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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Haiku Salut and review of debut album Tricolore

Multi-instrumentalists Gemma, Louise and Sophie met at university before forming Haiku Salut, making music out of the Derbyshire Dales.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Haiku-Salut-by-Christine-Charnock
Haiku Salut by Christine Charnock.

They may have an exotic band name, but Haiku Salut are in fact a multi-instrumentalist trio of girls based in the Derbyshire Dales. Gemma, Louise and Sophie met at university in the mid noughties, but only started creating music in their current form during 2010: a first show was infamously booked before they’d written a tune, and an intense period followed during which they wrote the songs which appear on their debut EP. Haiku Salut combine influences from a bewildering variety of sources on their inventive new album Tricolore which features electronic bleeps and squelches galore with melodies played out on accordion, synth or guitar. It’s a sound that follows in the footsteps of mournful modern folk such as Beirut and the jaunty Folktronica of Tunng. A quirkily beautiful video accompanies single Los Elefantes, filmed in forest and city and featuring a forlorn male character, confused and befuddled by the females who outfox him at every turn.

Haiku Salut Press Shot
Firstly, what’s the idea behind your name? I had imagined you were far more exotic than you actually are (no offence) when I first heard it! (as in maybe Icelandic or Japanese)
We actually had the name before any of the songs! As a band we write many lists, we spend more time writing lists than we do writing songs and that’s how it started at the beginning. Firstly there was a list (a spider diagram to be exact) of what we wanted to sound like. A lot of the influences were from French and Japanese cinema and it soon became apparent that whatever we were going to create it was going to be outlandish, niche and definitely something our parents wouldn’t understand. We wanted a name that suggested these things so we went on to write a list of many words. Words we liked the sound of and words that reflected what we thought we were going to sound like in our heads. There were many contenders but Haiku Salut seemed to encompass it all. Annual Snaffle Tank, however, did not.

Haiku Salut by Katrine Brosnan
Haiku Salut by Katrine Brosnan.

You describe yourselves as “Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or-Other” which is pretty amazing.
What are your influences, and do you all have quite different tastes?

That’s a difficult question really, at first we had a lot of influences which helped us find a direction but more recently when we’re writing, one of us will play something and the question is “does that sound like Haiku to you?” rather than “I’d like this one to sound like so and so”.
 
Haiku Salut press shot
At the very beginning the reason we started Haiku Salut was because Louise got an accordion for Christmas and at that time she had been listening to a lot of stuff like Beirut and Jonquil and so it seemed natural that the music would have a folk element to it. Gemma has played classical guitar since she was little and she leaves many homages to classical pieces in our songs and Sophie being an avid listener of glitch mainly (but not always) tends to add the electronic stuff. So we threw that all together to see what would happen. Our music tastes are constantly shifting and are all so varied but there are some areas of crossover, the Spice Girls being a prime example.
 
Haiku-Salut-illustration-by-Shy-Illustrations
Haiku Salut by Shy Illustrations.

Where did you all learn to play so many instruments and genres?
We all play piano on varying levels and the skills from that are all transferable to the melody horn, glockenspiel and accordion. We all play a bit of guitar and if you can play guitar you can play ukulele! We seem to have learnt the instruments as we go along, some songs just seem to need a certain sound so we learnt it and did it. One song needed trumpet so Gemma learnt that particular melody on the trumpet. We wanted some beats so I learnt how to make some beats. The drawback to this being the only things that we can play on these instruments are our own songs, no adlibbing!

Haiku Salut Live
How do you write songs together?
Generally one of us will bring an idea acoustically, often a phrase on the guitar or a ukulele loop and we’ll go from there. We very rarely write a song in one sitting. It took us months deliberating over “Sound’s Like There’s a Pacman Crunching Away At Your Heart”. Some people have said that our songs are unpredictable and that’s probably why! We’ve all got different ideas of what music we wanted to make at the end of the song to when we started it. Sometimes we’ll have a part that we can’t shoehorn into the song no matter how hard we try and these parts can be ignored for what seems like forever until we begin writing something else and suddenly that other bit drops in perfectly. The beats and electronics come after. 

haiku salut samantha eynon
Haiku Salut by Samantha Eynon.

Why have you decide to remain mute when you are performing?
It was never really a conscious decision, none of the songs have vocal parts and it just seemed weird to be saying anything at all between songs. We don’t have anything of interest to say that will enhance the set so we don’t say anything at all. We swap instruments a lot on stage and at the beginning the silences made us feel awkward so we introduced the glitchy interludes to ensure we didn’t feel under pressure to babble a load of utter rubbish at people. It works!
 
Haiku Salut Live
Apparently a defining image of Haiku Salut live involves the three of you playing with six hands at a grand piano, how does that work in practice? (any violent clashes?)
We have a song called “Watanabe” where all three of us play the piano (not often a grand one though unfortunately!). We all have a range of notes and generally keep off each others turf, no altercations yet! But if ANYONE steps on my f# by Jove will they know about it. Actually, we have a T-shirt design with an illustration of six hands on a piano. It was done by Katrine Brosnan who did all the artwork for our album. She’s an incredibly talented artist and she really brought the whole thing together. Check her out if you’re that way inclined. 

Haiku Salut Press Shot 2013
You met quite awhile ago at university – what were the ties that bound you together then and kept you together until you decided to create Haiku Salut?
Amongst others we lived together for a couple of years in Derby, which was quite a beautiful and turbulent time. At that point we played in a different band that chronicled all this stuff and was very, very different to what we’re doing now. Also Louise and I DJed together weekly in Derby. The band came to a natural conclusion when Gemma and I went travelling for a few months but when we came back I returned to DJ with Louise and Haiku came along shortly after.

Haiku Salut Tricolore by Katrine Brosnan
Haiku Salut Tricolore by Katrine Brosnan.

What is it like being on tour with Haiku Salut?
We tend to talk utter, utter nonsense. But I suppose that’s a by-product of spending long periods of time with each other. Our last tour included me entering a hotel in a suitcase. Twice. With that act of debauchery behind us there was the minor issue of the nervous breakdown in the service station over the lack of bananas and the misdemeanour of accidentally driving the wrong way down a slip road. 


Your current free download is called Los Elefantes – why, and what’s the story behind the video?
It was a name we had in mind for ages. Other songs were written and Louise would be like “No. This is not Los Elefantes”. The name originally came about when Louise was au pairing in Spain and one the little boys was shouting “LOS ELEFANTES! LOS ELEFANTES!”. Profound, I think you’ll agree! With regards to the video we gave the guys at Albion Sky productions our thoughts on how we wanted the video to feel and let them run with it creatively. We told them we wanted something a bit creepy and inconclusive and they wrote a storyboard, found the locations and ultimately made something absolutely stunning. They’re very talented people.

What next for Haiku Salut?
We’ve got our first album Tricolore coming out on CD and 12” vinyl on March 25th on How Does It Feel To Be Loved? which is available for preorder now here. We’ve also got our album launch parties, one in London on March 28th and the other in Derby on April 13th, where we’ll be unveiling our mega lightshow!

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