Track By Track: Carmel Smickersgill – We Get What We Want & We Don’t Get Upset
Carmel Smickersgill describes her debut standalone release as “silly music that comes from serious places”.
It’s a refreshing and cathartic way to approach the subjects and situations that informed the EP. At the time of writing it, Carmel was experiencing a lot of suffering around her.
These themes of grief, death, mental illness and dread that spawned the music on We Get What We Get & We Don’t Get Upset, which she penned as a homage to the people close to her that were affected.
Set for release on PRAH Recordings, the five tracks channel a melting pot of influences, as well as the musical ventures that have led her to where she is today.
Coming up playing in indie bands and jazz groups, Carmel soon found her interests lay in writing and arranging, which led her to study composition at Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Since she’s been commissioned for theatre, chamber and vocal works; endeavours that you can hear led her musically to where she is today.
On We Get What We Get & We Don’t Get Upset, there’s rhythmic oddities, stuttering vocal beats and nods to twee and off kilter library music, which she dives into deeper below, track by track…
Colour: This track always feels quite dark to me. Deep blues and indigos. I imagine it’s like a thick liquid of dark indigo. Like fake blonde people’s shampoo? (something I’m familiar with, haha)
Season: It’s late autumn. It’s the time of year when you still want to go to the club but will defo be bringing a big coat with you.
Inspiration: The inspirational production of Holly Herndon, the aim to design something clean and effective like Anna Meredith, the percussion of every artist on the label Wonderwheel.
Setting: I was in my old house writing it in the early evenings. This was when stuff was still shut so I think I was subconsciously writing it in anticipation of that feeling you get before you go into the night to do exciting things and meet exciting people. I guess the setting is for someone making their tea getting hyped for a fun night ahead.
Colour: Questioning is definitely a big bold bright shameless orange. Like the colour of an actual orange.
Season: Spring. The bit of spring when you see the first bits of flowers in the park and remember that it isn’t just going to be cold and wet and grey forever.
Inspiration: Great French horn music like Benjamin Britten’s ‘Serenade’. It might not sound like it from the track itself but French horns are the main instrument in the loud melody that comes in and I think they’re a much underutilised powerful instrument in electronic music. Also I think the percussive vocal stuff comes from a deep appreciation of Jockstrap.
Setting: I often leave myself voice notes about ideas for pieces or tracks when I get them, because usually it’s when I’m out and about. I remember walking back from my (then) partner’s house after having had a row and leaving the voice note for Questioning. It should be listened to for pure escapism. Maybe that means listening to it as you walk through an airport about to leave for somewhere new. I also imagine people doing Eric Prydz’s “Call On Me” video style workouts to it.
Colour: Lilac, this track’s more soft and delicate.
Season: To me it’s a mid Autumn tune. Mainly because the first line in it is “crunchy leaves”.
Inspiration: This will come up again, but I actually return to Bach Chorales a lot. There’s something comforting about the amount of resolving they do. Nothing really resolves quite as perfectly in this track though because that’s not how real life is.
Setting: I remember walking through my local park writing down things that made me happy. This list became the words for the song. It is for the moment when you come in for the cold and the wet in autumn, you’re greeted with a hug from someone you love at the door and they’ve made a cup of tea for you which is still warm and comforting.
Colour: Dark grey. Thinking is a moment to be still and reflect and any other colour would add too much character. It’s not black though.
Season: End of winter. When it all gets a bit grim and you’re waiting for something to change on a larger scale than just the bit of the world you live in.
Inspiration: Again Bach. Also Mica Levi, I think their film scores totally humanise the subjects of the films. I remember being really into the Monos soundtrack when that came out and it’s definitely what inspired the use of whistle in this track. I hope they don’t mind.
Setting: You’re on your own in a familiar domestic setting and you’ve just had some less than great news. You’re trying to rationalise the events in your head but what you actually need is to just sit with the news for a while and allow yourself the space to think.
Colour: Bubblegum pink. Maybe it’s super joyful and playful, maybe it’s a bit too much.
Season: Summer, in the festival field, watching the sun go down sipping a cold beer with your pals.
Inspiration: Chancha via Circuito, big stadium sing along songs like arcade fire where they don’t have any words but everyone just goes “aaaah”, except in this version it’s just you and a few mates in your garage, having had a few beers.
Setting: An alternative to the former scenario – you’re in the ocean off some tropical island swimming with sea turtles and colourful fish. Disclaimer I have never done this so have no idea what it’s like but someone who’s opinions I trust told me it’s what “Leaving” makes them think about. (Tbh I don’t think they’ve ever swam off the coast of a tropical island either).
We Get What We Want & We Don’t Get Upset is out now on PRAH Recordings.
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