After eight years of silence, euphor­ic syn­th­wave duo Affair release a new EP called Clouds; the sin­gle tak­en from it, High­er Still, dropped at the end of August.

A cer­tain amount of mys­tery shrouds Affair who were, near­ly a decade ago, on the cusp of sign­ing after a flur­ry of inter­est in their sound by indus­try pro­fes­sion­als, the music press and a grow­ing army of fans. But, just as inter­est peaked, the duo melt­ed back into the shadows.

Affair have now resur­faced. Described as ‘dar­ing and com­plex’, their sound is ethe­re­al and dreamy, with Kirsty’s vocals lay­ered over echoey, atmos­pher­ic and at times brood­ing synths. 

I caught up with Kirsty and Mike to unrav­el some of the back­sto­ry, talk about this lat­est release and dis­cov­er what comes next as they step back into the limelight.

You have both been away for sev­er­al years and have just released your new EP. What was the rea­son for mak­ing a return right now?
The lock­down gave us time to reflect on a body of work which we realised we’re real­ly proud of.  Also the rules have changed – 2020 suits a bed­room stu­dio out­fit like ours as lots of musi­cians have had to cre­ate their work in home envi­ron­ments. Before we might have felt this in some way demot­ed our music but now we’re on a lev­el play­ing field with lots of oth­er artists.

Have the two of you been con­sis­tent­ly been work­ing togeth­er in the inter­ven­ing years? Have you worked with oth­er musi­cians in the inter­im?
We have had a big break in the inter­im peri­od and only start­ed work­ing togeth­er again a few months ago. In the inter­im Kirsty has worked on exper­i­men­tal elec­tron­ic solo project Calum­ma Amber with her song Hard­way fea­tured on the album Life in Europe by G Gras. Mike has worked on an elec­tron­ic dance project called DCTN (@dctnuk).

Did you always plan on Affair mak­ing a come­back at some point, when­ev­er you decid­ed the time was right?
It’s always been on the cards, but with Kirsty mov­ing out of Lon­don we both end­ed up spend­ing more time on our oth­er projects. Dur­ing a phone call catch-up in 2019 we decid­ed to get togeth­er to write a hand­ful of new songs as we’d missed work­ing togeth­er. The lock­down was the cat­a­lyst for get­ting us to release all our mate­r­i­al to date – it gave us the time we need­ed and we thought a lot of the escapism in the mate­r­i­al meant it was a fit­ting time for it to be released.

You said about your pre­vi­ous time in the pub­lic eye: “We were con­tact­ed by PRs, lawyers, blogs and a major label but we were so shy then we didn’t real­ly know how to han­dle every­thing.” Do you feel you are in a good space now and are more pre­pared? Have you got good, sup­port­ive peo­ple around you?
Yes, we’re in a much bet­ter space with it all at the moment. We have a small team of peo­ple work­ing with us cre­ative­ly and on the busi­ness side of things. There’s always room for improve­ment but at least this time around we have a lot more sup­port to release the music and con­nect with fans with­out hav­ing to deal with every­thing ourselves.

“We are look­ing for­ward to work­ing with oth­er cre­atives to build a per­for­mance piece”

Where are you liv­ing? Are you immersed in a creative/music com­mu­ni­ty in your home town? And where do you record?
Mike’s still in Lon­don and Kirsty lives in Corn­wall. Record­ing togeth­er usu­al­ly takes place in Mike’s flat in Lon­don as we need to jam togeth­er and dis­cuss con­cepts. London’s been extreme­ly impor­tant in allow­ing us to realise our music and cre­ative ideas. In the past, we have col­lab­o­rat­ed with Lon­don-based music producers/remixers, pho­tog­ra­phers, video­g­ra­phers, graph­ic design­ers and artists (the cre­ative of Clouds was done with the help of an artist friend The indus­try side of things has been equal­ly impor­tant. Kirsty’s cur­rent­ly doing an art degree in Ply­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty so she’s very involved with the stu­dent community.

How would you say your music has evolved?
The Clouds EP was rigid­ly based on the con­cept of work­ing in a ‘live’ mind­set, ie using synths instead of live instru­ments but play­ing them as we would real instru­ments, record­ing like you would on tape. This con­cept proved itself in Clouds and we’re proud of it as it also allowed us to explore a stream-of-con­scious­ness way of writ­ing too. In a way though that con­se­quent­ly prompt­ed us to want to explore a con­cept-based way of writ­ing the songs and look at the sounds from a more trope-cen­tric per­spec­tive. Both of which are where we’re at with the new material.

Who are the artists you most inspired by? Has any par­tic­u­lar artist been inspi­ra­tional while work­ing on Clouds?
Dur­ing record­ing Clouds, influ­ences includ­ed Cocteau Twins, PJ Har­vey and artists on Mute records. Also Scan­di­na­vian artists like Björk and The Knife – also West coast and Cana­di­an artists like Chro­mat­ics, Aus­tra and Washed Out. They all seem to share a uni­ver­sal theme of song-based elec­tron­ic music or dream pop, which we love.

Can you describe your cre­ative process? What ini­tial­ly dri­ves a new track? Who writes the lyrics?
We ini­tial­ly get togeth­er in Lon­don for ini­tial jam­ming ses­sions; brain­storm­ing the lyrics, themes and con­texts. We write from a cen­tral theme, Kirsty jams using stream of con­scious­ness to form a melody and words in the vocal form. These then get reworked until we have a song. The themes tend to be based on what we are expe­ri­enc­ing at the time, or from books we are reading.

We fin­ish off the pro­duc­tion after the jam ses­sions, this stage only lasts a few days. Usu­al­ly we have a shared online project that we record addi­tion­al mate­r­i­al to, col­lab­o­rat­ing vir­tu­al­ly using Able­ton Live and video calls. The rea­son for doing this was because we live so far away from each oth­er but it’s fun­ny how the world soon fol­lowed suit, even if for all the wrong reasons.

Are you intend­ing to per­form live when things ful­ly open up again?
We don’t approach live in a tra­di­tion­al band set up and instead usu­al­ly look to cre­ate a per­for­mance with visu­als, thus it’s usu­al­ly more of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er cre­atives. We’re work­ing with vir­tu­al ideas in the inter­im whilst things are open­ing up but when they do we are look­ing for­ward to work­ing with oth­er cre­atives to build a per­for­mance piece. If a good oppor­tu­ni­ty comes along soon after things open up it might accel­er­ate things, like it did with our last gig.

Clouds EP by Affair
is out now

A sequel EP with the work after Clouds is to be released in 2021


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