Spindle Ensemble Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Daniel Inzani and Harriet Riley from Spindle Ensemble. Let’s begin with the name Spindle Ensemble and its meaning?

There are a few reasons actually… Wood is a theme, Spindles are wooden like (almost) all our instruments: piano, violin, cello, Celtic harp and marimba, and there’s a very beautiful tree with a distinctive bright pink fruit called a spindle tree. It’s also a reference to the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, the princess pricks her finger on a spindle and it sends her into a long, long dream. I love those old magical and creepy stories, and want to create music which has an unspoken narrative so it seemed like a serendipitous name. (Daniel)

Your stunning second album: Inkling is your first for Hidden Notes. Tell us about how your relationship with the label came about?

We played at the first Hidden Notes festival in 2019 which we loved. There were so many fantastic acts and everyone running the festival was super engaged and passionate about the music – plus being in nearby Stroud, it was great to see such a wealth of experimental classical music so close to home. They decided to create a label and ours is the first record to come out under Hidden Notes Records! (Harriet)

The music combines the traditional alongside a more radical, teasing of the senses. Is there a particular piece of music from childhood which set each of you on the path to the music you now create?

Certainly for me, the fantastic Ruth Underwood, who was percussionist for Frank Zappa in the 70s. She often had an array of massive percussion instruments around her: marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, bass drum, tubular bells etc. Plus she was often the only girl in the band – something I have related to a LOT in my career. We’ve got a fairly unusual ratio in Spindle! Check out St Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast by Frank Zappa. (Harriet)

Can you talk us through the process of how one of the tracks from the album was created and then produced? I was also curious to ask about the recording process itself, which microphones are best suited to each instrument and about any effects etc you use?

I set up a location recording studio specifically for this album consisting of ribbon microphones, some handmade from Extinct Audio and some vintage refurbished ones from X-Audia. They have a very warm tone which suits our whole instrumentation but the real advantage is being able capture a 3D sound image of the space we’re performing in using a Blumlein array with a matched pair of BM9 ribbon mics. We record in concert halls and churches where the acoustics suit our music and set up around this pair as if it was an audience member positioned in the best seat in the house. This stereo image is the bulk of the final sound which is spacious and allows the listener to feel like they’re hearing us perform live in concert, even able to pick out the position of each instrument. (Daniel)

How would you say the atmosphere of living in Bristol has fed into the music you make? Which (pre-Covid) venues are your favourite to play at in the city?

We’ve had some fantastic support from venues with Spindle! I love playing in the incredible acoustic of St George’s, but also smaller venues like the Forge where there’s a really intimate vibe. (Harriet)

How would you describe the power that music has without words?

I think there’s that extra sense of subjectivity. I know it can be a different experience for musicians and non-musicians, but I certainly hear a conversation happening. There’s voices and emotions and it’s like tuning into another language. It can be an incredible way to getting know someone by playing them, getting to know their insecurities and strengths and supporting each other within these. I think with great music you can hear these relationships play out. (Harriet)

Should music always be political in some shape or form, or purely about emotion?

Everything you do can be perceived as political. It’s political to make music about emotional and reject the ideas of suppressing your emotions which daily life often involves. Our music certainly doesn’t have catchy chorus’ about systemic change, though those can be great, but we have our own take on connecting to nature and ourselves and our music reflects that. Sometimes being completely abstract is like rejecting the whole system. (Harriet)

Outside of music which artists inspire each of you most (Painters, poets, writers etc)?

I absolutely adore visual art, specifically paintings. Georgia O’keeffe’s super enlarged flowers, really detailed surrealism by Dali and impressionists like Degas would definitely be up there with my favourites. But I also love to support and buy local art – Bristol and Stroud have some amazing designers and artists and supporting their process and work is really inspiring in a totally abstracted way to music. I recently got a painting by Nettle Grellier which is incredible – check out her work! (Harriet)

(Music video/animation by Marie Lechevallier)

Your recent single, Caligo is elegantly accompanied by a video from Narna Hue which captures and then blurs memory in amongst the reflective arrangement. What can you tell us about the making of it and what it represents for you?

Narna Hue and I have collaborated on a lot of music videos now. Caligo combines two of the different approaches she used in previous videos: filming on super 8 and creating animations from scratching directly onto 16mm film. The colours and patterns are very visually satisfying and her editing is very musical, she has created a narrative that flows perfectly with the music. (Daniel)

And finally. The obvious question. What is each of you looking forward to most in 2021?

I’m looking forward to performing and connecting with people. It’s so hard when such a big part of your life like sharing music with audiences is taken away, it really makes you value your place in life. Releasing ‘Inkling’ will be a really emotional event coming out of this. Plus just meeting people for a casual drink and a hug! (Harriet)

Spindle Ensemble – Inkling – Hidden Notes Records is released May 27
Buy https://spindleensemble.bandcamp.com/album/inkling

Share this post: