Anushka + Psychedelia × Hip Hop = Mountains
That’s right, add Brighton duo Anushka to a bit of psychedelic hip hop and you’ll yield a potent conglomerate of atmospheric beats and tangible connotations, all catalysed by profound lyrical content. After releasing their latest single ‘Mountains’, they spoke to us about their art and ideologies:
How did Anushka begin? What brought the two of you together and how did that turn into creating music?
Max: We met through a party in Brighton that I was putting on that brought producers together to share their work with live art. Vic was a good friend of one of the producers who came down and it all rolled from there. Was a super arty creative time in the city.
Victoria: I needed somewhere to record, we did one session together and I never left! We just clicked and before we knew it we had management and the attention of Gilles Peterson.
You say ‘mountains’ is about personal growth, forgiveness and strength, and that it references the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. Is there anything specific that has occurred in your lives that inspired this?
Victoria: This last set of songs which includes Mountains for me is a real reflection of the divinity of the woman. We live in a society where our life is so dominated by male energy. I believe in higher powers/energies that are non binary. The song wasn’t inspired by patriarchal religious norms. I like the visual references of the transfiguration but it’s more about trying to overcome obstacles. To grow we must change, be reborn in a way. I had a few health problems last year and spent some time in hospital. It made me reevaluate what was important in my life and cut the dead wood.
What are your individual roles within ‘Anushka’? i.e does Max solely focus on the production and Victoria the vocals? Or is there anything else you can tell us?
Max: I think that is our basic role but speaking personally Anushka as a collaboration has really made me grow as an artist generally. I think whereas I started more as a beat maker I definitely play a lot more live instrumentation on the records now and have had to step up my music theory and stuff. I’ve got a background with lyrics and do chip in the odd bit too so there’s definitely a bit of back and forth. Similarly
Victoria really knows what she wants in terms of production and has strong ideas about how things should sound too. It’s a proper old school collaborative process, not just beats and top lining.
In terms of artistic direction, how would you compare ‘Mountains’ and ‘Do You Have Soul’ to your 2014 album ‘Broken Circuit’, and what can we expect for your forthcoming EP?
Max: I think production wise it’s a bit more start of the party, rather than peak time bangers. I’ve been going back to some of the hip hop influences I started out with on these ones and I think that is showing a bit more too.
Victoria: I think the more you do something the better you get so for me the standard has improved. More so it’s that I’ve grown, I’m older now. The things I write about now are a reflection of where my life is at. Broken circuit was about an ex boyfriend. That first love that really shapes you. Nothing compares to that first heart break and I think that is something we can all relate to. The new music has grown from there. It’s more spiritual. It definitely still address my relationships with others but in a more emotionally mature way.
What/who inspires you the most? And what/who has influenced you the most?
Max: Honestly it’s the people I work and collaborate with. I’m very lucky to work with good friends and I think the stuff they are doing, the music they share with me is the big one. I think that connection with a real person is more and more important now that all the music in the history of the world is just a click away. I think I’ve found that from touring that a lot of the time it’s the random stuff you hear in someone else’s DJ set or live show that sets off a chain of ideas you end up bringing into your own work.
Victoria: Life inspires me. I was talking to a friend the other day and we were just talking about all the shit people go through – good and bad. I hope there is an abstract realism to my writing which people can connect to and interpret in their own way. That Talib Kweli lyric ‘life is a beautiful struggle’ I like that idea. Talking of Talib, The Soulquarians are a big influences. I like conscious hip hop. Erykah Badu is the Queen, she is just living art. Her power is enormous.
What was it like collaborating with Ryan Hawaii and how did that come about?
Victoria: Ryan Hawaii is a total original. He just got the concept. We were lucky enough to work with designer Fred Butler on the last record and we like working with forward thinking artists. Our manager is a big fan of Ryan’s and reached out to him.
The artwork for ‘Mountains’ looks like an excerpt of a Cy Twombly meets Basquiat painting. What was your creative process like whilst working with Ryan to conceive the idea?
Victoria: We gave Ryan free reign. I wrote down all the words and phrases that had inspired the music but I didn’t want to impose on his creative process. I prefer it when people create what feels right to them, that’s when you get the most interesting pieces.
Can you give us an insight into your creative process from a musical point of view?
Victoria: I tend to sit at the piano and improvise over a chord sequence. Songs that are good tend to come very quickly. Max sends me beats to write over. We don’t have one way that we work we just do what works for a particular track.
What do ‘Anushka’ stand for? Are there any particular ideologies that have remained consistent since the beginning of ‘Anushka’?
Max: Anushka was a name that sprang up from a kind of storytelling track we were working on. We ended really liking the idea of a kind of neutral third person that we could project onto. I think in a way it’s more a process than an ideology. There is always a moment where it clicks and I think, right, this is an Anushka track now. It’s sort of a person that doesn’t exist until we’ve both added our contribution to the sound.
Victoria: We want to make music that connects. I write whatever is in me to write rather than writing for an outcome or purpose. That’s always been an overriding ideology.
Do you have anything exciting lined up in the near future such as gigs, tours etc.
Max: We’re finding up tour dates as we speak! Very excited to get back out on the road and make some loud sounds. Look out for a Basement session soon too!
Victoria: We are in the process of planning our European tour which is exciting. We can’t wait to get back on the road!
‘Mountains’ is available now.