Pale Blue Eyes – Band of The Month (September)

This month’s featured band is Totnes, UK indie pop/indie rock band Pale Blue Eyes.

Pale Blue Eyes’ excelsior modernist pop music comes from Devon and Sheffield – via stop-overs in Iceland, KLF-land and the Steel City home of British electronic music.

The PBE studio sits in the Devon greenery, with buzzards wheeling overhead, just south of Dartmoor. To create the studio, the band members took out a bank loan and worked pretty much anywhere that would provide a wage – at a soup factory, at music festivals, in greenhouses and cinemas, running bars at disturbing corporate events, as a tree surgeon’s assistant. The core of PBE debut album Souvenirs was written and recorded by Sheffield’s Lucy Board and South Devon’s Matt Board. Matt and Lucy were married in 2018, years after meeting at art college.
“When we were younger,” says Lucy, “we recorded at various studios – from makeshift DIY places in Sheffield and Plymouth to residential studios like Rockfield in Wales. Rockfield was like heaven to us, but it was somewhere we could only afford for a couple of days. Our dream was to have more studio time, to develop songs without being ‘on the clock’, and to learn how to produce ourselves.”
In time and with hard work, the PBE studio took shape. As she’d left her teens, Lucy played in various bands in Sheffield, she also, subsequently, got to know Flanagan’s Moonlandingz co-founder, Dean Honer. With his studio experience with artists including Róisín Murphy, I Monster, the Human League and Add N To (X), Honer became an important part of the PBE story. He mixed and mastered the Souvenirs album and also acted as adviser during the record’s creation.
While Lucy examined her home city’s hifi heritage, Matt’s musical exploration saw him travel further afield. As he entered his twenties, he’d become enamoured of the sounds Sigur Rós had been making in Iceland. With money he’d saved from working at the soup factory, he decided to go and spend some time in Iceland. Speculatively, he turned up at Sigur Rós’s Sundlaugin studio, outside Reykjavik. There he ended up doing some formative recordings with Sigur Rós studio engineer Birgir Jón Birgisson.
The third part of the Pale Blue Eyes triad arrived when Matt and Lucy met bassist Aubrey Simpson at South Devon’s Sea Change festival. Aubrey is a big Motown fan, a devotee of that label’s in-house bassist, James Jamerson. PBE’s Aubrey and Matt grew up in and around the South Devon market town of Totnes, a place that has become a socio-cultural hotspot, home to initiatives in environmentalism and entertainment. 

Powered by all the above –  this unusually broad sampling of music’s cornucopia – Pale Blue Eyes have made a debut album of scope and sophistication. The sweet synth lines and metronomic guitar riffs give the album a transportive, mind-shifting mood – something that’s been dubbed “Devon cream-adelica”.

The album moves from the melodious bass surge of Globe to the metal-bright guitar parts of Motionless and Under Northern Sky, where there are perhaps suggestions of Television and Echo And The Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant.

 The PBE album is called Souvenirs because, as Lucy explains, “The songs encapsulate a few years’ worth of memories and experiences – times of change and personal sadness. The songs were an outlet for us and they now serve as souvenirs of all those times”. 

Souvenirs brims with a kind of elective positivity, as made clear when Matt lists the album’s themes: “Embracing good times, escapism, losing yourself in a moment of bliss when the world around you is going to shit… Processing and understanding loss and grief and using our music as a vehicle to move on… Fighting against the mundane and not giving up on dreams… The pure joy of a good night out or a moment of being moved by a band or a piece of artwork or a great film… Making the most of the time you have…”  The tracks Little Gem and Globe, in particular, beam with positivity – alighting on optimism, gardening and hedonistic days in a shared student house.

Souvenirs is out now via Full Time Hobby.