Listen to Pensive Panic, the new single from new EP From Distance by Usher Lavelle, created as a result of the 2020 Black Composers Open Call. Plus, Usher chats to the British Music Collection about his creative journey over the past four years.
Listen to Pensive Panic, the new single co-written with Lucy Tun from the new EP From Distance by artist Usher Lavelle. Usher was selected for the British Music Collection’s 2020 Black Composer’s Open Call, and we’re delighted to share his work with you.
Usher Lavelle is a producer, broadcaster and DJ working in the music industry, enjoying the process of making music without getting caught up in the release hype. Adventurous DIY is the best way to describe this London-based artist's method of creation. From Distance is his latest DIY release, following on from 2019’s For Demonstration Purposes, which was completed and released during a year’s stint in Fukuoka, Japan.
Making music and developing his home studio in one of London's Barbican Towers, the past four years have been a battle of work vs. creative for the artist. As time has moved on, so have the sonics of each track featured on the new EP: they’ve all been tinkered with or completely redone as Usher has gone through life in the last four years.
Speaking about From Distance, Usher said: “The EP simply explores the many ways we create distance in our lives–for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s the ego and other times it’s us protecting our own hearts.
Crafted from a collage of experiences with friends distilled into five different tracks, each tell a story on their own, but all have the common theme of distance. This was not the initial intention but after revisiting each track countless times over the years and pondering why I’m drawn to them so much... I think it’s representative of the many ways I create distance mentally and sonically.
I’ve poured lots of production into these tracks and my friends Ryoki Virgil, Stupid Chris & Violet Jones kindly lent me their vocals with Lucy Tun co-writing a couple tracks a few years ago.”
And speaking of the time elapsed since being selected for the open call, he puts it succinctly: “Distance can also be over time, so it’s only right that I created a big distance between my last project and the next.”
From Distance is out now. Purchase the EP on Usher's Bandcamp here.
Music by Usher Lavelle, co-written with Lucy Tun.
Q&A with Usher and Grace Bailey, Executive Administrator at Sound and Music
Grace Bailey: Can you start by telling me about yourself? How did you start to make music and what are your inspirations and influences?
Usher Lavelle: My first interest in music came from drumming. Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, N.E.R.D., Motown, dancehall and R&B were my early influences and sounds that I would practice on drums from as early as 12 years old. I started producing music at 15 and would share it with my close group of friends, making sounds together over Skype before apps like Bandlab came about—software that allows you to create music together remotely. The aim has always been to make music my friends would like while trying to create something I've never heard before.
GB: You were awarded a grant to make this work as part of a specific open call for young Black composers and music-creators. How has the project interacted with your experience of identity, history and culture as a young Black creator in the UK?
UL: This project has felt very important to me as it has forced me to ask 'what is a young Black composer?' and 'how is a project from a young Black composer supposed to sound?'. In the end, I've gone for a project that tries to capture multiple sides of a Black composer and break any stereotypes or preconceptions of sounds people may expect to come from us. My history is rich with influences from my Bajan, Guyanese, Indian & Jamaican heritage, and a close family who are 2nd Gen immigrants. I've felt hugely influenced by British culture while still feeling grounded in the cultures my grandparents came from. I had a strong desire to draw from elements of that entire mixture as I feel part of them all and I hope this project has something for everyone. The project is titled From Distance: not only does my history originate from faraway lands but often it feels like I observe the different worlds I'm involved in from a distance as I don't quite fit perfectly in only one.
GB: How did you find the creative process while putting the EP together?
UL: Stressful & peaceful: somewhat a contradiction in terms but it was honestly so calming to be with friends just playing around and relaxing, and liberating to chisel down the music to my favourite parts. But it was stressful to think about marketing From Distance and whether it would have any appeal outside of my immediate circle. I've worked in the music industry within radio and live music touring for 6+ years, so I've been surrounded by successful artists & have the knowledge of what it takes to get there. However, I don't have the power of the massive machines I work for behind me, so my music feels like a small drop in the ocean. I stayed grounded by remembering why I started making music in the beginning and I like to think I've freed myself from the grind of the machine.
GB: What's next for you or for this project?
UL: I'm looking forward to making as much music as each day allows me to. I want to create an event series, label, and ultimately a community where people can learn, share, and create with no pressure of commercial appeal. I'll never stop making music with friends with the goal to share it in unique, futuristic, bizarre spaces I haven't even thought of yet. I am open for work!