Through a fantasy lens: Get to know Olive Haigh

by Chris Islacking

by Chris Islacking

Olive Haigh is leading the vanguard of Bristol's psych-goth revolution. As the weather takes a turn for the warmer she's preparing to come out of her cocoon with a new EP, Electric Maze, filled with sombre harps, soft drills and deep swoops. Ahead of the releaase on May 24th she sits down with Bad Luck to discuss monsters, mermaids and children's books...

Congratulations on Electric Maze! Can you tell me more about the themes of the EP? 

Thank you! There are three main themes in this EP – mental illness, love, death. Most of the characters in the EP are based on people I know, but they are viewed through a fantasy lens. I’m not always so good at telling people how I feel and when people I’m close too are suffering I find it easier to show empathy through music. That’s what the EP is really; me trying to explain to people that I care for them.

How were the tracks written? 

I wrote the songs bit by bit over a year. I would begin with a collection of ideas and work into them until I was happy. I was usually performing solo, but when I came to producer Dan E Brown he suggested that he play bass and his friend Jamie Killen play drums on the tracks. This transformed the sound and the songs became much bigger and more dramatic. Dan and Jamie pretty much wrote their own parts for these recordings, and they did a great job. Dan also added a little bit of sonic decoration here and there, and together we wrote some parts on the organ. Charlie Francis mixed the finished recordings, and Charlie a few extra bits of instrumentation here and there which made them feel complete. I’m pretty lucky to have worked with some really talented people on this EP!

How does this differ to previous releases?

In 2014 I released a 3 track EP called Monsters, which was recorded with my friend Arthur Cunnington whilst we were studying at uni in Falmouth. For these recordings Arthur recorded me playing the songs solo and he collected sounds around Falmouth which he used as a soundscape on the recordings. He also added some extra instrumentation, and the result was kind of magical. It was a gentle and eerie EP, and very different to the dramatic sound of Electric Maze. 

Tell me more about your support acts for the show. How did you meet them? And why were they selected for the show? 

Frances Pylons also released his new EP ‘A Ladel of Mist’ this year and we thought it would be a good idea to have a joint release show. We met in Falmouth on Halloween last year when I was playing a spooky gig, and on listening to his music afterwards I was blown away; he’s super unique and special. I had the pleasure of performing with GINS aka Georgie Biggins at a couple of shows lately and it’s pretty astounding to watch her. She performs haunting fragile magical pop that is so honest it’s kind of painful and yet too hypnotic and cathartic to tear yourself away from. My friend Tom Stockley (aka TS Idiot – check him out and his label ‘Uncollective Records’) suggested Ketibu to for this gig so I haven’t met her yet, but having watched and listen to some of her music online I thought she was great. Super eerie, sensitive folk music, stripped back, honest with quirky lyrics. I can’t wait to see all these people perform, and would recommend checking all of them out online because they’re all stunning.

Do you play any of these songs differently live? If so, how do you re-arrange them? 

I will be performing with a different band than the one recorded on my EP; we’ll have Nicholas Heartland on ukulele bass and Leah Liddle on drums. So, because these two have added their own elements, we’ll sound a little different than on the recordings.

How does the artwork tie into the record? 

The artwork shows lots of tiny fantasy creatures, and the inspiration comes from the mental health theme in the EP and the idea of someone having too many thoughts, and all the creatures are a bit like the thoughts in their brain. Also some of them are characters in the EP – for example there is a mermaid that represents the song Deep Sea Lullaby.

You have a background in illustration; Do you have any other ongoing illustration projects? 

I’m working on some merchandise to go with the EP release, making badges and t-shirts and exciting things like that. Also I’m really excited to be illustrating a children’s book for the first time ever. It’s really great but I’m not sure how much I should say about it yet so I won’t say anything else.

What's next for you after the launch?

The plan is to gig lots over the summer and then work towards recording my debut album! The songs are already written so we will just need to get in a studio.

Keep up to date with Olive on Facebook here.

By Tom Coles