Curxes writes and performs bleak and oblique choral post-pop songs from a house on a hillside by the seaside. If you’re fond of skippy drums, vaguely tuneful wailing you’d hear on a fairground ghost train, and haunted electronics, well then, you’re in for a treat. Curxes has released two albums over the past several years with her last album ‘The Guilded Cage’ receiving critical acclaim in 2017. MOJO magazine describes her as: ‘Ideal synth pop for melancholics’. She lives in the Isle of Wight.
How did you decide on the name Curxes?
It was taken from a song that I wrote in my previous band as it aptly described an undercurrent of unease and bad luck at the beginning. The spelling was changed to avoid confusion with a hardcore band of the same name and as a nod to the year it started. X marks the spot.
What do you love about living in the Isle of Wight?
People often knock the Isle of Wight, but I think their view is always more outdated than the place. I always find opportunities to appreciate what’s unique about it or how to tune into the weird parts. It has space, radio broadcasting, ghosts, sand, forests, goods smuggling, murder and rainbow holiday parks in its past history and landscape. Who wouldn’t want to live somewhere with that much source material?
What’s your motto / life philosophy?
I don’t have a life philosophy, which is probably the most lacklustre pull-quote for a headstone ever. That said, the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain has weathered my internal awkwardness and I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen. If you’re an introverted person who doesn’t always feel comfortable with modern pomp and salesmanship or the encouragement of overconfidence within the current digital world, it’s a reassuring read and for me it’s helped to redefine the process and environment of making things.
Your lifestyle in five words?
Joan Sims on secondhand synths.
What inspires you?
Soundtracks play a huge role. I find the music used in films to be more emotionally manipulative than a lot of popular song but the line between the two blurs with a lot of my favourite musicians. Horror in particular is usually a good barometer of our political and social climate. There’s an excellent independent label in Kent called Burning Witches who are very much on the pulse of that, with a loyal following of listeners who completely get the cultural influence of gruesome tales with grislier synths and really embrace each release.
Photography is a big factor too and I often share favourites on my website, like Martin Parr, Nadia Lee Cohen and Harry Gruyaert, as well as found images from the 60s and 70s on sites like Flashbak. Similarly to horror, they all blend humour, disturbing rituals and outsiderness with enviable skill. ‘Gilded Cage’ was really influenced by those elements at the start and Rob and I had intended to shoot the cover artwork and videos in a decades-untouched Bingo Hall or a creepy old supermarket at night to fully capture detached routines and bygone vision gone awry, but we couldn’t get permission to film in either. Actually, we got as far as the entrance of each before getting a big “NO”.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a perfectionist are you?
Probably a 10 at the start and about a 6 if I get impatient. Perfectionism is sometimes a barrier to finishing a project though and there are occasions where you want to experience and see the flaws, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a positive trait because it can be prohibitive to honesty. Maybe obsessiveness is a better descriptive. Obsessiveness and anxiety are practically full-time jobs.
What spells adventure for you?
Searching for junk that I can assign a convoluted story to – preferably that I know nothing about. That and visiting seaside resorts, however dilapidated, because I like seeing other interpretations of home. On the trash front, I pulled a 100-year-old medicine bottle out of the mud at Bembridge beach once and was beaming with pride, like it was some important discovery. It’s currently sitting under a cupboard and is full of disgusting slime, but the sense of accomplishment is untarnished by whatever the hell is in the bottle. I’ll visit anywhere I can potentially find possessed objects or take pictures of outlandish signs.
Do you have a process for coming up with songs?
They can evolve from a brief and ridiculous vocal noise or from a ten-minute pipe organ dirge. I don’t discriminate. I never throw anything away either and count the awful ideas as research. At the moment, I’m chopping and distorting vocals from the last recordings and making them into warped samples for some drum patterns I’ve programmed.
Is there such as thing as destiny?
I used to think there was, but now it seems more of a convenient excuse to avoid uncomfortable feelings and stave off responsibility indefinitely. You’re always setting yourself up for disappointment with pre-determined destiny and offloading your potential onto other people.
What brings a tear to your eye?
Reading about sad films on Wikipedia and checking my finances. Or someone forlornly eating pizza in the middle of nowhere to ‘Further Still’.
Are you more or a rule breaker or rule follower?
I think I’m probably both at different stages of working on a project. It’s important to have context before you decide whether to build on what’s gone before, restructure it or disregard it. Anything else feels reckless and politician-like. The way I use synths and plugins would probably horrify a lot of purists though, as I don’t set out to make a sound using complex mathematics or any formal structure, I like to stumble on a noise by haphazardly fiddling with settings for ages and I’ll put effects intended for other instruments on the finished sound to see what happens. How distorted can something be until it can’t be recognised from the original tone and sounds like it’s snarling with rage? The birth of distortion was an accident in itself. When accidents are adopted, they become innovation. We should all get more comfortable with the uncomfortable now and again. A while back, I read NPR’s interview with Tatsuya Takahashi which touches on the fun aspect of music making, putting an emphasis on discovery, responsiveness and an expansive openness to sound creation. That’s really how it should be. There are still too many hostile elitists in electronic music who think there’s only one, correct way of doing things and that you need to impress them or ‘prove yourself’ before joining the club. Imagine being that much of a bore.
What does silence feel like to you?
Distant, as though it occupies the space where we aren’t. Even then, I don’t believe that absolute silence exists.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
The third album is currently being mixed and I’m halfway through mapping out number four. In fact, I have a rough tracklist and a title for it already. Then there’s the aforementioned space site EP and another separate EP that has been sat around for a while now. If I get to October without withering, I’ll be playing Dials Festival in Portsmouth, which is one of a very small number of gigs this year – my first there in three years!