Ninetails have undergone extensive changes in personnel and in musical scope, however, as they tell Getintothis’ Joseph Viney, they’re more than happy with the strides they’re making.
After the departure of drummer Bill Berry in the late 90s, R.E.M.’s former vocalist Michael Stipe famously remarked “I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn to run differently.”
The same lesson can be applied to Ninetails. Losing a vocalist and guitarist (in this instance in the form of Ed Black) could have been the death knell for many a lesser group, but not only have Ninetails bounced back, they’ve pushed their seemingly distant boundaries even further. It’s no mean feat.
But then that’s what Ninetails are about. It’s been three short years since they released their Ghost Ride The Whip EP; tracks such as the playful Social Guesswork seem like child’s play compared to what they are serving up these days, courtesy of their latest record, Quiet Confidence.
Concerning Jordan Balaber on guitar and vocals, Philip Morris on bass and Jacob King on drums, Ninetails have presented consistently shifting patterns against a backdrop of musical evolution and revolution.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the LIPA-formed trio are all about heart-on-sleeve majesty. No, sir. Indeed, they seek to shun the obvious connections and plaudits that their latest and greatest collection may seek to evoke.
So, dare we ask, is there a…Quiet Confidence within the Ninetails camp right now?
“That wasn’t the intention of the title, no” explains vocalist and north Virginia native Jordan Balaber.
“The title has to do with the lyrical theme of the record, which is about devotion. It’s not supposed to reflect how we feel about ourselves in any way, like ‘Ninetails and their “quietly confident” new sound…’ or anything like that.”
It’s this refreshing take on the potential pitfalls of undulating hype that has seen Ninetails rise from could-bes to should-bes; the guidance of former Talk Talk manager Keith Aspden providing an experienced and necessary guiding hand to a group that, despite their track record, may well in time come to have the world at their feet.
Being The Guardian’s Band of the Day, hosting streams on the Quietus and now a nomination for the GIT Award 2014; evidently all in a day’s work for Ninetails.
The big question is: what, if anything, does this mean? Is this a culmination of the group’s hard work, and if so, where from here?
Typically, the group are happy to be where they are now, but put forth an exciting caveat.
“We were all honoured to be nominated for the GIT Award,” says Jordan.
“Spending so much time playing live seemed restrictive in a way, because we played the same material over and over again, and we didn’t spend nearly as much time on our recorded material.
“We’re lucky to now be in a place where we’ve put in a lot of groundwork, and we can really focus on writing, recording, and developing.”
And it’s development that remains the keyword for one of our city’s leading lights. The dense, layered musical fog that constitutes Quiet Confidence is the summation of a host of influences.
It’s the kind of sounds, replete within tracks like An Aria (enough to make BBC6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs remark “Isn’t that extraordinary?”), that are the summation of a host of influences; a soundtrack to a city not being dragged kicking and screaming into the new world, but gliding gracefully and gratefully into its orbit.
“The inspiration for the new sound came from a desire to make a record that sounded like it was constantly in a state of climax in some way, like there was always some sort of ecstatic element occurring” says Jordan.
“We wanted that shamelessly grandiose, sublime feeling to be present in the music, and we wanted that elegant flow to it, but in a more immediate, colourful, pop-centered format.”
And why not trade upon an extensive and varied array of implied influences? There’s plenty of them about. As if by magic, Ninetails share a veritable coterie of inspiration; designed by others, and molded into shape for your pleasure.
“Requiem by Gabriel Faure, the energy on Aesthethica by Liturgy, the guitar-looping style used by Fennesz, the way Toumandi Diabete plays the kora, the melodies on A I A: Dream Loss by Grouper, Steve Reich, Jason Lescalleet, Sean McCann, D’Angelo, Talk Talk, Arthur Russell, John Tavener” exhales Jordan.
It’s no short-order and it’s a lot to live up to. And yet, above all else, Ninetails DO deal with that inherent pressure that the artistic and de-facto famous deal with.
It’s not about the cool points, or the hipster quality, or indeed the recognition of blogs that take music far too seriously; Ninetails are here, if not for your enjoyment, then without a doubt their own. They don’t ask a lot of their listeners and supporters, only that they use their imaginations.
“I hope people to listen to it and see vivid imagery and bright, bold colours” enthuses Jordan.
“For me, the imagery that’s implied is overtly beautiful and naturalistic stuff, like the movement of water currents, cherry blossoms; that sort of blooming, unfurling, pulsing movement.
“The record is about self-sacrifice and devotion, and I think it’s really personal, private music, best heard alone. We poured a lot of ourselves into the music and I hope that people feel empowered by it.”
This sense of empowerment has been fostered by their immediate surroundings. Liverpool has been kind to Ninetails.
As if it wasn’t evident already, the group are aware of the important role played by Liverpool and its port-in-a-storm attitude to the weird, wonderful and new.
“Liverpool has been our home for the past four years, and it’s insane to think how much we’ve changed and developed over that period of time.
“When we started off, we were a completely different band, and we had an entirely different approach and sound. We were just screwing around, really. But since the beginning, Liverpool has been incredibly supportive and encouraging. There isn’t a very competitive scene here or anything like that.
“Artists here don’t seem to want to see other artists around them fail so that they can succeed and rise to the top. Everyone does their own thing, and the community lifts them up.”
And rise to the top they shall! Like all burgeoning and great artists, Ninetails are in no way content to rest on their laurels. Hold on to your proverbial hats, because there’s more. There’s always more where this lot are concerned. New material is already on the way, so don’t think you have a chance to put Quiet Confidence and Ninetails to bed just yet.
“We’re working on writing and recording another release to follow up Quiet Confidence, which will hopefully be available to hear by the middle of the year.
We’re incredibly excited about it, it’s completely different to Quiet Confidence. Quiet Confidence is really obvious with its intentions, whereas the new material is not; it’s more emotionally ambiguous, more mysterious, and in some ways more abstract.
“We have no specific plan, we’re just writing and putting the music out. We’re just happy to be in a position where we can focus on making this music.”
And so here’s the rub. Amidst all of this ambition, the reckless charge of ambition, the drive to better oneself against the grain of a multi-faceted culture that promotes steps on the ladder against togetherness and understatement, Ninetails are ones to keep their feet planted firmly on the stepping stone marked realism and humble.
The GIT Award? And what of it? “It would be an absolute honour, to say the least.”
And that’s why you’re here.
Further reading on Getintothis:
GIT Award 2012: Artist nominee profile – Ninetails
Ninetails drop Radiant Hex from Quiet Confidence EP
Ninetails: Slept And Did Not Sleep
Ninetails: Rawdon Fever
GIT Award 2014 launches One To Watch prize.
GIT Award 2014 judging panel announced.
Review and pictures from GIT Award 2014 launch at Leaf.
GIT Award 2014 returns with Leaf launch ahead of Kazimier spectacular in April.
GIT Award 2013: Baltic Fleet: To be involved and win will always stay with me
The GIT Award 2013 report, reaction and review from Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool.
GIT Award 2013 winner announced as Justice Collective win Inspiration Award
GIT Award 2013: picture gallery featuring Baltic Fleet, Nadine Carina, Conan, John Heckle, Tyler Mensah and more.
Picture by Andrew Ellis.