What is the single most distinctive element to a band’s sound? Which instrument dominates? Which part of a group’s sound would you miss most were it to be removed? Led Zeppelin knew they couldn’t sound as good after their drummer Jon Bonham died, but was there a noticeable omission once the drummer had changed in their more recent one-off live performances? What about the guitars? Were Oasis as powerful after Noel had departed? They may not have written the same towering singles as they did in their early days, but if you closed your eyes whilst Gem Archer ploughed through Rock N Roll Star would you have noticed the shift? We ask these questions because we think the most distinctive element in many bands is so often the singer. The voice is one instrument that you surely cannot replace. Take the Freddie out of Queen, remove Jim from The Doors, or Steven Patrick Morrissey out of The Smiths and they could never sound the same.
It therefore goes without saying that singers are the members of the team that are more than capable of playing away, by venturing out on their own solo careers. The danger is that because their voice makes up such a significantly recognised part of their original band’s sound, that they could end up watering down their group’s significance. So we turn to today’s recommendation, Erika Spring, who is better known as Erika Forster, the singer in the band Au Revoir Simone. A slight change of surname isn’t really going to disguise anything, but alas she released her debut solo EP on the excellent Cascine label earlier this week, under the new moniker, and suffice to say, well, it’s all a bit similar to Au Revoir Simone’s work. In fairness there are still new aspects to discuss, which we will get to next, but just like the Brooklyn all-girl trio she’s better known for, the synthetic pop that they always delivered with the lightest of touches is still on offer.
What Erika has successfully managed to produce is an expanded sound on this new EP. If Au Revoir Simone were a group lighter than air, weighing almost nothing, with their lustrous twee pop that they punctuated with Casio keys, then Eirka Spring is an altogether weightier affair. If they were dream pop, then Erika has most definitely woken up with this new work. Darker tones are more accomplished here, with a more accessible pop attitude, that doesn’t fuck about getting ready, but instead it confidently leads from the front. The EP opens with Happy At Your Gate, and immediately and rather enjoyably sets off with an actual beat, and nobody playing a triangle in sight. Sure there’s elements of Au Revoir Simone’s sexual cool, but here we get new layers and a fizzing momentum. The immaculate sound and classy tone is continued with Hidden, which again has more attitude and aggression, as her sensual voice has a multitude of grinding tiers towering around her, even reminiscent of Austra‘s work on occasion. Like A Fire has the most 1980s feel to it, with a synthetic pulse that Georgio Morodor wouldn’t turn down.
Considering she’s spent the EP applying teeth to the Au Revoir Simone sound, it’s interesting to hear what she’s done when covering the Eurythmics hit, When Tomorrow Comes. Although it’s yet another tip towards the 80s, she actually applies an almost opaque, delicate touch so it’s almost unrecognisable from the original, which if you think about it is the exact opposite of what she’s found doing to Au Revoir Simone’s sound. Its all closed off with 6 More Weeks, which has adorable melodies and a timeless feel to it. Like all decent grown up pop music it has a confident familiarity to it. Overall, it’s a consistent and pretty faultless EP, immaculate from start to finish and this new grit is welcomed. It perhaps tells us that she’s not only the lead singer for Au Revoir Simone, but perhaps the lead talent. That’s nothing against her band, but something tells us drummers and guitarists couldn’t set off on a solo path and produce something this successful. Au Revoir Simone won’t have their sound or brand watered down by their recognisable voice appearing elsewhere, quite the opposite, this EP has in fact magnified what a remarkable songwriter they have in their ranks. (MB)
ERIKA SPRING – HAPPY AT YOUR GATE
ERIKA SPRING – HIDDEN
ERIKA SPRING – 6 MORE WEEKS