‘We know that music exists to connect with people – they consume it because they can relate to it.‘
Hot on the heels of the release of their debut EP, ‘Within & Without’ (out now), Ella McLaren spoke to the vibrant jazz and soul five-piece Céline & The Blue to unearth more about the record and what inspires them as a band.
Hi Céline and The Blue, thank you for speaking with us! To dive in, can you tell us how the band met? Hi, we’re delighted to chat to you guys! We all met at university, were put together for an assessment, and we haven’t stopped playing together since! We love being both best friends and colleagues as it just makes a wonderfully positive and stimulating work environment. It can be challenging to find an effective balance between our personal and professional lives, but we’ve now established a foolproof dynamic which makes teamwork the absolute best.
Who, as a band, would you cite as your key musical influences? It’s always exciting to collect all of our individual influences and to merge them together. We find ourselves really inspired by Sam Wills’ sound palette, Anderson.Paak’s arrangements, Mac Ayers’ production and Lianne La Havas’ everything!
How has the lack of touring and live shows impacted you as artists? Our last live show was before COVID and it was the best we’d ever done. We were on such a high afterwards and it left us wanting to play live more than ever. We’ve been aching to play again, and feel like we are holding so much in and don’t have an outlet to release it… We’re probably speaking for most, if not all musicians when we say that playing live is one of our favourite things to do. We feed off of live music so we’ve been feeling undernourished this past year. It’s been really hard to adjust to the current situation, but it’s definitely solidified our love of music and that we are never going to let it go.
Going right back in time now, can you reveal what your first musical memories were? Céline: I grew close to music through dancing and I have this one particular memory from when I was about five years old. I’m listening to ballet music, dancing around the house, and my mum is calling out to me but I’m so lost in the music that I’m not paying her any attention. I remember feeling like I was the main character in ‘Swan Lake’. Jay: I learnt to play piano when I was nine. We used to have this big piano in our living room and I actually wrote my first ever song on it!
Myles: I used to pretend I was a radio DJ when I was about six or seven! I remember that I’d make compilation albums using my mum’s Napster account, and while I’ve always loved listening to music, at that age I hadn’t thought of making it. Enea: I remember listening to Lionel Richie in the car while driving along the Italian Bari coastline, closing my eyes and just vibing to the cheesiest songs! Elliot: I got my first iPod when I was about ten years old and my cousin uploaded his music library onto my device. It was the first time I had ever listened to music like Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and I was obsessed.
‘If you lose yourself within Jazz and Soul music, it feels like a magnetic field, a solid bubble with its own power source, independent from anything else.’
Is music something you always felt drawn to and when did you decide to make it your career? We’ve all had such a strong relationship with music since a young age and it’s something we can turn to for support, company and understanding. Music just has always been there for us – our one true constant – so, making music our careers just made sense. We want to explore it forever. Making a living out of music can be tough, and we’ve had to accept that it might not be the easiest career choice, but, once we came to terms with that, we’ve never looked back.
What is it about jazz, soul and funk that appeals to you? We are blown away by the power of these genres, both as an audience member and as musicians. If you lose yourself within jazz and soul music, it feels like a magnetic field, a solid bubble with its own power source, independent from anything else. Pixar’s animation ‘Soul’ actually visualises this really well, so we definitely recommend watching that. The euphoria of funk music is just unmatched too, music holds the power to give you an out-of-body experience… if you let it!
Can you tell us the story of how the ‘Within & Without’ EP came into being? The EP came together really naturally, even though the songs weren’t actually intended to become an EP and we just wanted to record and release music. While in this process, we realised the autobiographical qualities of the collection with each song being like a diary entry documenting our musical journey. By presenting these songs as an EP, we feel they become even more meaningful as well as setting a strong foundation for our future releases. We are really excited about our future and want to be even more experimental and daring going forwards. We definitely want to use the lessons learned from creating this debut record to support our evolution as musicians too.
The title of the EP, ‘Within & Without’, is a reference from ‘The Great Gatsby’. What initially drew you to this book? ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of those timeless artworks, it’s relevant to so many social, political and historical contexts. Céline studied it at school and loved it – she’ll always try to throw a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald goodness into our music when she can! We quote the phrase ‘within & without’ in our song ‘Learn To Be Alone’ and it describes the state of being both a participant and observer within your own life. For artists, this self-reflection (and self-awareness) is a really important skill and it helps us ensure that the songs we are putting out into the world are as we intend them to be.
Would you say that other art forms are important to your craft and have an impact on the music you create? Music is a 360° sensory experience for us… Sound can trigger visions, memories, imagination, and intensify sensations. We always see art forms interconnecting and the EP’s title is an example within itself where the art form of literature has influenced and inspired its creation. We also experience synesthesia and relate colour to the sound palettes we create for our songs. For example, we associate ‘Hide In Your World’ to the colour yellow, ‘Learn To Be Alone’ with purple, and ‘Crave Love’ is blue. We love to create music that is also visual, it’s an extremely fun and stimulating approach and definitely shows that other art forms are essential for us when making music.
Tracks like ‘Learn To Be Alone’ are incredibly honest and give a real glimpse into your thoughts. Is it tricky to bare your soul in this way to your audience? It’s definitely scary at the beginning, but we know that music exists to connect with people. A person consumes music because they can relate to it, they identify themselves in the sound. So while making songs so personal might sound exposing, we’re actually reciprocating the feelings and emotions of listeners who are opening themselves up to our music. Whenever we’re skeptical about sharing certain things, we look at it that way, it’s a lovely phenomenon to witness!
The record has quite a personal feel to it, how did you find balancing this intimacy with the other atmospheres created? While some tracks on the EP may not appear intimate, the songs illustrate all sides of who we are, and sharing that is intimate in itself! We wanted ‘Within & Without’ to be diverse in lyrical content, feel, and emotion. We cover many grounds touching on mental health, love, heartbreak, infatuation, self-reflection and freedom; hopefully there’s something for everyone!
‘While making songs that are so personal might sound exposing, we’re actually reciprocating the feelings and emotions of listeners who are opening themselves up to our music.’
Do you guys have a favourite track from the EP? In all honesty, we can never agree on this; Céline thinks it’s ‘Crave Love’, Enea and Elliot go for ‘Safe’, Jay enjoys ‘Learn To Be Alone’ the most, and for Myles it’s ‘Papaya’. If we base our choice on the one we prefer performing the most, it might be ‘Learn To Be Alone’. We love the feel and groove it ignites within us as a team.
Where would the perfect space to listen to your music be? Everyone in the band loves a good car ride with no destination. It’s our favourite way to enjoy music to the fullest. The fact that your location is not fixed can take you to a place where space doesn’t really exist. It’s quite the experience!
And finally, which track are you most looking forward to performing live and where would your dream venue be? Luckily, we were able to perform all the songs from the EP at least once just before the first lockdown. We really loved the energy from ‘Learn To Be Alone’, the lyrics are vulnerable but we always feel strong playing it. Generally, it’s really special performing a new song for the first time and we’ve got so many new tracks that we are buzzing to perform. It would be delightful to play these at The Jazz Cafe in London or revisit Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and one day we hope to perform at venues like O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire! Wherever we go, we’d love to see Listen To Discover’s readers in the audience!
Thanks Céline and The Blue for taking the time to speak to us!
Photography by Laura Manners
Interview by Ella McLaren