Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Matt, Tom, Andy and James from The Impossible Knots about what inspires them, their creative style, and their latest music.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Hi, we’re Matt, Tom, Andy and James. Old mates and acquaintances from many years ago, back when we were all living in Portsmouth. We all used to be in bands and tinker with writing music but ‘life’ eventually took over and pushed us down our own separate paths. Lockdown reunited us and gave us a chance to share that passion for creativity again. This led to us forming Impossible Knots.
We describe our sound as a mix of experimental indie rock, folk, electronica. But ultimately the key driver for the project is the freedom to write anything that feels captivating and authentic.
When did you first WANT to write songs?
We’ve always had a passion for tinkering with songwriting and production – right back to our school and college days. Whenever a band we liked brought out a new album it wouldn’t be long before one of us had bought the guitar tab book and was playing it to everyone!
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
After a very long hiatus, we decided to get a bit more serious about it all when the first lockdown happened. With more time to reflect and re-evaluate life, we started sharing some song ideas over WhatsApp. Once this started to take pace we developed them further in Garageband/Logic and sharing around via Dropbox. It wasn’t long until we pulled together and released our debut Rainbows EP.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
The first track we released was called Rainbows. It’s a song about losing people you always think are going to be there forever, the void that leaves behind. In Roman mythology, rainbows were viewed as a bridge between the heavens and earth. So a fitting nod to that really.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
The last song we released was ‘Always Here’. Quite a raw and personal song. It’s a sad reality of the times that Mental Health has become a global health crisis, compounded even further by the Covid Pandemic. It’s an issue that’s very close to our hearts as it affects a number of close family and friends. It’s a song of love, reassurance and patience, support for someone struggling with their own personal battles.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Always Here?
The biggest challenge was to try and tackle such a raw subject and do it justice, give it the right amount of emotion and empathy, without the message and sentiment getting lost. Whilst a heavy subject matter, ultimately the song is a positive one, about love and support, being there for someone, walking with them through the dark times. The song needed to lead somewhere and those rising strings just fell into place.
How many songs are you working on right now?
As a band we are quite prolific at writing ‘complete’ scratch ideas. Matt sits and writes daily, it’s become a solid morning routine. The more you write, the more you uncover. Our ideas pot is now into the 100’s. Out of those we easily have three solid albums written and waiting to be fully developed.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
Generally we go with wherever the mood takes us and we write about all sorts of subjects, so we wouldn’t say there is ever a common theme. We’re big fans of melody, rhythms and textures, so we are always just chasing a vibe.
We even attempted a Christmas song last year called ‘These Streets of Old’. Just as a personal challenge, we decided to try and write a Christmas song, December last year. Written, recorded and released in a week. Sometimes inspiration just strikes. If anyone is putting together any Christmas playlists then feel free to check it out!
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
This changes all the time, but we are all super excited about the tracks we are currently recording for our debut album (due early next year!). Out of the tracks we have released, Rainbows will always be a very important song to us because it’s the first ever song we pulled together and released. A huge moment for us
But all songs have a place and all of them have taken quite a journey from inception through to recording.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
We’ve all got quite an eclectic taste in music, but there ins a definite universal love of Radiohead.
We’re listening to the recent ‘Kid A Mnesia’ re-releases a lot at the moment. Great to hear a fresh approach on some old classics such as ‘Like Spinning Plates’. Follow Me Around is a great track that we’re delighted they have released.
The amazing thing about Radiohead is that they are constantly moving forward. Always pushing their own personal creative boundaries, relentless in their pursuit to keep creating and evolving. There aren’t many bands who would be so bold as to follow OK Computer with Kid A! And to top it all off they are by far one of the greatest live bands of a generation. Perhaps our biggest inspiration is to follow that ethic of constantly pushing the boundaries, hopefully to create a body of work and personal legacy that we can be truly proud of.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
All of our songs develop from being bounced around the band. Everything we do is a solid team effort. To date we have written and self produced everything in house. But for our upcoming album, we could definitely see the benefit of going out to a studio and working with other people. To grow you need to soak up the knowledge and experience of others.
We’ve recently started working with a brilliant producer and engineer called Steve Christie at Vintage Keys Studio. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, cutting his teeth at Air Studios, learning from greats such as George Martin and Tony Visconti. He’s also worked with the likes of Elton John, Hans Zimmer and Mark Pritchard. As the studio name suggests, he has a treasure trove of incredible analogue equipment, old organs and a beautiful Steinway Grand.
Having the freedom to experiment and explore with him is opening us up as a band and helping develop the Impossible Knots sound.
Do you play any instruments?
The way we write is that we all muck in and develop ideas. We are all self taught, so instruments have always been a tool for writing. Matt and Tom play piano, keys and guitar, Andy plays guitar, synths, bass and programming beats and James is an exceptional drummer.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
We evolved out of lockdown. Due to the fact we were all in different cities, we wrote and collaborated over the internet. We didn’t even get a chance to be in the same room until just before we released Rainbows. Therefore playing live took a back seat to the writing process. Now we have our debut album outlined, our next step is to perform our music live. I think the 2022 plan will be centered around gigging our debut album.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Yes, our music is available on all the major music streaming platforms. Our Linktree address is here https://linktr.ee/TheImpossibleKnots
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have day job?
The opportunity to make music again has come back to us later in life. We each have Day jobs and families etc. Depending on how you frame it, I think that has made us more focused and prolific. We have minimal windows to devote to music, therefore we have to make the most of every second of that. The learning curve has been steep but the output is testament to a lot of graft.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
We all have careers, commitments, Matt and Andy have children. There are elements of life that take priority over everything else and family is top of the tree. But everyone around us knows how much we have wanted this, how hard we work.
We each have our window of time and it’s in our gift to maximise that and make it work. The ‘wilderness years’ of not writing and producing music, always left a bit of a creative void for all of us. The opportunity has come back to us and that is a blessing.
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
One thing we’ve learnt is that the creative process is a journey. You have to keep writing to unlock the good stuff. Sometimes it’s the seemingly disposable ideas that can suddenly morph into something great and unique. You think a song is written, then one of us may hear something new in it that takes it in a completely new direction and it suddenly evolves into something bigger. That’s the great thing about writing as a band.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
One of the most profound and impactful experiences we’ve had was when an old school friend contacted us out of the blue, having not spoken to them for 20+years. Fair to say they were going through a particularly dark period in their lives and said how Rainbows had reached them at an extremely low point and pulled them up from the brink. He thanked us and said that it literally saved his life. It completely floored us. I think that was a real moment for us to appreciate the power of music to reach out to people. If you have the intuition to create any art, you just have to put it out there.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
Nothing in the immediate, just focusing on finishing the debut album. However we’re very keen to gig the album once it’s complete, so that’ll be a big part of our plans for 2022. Keep an eye on our social channels to find out where you can hear us live!
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
I think the key we have realised is that music is a very powerful language. It has the power to affect people in the most profound way.
If a song catches you at the right moment, it will stay with you for a lifetime. If you have a calling to sit and write a song, then you have to do it, let out whatever is in your head. But it’s also a process, you sometimes have to churn out a load of dud ideas to uncover the one song you needed to write. Keep writing, keep churning it out and suddenly a piece of magic will just land.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
We only formed properly just over a year ago so it’s still very early days for us. We’re proud of the music we’ve released but we’re always looking to challenge ourselves and raise the bar further. The album tracks we’re recording at the moment we’re really pleased with, and we’re constantly learning more each time we go into the studio.
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