• Words
  • Photography Freddie Stisted
  • Photography Assistant Sophia Katyea
  • Styling Phoebe Butterworth
  • Styling Assistant Celia Stolper
  • Grooming Margherita Lascala using Mac Cosmetics
  • Production Studio Notion

"They say no man is an island, but I am" - we chat with Cumbrian musician Arran George for Notion 85.

Until he was 15 years old, Arran George had never really bothered with music. “We’d just listen to the music on X Factor and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway,” laughs Arran through a strong Northern accent, “I just used to like DJ Sammy and that sort of gabba bad donk music, then it slipped into Slipknot, then came My Chemical Romance, and eventually found The Libertines and actually started writing.”

 

Arran grew up in Egremont, Cumbria in the north of England. Not the picturesque Lake District side though, on the other side with “less Sunday hikes and more nuclear waste” as he puts it. The late-starter finally caught the music bug and headed to the south to study music at university before returning home to his bedroom to work on what would become his debut EP, ‘What I See On Daytime TV.’

 

Through what he calls “blind luck”, his manager discovered his Soundcloud and helped steer his career in the right direction. “There are so astronomically few chances of anyone finding my music,” says Arran, “I wake up every day and I’m like, something’s gonna happen, I’m gonna wake up and be still in my mum and dad’s house. This can’t be happening, there’s people better than me!” There’s no need for him to be so humble because his songs are well worth the attention and
probably best filed under psychedelic indie — though he describes them as “abstract” and likens them to “what thoughts are actually like” — just don’t call it ‘folk’!

What’s Cumbria like?

It’s boring, there’s nothing to do. It’s the same in every industrial small town in the north of England: nowt to do, everything’s horrible, some people are nice [laughs]. People get bored and they need something to do so they go and fight each other on Fridays. It’s proper grim. There’s a big nuclear power station there, so some people work there and even they all get pissed off working there doing that all their life, and then the other people get pissed off who can’t work there. So there’s always a pissed off vibe to everyone in West Cumbria. It’s not a great place.

Do your family work at the power station?

My dad does and he has done since he was about 16. My mum’s a hairdresser.

Does she cut your hair?

She’s the only person who’s ever cut my hair.

What other jobs have you had besides music?

I’ve got my CSCS [Construction Skills Certificate Scheme] card. I used to work at the O2, I had to stand outside and try and get people to buy apps on their phone. That was the worst job, but it worked on so many people. I moved down to go to uni and do music and then moved back home and worked part-time jobs because I thought music wasn’t going to happen. Then I nearly joined the army. I got all my forms filled in and everything and then my manager was like ‘I really like that song you did, we’re putting on a tour for Cloves in November around Europe do you wanna go on this tour and we can get an EP out?’. So then I didn’t go to the army interview, I did that instead.

How do you think you’d have coped with the army?

I don’t reckon I could have made it, I’m too sensitive a soul. They’d have probably hounded me out in two weeks. I was in the air cadets, I was pretty good at that, I could ease into some sort of authoritarian movement quite well, just slide myself in there.

What’s your favourite daytime TV show?

I like the adverts, that’s my favourite thing. They’re so weird, they’re meant for old people but it’s like, I don’t know who’s approved them. There’s this one that has this old guy and he’s talking to his granddaughter, she’s painting a little cardboard house and he’s like ‘we remortgage our house from the bank’ and she’s like, six. But the best daytime TV programme is The Chase where there’s four contestants and you have to play against one of the ‘chasers’. It’s so good, I watch it every day. You can figure out what the questions are, it’s always something about the kings and queens of Europe.

arran george

Are you sat with a brew and biscuits when you’re watching?

Never tea and biscuits. Black coffee, crying — no I’m joking. I used to get up and my mum and dad would go to work and then I would start work and I’d sing all through the day. Then there was a baby next door and it would start piping up around four or five‘o’clock before they’d come back in I’d
watch The Chase. I didn’t go out for like a year — I don’t mean outside, I mean out out, like every Friday night I’d stay in.

How do you feel about Britain today?

It’s quite sunny today.

True but our democracy is being eroded as we speak.

It’ll be alright.

Will it?

Britain’s been going down the pan for years. There’s a guy from Bulgaria living in my house and even he says ‘it’s so bad in England now’.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

Yeh, it was called “Treading Water” and it was really bad, but it was fast. That was eight years ago because I started so late, I had to pick my shit up pretty quick.

How do you feel about being labelled as indie?

Indie’s fine, folk’s shit, I’m not ‘folk’ or ‘singer-songwriter’ — I’m not George Ezra. I think it’s probably more psychedelic indie, as much as it is folk.

Are you in a psychedelic state when writing?

[laughs] No, not really, I can’t write with anyone else so I used to do my ‘self co-writing’ technique, where you write and then when you get to a certain point you get drunk or stoned and then you try and write it again and record it all, and then go back and listen. Because you’re in a different frame of mind completely you can do things you would have never thought about doing. Self co-writing!

Have you been to Arran George the island?

Yes, I have! I saw Spider-Man there, the one where he meets Doctor Octopus, Spider-man 2 with the original OG Spider-
man. I think I was about 12 or 13, for a holiday. You have to drive up, went to Ayr and then you get the ferry across. They say no man is an island, but I am, I’m literally an island.

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