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 robertrush.info). 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