Another Sky’s Catrin Vincent: ‘If I can hold myself accountable as a white person, surely men can’

The frontwoman talks to Alexandra Pollard about her band’s debut album ‘I Slept On the Floor’, toxic masculinity, and the risks of speaking up

Thursday 13 August 2020 06:35
Another Sky have just released their first album, entitled ‘I Slept on the Floor’
Another Sky have just released their first album, entitled ‘I Slept on the Floor’

Catrin Vincent’s voice is incomparable. Androgynous, lurching, disorienting, it is delivered as if her very life depends on it. A Guardian journalist wrote of being “dumbstruck” when she first heard it. “People say I sound like a man,” says Vincent. “Maybe that means they’ll listen.”

Named after an Emily Dickinson poem, Another Sky came together six years ago. Frontwoman Vincent and her bandmates – guitarist Jack Gilbert, bassist Naomi Le Dune and drummer Max Doohan – were all studying music at Goldsmiths University, though they couldn’t have been more different. Le Dune liked heavy grunge; Doohan grew up on drum jams; Gilbert was a diehard James Taylor fan; and Vincent loved Tracy Chapman, Ludovico Einaudi and The Spice Girls. “I think that’s why the music often comes out confused,” she says.

That’s a somewhat self-deprecating way of putting it, though the music is certainly variegated, layering atmospheric, Mogwai-ish guitars with vigorous bass lines and anxious beats. “It’s wanky art school prog-rock guitar music, essentially, with some poppy stuff and hooks,” says Vincent. Probably not one for the poster, that. The band’s debut album I Slept On the Floor, released last week to a litany of glowing reviews, “documents the childhood rejection we carry with us into adulthood”. It grapples with topics such as toxic masculinity, trauma, Trump, mental health, police brutality and the climate crisis.

“Brave Face” was written for a friend in an abusive relationship. “The Cracks” charts a generation facing extinction. “Avalanche”, with its eerie, cascading guitar riff and jagged percussion, is an indictment of toxic male aggression and police brutality. “When you hold them to account, they’ll spit you out,” Vincent chants, “just a bad taste in their mouth.” “To me, toxic masculinity is the problem,” says Vincent, who grew up in a conservative (with both a small and a big C) town in the middle of England. “I think if we view it as a system, as opposed to a group of people, that’s when we can overcome it. I get why men find that difficult, but if I can hold myself accountable as a white person, surely men can hold themselves accountable as… men?”

Vincent credits her parents with her innate desire to tackle personal, political and philosophical issues in her music. “I grew up with a therapist mum,” she says. “Death, society and pain were brought up daily, because it was her job, I guess, to deal with all the things people find difficult to deal with. My dad originally was a scientist, and has this huge knowledge of global warming. I grew up knowing the world was ending.” She found it strange growing up around kids who didn’t. “People want to protect their kids, but through ignorance, everything eventually hits you like a train. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to get at in my music. I want to confront everything, all the time. I don’t know if that’s healthy. But when I ignore things or pretend they don’t exist, I become my most mentally unwell.”

Vincent is hesitant to discuss the title track, a minimalist, vocodered rumination on which she sings, “I slept on the floor / Where you couldn’t touch me / Thought I’d fallen through”. “I naively forgot people would ask about that,” she says when I bring it up. “I’m still afraid to hurt people, I guess. I’m still scared of rejection because I grew up with so much of it.” She thinks she will talk about it, eventually. “I just can’t bring myself to yet. And I’m really battling with the question, ‘Do I owe people everything? Are there parts of this story I get to keep?’”

When Vincent first ventured into the music business, she was repeatedly told that she should be more confident, ruthless and authoritative if she was going to make it. She refused. “I want to stay compassionate and I want to make that cool,” she says. “I want the album to make being compassionate cool, if it can do anything at all.”

These days, she is buoyed by her own fearlessness. “Every time I feel like it’s getting too much, I tell myself, look at ‘Avalanche’,” she says. “When you wrote that, everyone thought you were crazy. You were so scared to release that. Now, you can look back and see that at least to some extent, you were on the right side of history. You spoke up when it could have cost you your band’s success. I’d already been told so many times not to write about the things I write about. I guess that’s the ultimate goal, to get everyone to speak up so there’s strength in numbers. The impossible is always possible and if absurd things like Trump can happen, amazing things can happen too. At least,” she adds, “I tell myself that to feel better.”

‘I Slept On The Floor’ is out now

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