Nothing makes you dream of escape like being stuck in one place. Songs from Echo Zoo by NightFlight, the London four-piece who blend shimmering, uplifting melodies with textured,atmospheric guitar music reminiscent of Real Estate, Deerhunter and The War On Drugs, lives up to the promise of its title. These are songs to evoke visions of California, Canada, even London itself, and refigure them as places that exist within the imagination.Dreaming, a love letter to London with a deeply romantic opening line, ‘We met on the avenue, by the trail of shops on a hillside view,’ is a case in point. “People tend to put London down as expensive and unfriendly,” says Night Flight’s singer and guitarist Sam Holmes. “But there is something magical about falling in love in a city. That is the feeling I was aiming to capture.”
Canada and California, says Sam, are very personal evocations of those places. “I went toCanada in 2012 and the words capture a memory and time I always think of. As forCalifornia, I was there as a musician in 2014 in a Beatles play called Backbeat andromanticised about it for years. Harry and I went back to LA in 2019 and I wanted to chasethe feeling I had for the city and the landscape; just the excitement of driving out to your favourite spot at two in the morning. Referencing places helps ground the lyrics for me.”
Lockdown became a creative boon for Night Flight, with the EP coming together byeveryone exchanging ideas remotely. “By the time we were in the studio, we knew exactly what we wanted,” says Harry. “I always loved albums like Music From Big Pink by The Band, which have their own defining sound, and it used to bug me that we hadn’t got there. How can we pare back and find our own, four-piece formula? Now I feel we are approaching it.”“We’ve got to the point where it feels like a collective,” says Sam, who cemented Night Flight’s current line-up three years ago. “We’ve always been a songwriting band and that hasn’t changed. I’m obsessed with the art of songwriting. I’m constantly in competition with myself in an an attempt to match the likes of Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, but the sound is entirely down to all four of us so we put the credits down as the band.” This, says Sam, is a pre-emptive move as much as anything. “It will help us avoid the Lennon/McCartney-style court cases later on.”
All four members — Sam Holmes, Harry Phillips, drummer Dan Webb and bassist OliverHalvorsen — can agree on the songwriting perfection of the Beatles, but there thesimilarities end. It’s why so many disparate elements creep into the mix. “Harry is amassive fan of Elliot Smith, which contrasts with my love of John Martyn and Nick Drake,”says Sam. “You have your taste palette at home, which you then bring into the studio.”“Dan is way more experimental in taste than the rest of us,” adds Harry. “He’ll bring in obscure stuff and never agree to being obvious with our references, which keeps us on our toes.Whenever I come up with something too derivative, he’ll pick me up on it.”Songs from Echo Zoo marks the point at which Night Flight found themselves, which is a good thing because for Sam the band is all consuming. “It lives inside me, like a parasite. We’re pretty DIY and self sufficient, from the artwork to the video editing. Celebrating the music we love, the joy of being in a collective...”“Sam is ferociously driven,” says Harry. “I’m happy to be the lazy one, to work on a great album that will stand up for years to come, but Sam never switches off.” The result of all this is an EP that puts Night Flight in the rich melodic lineage of their heroes, from the Beatles to The War On Drugs, but with a voice that is entirely their own. Songs from Echo Zoo is the sound of a band in flight.
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