The Rosie Taylor Project
The Rosie Taylor Project formed in Leeds in September 2006, founded on a shared love of alt.country, but have soon acquired their own quiet, thoughtful, slightly folky sound. They currently comprise Jonny (vocals, acoustic guitar), Sophie (trumpet, French horn, vocals), Jon (lead guitar), Sam (keyboards, electric guitar, glockenspiel), Nick (bass) and Joel (drums). Their gently melancholic debut album This City Draws Maps is currently out on Bad Sneakers and they’re too modest to say, but we will, that it’s a fantastic debut record, at once immediately satisfying and also pregnant with potential. We spoke to them at Indietracks in late July 2008.
The Rosie Taylor Project at Indietracks
SXP: Have you enjoyed Indietracks?
Sophie: What we’ve seen of it we’ve enjoyed. It’s a lovely setting and the crowd were really supportive.
Jonny: It’s a little unsettling at first but then I went and saw the llama and after that got settled and am really enjoying it now. Just saw Manhattan Love Suicides who were very good and looking forward to Ballboy later on.
SXP: Who’s Rosie Taylor and what’s her project?
Sophie: It’s a really bad name because no-one knows how to answer the question!
Jonny: There’s no real project because “project” implies you do it for a set term but it’s not in that sense. I liked the name Rosie Taylor – I think it’s got a beauty to it – and then I butchered it by adding “project” to the end of it. At the time there was nothing else I could think to do, not thinking I would ever be asked this question.
Nick: We should just call ourselves RTP really!
Sophie: Self-deprecation took us in the wrong direction, because we assumed no one would ever wonder and any name would do, and it turned out we do get asked.
SXP: I noticed you were advertising for Rosie Taylors.
Jonny: *pained laughter* It was an idea…from management. We were never wholeheartedly behind it, if I’m honest. It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do but they’re really good people and if they want to try something and they have the right reasons then I’ll give it a go. It wasn’t successful in any way, shape or form.
Sophie: We got someone saying: “I know Rosie Taylor. She’s a bitch!” Thanks for your constructive comment!
SXP: This is the first time we’ve seen you live; the live sound is definitely louder than the album.
Sophie: We’ve got a drummer now; he’s rocked us up!
Jonny: We started recording the album without a drummer. In the time it was recorded and released, our guitarist left and to flesh out the sound, rather than instantly bring in a guitarist, we decided to try drums. Live, before, we had a more mellow [sound] and we really suited small folk evenings, that kind of thing. I really enjoyed that. But to come to Indietracks it’s great to have a drummer - it gives you something to nod your head along to.
Sophie: It’s very daunting not to have a drummer live.
Jonny: I can’t imagine doing it now, even though we did it for a year. It seems like an alien thing.
Sophie: I would hope that we keep that melancholy edge still. Because that’s what I like, personally – I wouldn’t want to play happy music! *band laughter* Not that I’m an unhappy person but I really love sad, melancholic music.
Joel: I think you’ve achieved it by constantly telling me to play quieter! Or not play at all!
Nick: I think we’re a lot more comfortable and confident with our instruments and playing now than when we wrote the album. It was great to do an album at that time but it was very early for us as a band and some of us hadn’t played - well, none of us had played - in bands before and none of us had been playing music for very long. It’s a conscious thing to make it fuller; I hope it’s a sign of us growing in confidence.
SXP: If you hadn’t been in bands, what brought you together? I understand that you shared a love of alt.country.
Jonny: That’s what we were listening to when we finished university; we didn’t have a great deal to do. Unbeknownst to us, two of our friends were playing instruments in their rooms and we decided to have a band practice and see how it went. The idea was to be very alt.country, which proved to be natural for us. Now we have our own sound but that was the starting point, doing Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes covers and things like that. After that we wrote some songs and brought Sophie in, and from there it went into the sound we have now.
SXP: Sophie’s trumpet makes it sound really mournful.
Sophie: We have one song on the album, ‘Anne Sexton’, and a few people said to me: “it all seems so happy and fine and then you come in with your trumpet and you make it all sad”! But I guess it’s true.
Jonny: But the lyrics aren’t happy - they’re quite down. Before, any trumpet I liked was mournful, like funeral trumpets, and Neutral Milk Hotel have that on one of their albums. So when Sophie told me she was bringing a trumpet – because initially I just asked her “would you mind singing?” – I was thinking: oh dear, this is going to be horrendous.
Sophie: Some jazz-funk or something.
Jonny: But it’s mournful so it’s good and I think it suits [the songs] well.
SXP: In your lyrics, there's a sense of being an outsider. Is that what you're aiming for?
Jonny: Not necessarily. There's lots of bands in Leeds that are a community and they’re all wrapped in each other and everyone knows everyone; we're on the edge of all that. I've never kissed a member of the Cribs, for example.
Nick: You have wanted to...
Jonny: I do really like the Cribs. But we don't feel that integrated, I guess. The lyrics are more solitary; it's never really been about fitting in or anything, it's more solitary musings or things like that, more contemplative.
SXP: My favourite track on the album ‘The Water's Edge’ sounds very like Sufjan Stevens in terms of instrumentation and the ‘everything playing’ approach. Who are your influences?
Jonny: He's not a major influence. He's just incredibly pristine and everything he does...he's just like a Jesus figure. I saw him live and it was sickeningly good. The major ones - for me anyway - are Bright Eyes, Ryan Adams, and at the time we first started I was listening to a lot of Camera Obscura. I've lost track of them recently.
SXP: And what about Nick Drake and the folk influence?
Jonny: Personally no. I think Sam likes him.
Joel: The whole band can fit together and play really well together with so many different influences.
Sophie: We all listen to different things but we all tend to have a similar kind of taste. None of us will absolutely love something and someone else absolutely hate it.
SXP: Are you working on another album at the moment?
Jonny: Yeah. We’ll hopefully unveil it sometime next year - probably more likely the end of next year.
Sophie: We'll take a little longer with this one.
Jonny: With the first one, we went into the studio with some songs incomplete and we used the studio as a writing process whereas with this one everything is going to be far more considered and we won't touch a single bit of recording equipment until everybody knows what's happening with it. The studio is good for improving things as well because it helped a lot with this record. We didn't use some of the instruments like the harmonium until we went into the studio and now that kind of sound is something we use on everything.
Sophie: It’d be really nice to be in a position to have about 20 songs and we could pick out a few. I really love our first record but it was a case of putting literally everything we had into one album. So the second album is about writing as much as possible and then working out from there how to make an album out of it.