Robert Austen’s debut EP – Fallen Leaves
July 1, 2016
It’s officially Summer, nearly the weekend and today sees the release of Robert Austen‘s debut EP – Fallen Leaves. I’ve known Rob for quite a few years now going back to when he was the drummer in Portsmouth based band, Light Effect. Since the band parted ways, Rob has gone on to drum and sing BV’s in Letters to Daisy (Formed by his good friends Sofie Hewson and Richard Hawkins) and in the last few years has been recording and touring with YouTube success, Lewis Watson.
I caught up with Rob and chatted about his musical background, writing solo material and the release of Fallen Leaves.
Hey Rob. Firstly congratulations on the record, it is truly brilliant. They’re just great songs, you should be really proud. Lets talk a bit about your musical background. A lot of people know you as a drummer, did you sing at all growing up?
Ah thanks man, that means a lot. Really glad you like it! I grew up singing in choirs from about age seven to about twelve, then I just stopped all together when I went to my secondary school. I then never really sang in front of people again until very recently to be honest. I guess maybe a year and a half ago I started doing a few open mic nights just to test the waters and I really enjoyed it. Since then I’ve had four gigs playing my own stuff, so still all very new to me but all I want to do is play more shows!
Awesome, so it all feels pretty new to you again. After school you pursued drumming professionally and you’re now part of Lewis Watson’s band. When did that come about?
Pretty sure I started playing with Lewis in November 2012. The first tour we did was a small tour of Ireland supporting Kodaline which was amazing.
I came and saw you play with Lewis at the sold out Bush Hall in May which was incredible. Seeing you play drums for a musician like Lewis and then transitioning into making your own music makes a lot of sense. It must be really inspiring being part of that world? When did you start writing?
Yeah, absolutely! I first starting writing songs about three years ago… Fallen Leaves was actually the first song I finished and it really excited me. I remember showing it to Guy Gyngell, my producer and he felt the same and said we should record it, just as an experiment really to see how it would come out. It couldn’t have come out better. I remember listening back to it and not really believing it was me! It was from there that we decided to record a four track EP. I really couldn’t have done the EP without Guy – he was someone who really believed in me and pushed me to keep writing, always listening to my ideas and helping me when I was stuck. Two of the tracks on the EP (Fallen Leaves, Sails) he actually co-wrote with me.
So, the EP is out today, what are your plans going forward?
Regardless of what happens to the EP, it’s such a lovely feeling having something that is so personal and means so much to you being out in the world for people to hear. I never really thought it would mean this much to me but now the time has finally come and it’s out, it feels amazing. Hopefully I will be putting some shows in the diary soon as well as continuing to write more songs of course.
Well, all the best with the release, I’m sure people are going to like the record as much as I do. The music video we made for Fallen Leaves is out today as well. Thank you for having me involved in that, it was a lot of fun and definitely one of my favourite videos to have directed.
Rob came to me at the end of 2015, having completed recording the EP with Producer, Guy Gyngell. Fallen Leaves was to be the title track and it needed a video. We discussed initial ideas around the songs premise that anyone can experiance bullying at any point in life and as such is something that affects a lot of people more than is often realised. We developed a narrative around the timeline of a young boy coming of age and experiencing mistreatment at key life stages. The video was shot over two days on location at a school which we used for classroom scenes and then built sets within other rooms to provide a backdrop for the rest of the video. We were very lucky to have such talented actors in the video who knew exactly what we were looking for and delivered outstanding performances with zero rehearsal time and a tight schedule.
For the sleeve artwork we shot a mixture of colour and black and white images on medium format film using a Rolleiflex for the square negative. I already knew that I liked the idea of Rob emerging from water as a reference to the birth of his solo work but at the time was completely unaware that one of the tracks would be called ‘Coming out of the Water’ so that was a nice outcome.
To shoot the cover image I had been in contact with a lot of private pools for hire to give us a more controlled environment. Given that this was to be shot in May, the temperature in lakes and the sea would be far from ideal. Unfortunately I couldn’t secure a pool for the shoot and Rob being the lets just do it kind of guy he is was totally up for shooting in the Solent which isn’t far from my house. This was going to prove challenging. It had to be high tide so the water was deep enough but this meant we would need to be shooting as the tide was going out to avoid currents driving me and Rob toward the shore. This meant shooting closer to midday meaning the light wouldn’t be so ideal. Being on the south coast though the sun would be backlighting Rob which was workable. The next challenge was both of us being able to stay steady enough to get the shot. Shooting on medium format you have a much narrower depth of field so and current moving either of us would yield an out of focus shot. In the end, with Rob submerged up to his shoulders in the cold water and myself up to my thighs, we shot one roll of Kodak Tri X 400. 12 frames and we got several usable images to choose from. The expression and calm in this image is perfect and just what I was hoping for.