“It was CHAOS!”
5 Questions with Eliza Shaddad

5 Questions with… Eliza Shaddad

Eliza Shaddad is, to quote Sneaky’s boss Nick, a rare talent – she has a rich, soulful voice and a unique, imaginative versatility. You might recognise her name from a certain collaboration with Clean Bandit, but Eliza’s dabbled in everything from hip hop to jazz, and happily cites stadium rock and low key folk as equally influential to her work. Before her band arrives on the Cowgate, touring her newest EP RUN, we catch up with the singer, songwriter and guitarist to chat about her most recent evolution in sound.

Hi Eliza! RUN came out on March 18th – congratulations! How’s it gone? It’s in a very different mood from your first EP; could you talk us through the changes?

Yeah, it is quite different to the last one – which has been really exciting! It’s been fun to explore something new, and we’ve had a really good reaction, which is just incredible. It’s a bit darker, it’s a bit more… it’s angrier [laughs]. It’s a much fuller sound, with a lot more distortion. Heavier drums; that sort of thing. I think it’s all reflective of where we’ve reached as  a band, as much as anything – the sound that we’d like to project.

You started your career flying solo, but now you’ve had nearly two years with a full band… And, most recently, with Chris Bond producing the record, you’ve had lots of exciting resources at your fingertips! Did that feed into the new sound?

Yes, definitely. I mean, I think a lot of it was to do with the fact that I bought a good amp and some pedals – that helps, just to start with! I’d work on these demos at home and would have an idea like… I want this to have a drum and bassy thing going on, or an American rock drum thing… but [Chris] really brings them to life. Andrew plays organ on one of the tracks, which is partly what makes it so epic, I think! It’s a really special sound, and introduced at the right moment it’s like… aaaaaaah – oh my god, like a holy moment.

You came up through a love of folk music, followed by that Clean Bandit collab which took you in a slightly different direction… What other genres would you want to work with?

Oooh! I guess, when I was growing up, I’d listen to a lot of rock, a lot of stadium singer songwriters, like Tori Amos. Darker pop, with massive, massive music behind it. Then I went to Uni and took part in loads of hiphop and rap, did a lot of singing… towards the end of Uni I started going to folk festivals, and writing songs properly. So that’s the main influences on my song-writing… After that I studied jazz for a year in London…and now I’m making whatever this is! So, I don’t know. Everyone says they like all kinds of music, but I really really genuinely do. It all feeds into it. I’m sure the next record is going to be different again… it could be anything, I suppose!

The video to WARS, the single from your new EP, hits you pretty hard! It manages to make a multi-storey car park look incredibly emotional, which is no small feat… Could you tell us a bit about the making of the track and the video?

I wanted it to be a bit of a shock to the system! It had been a while since I’d released anything, and it’s a good indication of the change in sound that the whole EP contains. It was really fun to record – we’d been playing it live for a while, and it’d been getting louder and crashy-er and faster. When we got in the studio it just took off, and we kept adding things; extra layers, extra vocals, that amazing synth that you hear, going over and under everything. The video, as well – it was late at night, we went until 4am, and we were a bit worried about smoke bombs and the police, fire alarms going off… The idea was that it was all in one take, or as close to that as possible, but nobody could see ANYTHING. You’d run into a massive cloud of smoke, and suddenly a pillar would loom out of the carpark and someone would shout ‘chaaaange direction’!

You’d never tell… The video looks so composed!

I know! But it was CHAOS…

So when you bring the new tracks to us, live – what’s your set-up like? Do you need any extra hands to play it?

No, we’ve been three [members] since the off, and we’re three still. It’s funny, though, people are always wondering how we’re going to do it… and then after a show, they’re like ‘how did you make so much noise?’ I don’t know… My guitar tone is quite wide, it’s got a lot of depth to it, it takes up a lot of space… but yeah, we just go IN.

Is that what you look for, in a live show? Is that what makes a great gig?

Yes. If I’m completely immersed it it. Yep. It’s not always the best judge of how well you’re playing, but it’s always the way I judge a show. It’s weird; I’ve been thinking about this a lot… Often, I’m like yeaah that was a great show, and then I’ll see the some footage and be like what am I doing?? Other times, I feel like, oh god I wasn’t into that show… but then you see the footage and it’s like, ‘oh, hey, that was great! What were you worrying about?’

Eliza Shaddad brings her band to Sneaky Pete’s on April 21. Tickets from £7. Doors at 7pm.