Classically trained on violin and piano, Poppy Ackroyd makes music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds from just these two instruments. Newly signed to Björk’s label One Little Indian Records and fresh off the back of a mini-album Sketches, we spoke to Poppy about her career so far and latest full-length, Resolve.
I regularly end up using accidental noises, or ‘mistakes’ from recordings, as often they can take you somewhere more interesting.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
I started playing instruments when I was really young. We always had a piano in the house and there was always music playing. I started too early to remember what first got me into music, and I cannot remember a time when music was not a big part of my life. My parents always say that as a child I never stopped making noise, and so they had to find a way to channel it!
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from to form your musical and thematic style?
I have never been one to want to copy or emulate someone else’s style, however we are of course influenced by anything that we have heard, and so my music is a product of everything I have listened to over the years. If I had to pinpoint particular influential periods then I would say that I discovered the potential for the sound world that I play with in my compositions from playing contemporary classical piano works by composers such as Lachenmann, Kurtag and Takemitsu. The production side of things is influenced by listening to artists like Aphex Twin and Thomas Stronen.
How would you describe your style?
Instrumental, cinematic, emotional and textural.
You’re newly signed to Björk’s label One Little Indian Records. How did that come about?
Derek Birkett, Bjork’s manager and head of One Little Indian came to a concert I did at Kings Place in London. We met shortly afterwards and I signed with them just over a year ago.
What impact has signing to One Little Indian Records had on your musical output?
I am amazed at how much has happened in the last year. Working with a label that really knows what to do with your output, as well as giving total artistic freedom is an ideal place to be creative. I just want to make music and it is great knowing that now many more people will hear it.
We last heard from you with mini-album Sketches. What was that about and what was the response?
Sketches was an album I had wanted to do for a while, and this seemed like the perfect time. The album features solo piano reworks of tracks from my previous albums and a few from the new record, Resolve. The piano arrangements have a different feel to them, there is an intimate quality that is different from the multi-tracked full album versions.
Your latest release is self-produced, full-length record Resolve. What are its themes?
Actually all my work is self-produced - apart from Sketches. The theme of the album is inner strength - or resolve.
The concept of the album is to include other instrumentalists for the first time, and to create the album using only sounds from these acoustic instruments as well as my own. For my first two albums the music was made exclusively from keyboard and strings instruments. For Resolve I have also included woodwind and percussion. I like to set myself instrumental parameters for each album, and then just let the music go where it wants to go.
When did you write it and when did you record it?
Resolve was written and recorded over a two year period. I will always start with an initial idea, but I compose, layer and sculpt the tracks along the way. I regularly end up using accidental noises, or ‘mistakes’ from recordings, as often they can take you somewhere more interesting. Composing and recording therefore go hand in hand for me. I very rarely know where I am going to end up with a track when I start.
How does Resolve build on your previous work?
With the extra instruments involved the sound on Resolve is quite different to my previous albums, but there is an obvious similarity due to the way I put the sounds together. The textures and layers I was able to achieve this time are different from before. The layers of flutes, clarinets and bass clarinets can create an airy texture that gives a lightness to quite full sections. It was also the first time I have worked with a percussionist.
What are your hopes for Resolve?
I just want as many people as possible to hear the album and for it to resonate with them in some way.
When and where can we expect to see you on tour next?
I have a few London dates coming up in the next few months and I will be on tour in Europe in February and May.
Listen to Poppy Ackroyd on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates go to poppyackroyd.com.