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root salad PicaPica


They’ve got quite an unusual mixture of talents and backgrounds, discovers Tim Chipping


for their work with Ali Farka Touré. But this is not their guest-fronted studio pro- ject. One of these people… look, you get the idea. This is a band of equal contribut- ing parts. Parts that sound so originally exciting together that they bagged a deal with the legendary Rough Trade records before they’d even done much.


O


What sort of a group is PicaPica and how does it fit into the world?


“I don’t think we’re the best people to answer that,” begins Josienne Clarke unhelpfully. “Each person is bringing a thing from their core musical world.”


“We all have separate careers and ideas for ourselves,” attempts Samantha Whates, “and it’s how we’ve taken those environ- ments and amalgamated them to make a new environment.”


Josienne is hopefully best known to you as the singing and songwriting element in the Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker environ- ment. Samantha Whates might also be known to you as the singer and songwriter who most frequently adds her voice to Josi- enne’s in concert, as well as opening for the duo on numerous occasions. You’ll have more than likely emitted happy/sad sighs at her exposed and enchanting lyricism.


So PicaPica is doing what you normally do, but together?


“We all exist in slightly different worlds and cross over in the middle,” Samantha clarifies.


Since Adam Beattie and Sonny Johns


aren’t present for this chat, can you define their worlds?


“Adam does his kind of troubadour-y thing. Classic songwriting.”


“Like ragtime, old-time jazz...”


Adam also performs as part of Band Of Burns, who you may have seen at Celtic Connections, if you were there and went to see Band Of Burns.


“Sonny is all about world and African music. And he also records jazz albums. But a newer jazz. Dinosaur, Polar Bear…”


Both Sonny-recorded artists were nomi- nated for the Mercury Music Prize. Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford also appears on the forthcoming PicaPica album. Which is impressive.


Given that it’s a four-way democracy, do you have to work hard to avoid clashes of opinion?


ne of these people has won a BBC Folk Award. But this is not their solo pseudonym. Another of these people won a Grammy


“Quite early on we had to release our- selves from the idea that we could conceive of what it would end up being,” Josienne explains. “What I realise now is when I bring them a verse I don’t know what that’s gonna end up as. There was one point with one of the songs where Samantha and Sonny were like, ‘We could just push this chord later and it would be way more hooky.’ And everything in my being was screaming not to do that, but this was what this was about: accepting that everything was gonna push me way out of my comfort zone. When I listen back to some of the new songs now I think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m a part of that thing. How could I have ever done something that fun?’”


Can that approach work with some- thing as personal as lyric writing?


was having a conversation with Josienne recently about what we want to say. How do you say stuff that means x, y and z when you’re trying to say it together? So what we’ve found ourselves writing about is more the world; textures and colours and shapes; light and dark rather than politics and heartbreak. We’re writing about the environment we live in together.”


“I


Ideally, what would a PicaPica fan have in their record collection?


29 f


“I’d be pretty happy if they owned records by The Free Design,” Samantha pon- ders. “Maybe Tiny Ruins, something like that. The Weather Station. This Is The Kit. I don’t feel like we’re influenced by them but...”


“It sits in the same space.”


With only last year’s Spring & Shade EP and a handful of live shows to go on, I can offer no music critic’s comparison for refer- ence. Has anyone told you what they think you sound like?


“Some people said it was Appalachi- an,” recalls Josienne. “And that took me slightly by surprise. I wasn’t really hearing that. In my head it’s rock ‘n’ roll!”


Their debut album isn’t going to be ours to own for a while, although it is recorded to their evident satisfaction. “I would buy the PicaPica album,” exclaims Samantha. “That’s quite a surprise for me to feel that about something I’ve done.”


“I feel like it’s the kind of album where I’d listen to it over and over again for an entire summer,” laughs Josienne. “And I feel I can say that because there’s enough of everyone else in it; there’s only a little bit of me! My one concern is that it’s gonna make me really lazy because now I can just write a verse and go, ‘Yeah that’s nice,’ and some- one else can finish it for me.”


picapicamusic.com F


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