How can a band create an identity for itself when sweating it out in a practice space could mean risking your life? For Glasgow’s Nightshift, working on their new album Zöe helped them come into their own, while maintaining a safe distance.
Featuring members of acts such as Spinning Coin, 2 Ply and Robert Sotelo — the band released their self-titled debut album in September 2020. A ragged all-killer, post-punk LP, the band was full of promise and hungry to evolve.
With no chance to present themselves in a live setting, they started piecing together some ideas for their next album. Bassist Andrew Doig and guitarist David Campbell created loops to send around to the rest of the group. Once in the hands of drummer Chris White, multi-instrumentalist Georgia Harris, and the band’s main vocalist and keyboardist Eothen Stearn, the tracks began to morph. As a result, the sound that Nightshift was able to conjure on Zöe is reminiscent of the post-punk wave in England that found a home at Rough Trade in the early ‘80s, if it had been produced by Mitch Easter in the midst of his R.E.M. and Game Theory infatuation.
Handing off the baton virtually is certainly a new way to find your sound as a band. But, as Ears to Feed caught up with Stearn and Doig over a Zoom chat to discuss the album, the distance had its advantages as well as drawbacks.
“It was a very different experience to sing on something that was in my house instead of at band practice where you’re shouting loudly over drums and everything,” said Stearn.
“We were really lucky that we had Chris [White, the band’s drummer],” adds Doig. “He’s an engineer and he really helped make the process easy for us. He was able to take what we did and put it all together and I don’t think we would have been able to do that without his skill, really.”
The album marks the first time the band worked with Chicago label Trouble in Mind Records. Both Stearn and Doig were blown away by their support through the whole process of writing, recording and releasing Zöe.
“The whole thing seems really crazy. Considering we made the whole thing on a whim, for it to be coming out on a cool label like that,” said Doig.
Known for her work as a visual artist, Stearn was happy to have such a force outside of the band championing the record.
“They’re so supportive and trusted us, which is so important,” she said. “It’s nice to have some support because I’m a visual artist primarily and [with that] you’re so alone! It’s nice having a label because they take care of you and want you to do well.”
In this setting, Stearn felt she was able to focus on her lyrics as there was space to find quiet moments of introspection. The album tackles many of the current issues that are creating irritable rashes on society today. With the standout track “Make Kin,” Strearn welcomes the self-reflection occurring all over the world as people are forced to lock down, hoping that they will embrace “the complexities of maturing identities.”
“I think especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of people have been working on being better people,” said Stearn of where the inspiration came for that specific song. “For me, [that song] was about missing people in a really intense way. “There was so much happening and I was thinking about what you value and how to change. Loads of people were doing these flashbacks. Being really nostalgic, which I found curious. Like leaping back to go forward. The way time was working seemed to be really different. It was quite stagnant but then people were doing a lot of self-work. More injustices were being spoken about in a transparent way.”
In fact, Stearn explains that the word “zöe” means “live drive” for all living things, not just humans, against all odds. A fitting title for an album that grapples with the times we are all living through.
On Feb. 27, Nightshift will be celebrating the release of Zöe with a special livestream performance as creative as the album itself. If you can’t wait until then, Ears to Feed has the exclusive stream of the album below.