Katy J Pearson and Ben Reed. “Really though,” Orlando explains, “I think “Big Skies Silly Faces” is about how I can be my own worst enemy.”
Catching up with Notion, Orlando reflects on the evolution of his sound, his vision for the project aesthetically, and what’s next.
Congrats on the new single! Do you see “Big Skies Silly Faces” as a continuation of your work on ‘A Quickening’?
Thank you! No, not specifically. The writing of the record began as a continuation or an accompaniment to ‘A Quickening’. I felt as though I’d not given a full account of myself with ‘A Quickening’.
How do you feel “Big Skies Silly Faces” has evolved sonically and thematically from that project?
‘A Quickening’ is an album that is sort of tense with a sense of anticipation, and HOP UP is an attempt to relieve that tension. Big Skies is a sort of inner monologue, questioning how in my day to day I can start to reset that balance.
Why have you chosen it as your first single from your new album?
In all honesty it wasn’t my first choice, but very rarely do I have the hindsight required to make that call correctly. I also love all the songs on this record so I thought if this is what the good people at PIAS think should be the first single, then I was happy to follow their lead.
What do you hope listeners will feel or gain from the new music?
Making this record was a pleasure. I found the process uplifting and a wonderful distraction from everything. Listening to it now gives me pleasure, so I suppose my hope would be that some of that pleasure and lightness is transferable.
You’ve mentioned the song was in part inspired by the Mike Leigh film Nuts in May – can you explain why the film stayed with you and how it informed your music?
I love that film. Such a large part of that kind of British holiday or trip is about resilience. Is a traffic jam a fucking nightmare or a chance to break out the boiled sweets and play ‘20 Questions’? There is choice there. Big Skies is sort of about trying to spot the tipping point of the moment where you have to make that choice.
What other mediums do you draw inspiration from?
I’m a terrible scavenger, so I’ll take it from wherever I can get it.
How has the last year been for you as an artist? Has your creative process been impacted?
I found that releasing music in 2020, with all of the restrictions, was pretty soul sapping. I’ve felt very grateful to have had the making of this record to focus on, and that the ethos of this record was one of enjoyment.
How did the writing process of this project differ from your last album?
I was free-er, I think. The only stipulations I gave myself were that songs should be lean and to the point and make me feel good when I listened to them. I wasn’t purist about instrumentation, and working with Bullion I wanted to lean into his way of doing things.
Did you work with anyone on the record that particularly excited you?
Nathan (Bullion) was my absolute first choice. I love his music and just had this feeling that the aesthetic his music conjures would lend itself beautifully to what I was writing. I also feel super grateful and lucky to have Katy J Pearson, Rebekah Raa and Willie J Healey on the album along with Ben Reed’s bass, which is such a major part of the buoyancy that I think the record has.
Do you have an idea of how the project will take shape visually?
I’ve been experimenting with Cyanotype paper and developing my drawing alongside that. So I think that the artwork will be a mixture of those two things. Images that are formed by light, alongside more purposeful but abstract mark-making.
How does the pursuit of a solo career compare to being in The Maccabees? Are there any things you miss about being in the band?
I am still really enjoying working on my own and collaborating with new people.
Do you have any more non-music projects on the go, like your illustrated book, The Gritterman?
I’ve just finished writing the music for After Life, which is currently on at The National Theatre and would love to make more music for theatre. And I’m working with an animator on developing a project to celebrate the work of Barbara Hepworth for the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Celebrating every little thing.