Interview: Aimée Steven

The ascendant indie rock singer chats about her excellent new single Today and ways of keeping creative

Posted on Oct 22nd, 2020 in Features and Interviews, {REL[26244][artist]vXVGw2TPREL}, Jacaranda Records / By Richard Lewis
Interview: Aimée Steven Continuing a run of superlative singles, indie rock artist Aimée Steven has unveiled her new 45, dream-like garage rock cut Today. Making productive use of the time during lockdown, the latest missive from the ascendant Liverpool born singer was recorded during the brief period when travel restrictions were lifted over the summer.

Subtly anthemic, the song hints at some alternate reality where Dusty Springsteen had decided to hang out with the Velvet Underground in New York in 1969 instead of taking her connecting flight to Memphis. “It’s gonna be good, it’s been a while” Aimée enthuses about the release over the phone from her base in the city's Georgian Quarter. “Darling was my last single in May, up until recently it was still being shared and listened to quite a lot. I was really made up with that cos lockdown put a spanner in everyone’s works”

“Today is about the fragility of life and how the only thing that really exists is now, not focusing too much on the future or the past and make the most of today really” Aimée explains of the lyrics, written at the height of the pandemic. "It’s pretty apt for what’s going on now and I hope that it’ll resonate with people”.

Aimée Steven · Today

Hinting at her recent rediscovery of The Beatles, the track tiptoes along like Here There and Everywhere or For No One before blossoming into the kind of earworm chorus the singer is rapidly becoming a specialist at. “We wanted to show the fragility of my voice in the verses, then building up to the choruses and I think that balance has worked really well with those songs” Aimée states.

With the releases so far indicating a particular knack at crafting singles, do you ever approach songwriting in that way? “I don’t really write thinking, “This is going to be a single, this one will be a B-side so it won’t be that great. I just write what comes out and see what the end product is and what direction we feel it can go in”.

In keeping with previous singles Hell Is A Teenage Girl and Darling which are backed with memorable videos, Today is set to have an accompanying clip soon. “Obviously with lockdown and restrictions keep changing, so we’re gonna have to see what the score is when we finally come to doing that” Aimée explains. “We’ve done some planning and storyboarding, so we’ve got ideas, it’s just difficult making those ideas into reality!”

“Darling was filmed in my front room by me and my partner Chas (Liverpool psych pop artist Dr. Orange) we kinda had to turn into video gurus in a matter of weeks, but it was fun. It’s an experience I probably never would’ve had if it wasn’t for the experience we’re all in”.

With regular collaborator Elbow, Rihanna, The Coral associate Jon Withnall behind the recording console, the two workshopped new material before lockdown was eased sufficiently to head into the studio. “Me and Jon did a lot of this remotely cos we couldn’t see each other, once the restrictions loosened we were able to do some vocals at his home studio” Aimée says. “It was nice to be in the same room and bouncing ideas off each other. You don’t get to do over the internet, you just can’t get that. There’s always a vibe in the studio and being around people you know and that comes across in the tracks then. The energy in the room goes into the track and ideas flow. I definitely prefer being in a studio, but you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got”.

As the gig circuit shows no sign of returning this year in any recognisible form, Aimée was able along with a score of other luminaires to play live over the Summer at the Liverpool Digital Music Festival. A score of socially distanced events held at venues across the city, Aimée played at the biggest live space on Merseyside, the M&S Bank Arena. Held over the August Bank Holiday the performance marks the singer out as one of the few musicians able to play live after lockdown was announced in March. To comply with regulations of course no audience was present, making the sets performed even more memorable in the circumstances.

“It was really good, ten thousand empty seats, it was insane!” Aimée marvels. “Being in the middle of everything was absolutely crazy. The acoustics and the sound in there are superb. I think the end product was amazing, the way they were able to film it and get the sound so good. I don’t think it’s something many people can say they’ve done, played to an empty arena. I was like “How the hell am I gonna get this many people to like my music! How do people do it?” the singer laughs. “That’s what drives me on though really, that one day that many might like it!”

As Today notches up Aimee’s seventh single release, are there any plans to issue an EP or LP next year? “We’re not really planning that much into the structure of it really, we’re just releasing and seeing what happens, very much playing it by ear” Aimée states. “We don’t wanna plan too much cos of the whole Covid situation, you just can’t anymore cos things are gonna change. We’ll have to do Plan B, or C, or D!”

A potential follow up to the current track is downbeat live favourite Show Me, a song that dates from early in Aimée’s back catalogue. “Show Me is one of the first ever songs I ever wrote. It’s kinda changed and progressed over a year, the production on it is a bit more complicated. It’s fully got to where it should’ve been. It was always a good song, but production-wise it’s finally got to where it needs to be, it sounds perfect now. We’ve got a few more tracks, but we’re going with those at the moment and seeing what happens”.

“Things are completely crazy at the moment but it kinda makes it more worthwhile in the end, cos you get to think about things” the singer ruminates. “To plan a bit more and approach things differently for a change, so that in itself is interesting. I took the opportunity to write more, cos there was nothing else to do really during the strictest lockdown period. You always need more material, you always should be writing and being creative. There was no excuse for me not to draw on that, so it was good in that way”.

On the subject of inspiration during the pandemic, what have you been exploring? “I’ve got back to the classic stuff music-wise, I’ve also picked up books that I haven’t had time to read as well. I read Lily Allen’s autobiography My Thoughts Exactly which I loved” Along with much of the nation, Aimée also headed for the streaming platforms during the pandemic. “We’ve just started watching (HBO Drama) The Third Day with Jude Law. “I haven’t got a fucking clue what it’s about!” she laughs. “Not much has happened, but it’s really creepy, I’m waiting for it all to click into place!”

Today is out now through Jacaranda Records, available here

Photo credit: Giles Holroyd