18th February | Leftbank

This month sees a return to the live Bristol music scene for violinist and composer Claire Northey, after having a baby last year. I discovered this artist, like many others, on BCfms’ Bristol music show, where they were playing a track from her live album, Mavromati. The combination of classical and slightly trip-hop shapes produced from her violin, loop pedals and co-musician’s flugelhorn were intriguing and unlike anything else I’d ever heard. With her first Bristol gig in quite some time approaching, at the Leftbank on 18 February, she very kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for us.

How did you first get into music? What were you originally into and why did you settle on the violin as an instrument?

“My dad is a jazz pianist and my mum sings in a choir, so I was lucky enough to grow up in a very musical household and was encouraged to learn an instrument from early on. I started playing the violin when I was six; I honestly can’t remember why now, but there was something about it that just felt right and natural to me.”

“Coming from a bi-cultural family, I was always fascinated with both French and English music, so my early influences were bands like Radiohead, Gomez, Mogwai, Portishead, and French artists like Serge Gainsbourg, Camille, Arthur H. This music really encouraged me to explore the violin beyond standard classical music and see if I could make it as loud and aggressive as a guitar, as well as soft and gentle. More recently, I’ve been inspired by live gigs rather than records and I particularly like the way artists like Ibeyi and FKA Twigs transpose their electronic sounds live. The most recent performance that blew me away was Cory Henry at the Lantern in Bristol.”

What type of projects have you been involved in over the years ?

“I really enjoy collaborations, either with bands or with other art forms. In France, I was a composer for a theatre company for many years and more recently, I wrote the soundtrack to a dance piece with a dancer/choreographer from Burkina Faso. This project also involved the great Malian musician, Cheik Tidiane Seck.”

“In England, I played in DJ Yoda’s live band, Breakfast of Champions. We recorded and released an album in 2015 and did a UK festival tour including Glastonbury, Boomtown and the main stage at Bestival, which was an incredible experience for me. ”

“Last year, I recorded on an album for Manchester based, post-rock/metal band Pijn, who are on Holy Roar records. I’m excited by playing with different styles and artists, as it really inspires me and challenges me to think about my instrument and my own music differently.”

How would describe your own music more recently?

“Looped violin. I struggle with genres, and I feel that what unifies all the songs on my album is the sound, looped strings, rather than a particular style.”

Have you been writing new material in your time off? 

“I thought I would be really productive, writing when I was pregnant, and I wasn’t. You can’t force inspiration, and making a baby is in itself quite the creative process! But now that she is born and that I have settled in, my creativity is back and I am starting to write my second album, and rethink my live set for my upcoming gigs.”

What can we expect from you in the near future?

“Live shows! I released my album, Mavromati in April and went on maternity leave, so didn’t have a chance to tour it properly. I can’t wait to share my music, especially with my Bristol audience.”

Listen to the track ‘Mavromati’ here: