Interview: Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham from Aquilo | Living North

Interview: Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham from Aquilo


Musical duo Aquilo grew up streets apart in a village on the border of Cumbria before meeting on the internet. They chat to us about how their dreamily ambient music is subconsciously inspired by their stunning surroundings

You’ve both been into music from a very young age. 
Ben: As kids we were in separate rock bands with friends we’d met at school. You can only really play in pubs in Silverdale – if we wanted to play a proper music venue we’d have to go to Kendal. The schools we attended were really supportive – we were fortunate to grow up with people around us who encouraged what we were doing.

How did both of your paths cross? 
Tom: I was at university and when I came back home a lot of my friends weren’t there anymore. I didn’t really know Ben as he was a few years younger, but I saw that he'd just released a song on Soundcloud which I thought was really good. I discovered that he actually lived a stone’s throw away from my house, so I invited him to come round and the first song we wrote together was Calling Me. 

What advice would you give other young musicians starting out in Silverdale or the Lake District? 
Tom: To gig and get in touch with blogs. We were lucky enough to be featured on one blog, which led to a series of people writing about us and calls from managers and labels.
Ben: There are also some good festivals for new bands in the area now. I played Kendal Calling with my old band, Cry Baby Aeroplanes, and two years later me and Tom played it.

Your music is so peaceful – I bet growing up in such a beautiful part of the country has something to do with that. 
Ben: We spent a lot of time outside as kids. I think we were part of the last generation who played in the woods instead of staring at an iPad. In terms of how that feeds into our sound, I think it’s subconscious. [Laughing] It’s not like we’d open a window, look outside, and then write a song. 

You’re lucky you have such a lovely hometown to return to after touring. 
Ben: For the past year, we haven’t really been able to go home because we’ve been so busy, but when we were making the first album Silhouettes, we spent most weekends back there – my parents still live in Silverdale. We have dogs, so we spend a lot of time in areas with good walks like Ambleside too.

Your second album ii is being released in two parts – Side A came out last year and the finished product, including Side B, will be released on 4th May. What prompted that decision? 
Ben: We started making this new album a few weeks after we released our debut. When five songs were ready, we thought – let’s just put these ones out and then write the next few. The way that people consume music these days is so different – you don’t get the opportunity to sit down and listen to a whole album that often. We think five songs is enough to enjoy at a time.

Is there an overall theme on this record? 
Ben: It’s quite a hopeful record, more so than anything we’ve written before, and lyrically a lot more real. When you listen to it you’ll realise it’s quite literal. That’s because we take inspiration from our own lives, or friends lives – just anything that passes us by. 

With so much touring, you must discover a lot of great music on the road. 
Tom: Our influences are always changing – when we were writing the first album we listened to a lot of The National and The War on Drugs. At the moment I’m listening to Alex G and Deerhunter. Wild Beasts from Kendal are also amazing – it’s sad that they’ve split up now. I’d also recommend Mr Ben and the Bens from Lancaster and a guy called Sun Drift. 

What should people expect when they see you live?
Ben: Our fans come to the shows thinking it’ll be more down-tempo than it is, but we’re quite energetic. We play quite loud, probably because of our rock background.

I have to say, I’m quite intrigued by your band name. 
Tom: My mum found it, she loves getting involved. Aquilo is the god of the north wind in Greek mythology. We weren’t coming up with anything better ourselves – it fitted with the music we were making and it has something to do with where we’re from.

Published in: April 2018

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