Talk Show Host: 047: Promenade Cinema

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to covering more of the UK “scene” across this year (and beyond). Life has rather got in the way recently, meaning that I’ve not been able to post as much as I would have liked, but things are returning to normal a bit, thus I can resume with what I had planned.

The first stage of this brings me back to my interview series, to talk to a new-ish, young Sheffield band who have already been making waves. Promenade Cinema released their debut album Living Ghosts in the spring, with quite a bit of positive coverage and a buzz – which to me is not especially surprising after I was passed a copy of their exceptional single Spotlight last year.

Their sound is certainly a little different, which had me curious to find out more about them before I see them live at Infest later in the summer. Our conversation is below, and photos are courtesy of the band. on Facebook Promenade Cinema, hello. How’s life in the north right now?

Promenade Cinema: Hello! Life is pretty good right now, thank you – It feels almost like the calm before a storm as we’re rapidly approaching the first date of our UK tour on 07-Jul at Sheffield Corporation and have several more big shows coming up later in the year including Infest Festival, London, Norwich & an intimate ‘live lounge’ style performance for a lucky few friends and fans of the band. We’re also entering the fourth month since we released our debut album Living Ghosts. It’s been great fun promoting this and we’re thrilled by the incredible reception received so far! What’s the story behind the band, and how did it come about?

Promenade Cinema: We met through a good friend and quickly discovered that we had a huge amount in common and a shared passion for synthesizer music, past and present. Emma recorded some session vocals with Dorian’s previous project and Promenade Cinema shortly followed. We launched the band in April 2015 with our debut single A Chemical Haunting and spent the next couple of years working on our live performance and building up a catalogue of tracks with the end goal of releasing an album. An EP would have been the natural choice for getting music out a little sooner, however we really wanted to focus on the album route initially as we both felt that there’s something special about telling a story over the course of a full album to really take the listener on a journey. Sheffield is a city with a long legacy of pioneering electronic music, and you’re inevitably going to get compared to what’s come before. How do you feel about that, and where do you think you fit in?

Promenade Cinema: Generally we feel that this can only be a positive, providing that we can at least live up to those who have come before and secured their place in Sheffield history. Emma is originally from Chesterfield and Dorian from Wakefield – we chose to move to Sheffield due to a love of the city, including the musical legacies, and identified a gap in the modern synth market in this area. There are a few local electronic bands who we enjoy, especially Pilosa, but there really isn’t anyone else around with a sound like ours. This can inevitably make it tricky to break through any pre conceptual barriers and shake off the synthesizers = retro viewpoint, but it can also play to an advantage by having such a broad target audience. The response we’ve had so far to both our recorded and live shows is that we appeal to the twenties / thirties market who are seeking an alternative modern act to the standard chart entrants, but also to those in their forties, fifties and even sixties who have followed the original synth pioneers and appreciate the influence and homage to the classics in our music. While there are nods to other bands that I’ll come to later, I’m intrigued by the sound and style that you’ve gone for on your debut album. It is perhaps a cliche to call something “cinematic”, but it genuinely feels like it – like each song is a long tracking shot, perhaps?

Promenade Cinema: Thank you, the cinematic feel is something we have always carried through our music and was quickly identified as a key theme within the songs, both musically and in the lyrical content. We pinned the style as ‘cinedramatic synthpop’ as there’s a certain grandeur and depth to the songs, but at the heart they are built on the foundations of pop sensibilities, and we always aim for a strong hook or melody within the soundscapes. Less is more is always an angle we’ve struggled to embody as we both love songs with rich layers and fluctuating feelings, however we’re really happy with the outcome of Stock Image Model and A Chemical Haunting which are two of our more stripped back tracks on the album. Indeed, there is also a thread of film and photography coming through a lot of lyrics – sort of ‘life thru a lens’? Am I detecting inspiration from certain types of film here, too?

Promenade Cinema: Both of us are fans of soundtracks and lavish film scores which has definitely impacted the feel of the music we write. Songs such as Norway and Credits were placed at the end of the album as they are huge cinematic closers with the most layered and developed atmospheres. Credits in particular was inspired by the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack and we really wanted to capture that emotional journey within the song. We occasionally also try to play on the ‘Cinema’ element of the band name and include references to either films themselves, or the theatrics, equipment, or nostalgia that the word evokes. Polaroid Stranger was a bit of a mash of influences including Photographic by Depeche Mode and Camera by Editors, and Cassette Conversations is a play on the dialogue between Diane and Cooper in the original Twin Peaks series.

Polaroid Stranger Video – Watch on YouTube There are two particular bands that spring to mind, though, while I listen to the album. One of them is Ashbury Heights, but with perhaps a more nuanced, deep sound; the other is The Long Blondes, particularly in delivery and attitude – a band who have little to do with synthpop, but everything to do with the lyrical style… What were your influences in both formative terms, and also in forming this band?

Promenade Cinema: That’s really interesting – Funnily enough, The Long Blondes also comprised of a ‘Dorian’ & ‘Emma’! We are both fans of Ashbury Heights and are looking forward to following in their footsteps by playing Infest festival this year. Their music always has such great hooks and dark pop vibes which we really enjoy.

We both share such a broad taste in music, some relatively questionable, but this covers everything from obscure 70s & 80s performers, up to a huge variety in modern day music. Specifically we are both huge fans of IAMX and Mesh due to their well developed and interesting song structures. Their music always takes you on a emotional journey throughout the duration of an album, leaving you reaching for the play button to experience it all over again!

Lyrically Emma is inspired by bands such as Sparks who specialise in witty, observational lyricism and interesting vocal loops and samples. Dorian on the other side of things has a fondness for the Bat Out Of Hell albums by Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, along with a passion for soundtracks. You play two high-profile shows in particular later this summer – firstly at Revolution (Corporation, Sheffield) and then at Infest. What can we expect from you at these, and do you have nerves performing live?

Promenade Cinema: We’re extremely excited for both of these shows and hope that Infest in particular will open us up to a wider audience due to the large international following of the festival. We are headlining the Revolution show and playing through the album in its entirety which will be great fun. We have selected a mix of our most popular tracks for the Infest event, and upcoming shows with CHROM in London & Norwich in September. We’ll also have copies of the album and other merch available at all shows, including a meet & greet / photo & signing opportunity for fans at Infest.

There are always nerves before any performance – Dorian frets over the equipment / wires etc working correctly, and Emma is more anxious about the bigger picture, but as soon as you get up there it all washes away and the fun begins!

Promenade Cinema’s debut album Living Ghosts is out now. They play at Corporation, Sheffield on 07-Jul, Infest at the end of August, with further dates in September.

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