The Tab meets Dream Pop Artist Solo Major

Under his stage name, Solo, first year physics student Solo Major creates euphoric dream-pop, drawing influences from bedroom pop artists like Youth Lagoon and Washed Out. The Tab caught up […]

Under his stage name, Solo, first year physics student Solo Major creates euphoric dream-pop, drawing influences from bedroom pop artists like Youth Lagoon and Washed Out. The Tab caught up with him this week to discuss his music taste, songwriting style and ambitions for the future.

Tab: Tell us a little about your songwriting process.

Solo: Basically, if I experience something quite meaningful to me, it may just be an everyday occurrence, I’ll write a couple of lines or sentences about it. So I often start with the lyrics. A lot of the time it is just a couple of sentences, completely free form. I don’t start with any rhyme or particular rhythm. I usually just try to come up with a couple of lines that are a bit thought provoking.

Then, I try to come up with some chords. Originally, I learned jazz guitar, so it starts off quite jazzy. I enjoy how the changes between the chords can really spark a feeling. Then I come up with some little guitar lines or riffs that are two or four bars long. I then loop that on Garage Band, which is shamefully the software that I use! (Laughs) Sometimes that loop will remain throughout the whole song. Then I’ll continue to layer loops on top, and the different notes within each one will match to create a harmony. As chords change, the notes in the harmony will change to match that.

After that I try to put it all together and come up with a tune for the vocals. Even though the lyrics are the first thing I do, the vocals themselves always come last. Mainly the final version will consist of different loops fading in and out, in different combinations. And I apply a lot of reverb to make it all quite dreamy and euphoric. That’s what I aim for anyway.

Tab: How would you describe the sound of your music?

Solo: I would compare myself mainly to a group called Wild Nothing (The Tab’s 11th best album of 2012). Although my music is more acoustic, and slightly more layered than that. I take the focus away from the vocals and the drums and try to put it on the acoustic guitars and the atmopshere. Yeah but generally I would say Wild Nothing and Beach House. When I attempt slower stuff I try to go for something a bit more ambient, a sort of Sigur Ros arrangement on strings. Obviously that is very, very ambitious!

Tab: And which artist working today most excites you?

I would say Beach House. Their latest album, Bloom, was, for me, just the perfection of their sound. It was their fourth album, and people have criticised them, saying they have sounded exactly the same over their past three records, but I would not say that. I think it’s more a progression and a honing of their sound. I think they’ve just improved with every album and Bloom was the pinnacle of that.

Tab: What would you say is your biggest achievement as a musician?

I have only just started this current project, writing my first song with this ‘sound’ and these influences in early 2012. But actually I originally learned classical guitar, taking that up to grade 8. At 16, I entered a ‘performer of the year’ competition. I was a couple of years younger than everyone else, but I actually managed to win it! It was very exciting, even though my passion was not in classical music. When I won, the prize was to play in front of a full orchestra at a venue of about 2000 people. I played for about 15 minutes, this suite of pieces, and that was great. I would say that was my biggest achievement so far, but I’m very excited to see what happens with this project now.

Tab: How would you say that your life in London, and particularly at UCL, has influenced your songs?

I would say it has influenced me massively. I’m originally from Cornwall, which seems completely separate from the rest of the country. There is seaside and there is countryside, which is nice, and there are plenty of beautiful landscapes that you could potentially take inspiration from. However, there’s something about the sudden switch to the city that I have found quite surreal, which I feel is a great feeling for me to use to write my music. So yeah, that sense of the surreal contrast has definitely fed into my songwriting, as my music is quite dreamy and sort of not quite real and being in London has helped that.

Tab: Where would you like to be in five years time?

Even though I’m studying physics now, music is my real passion. I would love to do that for my career. In five years time, I would love to have recorded an album, be on an independent label and perhaps be supporting an act that I admire. If I could support Wild Nothing by that time it would be incredible. I would also love to play a main stage at a festival, maybe one of the earlier slots, that would be amazing. It’s ambitious, but I think that if I keep working at it, it is possible.

With his obvious technical nous, knowledge of, and passion for, the sound he is creating (and a more digestable stage name than last week’s interviewee), Solo has all the tools he needs to succeed. He is certainly more engaging than the next group of Etonians with electric guitars.

Follow Solo on Soundcloud here:

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