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Another Single Older: Interview With Birthday Card

Updated: May 23, 2020

Wearing their pop label with princely pride, Birthday Card is here, determined to bring their vibrant concoction of sound and enthusiastic vibes to the masses. Still fresh on the scene, they are one single in; forthcoming track Radio Star adds to their discography on May 8th, written and recorded with the foresight that our world was seeing great change. We had a natter with lead guitarist Conor Richards to find out more about their releases and to receive a short history lesson about the quintet.

Hailing from Aylesbury, Connor plus Josh Saw on vocals, George Harrison on synths, drums from Leslie Adriaans, and Tom Ritchie on bass complete them: “We are indeed all from Aylesbury. The five of us know each other from a couple of different schools, all being a couple of years apart. It turns out, once we got to know each other, we basically live within a couple of miles radius of each other.” The eager young lads were massively into their music, and twinned with a driving ambition realised that their home city was lacking acts. Connor thinks, “In honesty, these days, the scene is pretty much non-existent. The odd pub throws on a live night here and there; any local bands tend to play out of town pretty fast. But, we do have the world’s only statue of David Bowie, which sings on the hour!”

This deep admiration of music brought the pals close, where they enjoy sharing classics or introducing each other to new finds. He expands, “There’s so much we bond over - Porches, Kanye West, The Japanese House being a small few that spring to mind. But there are also loads of artists we individually like, which consciously or subliminally inspire us. Our tastes change all the time; we have been listening to a lot more electronic stuff than usual lately.”

When a memorable name was needed, a shining light came from across the pond, credited to a certain New York-based singer-songwriter. Conor ponders, “If I’m right, Josh heard the phrase ‘Birthday Card’ in a Sufjan Stevens song. He brought it to the table - before we had even made any music, actually - and we just felt there was a natural aesthetic in our heads to the band name. We’ve always like that it doesn’t really sound like a band name too.”

First Single Shy Away was released last December and is a hybrid of electro-pop and rock: groovy guitar and synth work sit neatly with classic sounding bass and drums, accompanied by rational lyrics. Conor explains, “Shy Away’ is a good example of those different individual influences coming into play. There’s definitely some French New Wave stuff going on there with the synths and auto-tune, but I play some quite XX guitars on it, and Tom’s baseline is quite Tame Impala with the octave thing going on.” Conor couldn’t say that the finished product was what they intended: “It actually all came from jamming out a demo that one of us had made, which sounds absolutely nothing like how ’Shy Away’ ended up. This song was the first where we let go of trying to sound like something and just individually expressed ourselves.”

Written in a matter of weeks and recorded and produced just one day before the UK went into full lockdown, Radio Star is single number two. Again, it highlights their genre-blending pop, making full use of distorted voice: “We’re big fans of effects on vocals, certainly as a stylistic choice. Lots of artists we like use it, from Kanye to Bon Iver to James Blake. Josh experiments with a vocal pedal and different auto-tunes when it comes to recording.” However, not all of the tracks use this as much as others, if at all: “It depends on whether we feel the track needs it. On Radio Star, I think we hit a good level, which compliments the tune nicely, and for Shy Away, it’s cranked up higher, which helped create some quite memorable vocal hooks.”

The song is extremely radio-friendly, and its face would fit at numerous different stations. Conor thinks, “I can envisage being played on Radio 1 to be honest, in the mainstream. For some reason, pop has become a dirty word over the last ten years. They say that guitar music is dead, but I think there are actually a lot more scenes and press for guitar-driven stuff. There is no ‘underground’ for pop music, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone loves pop, whether they realise it or not! Radio Star feels like us firing on all cylinders. Each song we write is us trying to get better at pop music, and trying to take our sound somewhere interesting and unexpected, but catchy and memorable.”

Birthday Card is creating at the moment, with the focus on single releases, but an EP has been discussed at length and is inevitably on the cards. We end with Conor enthusing about the warm and fuzzy thought of playing live again. He finishes, “We’re headlining The Old Blue Last in London on Saturday 19th September for Scruff of the Neck, which we can’t wait for. With a bit of luck, we’ll have lots more shows to announce in the autumn, once we’re out of all of this.”

Article by Beverley Knight

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