Brighton Spotlight: Adolescent

Adolescent is the pseudonym of 23-year-old Alex Parish, conceived by a youth spent travelling, taking photos and paying homage to Bristol trip-hop. This is more than just an exercising in beatmaking, but a carefully sculpted songwriting project. Through a combination of lush synth patterns, piano breaks and ambient melodies, Adolescent simultaneously induces melancholy and euphoria, a sound fully displayed on debut EP Golden Halls. Inspired by the photographic recollections of a trip to China, it retells a story of adventure and young love so vividly, it could soundtrack an indie film of a similar journey. To mark the release of Golden Halls EP this week for KLDSCP, Alex has put together an exclusive mix for us and answered some questions in an extensive interview.

Golden Halls EP is available now from iTunes. You can also catch Adolescent supporting Lovepark in London (29th May) and Brighton (30th May)

Download Mix as an MP3

For those who aren’t familiar with Adolescent, could you give us some background on your musical career to date? 

I began playing the drums when I was pretty young and stuck with band-based music for most of my early-teens. I began producing hip-hop for fun; it was entirely sample based, I had been massively influenced by the mid-90s hip-hop era.

Electronic music reached out to me after my Dad gave me Portishead’s seminal record, Dummy. That album honestly changed my life. I obsessed over film score composers when I was younger, so to hear Portishead purvey such emotion in their music – while incorporating production techniques I’d mainly heard in hip-hop records – paved the way for the music I make now.

I began taking music production seriously in my later-teens, maybe 18 or 19. Adolescent began in 2011, as a side-project to a hip-hop alias I used to work under, and within the year it had become my main focus. I realised that under this moniker I was able to release the music I had wanted to for years, but never had the confidence to do. When producing hip-hop instrumentals I was catering for other artists, whereas Adolescent was totally personal to me.

How would you describe your music?

A romanticised recalling of life-events, and the feelings I associate with them.

Could you cite some influences that really pushed you to make music?

Although I never grew up with my Dad, he did have a big influence on me, being a musician himself. When he was younger he produced electronic music, and gave me insight into some of the musicians I regard as my biggest influences.

There’s music on your Bandcamp that dates back to June 2011. Were those just demos and experiments in style and sound? How has your sound changed from then till now?

Like I said, Adolescent began as a side-project, I was testing the water. The first EP / demo I put out was an experiment. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to be represented sonically, but I had a vague idea of the mood in which I would write songs. I also knew I wanted to include classical instrumentation, like strings and piano, all of which I chose to write myself rather than use samples / loops. Over time, my writing has matured and my production has progressed, finding writing styles and processes that I stick by. I’m still constantly learning though.

XLR8R recently featured your track K-TV. Could you tell us a bit about how that came about and the story behind your debut EP?

Golden Halls was conceived following a trip across China, recalling a story of adventure, young love and how one’s feelings toward another may affect the romanticised memory. I represented this theme in both its sonic qualities, as well as the moods created. Each track refers to a specific place we (my Ex-Girlfriend, and our friend Camilla) visited in China.

K-TV (Karaoke – TV) simply tells the story of journey and familiarity. It has the most basic narrative of the four songs. Everywhere we stopped in China there was a K-TV building in walking distance of us. It became sort-of a running joke between us, though oddly I found it quite comforting, as China felt so alien to me that any familiarity made the place seem a bit more homelike. K-TV mimics this idea through repetition; almost becoming background music to our time spent travelling between K-TV buildings…

Was the cover art also conceived in China? 

Yeah, I took the photo on a Buddhist island, off of the coast of Shanghai. The island itself became a basis for the title songs Golden Halls pt 1 & 2. It’s a beautiful place. I shot the particular image on one of the beaches, where traditional Chinese calligraphy had been carved into rock faces. The girl in the photo was my girlfriend of the time, and the EP itself is as much about her as it is about China; I think the photo encapsulated all of the EP’s themes within one image.

As a producer of electronic music that tends not to have any lyrics, do you ever have the urge to add more of a direct narrative into your music, or perhaps a story/feeling you really want to put forward?

Definitely, that’s pretty much my main goal. I always seem to write under a specific narrative, as the project is so personal. I like the idea that people can listen to the music and comprehend it without words describing its theme; using foley recordings helps me place the listener where I want them, and the tone of the songs give an insight into the emotions behind the narrative.

The video for Golden Halls (Pt 2) tells a pretty clear story. Was that your idea and what is its relation to the track? 

The amazing Maddie McNicholas directed the video. We had discussed a location before any narrative was thought up, which is a lake my Dad used to take me and my brother to. He called the lake ‘Little India’; it felt so foreign amidst the rest of the English countryside, and reminded me of the Buddhist Island GH Pt 2 was written about. Maddie and her boyfriend Jack visited the location, and then came up with the video narrative. I love the juxtaposition between the song and the video, where possibly the happiest song I’ve ever written has been paired with dark & disturbing imagery.

How did you get involved with Brighton-based label KLDSCP Records?

My manager, Joe Grant contacted them. After a quick drink with Sam & David (KLDSCP) I knew their intentions for the EP were great. We all shared similar views on indie label releases, it was kind of a no brainer.

Growing up in Brighton (we assume), has this city affected or influenced your sound at all?

I can’t say the city itself has massively, mainly because I first sought influence from the Bristol trip-hop scene (Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky).I have been influenced by friends I’ve grown up with though – Frankie, Kamran + all of LP, Sam M and more.

What do you think of the current Brighton music scene as a whole?

I think there are a lot of really talented musicians and artists here. I’d say everyone involved with KLDSCP are super talented, which makes it a great scene to be part of. A lot of the musicians I’ve grown up with are moving out of Brighton, and this Summer I’ll do the same. Brighton will always be home for me though.

Any Brighton talent that you’re feeling at the moment that you think we should check out?

Lovepark (Ex-Brighton), Michael A Grammar (Ex-Brighton), all the KLDSCP team like Foreign Skin, Caveman Genius, Samuel Organ.Theo Verney is a good friend of mine, I actually played drums for his live shows for maybe ten months, it was great to have a totally different outlet to Adolescent. The two acts couldn’t really be further apart!

We hear you have a “photographic obsession”. Could you tell us a bit more about your love of photography and any relationship you have found between photography and music?

I studied photography before going back to music production. I wouldn’t say I was a photographer, but I love it all the same. As I mentioned before, the EP itself was written from strong visual influence; in fact the order in which I wrote the songs, directly correlate to the order in which I developed the 35mm films I’d shot in China.

Beyond your EP release what else do you have on the horizon?

I am playing a couple of shows this month supporting Lovepark on the 29th May at Shacklewell Arms (London) and the 30th May at The Green Door Store (Brighton). I play alongside one of my best friends Sam, who has brought the live show to a place I could never have done without him. Even though Adolescent is a solo project on record, I’d consider it a band project when live. I’m also currently writing new material.

What made you want to do your live shows with a band, as opposed to just you and a laptop?

I didn’t really like the idea of standing alone on stage with a laptop. Although I’ve seen people play like that and it’s been great, I just didn’t think it was for me. I’m happiest when I can interact with someone on stage, it feels more human. The same goes for playing with live instruments, I love watching people engage with an instrument, so it made sense to do the same. I think the live show can be considered as its own entity.

Any dream collaborations you’d like to make happen?

Maybe not quite a dream collaboration, but I think it’d be cool to work with Jack Steadman. He’s a great songwriter, even if the last few BBC albums haven’t drawn me in. He shares a love for Wu-Tang as far as I know, so that’s a good starting point and he produces instrumental music too – it’s good!

Lastly, what’s the story behind your name?

The name itself pays homage to my years between 17-19, which were both very happy and also quite tragic. I sadly lost one of my best friends, and that forced my friends and me to grow up very quickly, to deal with it as adults. After reading that the word Adolescent derived from the latin word ‘Adolescere’, which simply means ‘to grow up’, I thought it was a fitting indirect tribute. Adolescent represents a place I was in, rather than a place I’m in now, and I mirror that in my writing style; I work best when reflecting back on things in my life rather than writing about the present. Closure helps me finish a track.

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