Tess Tyler‘s imaginative score and latest single ‘7ero’ immediately caught my imagination: it’s a surreal, stunning blend of classical, orchestral styles with electronica, something unique and inventive.
In the course of listening, I learnt that Bristol based Tyler has also collaborated with Rory Friers, from one of my favourite acts And So I Watch You From Afar, on the record, which, despite their disparate backgrounds, makes an odd kind of sense as Friers branches out into new styles more similar to Tyler’s. I caught up with her ahead of the release of the album, Fractals.
First of all, congrats on the single. I understand it’s the lead into a double album, which sounds ambitious! Tell me about the two sides of things….Are those ‘two sides’ reflected in the two versions of the single, too?
It is. ‘7ero’ is one of 5 tracks from Fractals Vol. 1 that also feature on Fractals Vol. 2. The first volume being piano with electronics, and the second, experimental classical interpretations of my graphic scores performed by The Spindle Ensemble.
You merge classical and more contemporary styles in your music. How do you find that mix when it comes to finding a niche to perform and record in?
I’ve always been drawn towards interesting combinations of sound, so I guess it just comes down to experimentation for me. I keep playing with different palettes of sound until I get that feeling of ‘Yes! That’s what this track is meant to sound like!’ Even though I almost always start writing a piece with piano first, the textural / sound-based element of my music is super integral to the composition process. All the sound design is pretty much fully formed before I get to recording the piano properly. I need to know that it all blends nicely before I commit with recording.
When it comes to performance, I haven’t actually performed any music from this record yet, apart from ‘Sell The Sky’ for a live video release. I’m super interested to see how the intricate piano will work against the grit of the electronics and kit in different spaces. I’m lucky enough to work with great engineers who know what they’re doing!
Tell me about your work on Lego Avengers and Human Fall Flat – how does that kind of stuff come about, and how does it differ to your normal writing?
In all honesty, I stumbled into composing for games. When I graduated from my masters, I emailed everyone and anyone about jumping on any existing projects as an assistant or orchestrator. Rob Westwood happened to be completely snowed under and needed some help with scoring Lego Avengers, where I ended up with a co-composing credit. It all went from there really!
Composing for media is wildly different from writing your own stuff, from a conceptual perspective. When working in film / video games etc., it’s important that your music aligns with the intent of the director / game developer. In other words, the music is there to support / enhance something that already exists.
When you’re writing a record, you’re starting with yourself, and that’s it. I guess when you’re working to someone else’s vision, it’s more obviously a job, as you have to make sure that other people are happy with what you’re creating. When it’s your own stuff, I find it’s more important that I, myself am happy with it. The pressure comes from different places. For me, they’re completely different disciplines, but I love doing both. They tick very separate, yet satisfying boxes for me.
It’s taken a long time to get to an album. Does that make it a more significant moment for you?
I released my EP, Stasis in 2020, but this was almost an experimental exercise for me. Fractals is on a much larger scale, and a labour of love. It’s significant to me, but not necessarily because it’s taken me a while to get here. It’s more because it’s an honest depiction of who I am creatively. Usually, I’m working to someone else’s brief, so I haven’t had a chance to express myself this authentically until now.
You’ve done a lot of collaborative work over the years. Do you feel that kind of thing brings out the best in you?
I do, yep. Even when I’m working on my own, I think of my work as a collaboration to an extent, as so many of my ideas are inspired by pieces of music that I love. Working with other people directly is always so good for me though. I’m really lucky to have worked with a variety of musicians who specialise in different styles. I learn so much whenever I collaborate, and it breaks me out of any reoccurring patterns that could do with shifting / developing. It’s so good for me, and keeps me curious to explore new ideas, as opposed to just repeating myself over and over.
I’m a fan of ASIWYFA and a collaboration with Rory Friers seems an unlikely one given your two sounds, though of course he has branched out a lot recently into more orchestral styles. How did that one come about?
I was just as surprised as you are! I was sitting on a panel for video game music at Output Belfast, and Rory emailed me beforehand saying that he was on another panel, and asked if I wanted to connect and do a potential collaboration someday. ASIWYFA are one of my favourite bands, so I was REALLY taken aback. We had a beer at the conference and then I asked him if he wanted to guest on my record. He said yes, and then I died of happiness, basically.
Will you be touring your work with Spindle Ensemble?
Nothing in the diary as yet, but that would be dreamy.
What’s the Bristol music scene like at the moment?
It still feels like things are gearing up a little after Covid, but there’s still some great stuff happening from multiple scenes. I’ve yet to go to a less than amazing show at Strange Brew – so diverse and always high quality.
What are your hopes for your music in the future?
More collaborations, more records, more experimenting and hope to land a few scoring gigs where I can be a bit weird.
‘Fractals’ is out on September 9.