Slaney Bay on Their Latest EP “Why Does Love Mean Loss?” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, May 23rd, 2024  

Slaney Bay on Their Latest EP “Why Does Love Mean Loss?”

The Horror and the Healing

Nov 03, 2023 Photography by Rory Dunn Bookmark and Share

Some bands arrive in a blaze of publicity, while others set about quietly crafting their music without bells or whistles. Take London trio Slaney Bay, for example, composed of Cait Whitley (lead singer), William Nicola Thompson (lead guitarist), and Joel Martin (bassist). They emerged in 2022 with a soaring debut single “Talking About You,” followed by a killer debut EP in November 2022 in the form of A Life Worth Living and yet initially little was known about them. They weren’t deliberately being “mysterious,” but seemed happy to let their music do the talking. The trio are childhood friends as Whitley explains, “We met when we were about four years old and went to the same school. Joel and I used to take guitar lessons in school and had a little band. I’m just glad there’s no footage of those days”

“Oh god yeah, we were terrible,” laughs Martin.

As they grew up, inspired by going to gigs, Whitley and Martin played in various bands before Thompson joined them on guitar. “I was their photographer before that,” he laughs.

Prior to becoming Slaney Bay, they were briefly known as Flux, before they discovered there were quite a lot of other bands using the same moniker. Whitley takes up the story, “Well, we only found out that Flux was quite a popular name after we’d uploaded a few songs. So we wanted a name that was really distinctive, but one that kind of summed up what our music is all about. I guess our music is a combination of happy-sad, so we wanted something that reflected that. And I’d been getting into my Irish roots. Slaney is an area of Ireland that has loads of folklore and ghost tales encompassing haunting and horror, but the river that runs through it is supposed to have healing properties, which felt like a good fit for our music—the sad and the happy, the horror and the healing.” Initially, critics were quick to label their sound as dream pop and shoegaze, mainly due to Whitley’s soaring, often ethereal vocals and layered guitars. But that perhaps doesn’t give a rounded view of the band’s overall sound. “Actually, I’ve been thinking about that recently,” Thompson reflects. “A lot of our contemporaries and friends in bands are definitely in that shoegaze dream pop realm, but in terms of our influences, there’s something of that in there, but I wouldn’t say it was the predominant influence. I think we take our cues from everywhere, even ones you wouldn’t expect.”

“That’s true,” laughs Whitley, “for example, one song was inspired by the sound of my washing machine. We certainly grew up listening to some shoegaze, but we were probably more inspired by indie rock—big earworm choruses combined with a softer side. We don’t intentionally write this way, but we always seem to lean into the notion of seven hooks in a song, which is quite a pop thing. Or maybe we just have a short attention span, but I think the combination of the hooks in indie rock and pop certainly has had a huge bearing on our songwriting.”

Lyrically, Slaney Bay doesn’t really hide behind metaphors and combine both strength and vulnerability. As Whitley explains, they often use personal experiences as the foundation to build upon. “Every song has a strong element of our own experience. Lyrically, I struggle to write anything I can’t relate to,” she says. “For me, it lacks the authenticity of the human experience. But we do like to develop songs in their own sonic world, one in which we can create a story—something that we can all relate to as opposed to something that exactly happened in my life.” The band’s latest EP, Why Does Love Mean Loss?, is certainly a very personal collection of songs and sees them building upon their debut EP, expanding their sound, and having fun learning new techniques in the studio.

Reflecting on the EP’s inspiration, Whitley reasons, “It was written at a time when we were going through various stuff. For me personally, a family member had passed away and good friends had moved away. It made me reflect on things. I started wondering if some of the situations I’d put myself in were worth it. For example, when you get too close to somebody and lose them, you do wonder if maybe you should be more guarded. But it also made me appreciate what I have. So throughout the writing of Why Does Love Mean Loss?, I was thinking about how things can hurt so much because the love is so strong. The EP title came from a line in the final song ‘Family Tree.’”

Working with producer Michael Smith was also a huge learning curve for the band. “I think with the first EP being self-produced, which was basically recorded in our bedrooms, it had more of a live sound,” Martin explains. “With this EP, we certainly had access to a much more professional sound.”

“Definitely,” adds Whitley. “We learned so much from Michael and from being involved in the whole process in the studio. It sounds more layered and has a more sparkly sound. Listening to the backing track to ‘EST,’ for example, it almost sounds like a Christmas song. Also, I think overall, the songwriting has become much more mature as we’ve mastered our instruments and become more confident.”

The band has also provided us with a track-by-track breakdown of the Why Does Love Mean Loss? EP.

1. “The Fall”

Whitley: “‘The Fall’ was one of the first tracks we wrote. We’d been going to lots of gigs and wanted to capture the energy of the mosh pit when we saw bands like Wolf Alice. Although it’s quite poppy too. Conceptually, it’s about trying to pull yourself back from the power of spiralling into self-destruction.”

2. “EST”

Whitley: “This is about someone leaving you and you thinking, ‘If I’d just had enough time to get to them and change their mind and tell them not to go.’ It’s about love and loss again, and the panic of seeing it slip through your fingers and wondering how you can stop it. It’s set in an airport, and I was imagining running to the departure gate. Although if that was real life, I’d probably get lost and be running the wrong way!”

3. “No One Else”

Whitley: “I was watching a bit of Killing Eve at the time, and really liked that dreamy soft soundtrack. We also wanted intense lyrics which, when you listen to them a few times, can sound a bit possessive in contrast to the dreamy instrumental. We also needed a song that gave Will a break in terms of the tempo as I do tend to write fast songs.”

Thompson: “I always felt there was a bit of a country vibe on this one. And I kind of leaned into that with a bit of slide guitar and a 12-string acoustic, which was a pain in the arse to record.”

4. “Move On”

Whitley: “I wrote the guitar riff on synth, which I thought had a bit of a Klaxons/MGMT vibe. We wanted that sort of euphoric sound. I was writing at home and I only had a MIDI keyboard, a lot of demos I send to the boys start out like this.”

Martin: “I’ve never seen so many notes in a music file!”

Whitley: “Conceptually it’s about a bit of tough love and trying not to give in to self-pity, stop whining, move on kind of thing.”

5. “House Party”

Thompson: “This actually nearly ended up not being on the EP. We were two weeks away from going to the studio when we decided we were going to record it. It was still only a demo at the stage. I’d just bought a new guitar and the first thing I played was that guitar bit that runs throughout and it grew from that. And then our producer Michael Smith did the mix, which really brought out the storytelling aspect, I really loved it!”

Whitley: “The demo started with Will and Joel and they sent it over, and I loved it. And there was a viral thing on TikTok at the time, which was like ‘you’re listening to a song but hearing it via the bathroom at a party.’ And when I heard the riff it kind of reminded me of that, like listening to a song through a wall. And that brought up memories of house parties when I was younger, and we started talking about the ones we went to growing up and the story evolved via those memories.”

6. “Family Tree”

Whitley: “This is a song about grief and my granddad. During lockdown, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when we were allowed family bubbles and we played a lot of Irish country music. I think that time gave me a greater appreciation of the sentiment of family and my Irish roots. Sadly, my Granddad passed away when we were writing the EP. So ‘Family Tree’ is about grief but also about creating a memory.

“My Granddad loved music so much I thought it would be a nice sentiment to have a song, not just about him, but to have a piece of him in it. So there’s a sample at the end of the song, of him talking, on St Paddy’s Day I think. So he lives on there forever, and people will be listening to him on vinyl the way he used to listen to vinyl. It’s certainly the most emotional track on the EP and as the EP finale, it sums up Why Does Love Mean Loss? There’s no stronger love or greater loss than losing a family member.”

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