Music Blogs

Tusks Interview: "piano, pads, beats, and as much reverb as I can get away with"

  • By AndyVale
  • 31 May 2014

The atmospheric and sumptuous sound of Tusks is one that will permeate your skull and hang around for a long time. It's sparse in places but the sweeter moments tumble over you like luxurious droppings from the Gods. It even has the power to inspire wild hyperbole. Her upcoming Ink EP promises to be one of the most essential purchases of the year for anyone with even a passing interest in chilled electronic artists. It comes out on June 23rd and pre-ordering it would not be a bad idea.

Up until a few months ago she was known as Emily Underhill, and built up a global audience of hundreds of thousands before switching to the more ambiguous Tusks moniker. This is our first chat with her under this guise, so guess what the first question on our lips is...

Supajam: Firstly, you were known as Emily Underhill for quite a while and built a commendable following under that name, why the change?

Tusks: I've (obviously) had my name for 22 years and I'm pretty bored of it so it wasn't really inspiring to make music under that name too. I like the idea that you can make music to escape and have fun and be creative. Sticking with your everyday name while you do that kinda limits that freedom and creativity in my mind.

What made you pick Tusks?

It was initially from Fleetwood Mac, I was bought up on a lot of it and the name of their album just stuck with me.

What's the response to the change been like so far?

It's been really positive apart from the odd reviewer claiming that I've committed a sacrilege to Fleetwood Mac (slightly need to get a life there).

You look after all of your own production as well as writing the songs, do you view yourself more as a producer or a songwriter at the moment?

I don't really see them as different things anymore. It's not black and white, you're not either a producer or a songwriter. Loads of songwriters have input into production and loads of producers have a lot of say in the writing of the song. I kinda like that they've merged together. I'm pretty experimental with producing, mainly because I secretly have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

The lead single on the EP is 'Dreamcatcher', are you a fan of Dreamcatchers?

Haha no, well, they're alright I guess. Definitely had a dreamcatcher phase as a kid but it was actually called that because the track originally came out on a compilation album where the title of the track had to answer a question from the artists before. I cant actually remember what the question was now but somehow dreamcatcher was the answer...

Other than the compilation, what was the inspiration behind the track?

I started writing it based on beats rather than piano or guitar so it comes at it from a different angle musically to the other tracks on the E.P. The song's pretty much about being trapped at the end of a relationship where staying and leaving both seem like the worst idea possible.... So yeah, it's a really upbeat number.

How does this EP build on your previous work?

I guess its a follow up to the 'Snow' EP. It's got a similar vibe to 'Lost In Me' and 'Domino' with a lot of piano, pads, beats, and as much reverb as i can get away with.

You had a pledge campaign specifically for a vinyl release a while back, why is vinyl so special to you?

I get asked this quite a lot and im still not that sure. I think for me getting a vinyl is so different to getting a CD. You get this big sleeve with the artwork and it looks amazing and then when you listen to the vinyl you actually listen to it - you don't just put it on and fuck off or chuck it in the back of your car.

Your work has been heavily remixed and sampled in the past. Did it benefit you, or did you just feel like an anonymous voice on someone else's work?

There's been times when some larger producers have barely changed a track i've written and produced, uploaded it as their remix and got all the credit. That can be really frustrating but overall I love collaborating with people. I think sometimes you can get sucked into this idea of trying to make it and trying to get good feedback and exposure from each track and forget to enjoy it. I've given up on the idea of that sometimes, it seems that's when you write the best tracks and enjoy it the most. All the pressure goes away and you get back to why you got into it in the first place.

We enjoyed seeing you live recently, what upcoming shows are you looking forward to?

Thanks! I'm having a little break in June to (hopefully) add in some new songs to my set and mentally prepare myself for turning 23, so the next one will be 9th July at the Notting Hill Arts Club.

What's something about the new EP which might be surprising?

It was all written and produced by me in a little attic bedroom in a month in South East London. In one of the tracks i genuinely play the corkscrew.  

How do you play a corkscrew?

I'm not giving you all my secrets.

To hear more of Tusks and her corkscrew then make sure you get the Ink EP when it comes out on the 23rd of June. Pre-order it here and get yourself a sneak listen to it below.