Alba Rose and Bravo Bonez, who collaborate as ARLS, blew us away last week with their subtly seductive and wholly irresistible trip-hop single LUCKY.
It’s first taste from their forthcoming EP MELD, due out early 2020. MELD is a celebration of 1990s genres such as trip-hop, acid jazz and electro-pop and is set to be an absolutely doozy. We recently caught up to talk about the fun, the serious, and everything in between when it comes to music.
ARLS have established themselves as experienced masters of chill-wave and trip-hop with their latest single, LUCKY. We got the scoop on what’s next for the duo.
HAPPY: Sweet or savoury?
BRAVO: Savoury, preferably very spicy. To be eaten in private as I sweat profusely when I eat really spicy food.
ROSE: Definitely sweet, I’ve basically conditioned myself to always need sweet after savoury.. it’s not good
HAPPY: What’s your earliest memory of music in your life?
BRAVO: My parents recently reminded me I used to get up in the middle of orchestral concerts (at the age of 4 or so), go into the aisle and conduct the orchestra. Delusions of grandeur! My earliest memory is of lying in bed in the early evening and composing orchestral pieces in my head, then singing them at the top of my voice. Probably about 4 – 6 years old. That memory is clear as day to me.
ROSE: I remember being with my Spanish grandma, aunties and uncles in our small family village when I was about 4, and singing songs all the time around the house, garden, and town. I wouldn’t say it was particularly musical, nor in tune, but the energy of us all singing, and the joy it bought everyone definitely had an impact on me.
HAPPY: What does ‘ARLS’ stand for? How did you come up with this name?
ROSE: I don’t know. Ask Bravo.
BRAVO: I thought Rose knew. It’s a mystery to me.
HAPPY: At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to take music further?
BRAVO: My musical career has been very fragmented. I was forced to play the violin when I was younger, and to be honest, I hated it. But I became reasonably proficient at it, and played in successful chamber orchestras in my teens. Ironically, I now overuse strings in my arrangements! Had a go at taking it seriously in bands after school, and was briefly signed. I only recently came back to music as a result of a life event – about two years ago – and have been prolific since then. It feels like I am back for good.
ROSE: Only very recently actually. Music has always been something I have dreamed of pursuing, but I think there are huge mental barriers for everyone, in trusting yourself, believing in your work and worth, and just getting on and doing it, as cliche as that is, so I’m currently working on that, and now’s the time I’m trying to take it further!
HAPPY: What do you have on repeat right now?
BRAVO: Bird of Paradise by Hone Be Good and Karnan Saba. It is perfect. Another stunning release from Tom Scott’s (Avantdale Bowling Club) Years Gone By label. Karnan is working with me on one of my solo tracks which will be released next year.
ROSE: Charlotte Day Wilsons new single Mountains – god she’s good!
HAPPY: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
BRAVO: I know I am pretty good at arrangements, but to be honest my vocal skills are still suffering years of neglect. Greg Haver and Alba were fantastic with me in Norway recently, and managed to get the most out of these rusty old vocal chords. But looking to work on improving that. My songwriting needs further development as I have a few songwriting habits. My musical colleagues have called one of those habits “Bravo’s break and fade”. If you can be bothered, you might be able to work out what that is if you listen to my music over time.
ROSE: I love to write, and love to do this through freestyling and improv, so putting words together with my current emotions on the spot, and ability to write a song fast is something I am proud of. Weakness’s right now would be my ability to physically lay down what I want the music to sound like due to my lack of techno experience. Also finishing projects…
HAPPY: You recently recorded material in Norway at the famous Ocean Sound Recordings. What was that like?
BRAVO: One of the best fortnight’s of my life. Incredibly creative with beautiful people making music that turned out better than expected. Such a stunning location, on Giske Island near Alesund.
ROSE: It was honestly like a retreat, regardless of the high stress, working environment, the location was so serene and therapeutic,.The studio itself was like sitting on a stable boat in the ocean with recording equipment. While you record, you look across the water, see the birds flying, the sun setting, it definitely puts you in a relaxing headspace to get the serious work done.
HAPPY: What do you like most about working with each other?
BRAVO: Rose is such a positive, uplifting person, with a voice that has brought tears to my eyes. It’s beautiful. She is so versatile, and a quick learner. Also a brilliant writer. And so efficient/professional in the studio. She is a dream to work with. Watch out for her solo material. It is pretty special. We managed to record one of her new tracks in Norway. That song is so insightful.
ROSE: I love the musical perspective shift when working with Bravo, he is extremely creative, and always hears and thinks of new contributions to the songs which I never expect, but they always work! He is also very efficient, yet very patient. I love his honesty. If something isn’t working he’s great at just cutting the bullshit and telling it how it is. I think you need that when working with someone, so I appreciate the trust and open communication we have to be able to do that.
HAPPY: You have brought in some pretty talented people to work with. Tell us about this.
BRAVO: Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers, Mel C, The Chills) produced ARLS’ recent material. I got to know Greg through a music blog I was running and we became friends. About two years ago, when I decided to get back into music, to Greg’s surprise, I asked him to produce my material. In parallel, ARLS became a thing, so Greg has ended up producing both ARLS and my solo material. He is an incredible producer. Very creative. Open-minded. We have also brought in Mark Saunders to remix an upcoming single. He is a friend of a friend that I have got to know and thought it obvious that as we were doing trip-hop inspired tracks, that it was a slam-dunk to invite the producer of what some believe to be the best trip hop album ever (Tricky’s Maximquaye) to do a trip hop remix of our favourite track on the EP. His pedigree is amazing, covering The Cure, Neneh Cherry, David Bowie…and of course Tricky. A very talented producer. We are very lucky to have his skills.
ROSE: We also had the mix engineering talents of Simon Gooding (Ed Sheeran, P!nk, Dua Lipa) and Clint Murphy (Manic Street Preachers, 50 Cent). They have been amazing to work with! Awesome characters, as well as insanely efficient and techo talented. Eddie Johnston (Lontalius) has also mixed two of the tracks on the MELD EP. He brought another dimension to those tracks. Additionally, we had Andy Taylor, a very talented session muso friend of Greg’s who also played on the solo track I recorded in Norway.
HAPPY: What do you have planned for the next year or two?
BRAVO: Well we need to get the ARLS material out. We are doing a video for our next single in November with our multi-talented friend Nik Brinkman (Over The Atlantic, Junica, Beach Blue). That will be out in Jan-Feb 2020. The EP will be out in March 2020. I imagine we might come back and do another EP late 2020 – early 2021. I have two solo EPs to release progressively over 2020 – 2021 under my learningtodive identity. I am also planning on recording an EP in Norway again. It is a very dark project called Collapse.
ROSE: Other than the ARLS material Bravo just talked about, I am also working on my own debut EP, hoping to release it late 2020, so keep your eyes out!!
HAPPY: Looking forward to it. Cheers for the chat!