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Tamesis Interview

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Joe and Maisie of Tamesis, a band that infuses their music with a mystical and spiritual ethos deeply rooted in their unique name and artistic vision. The group's eclectic sound spans folk-rock, psychedelia, and acid-rock, capturing the imagination of their listeners with each chord and lyric. Today, they will delve into the origins of their band's name, their creative process, the thematic depths of their latest EP 'Magna Mater', and much more. Join us as we explore the rich tapestry of influences and stories that define Tamesis and their journey through music.

Tamesis carries a mystical and spiritual ethos rooted deeply in its name and music. Can you share more about the origin of the band’s name and how it reflects in your music?

Joe: We instinctively wanted to go for a Wiccan sort of name, for reasons I can’t quite remember! I’ve personally always been very interested in history so that’s where my research took me. I looked up some old pagan deities and found out about a Celtic goddess of spring water called ‘Tamesis’, who was connected with the River Thames. Although none of our members are originally from London, this city served as the birthplace for the band, and the city in turn owes its existence to the River Thames so it felt good to honour that. At the time, the three of us (Lucy, Maisie, Joe). The river and water theme also ties in with our interest in astrology - water being the element of emotion and the subconscious, which is what we hope to play with in our music.

Your music is an eclectic blend of genres ranging from folk-rock to psychedelia to acid-rock. What process do you follow to integrate such diverse influences while maintaining a cohesive sound?

Joe: The process is pretty subconscious- there’s no cerebral thinking involved about how to integrate genres, we just follow our intuition. I think we have a strong creative compatibility as band, while at the same time we all come from fairly different traditions in a way – for instance, Maisie has more of a folky background than I do. But everyone in the band paints with their own palette and when we play or write together the influences naturally blend together. A lot of the bands we are collectively inspired by tend to be quite genre-fluid too, like Kikagaku Moyo and Wax Machine.

The EP ‘Magna Mater’ touches on themes of rebirth and nature’s cycles. What inspired this theme, and how do the songs on the EP explore these ideas?

Joe: When Tamesis was founded in 2019, we were involved in the XR protests and environmentalism was quite big in the zeitgeist at the time. I think all of our members feel happiest in nature too; I grew up in Brighton and Maisie in Lewes, and we both spent a lot of time with our families exploring the South Downs growing up. There’s an intrinsic emotional and perhaps even nostalgic connection to nature and the earth. It wasn’t intentional to have the songs on the EP connected to nature’s cycles, it just sort of ended up that way. You could say it also ties in with the astrology cycles and interpretations of Tarot cards too. You have Last Flight which explores Libra-like energy; relations between the self and others. Raindance concerns water-elemental themes of raw emotion. Cambridge Drive touches on ideas of cycles and loops we create within ourselves. Magic serves as a warning of what happens when you find yourself out-of-sync with nature’s cycles, while Magna Mater ends the EP on a more positive note, showing how the planet will endure beyond humanity’s errors – spring will always come.

Your lyrics seem to weave a rich tapestry of mythological, spiritual, and social commentary. Can you discuss the primary sources of inspiration for your lyrics? How do you hope your listeners interpret these themes?

Joe: The inspiration is a mix of all sorts of stuff – poetry, literature, environmentalism, personal spiritual and psychedelic experiences, religion, and even political ideas like Marxism. Tarot card interpretations and their stories are an inspiration too. In terms of how I hope the lyrics are interpreted, I’d want people to interpret them however they like – as a songwriter I may have written the lyrics based on a particular theme or experience of mine, but once the words and music are out into the aether then the meaning will be in the ear of the beholder. I quite like ambiguity in lyrics, and evoking feeling just from the phrasing; I agree with Kae Tempest’s philosophy that the words can mean something unique to each individual who hears it. I might write a song about my own experiences, but if someone else listens to the lyrics and takes a different meaning from them based on whatever situation they are going through, then that’s great.

With your evolving sound, especially noted in the latest single ‘Magic’, what new musical techniques or instruments have you experimented with on this EP?

Joe: We added more instruments into this EP when compared to our first bunch of songs- mandolin, tin whistles, singing bowls, etc – and we’d definitely want to do more of that both recorded and live going forward!

You’ve collaborated with visual artists like Ìstina Dēva and India Rose. How do these collaborations enhance the Tamesis experience? Can you describe how visual art contributes to your music’s storytelling?

Maisie: Most recently for our EP artwork we worked with an incredibly talented artist and friend of ours, Jake Brown. Jake initially did a photoshoot with us in Epping forest, which was the perfect location to bond! We discussed our brief with him – we wanted an image representing the figure of Magna Mater (the Great Mother), which would incorporate the four elements and various aspects of alchemical symbolism. I think part of what makes Jake’s artwork such a perfect fit, is that he incorporates the themes of nature, alchemy and magic with a bold and modern psychedelic style. As a London-based band, our music seeks to bring out the magic, nature and folk roots within the city, and merge these with our more contemporary influences to create music that reflects our experience of living in this huge metropolis filled with history.

How do you translate the complex layers of your recorded music into live performances? What can fans expect from a Tamesis live show?

Joe: We recorded the EP live rather than atomising the instruments and using a click track, so we hoped the performance you hear recorded is similar to what you’d get a gig. We did do some overdubs, like some mandolin and tin whistle on some tracks, and in future we’d like to incorporate this into the live performances too. At our latest shows we’ve been so happy to be joined by our friends Freda on violin, Roz on cello, and Caitlin on vocals and percussion – we’ll probably be doing a lot more of this going forward.

Looking past the immediate release, what future projects or directions are you considering for Tamesis? Are there new musical territories you’re eager to explore?

Joe: We are keen to start recording an album now – we have enough material and it’s basically just a case of logistics and organising at this stage! We’re also looking into collaborating with friends for music videos.

Maisie: I’m excited to lean further into our psych and prog influences to create longer jam songs, work with more musicians and incorporate instruments like flute, strings and extra percussion. For our live performances, I’m keen to explore new styles of performing and bring in further ritualistic and sound healing elements for example.

Each member of Tamesis likely brings their own musical influences to the band. Could you each share an album or artist that has profoundly influenced your personal and collective musical style?

Maisie: Joanna Newsom is probably one of the most influential artists to me - “Ys” is one of my favourite albums, although “Divers” is also incredible lyrically, as it explores themes like the cyclical nature of time, and reckoning with love, birth, death and rebirth.

Joe: The album ‘Superunknown’ by Soundgarden was a huge influence on me growing up – they introduced me to weird guitar tunings and time signatures, and the Indian music influence. And it’s all done in a way that isn’t remotely pretentious, it’s just pure intuition. I also love Chris Cornell’s lyrics, they are a big influence for me – a sort of poetic and psychedelic take on the darker sides of human nature and experience.

Your music features mystical and occult themes. How do these elements influence the way you approach the music production process? Do they play a role in shaping your rehearsals or live performances?

Joe: Good question! To be honest it hasn’t featured too heavily in the production process, but we do rituals in a personal capacity. Lucy did a ritual before our EP launch gig and the show ended up going really well, so maybe we should keep doing those!

Your tracks often tell a story or convey a journey. How important is narrative in your music? Do you think of your albums as collections of individual stories or as a single cohesive narrative?

Joe: I think a mixture of both – each song is an individual story but we’re interested in thematic overlaps. We much prefer albums and EPs as collective pieces of art rather than singles, even though the latter is more commercially viable these days.

Songs like ‘Magic’ address significant themes about society and human existence. How important is it for Tamesis to engage with these issues? How do you balance the message with the music?

Joe: I think it’s really important on a personal level and for the band itself to be engaged with socio-political issues. We’re a spiritual band, and unfortunately there seems to be a section within the spiritual community who seem to shirk any responsibilities to society and humanity under the guise of individualistic positive thinking- we reject that attitude completely. We wouldn’t, for example, agree to play at a festival that takes money from Barclays or contradicts the BDS movement, because as spiritual band we know that the suffering of the Palestinians is an injury to humanity itself and it is a moral duty to stand in solidarity with them. That said, I wouldn’t say this necessarily impacts the music itself. I really enjoy overtly political stuff like Rage against the Machine and punk, for instance, but that kind of unequivocal lyric writing doesn’t come naturally to me. I think it’s better to lead by conduct and example rather than tell people what to believe through artistic output, if that makes sense?

Beyond music, are there particular films, books, or artworks that inspire your music? How do these influences manifest in your songs?

Maisie: A really influential book for me is “World as Lover, World as Self” by Joanna Macy, who is an environmental activist and scholar of Buddhism. She draws links between Buddhist teaching and deep ecology, revealing how we are part of an interconnected web of life in which everything influences each another, from biology and evolution to thoughts, emotions and actions. Macy shows how we can develop an environmental activism based on this compassionate starting point and draw from this deep well of love and connectedness, rather than being overwhelmed by fear and powerlessness. For me, this is very in-line with the message of the song Magna Mater and the EP as a whole. In terms of films, I love “The Wicker Man” with its incredible soundtrack – that had a big impact on the development of the psychedelic-folk genre in the 60’s-70’s which is a major influence for us. “The Holy Mountain” by Alejandro Jodorowsky is another film which has influenced us a lot as a band, with its surreal spiritual quest narrative and symbolism. A visual artist who inspires me a lot is the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington – her art touches on a lot of occult and mythological themes which we also explore in our lyrics. I also love the contemporary visionary artist Amanda Sage, who creates incredible paintings about “a re-membering of an energetic inter-connectedness that is present and shared with all things”.

Joe: Good question! For visual art, I really love the Pre-Raphaelites. In my mind, Tamesis has always been a bit pre-Raphaelite, a bit medieval and dreamscape. I also like Ralph Steadman, Caravaggio, Bosche, and countless others. It’s always fun to flick through S. Elizabeth’s ‘The Art of the Occult’ collection too! In terms of authors, one that stands out to me is Annie Proux. I think her use of langauge is genius, and as a history nerd I really loved her book ‘Barkskins’ - I’ve drawn a lot of lyrical inspiration from that. For films, one of my favourites is ‘Withnail and I’, including the soundtrack.

What has been the most memorable moment for Tamesis on stage? Are there any performances that have been particularly significant or transformative for the band?

Joe: Honestly I can say that the launch party we just did for Magna Mater at Folklore Hoxton was my favourite gig we’ve ever played. The audience was just wonderful and full of love and enthusiasm, the venue was magical, we were joined by a everything was perfect. The day after we kept pinching ourselves wondering whether we had just dreamt it! It was transformative in terms of being a big morale boost and making you feel like what you’re doing is worthwhile!

With your unique blend of sounds and successful integration of various musical styles, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are trying to find their own voice?

Joe: It’s cliché to say but just be yourself, be honest. Don’t ever write based on what you think other people might like, or whether it might be commercially successful, just write music that you enjoy yourself and then you’ll probably find other people do too. Your music will inevitably be an amalgamation of influences you have picked up from all of your favourite artists, which is the same way that those favourite artists wrote their music too. The key is to not overthink! And also don’t let music theory distract the creative process – it’s a good servant but it should never be your master.

Maisie: I think coming to a project with an open-minded and collaborative attitude is always valuable in finding your voice as a band, while staying true to your own self-expression. I think that from the beginning, we all clicked on the themes and ethos we wanted to express, so that different musical styles and influences could all have a role to play in expressing different aspects of these themes. Sometimes we view it in terms of balancing yin/yang or masculine/feminine aspects of the music and lyrics, for example.

Lastly, with the themes of ‘Magna Mater’ echoing the cyclical nature of life and the cosmos, what message do you hope to impart to your listeners through this EP?

Maisie: I hope that the music helps people to feel connected. Life can be so overwhelming, and we can feel depleted and isolated, but when we truly understand that we are inextricably interconnected with each other and with nature, we can draw from this deep well of energy and it can give us enormous power.


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