"Electric Feel" by MGMT is one of those tracks which speak to an entire generation quite seamlessly. It’s definitive to a particular age of indie music and even with that being said, it has the kind of longevity that’ll see it widely celebrated for years to come. So, why am I talking about "Electric Feel" you ask… well, that was my gateway into the world of Henry Green as he covered the MGMT classic and morphed it to accentuate its sensuality, plus he provided the original with a heartfelt notion of vulnerability.
The irony though is that the cover acts an extension of what the Bristol-based artist is capable of doing. Instead of folk music, you'll come across a catalog littered with textually emphatic electronic music adorned by Henry’s serene vocals. Describing his music when it comes to the elements incorporated is somewhat futile since it’s more of a mood, a distinct kind of feeling and this is part of the reason why he’s able to leap into different genres. From his upcoming album Half Light, we’ve received "Realign", "Fabric" and "Tide" featuring the awe-inspiring Andreya Triana. And in this interview, we receive the story behind the album and much more.
For those who aren't familiar with your story, how would you describe your journey with music thus far?
I'd say slow and steady. I realized very early on that I never wanted to sign to a major, never wanted to be thrown into the unknown, and not have time to explore my sound properly. So I'm super grateful that my career has progressed the way it has. I've worked with the same label (Akira Records) since I was 18/19, and I've now been with my manager for nearly 4 years. I think it's rare to have that close-knit, friendship and trust within this industry, it's really cool. As for the actual music, I'd say I've jumped between styles and played with different vibes but very subtly.. always in that downtempo, electronic world. It's an ongoing adventure to find new ways of expressing myself, and new ways to illustrate the ideas in my head
You've been writing songs since you were 14, and I'm curious as to what kind of things a 14-year-old Henry Green was writing about?
Haha, I can't even remember (nor do I want to) I think at that age, as I was still soaking up so many different genres and styles, it would've just been a regurgitation of what I was hearing. It was certainly more acoustic guitar-led, a lot more focus on the song, less on the production, and the sound.
During the songwriting process these days, are you more interested in detailing your experiences and giving the audience a snapshot of your psyche, or providing them with something to imprint their own psyche onto?
Definitely the latter. I'm never wanting to give away too much, always just giving the colors and allowing the listener to finish the picture. I think that's where I find beauty within the music; the knowledge that you're sharing this thing with everyone, but everyone is experiencing it in their own way. All I ever want to do when writing is dwell upon my own experiences, acknowledge how I'm feeling but not state it explicitly because I want to leave the edges blurred for both the listener and myself. I'm still giving all of myself, but in a way that hopefully leaves the music boundless.
What sort of changes did you experience in your career after the positive reception of "Electric Feel"?
It definitely brought a lot of new listeners to my music, but at that stage, I had only really released rough bedroom demos. So once that cover gained a bit of traction, it opened up a lot of possibilities to work on something a little more concrete. I worked on my first EP, and released it through Akira and it's just been a steady build since then. The Logic project that I recorded it in was actually intended for some college homework that was set for my music technology course, a recreation of a random Yazoo track from the eighties. I must've got sidetracked and ended up recording that cover in about half an hour and put up online the same evening. I've certainly lost that spontaneity and punk attitude somewhere along the way haha.
Half Light, your sophomore album was entirely self-produced which is amazing. Although how did all that time spent alone take a toll on you mentally? And what would you do to alleviate the pressure?
If I'm completely honest, it wasn't the most enjoyable, or healthy process. I decided a while back that I'd self produce this one entirely, but then I encountered a lot of issues with self-confidence and I really hit a wall... I couldn't write, I couldn't find any way to express myself and I really started to struggle mentally. I knew that I had to make a record, but at times I really didn't see how that was going to happen. I've always struggled to see the positives in my music, but the pressure and the expectation I put on myself was making things ten times worse. I had to realize that it was just a slightly uncomfortable moment and that I'd rediscover a flow and some sort of contentment eventually. I actually ended up writing and producing the record in about 4 months, once I finished the first song "All". I see Half Light as a really personal record, a set of songs that I had to pull over the line in order to move on and make music freely again. To me, it has a slightly rough and exposed feel to it... But I think I'm okay with that, I didn't want it to be something perfect or polished because it wouldn't illustrate the process that Half Light involved.
In which way does the narrative of 'Half Light' related to your debut album 'Shift'?
It's certainly more personal and intimate. Shift revolved around the theme of movement, it was written on the move, inspired by a lack of pause. Whereas Half Light is the opposite, still and reflective... Almost a little break or rest, before understanding the pace at which to proceed. I'm now starting to understand where I want to take the next album.
Something I find fascinating is the fact that assigning a specific genre to your music isn't an easy task. Your sound walks the line between Folk and Electronica, including a range of other genres. With all these different influences, who are you making music for?
Always trying to make music for myself... Something that encapsulates the feeling I experience from the music of others, without imitating them. I go through periods of listening to loads of new music, and then periods where I'll actively avoid it. I think I have a tendency to dissect music that I love, to try and uncover the elements that make it so good but it's definitely a habit I want to shake. It's in those moments, where I focus on the feeling that music gives, rather than the technicalities, that I make music that I'm proud of.
I thought the chemistry between you and Adriana Triana on the latest track "Tide" was astounding. How did you two meet and what was one of the key lessons you learned while working with her?
As soon as I made the original sketch, I could only hear Andreya's vocal on it. It was this strange thing where anyone I played it to would say "ahh I can really hear Andreya Triana featuring on this!". So my manager reached out to her, and she sent back this little voice memo of the chorus melody she was hearing (and it was just ridiculously good). And then it materialized really quickly, she got a train down, we ate loads of pizza and we wrote Tide in its entirety. Meeting Andreya came at a really good time for me, she helped alleviate a lot of the negativity I was experiencing, helped me express a lot of ideas and helped me reconnect with myself. She's a really amazing person, I can't wait to see her again and work on new music together.
You mentioned in an interview that white noise helps you go to sleep. And your music is layered with a plethora of grainy textures including subtle moments of white noise, is this a coincidence or?
I think it must be linked! I've always found sounds like white noise, ambient noise, and indistinct hum soothing. I do sometimes intentionally put noise in my tracks, but I think I've started to expose and appreciate the accidental noises that creep in when recording. When tracking an idea, I'm often too wrapped up in capturing the moment that I rarely check my signals properly, so hiss and hum are often evident. I've always enjoyed the imperfections within recordings, anything that doesn't quite feel uniform or polished.
What are your thoughts on the role of a record label in a time where independence seems to be glorified?
I think it depends on a lot of different factors; what you want as an artist, what kind of label it is, what kind of deal is it, etc. For me, I just want to limit the amount of stress and anxiety. Being on a major label, signed to a really long deal, paying back huge advances doesn't appeal to me. Nor do I think going entirely independent would be good for me, I'd probably manage to find a lot of stress in that too. But I can completely understand both routes... Especially the independent route. I've just found myself in a really comfortable arrangement with Akira that just sits right with me.
So… 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversion). 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist/band you would like to be within the studio for a week.
Good question! Probably a DMC with Justin Vernon or Frank Ocean.
I'm a very dull partyer... So someone who's idea of a party is a coffee, gentle music and conversation about equipment. Nils Frahm. I spent a little time with him in Berlin, he makes a great coffee and has a very good, dry sense of humor.
And an artist I'd like to be in the studio with maybe Four Tet, Bonobo or Max Cooper.