Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.
Where are you based?
Hey, I’m Curtis from Mystic Peach. I was brought up in a town called Eastleigh for most of my life. But now reside on the outskirts of Southampton.
How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?
I want to say I was about 14? My close friends at the time, and still now, were in a band who I would often go and watch (one of them is now the manager of my band) and they got me into writing songs after being exposed to it when I hung out with them. People will think I’m being modest perhaps, but I don’t consider myself a musician and definitely not a producer. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about music when it comes to notation or theory etc. I can tell you if I either like the sound of it or not though! But I will not insult the real musicians out there, like my band mates who know what I’m playing more than I do! I guess if I have to label myself, I would say I’m more a performer and writer. My band is Mystic Peach and I started this project with my friends Jimi Allen and Joe Ingram. It started with an introduction in a pub between Jimi and I, and then I asked my forever loyal friend Joe if he, once again, wants to do ANOTHER music project which he *thankfully* said yes to. Now, together, we are all Mystic Peace.
Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?
How’s your attention span? There’s far too many to list and I’m not sure if I can honestly remember every band that is the culprit that started the loud noise I force people to endure. What I do know is that it’s very conflicting. Bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Sex Pistols, Pixies… I think you get the picture, I just absolutely loved the unnecessary noise they created. Powerful guitar sounds, not pretty but honest and I really love that in aggressive guitar tones. It feels real and you can relate to it, I feel a lot of heavy bands nowadays don’t have that feel. I don’t understand why you would want a tone that isn’t meant to be nice, to sound nice? But that’s just me.
The other half of my influences are bands like The Smiths, Mac DeMarco, Slowdive, Alvvays… again, you get the picture. Swaying, beautiful cleans but have been mucked around with all the reverbs, delays and modulations. It made me realise that clean guitar tones don’t have to be boring and clearly, I wasn’t about that purist life. I don’t want my guitar to sound like a guitar. So I guess that’s where my conflict with tones began, and I like to think that it suits my conflicting style of writing.
Explain your creative process? Do you have a routine?
Absolutely no routine. If I don’t feel like writing then I won’t write. If I feel like writing then I will write. It’s that simple unfortunately. Sometimes it comes from just messing around in the rehearsal room and I’ll go home and work on it or just keep going with it at rehearsal. On the rare occasion, lyrics will just paddle out of my mouth, but 90% of the time I like to record the song idea and go home and think about what I want the song to be about. Sometimes Joe will give me a lyric or two which I will take a liken to and then write around that.
I do have some funny and strange–I suppose you call them suspicions? when I do write though… One of them is that if I can’t remember a song I’m working on the next day when I wake up then it clearly isn’t catchy enough, therefore, banished forever. And another is that if it doesn’t sound good when it’s just me and my guitar, then it’s not good enough for the band and again, banished forever. I know, I’ve probably wasted a lot of potentially good songs.
What is your “studio” setup?
What studio? It’s basically just me, the guitar, the pedal board and a mini amp in some room where my fiancée isn’t. I will sometimes get the microphone out if I’m feeling fruity but yeah, I feel more comfortable writing by myself with just my guitar and seeing if I can write organically, if that’s even a thing? When I think I have a good enough song, I will record it on my phone and send it to the band and if they can hear there’s a song in its pure rawness then we’ll get together and work on it. Demo it, improve what needs improving and then hit the studio. That way we can concentrate on production rather than parts/structure/hooks and all that boring stuff.
Here’s a shot of us (myself with Joe – bassist of Mystic Peach) demoing at a rehearsal spot near us, called Planet Sounds.
What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely?
I do like collaborating with my band a lot. I really like it when they add their own influences on something I’ve written. It surprises me how different a song turns out compared to the version that was in my head. I also like mucking around in rehearsal and something really cool comes out of it. Like a riff or a melody or whatever. It’s like the hard part is done, it’s just turning it into some formulated song which is never that important, as a producer will hear something different and want to change the band’s structure anyway… probably.
At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?
I don’t think I’ll ever feel 100% comfortable showing my songs to anyone, personally. You always leave a bit of yourself in most songs you write so it can be like you’re exposing your insecurities or secrets to people. Not like they ever notice because people generally make their own meaning on a song, but yeah. Even when I show my band mates, I do wonder if they know what I’m writing about as they know what I get up to or what’s wrong with me most days, so that can be interesting as well. Sometimes Joe will just say “does that say “blah blah blah” and I’ll be like “Yeah” and he’ll know exactly what the whole song is about. My fiancée is still angry at me for not writing a love song about her though. (I have written one but I’m not one for public affection…)
Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?
Only between band members, management and producer really. Our manager deals with all the nitty gritty stuff so I really wouldn’t know? Funnily enough he uses Byta for all of that stuff. All of our songs could be leaked everywhere and I wouldn’t know it. But I do remember when our single ‘Wanna Be My Daddy’ was released digitally (Spotify etc.), it came out like ‘Mystic Peach’ by ‘Mystic Peach’. It looked so unprofessional and embarrassing at the time, but these things are easily resolvable and got sorted within a couple of days. It was just a metadata mistake by the distributor, but it confused some people. Shows how that stuff really matters at times. We still blame that for the single not getting playlisted much…
How do you know when a track/album is finished?
I guess you know once the mixes start coming through, it’s quite a long process but I think if you’re not happy with the songs you recorded in the studio within the time you were in there (unless intending to go back at a later date) then something has gone wrong. You know once you’ve put everything down and have listened to a rough mix before you’ve left that it’s done. It’s just the finer details that create the long drawn out process, it’s mainly the drummer trying to be louder than the bass and guitar so that’s the first and main issue you need to sort out first… But in all seriousness I don’t think you ever know really it’s just “yeah that sounds cool” and then suddenly it’s out. Whenever I listen back I always wish I had done something different here or there so the best way to solve that is to not listen to it ever again!
How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?
Usually in my earphones as I’m usually at work when they get sent through, so I slyly give it a listen just out of excitement really, but I will listen through every speaker I have possible to see if there’s a consistent niggle I can hear or if there’s radical change between the speakers. Every speaker has it’s own character of course but as long as it sounds good through all of them that’s when you know you’re onto a winner. Car speakers are always a great way to listen as well, it’s nice to just go out and sit in a tin blasting a mix out. There’s always nostalgia attached with driving/road trips and music so for me, you listen to it in a different way compared to being at home/work or on a night out. It feels a lot more personal for some reason?
How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?
I think I guess it depends how high up you are in the industry I guess? It’s never worried me and I wouldn’t know anyone who would want to steal my music to send around to random people. So no, no horrors as of yet but I’m sure it will come one day, comes with the nature of the beast that is digital. But I don’t think it was any safer pre-digital, if not probably worse but that’s just me assuming? But I do remember LimeWire back in the day, was the place to get your latest grime and garage bangers… I heard.
Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?
Band members obviously and manager and close friends and family? Depending on the release, sometimes we’ll get together to have a listening party and have a few beers and celebrate. I remember when we released “Across the Pond” and as per usual we took it too far, we had to do a DJ set the following day and we turned up still in the same state as the night before… I don’t think they’ll invite us to do another DJ set again.
Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?
Anyone who is involved with the release itself I guess so they know what they are actually pitching. Anyone who wants to promote it can listen to it to be honest.
Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?
Working on a single release for Autumn currently. Yet to be discussed but we’re working on an EP right now whilst preparing for our tour in Europe in October as well so yeah, boots to the ground at the moment which is excellent. Always worrying when you’re fiddling your thumbs in music.