The Reynolds Interview
WRITTEN BY JOSH RAY – AUGUST 2015
Good singers are easy to come by, it’s the great one’s you’ll struggle to find. That’s why Greg Wilson must have thought he struck gold when – through his wife Tracey’s Youth Theatre group – he discovered not one, but two, solid-gold vocalists; The Reynolds.
Although only young, the Seacombe-based twins perform like veterans; with a powerful yet nuanced style and an almost telepathic understanding of each other. According to their mum, “when they were babies they even used to cry in harmony,” and having with each other basically 24/7, this connection has only grown stronger over time.
Appearing on all eight of Super Weird Substance’s first official releases – having played a huge role in last year’s Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance In The Morphogenetic Field mixtape – the twins have been instrumental in the label’s development.
Seeing as their first solo release – a blissed-out, full-bodied take on Banks’ Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come – comes out today, we thought we’d catch up with the formidable vocal forces…
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU FIRST BECAME INTERESTED IN SINGING?
Carmel: Yeah… At birth!
SO FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN REMEMBER YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN SINGING?
Katherine: Well the thing is; my mum used to be a singer so we’ve always had music in our family. Her dad used to sing, and my dad’s dad used to sing. So we’ve always been very comfortable with being vocal and being involved in music.
Carmel: The first time we became interested in performing was when we got on stage in primary school and did that duet for a competition. We ended up winning it and we kind of realised that we had something – we always used to propel ourselves and take it forward.
We always used to sit back, apart from when it involved music; that’s the only time we snap out of it and become really comfortable, which is great. I’ve always found a comfort in music.
AFTER THE SCHOOL PERFORMANCE, WHERE DID YOU GO FROM THERE?
Carmel: From there, we just always got involved in school shows and did auditions whenever we could. It wasn’t until we joined the Youth Theatre that we began to work professionally with music. Katherine and I were about 17 at the time and we joined the Youth Theatre when we were 16 but we didn’t really know what we wanted to do.
Then we met Tracey, and she ran this group called Pacific Swing – a group for 12-19 year olds to come and sing swing songs – which we love! We’d never had an opportunity to sing swing music before. So we got to know her well enough and then she introduced us to the idea of working with Greg; she showed us some mixes and then we got really into it. We started coming round all the time to jam and sing and have a laugh – it propelled us with loads of new ideas.
Katherine: The thing is with Carmel, she was always more open and more full on with singing; she always wanted to do it because it was what she felt was her thing. I was always very reserved; I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to sing but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with singing. So when I got to hear what Greg was doing and I could jam on tracks, we could hear our visions come to life basically. That was when I thought, “yeah this is what I want to do, I wanna keep doing more of this!”
YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO WORK ON HUGE RANGE OF DIFFERENT STUFF WITH SUPER WEIRD SUBSTANCE. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’VE HAD THE MOST FUN WITH?
Carmel: Ah! Good question… I think the most fun I’ve had working was when we did the Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance mixtape back in maybe April last year. That was the first time we got to meet Kermit properly and see him working creatively.
That was a thrill for us both because we’d never had the opportunity to work off the cuff before. Everyone we’d worked with before had kind of restricted us or told us what to do. Whereas this was the first time someone said, “Okay, we trust your judgement, go for it! Do what you want to do.” And basically we did about 8 tracks in one day.
Katherine: Yeah, the ideas kept rolling off.
Carmel: The tracks were so good anyway that getting stuff down so easily was a bonus.
Katherine: I’ve got to shout out Record Store Day [Dry Bar, 2014] as one of my favourites.
Carmel: How come?
Katherine: Well, it was the first time we really thought, “We’re going to have to jam on the spot now.” So Greg chose a few tracks from one of his mixes and we just jammed over them. It was just a really fun day because it was the first time we met Howard Marks and it was the first time I met Elspeth. So I felt more included in ‘the family’.
DO YOU THINK RECORD STORE DAY WAS A BIG SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE?
Carmel: Yeah! I mean I felt a lot more confident because I’d worked on tracks before and I thought, “If I can jam on a track, I can jam now.” I felt more apprehensive because I knew it was all eyes on me, it was one shot basically and you don’t know whether the crowd are gonna get into it or not.
Katherine: Especially because we hadn’t rehearsed anything at all – we didn’t know what tracks were going to be played!
Carmel: Yeah, that’s what I was saying, which was a weird thing. The crowd really got into it and it made it a really great experience, it opened my eyes.
[Carmel took the lead on the single that launched the label, Summer Came My Way, unleashing a sun-drenched slow groove anthem in the process.]
WHENEVER YOU COME TO GREG’S TO WORK ON NEW TRACKS – BECAUSE YOUR MOVING FROM ONE GENRE TO THE OTHER ALL THE TIME – DOES IT TAKE YOU A WHILE TO ADJUST TO THE RIGHT MINDSET BEFORE YOU START JAMMING?
Katherine: I feel like it always does, especially when you’re over-critical of what you’re doing anyway. You think, “Oh, is this actually working? Is it going right?” If it doesn’t, okay, try it a few times… Say if I sing something, I’ll sing it maybe four times, Carmel gets onto it and we start vibeing. But if something’s not going right I’ll go, “okay, maybe that’s not working”. Then we try to bring in something else.
Carmel: You see, I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue jamming with anything that Greg or Kermit have given us. Because what they’re doing is really eclectic; one mix can be really house-y and the next could be really soul-y. So to be able to change that for us, it’s not a challenge so much, it’s more of a thrill.
I’ve never really been nervous to get in there and jam, that’s never been the problem for me. The problem was knowing the material, but if you’re just jamming over it you can just adapt it to what you want to do.
Katherine: Yeah, I think if you know the song then it makes the job 10,000 times easier!
Carmel: Also feeling really comfortable working with these guys… When you’re not afraid to make a mistake. You know it’s not like you make a mistake and get shunned for it. It’s just like, “no, carry on.” You’re always encouraged. It doesn’t matter what idea it is, it’s about getting it down because you could always use it. That’s why I never really get nervous because even if I mess up – which I do all the time – I just carry on and keep going forwards.
SO DO YOU THINK THE BEST METHOD IS TO LET IT ALL OUT WITHOUT JUDGEMENT AND THEN COME BACK TO IT CRITICALLY ONCE IT’S DOWN?
Katherine: Yeah, that’s absolutely it. I think if you’re not afraid to make mistakes – even if you’ve got a live band and you’re doing a show – you need to trust your instincts. If you start going too much into your head, you’ll make mistakes.
THE SWEET TOOTH T PROJECT YOU’VE BOTH BEEN WORKING ON CHANNELS THE SOUND OF NEW YORK IN THE 1980s. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO BRING TO THAT TO DIFFERENTIATE IT FROM YOUR WORK AS THE REYNOLDS?
Carmel: Well, I remember Greg playing the She Can’t Love You original track to us ages ago, and he was like, “I want to do a vibe on this.” He really wanted to get into our heads the authentic New York sound.
Katherine: I thought yeah I could try and do that but then 1) it’s not going to be me and 2) I might mess it up because it doesn’t feel natural. So I went in with an open mind and thought, “I know the track, I know the arrangement, I know what I’ve got to follow and I know that I can also put my own spin on it – because if I go for something that’s not ‘me’, then I won’t be happy with it.”
And I thought, “if it does sound wrong, Greg can listen to it, correct me and give me some advice so I can make it better. But if it sounds good like that I’ll just keep working on it and keep the spontaneity.
Carmel: I think the fun part about working on the Sweet Tooth T stuff was that, once again; we’ve never done anything like that before. I’ve always loved that eighties New York, hip hop/electronic vibe. I’ve always been a real fan of that, so to work on stuff like that was a joy for me. A real joy and a real test of your abilities as well.
Because I think the thing is with Katherine, when she did the main part – “we feel the same, it ain’t no game” – she got that really instinctively and I didn’t even think to do that. So it was really good that she immediately connected those lyrics to the Sweet Tooth T track. It shows she’s really good at thinking on her feet like that. Again, it goes back to that thing about not being afraid of mistakes.
Katherine: It just had the same chord progression and I thought, “If it goes, it goes.” And Greg went, “yeah keep it in.” So I did.
Carmel: A lot of the time when we’re recording backing vocals and stuff, we wouldn’t rehearse. We put the mic on and say, “Okay Katherine you do that harmony and Carmel will do it on top of you.”
Katherine: Without really knowing what each other did, we always managed to sort of work it out.
I’VE SEEN A LITTLE BIT OF TELEPATHY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT GOING ON BETWEEN YOU…
Carmel: Haha! I think it’s cause we’re dead connected. Because we’ve always been together, we’ve always sang together so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Katherine: Yeah, we kind of know when the other is struggling with an idea but we also know if the other has got a really good vibe going – we don’t want to disturb that.
I mean there could be a little bit of telepathy to be honest… We’ve always been together and we’re dead close so I wouldn’t put it past us to have some telepathic senses.
Carmel: We say the same things at the same time. It freaks us out but it happens all the time! It’s just part of being by someone every day, 24/7.
YEAH, IF YOU SHARE THE SAME EXPERIENCES YOU PROBABLY HAVE SIMILAR THOUGHT PROCESSES.
Both: Yeah, definitely!
WOULD YOU SAY YOU COME AS A PACKAGE THEN? IT’S EITHER BOTH OF YOU OR NEITHER OF YOU.
Katherine: You know what, for the moment it has been very much us two together but I think it would be dead interesting if we did separate projects just to see what experiences we both would get. Even in school they tried to split us up and maybe sometimes it didn’t work but maybe some times it did work.
Obviously I do love working with Carmel, and I love vibeing with her but it would be interesting to do separate projects as well. I think it would be a good thing to do.
Carmel: Do you not think though – because we’re so used to working with each other – that we’d struggle branching out a bit? We’ve never really worked away from each other.
Katherine: Oh yeah, that would be solid! It would be really difficult…
Carmel: I don’t think I’d want to work without the other. I just think; if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Katherine: You’d really see our differences though…
Carmel: I suppose yeah, that’s true.
Katherine: I don’t mind getting compared all the time, I’m used to it. But it would be nice to see the difference in our styles and maybe how our brains work.
I THINK IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO GIVE YOU BOTH THE SAME TRACK TO VIBE ON SEPARATELY AND SEE WHAT YOU CAME BACK WITH.
Carmel: Yeah I’d love that; I think that would be really good.
Katherine: That would be great actually. I’d love to delve into some stuff of my own, cause if you’re working on a track you can only hear it as what you’ve done. Whereas if you’re not working on a track you hear it with fresh ears so you can give better critique.
IT’S EASIER WHEN YOU’RE NOT INVESTED IN IT.
Katherine: Definitely, yeah.
YOU’LL BE PLAYING AT THE SIXTH SUPER WEIRD HAPPENING AT FESTIVAL NO.6 NEXT MONTH. HAVE YOU BEEN TO PORTMEIRION BEFORE?
Katherine: We have, we went to No.6 last year but we weren’t playing. We just went to have fun and to watch Greg, Kermit and Gav playing and everything like that. I had a blast, can’t wait to play this year!
YOU GOT FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE PLAYING LATITUDE LAST SUMMER DIDN’T YOU?
Katherine: Yeah, that was the first time we played with Kermit. It was definitely a learning curve. I think Kermit would say the same thing… We weren’t prepared enough. We got away with it by the skin of our teeth, probably. It’s one of those things – because it was so new to us – we didn’t know what to do. All we knew was that we’d rehearsed our stuff; we’re just going to go perform it.
Carmel: There were certain songs that didn’t work quite as well. Some songs were a bit chilled out, which we decided not to include at the Happenings so we could keep the vibe up as much as possible. But then, I think when you’re working with people like Cleve, who are just so good at getting the vibe up…
Katherine: We actually met Cleve at Latitude.
Carmel: You met Cleve; I don’t think I was there. I was watching Lily Allen.
Katherine: I didn’t actually speak to him but I saw him and thought, “Wow! Who is this guy?”
Carmel: He’s just got this aura about him that just pulls people in.
Katherine: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Carmel: So it’s great just to work with people like that. That’s why I look forward to every gig because I know that we’ve all got the right intentions; we all want to go out there and do the best we can. We’re – well I am – trying to make a difference. Trying to make people think, “Who are they? What are they doing?” We want people to be interested in what we do and I think we’ve all got that agenda, which is why we all work so well together.
WHICH OF LAST YEAR’S AUTUMN HAPPENINGS WAS YOUR FAVOURITE?
Katherine: The one’s I can remember haha!
Carmel: It’s got to be Bristol or London. I can’t pick between those two. The reason I love Bristol is because the room we were performing in was so small and I really think it worked because of how small it was. There weren’t a lot of rooms for people to go into so everyone was on the same vibe at once. So it felt more inclusive.
Katherine: I enjoyed it because it was really different. The venue was just so strange! It was an old prison…
I loved London because I was relieved because it had gone – I thought – quite well and I knew it was the final one to show what we can really do.
Carmel: We definitely got the best reception and the sound system was the best. The crowd loved it; you could feel a buzz in the air before we got on stage.
Katherine: Yeah, Tracey said that! She said it was the first one where she thought there were people who were anticipating the start of something. They knew we were coming on. It’s weird – because we’re from round these ways – North – that Southerners would be on to us. I mean, it might not have been that case but the vibe was amazing.
Carmel: Yeah, Bristol and London all the way.
THAT’S THE MIXTAPE DOING ITS WORK…
Carmel: Yeah it really was. The way it’s gone, it all just naturally kind of fell into place. Nothing’s been forced – and I like that.
THE SET-UP HAS GROWN AGAIN. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE A LIVE BAND WITH YOU AT FESTIVAL No.6.
Katherine: Yeah definitely, I can’t wait to start rehearsals!
Carmel: We saw them when we went to Manchester, when they were playing with Black Grape. They were really tight you know!
Katherine: They were so good! I’m really looking forward to being able to vibe with a live band. Because that’s what we want to achieve really isn’t it?
Carmel: Yeah, that’s the goal.
Katherine: The more we grow, the more we can do. I’m just lucky to be a part of it really.
YOU ALSO WORK WITH TRACEY IN A GROUP CALLED THE NIGHT AND DAYS. WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Katherine: This was sort of – as Carmel was saying – it was the Youth Theatre, that’s where we met Tracey. Basically it’s a four-piece jazz vocal harmony group, with another member of the Youth Theatre, Sam.
Although it’s a very different vibe to what we do with Greg’s stuff, we still have to make arrangements, we still have to come up here and practise as much as we can.
Carmel: We sing at weddings, we sing at corporate events. We’ve done some shows for the mayor; we performed on the previous mayor’s charity album that he did.
Katherine: I enjoy it you know, cause I love jazz myself. It wasn’t until I met Tracey that I properly got into it. I knew some jazz songs. It’s another genre you can practise and learn about. The more genre’s you’ve got the more adaptable you are, definitely.
I think because we’ve worked with Greg and we’ve worked with Tracey – two very different vibes – you’ve got Greg with the house scene, the disco scene, all that amazing soul then you’ve got Tracey with the jazz influences; it’s made us more well rounded as musicians. It’s certainly helped me grow in confidence anyway.
PLUS YOU’RE GETTING A LOT MOE PRACTISE WITH LIVE PERFORMANCES.
Katherine: Sure, yeah. Which we would not have had, ever! We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now if we didn’t keep up with them. I’m just glad we’ve stuck it out. It’s always just seemed right, that’s why we’ve stayed.
HOW LONG HAS THE NIGHT AND DAYS BEEN TOGETHER?
Katherine: I think about two years – two and half. We’ve known Tracey for about four years. Tracey brought it up with us one time when we were going to a gig, she was like, “I wanna start a proper jazz group with you, Carmel and Sam – give it a go and see how well it does.” I think it’s done pretty well.
Carmel: I think it’s done great. I think vintage is on the rise; people are really getting on to vintage stuff. So I think the timing’s been great.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?
Carmel: Hopefully, if all things go well, we’ll just carry on writing, carry on doing more gigs, get some more recordings in – that’s what I aim to have.
Katherine: While we’ve got a bit of time off – cause we also work with schools as well – I wanna start getting in the zone for writing again, making new stuff. Just having fresh ideas and fresh material to work on.
Carmel: Getting another Blind Arcade mixtape done would be great wouldn’t it!
Katherine: Imagine that, yeah!
Carmel: Well we’ve got enough material; we’ve got loads of material that we haven’t even finished off yet – we’ve been working so quickly.
Katherine: Especially with the releases, cause they’ve had such a great response. How lucky are we to be a part of that… It’s been fab!
Read Greg Wilson’s blog post about ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ here
CARMEL’S TOP 5 SLICES OF SOUL
Little Anthony – I Think I’m Going Out of My Head
Aretha Franklin – Until You Come Back To Me
Sinnamon – Thanks To You
The Reverend Cleve Freckleton & The Sinners – World Gone Crazy
The Clark Sisters – Jesus Is A Love Song
KATHERINE’S TOP 5 SLICES OF SOUL
Earth, Wind & Fire – Brazilian Rhyme
Stevie Wonder – Summer Soft
George Benson – Nature Boy
Take 6 – A Quiet Place
Nat King Cole – Unforgettable