London-based duo Dust in the Sunlight have returned after their debut earlier this year with the release of Strangest Places. Layering soothing harmonies over wistfully played piano, euphoric drums and brooding basslines, the result is a rich tune full of warmth.
Commenting on the uplifting message of Strangest Places, the duo said: “It’s about following your sense of adventure, even if you feel lost. Learning to let go and find peace within yourself, without being tied to any particular place or time.”
We got chatting to Annie and Billy to learn more about how Dust in the Sunlight came to be, their music, and got some song suggestions from the musicians to you…
Hey Annie! Hey Billy! How are you guys coping with lockdown?
Annie: Hey! Not too bad thanks. I’ve been hiding out at my parent’s place in Devon – grateful for the countryside. We’ve both been making some music together from afar, it’s not quite the same as writing in person though.
Billy: It’s been a bit strange (for everyone I’m sure), but I’ve enjoyed learning Ableton and trying to write as often as possible. It’s getting a bit cabin feverish recently, but it’s for the greater good so we’ve got to do our bit. I’ve definitely missed writing with Annie!
We are in love with your second single Strangest Places. How did you write the song/what does it mean?
Billy: Thank you! We wrote it in September 2017. It came about from a conversation we were having about trying to find a “home” within yourself, rather than in a particular place. I was basically living in my van at the time, and the advice Annie gave me was “You’re your own home”. Which became the chorus!
Do you each have specific strengths within the band when it comes to lyrics/composition, or do you both do a bit of everything?
Annie: I’d say we both do a bit of everything, but it often starts with some chords / a melody from me and lyrics from Billy. I’ve never really enjoyed writing with other people before as it’s such a personal thing for me, but there’s some kind of synergy when writing with Billy – it just works.
Billy: Annie is the more technically musical one to be honest. I love the storytelling aspect of lyric writing. Then we meet in the middle and the song happens. Sometimes we’ll come to a session with half a song and push through it together.
And we hear you are planning on releasing your debut EP next month… can you tell us anything else about it?
Billy: It encapsulates the first leg of our journey together. We produced it with Aviv Cohen who captured our sound perfectly. The other two tracks are Winter Monday, which is a bittersweet homage to our hometowns…
Annie: … and Old Dream (my favourite) which is about letting go of someone you never really knew, retracing your steps to figure out what to take from that relationship. We can’t wait to share them with the world!
Wow, we can’t wait to hear them! So where does the band get inspiration from? As individuals I’m sure you both have artists who have shaped you, as well as some influences that you both share which have played a role in Dust in the Sunlight’s sound.
Annie: When we first met, we bonded over artists like Elliott Smith and Sufjan Stevens. Classic songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell place a big influence on our writing, then more contemporary artists like James Blake, The xx and London Grammar have provided inspiration for our sound.
Billy: I have to make sure that I read a lot. One of favourite novels is If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. It’s basically written in prose and so beautifully poetic, just thinking about it makes me want to write; “There are only these: sparkling eyes, smudged lipstick, fading starlight, the crunching of feet on gravel, laughter, and a slow walk home.”
Annie: Writers like Patti Smith and Nick Cave are an endless source of inspiration. I feel my eyes opening a little wider each time I read or listen to them. Artists like that make you experience the world in a different way. I think we try to convey that sense of wonder, observation and storytelling in our songs, too.
So how did Dust in the Sunlight come to exist?
Annie: We met at our friend Sam’s (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) studio in Southend a couple of years ago, recording backing vocals for his latest album. When we started harmonising, we both instantly realised how good our voices sounded together…
Billy: … then I think we wrote our first song together that evening. We were both in different bands at the time, so it was really refreshing to be writing music with no pressure of releasing it. After about 18 months, and 30 songs later, we realised that the next logical step was to create a project for the songs.
What about the name? I immediately have visions of an old house with creaking staircases and an old sash window (with bits of ivy creeping in) where sunlight enters the dusty hallway and it looks all glittery and magical, but still a little bit haunted. Love. It.
Billy: Dust In The Sunlight was one of the first songs we wrote together, and it was how we referred to the project for ages before we decided to make the band name. I think it is really visually provocative. I love how you’ve described it!
Annie: Yeah, I love that idea of something a bit mystic and yet everyone sees it all the time.
And how would you describe the sound of Dust in the Sunlight for those who haven’t heard you before?
Billy: It’s been described as ‘Damian Rice meets The xx’. I hugely respect both of those artists.
Annie: It’s got that male / female vocal vibe going on which everyone is drawn to… then combining very visual, narrative storytelling with a contemporary alt pop sound.
Y’all seem like a perfect fit from listening to you. The way your vocals blend is magical. But, are there any disagreements in the band? From artistic direction, to what flavour crisp is best? Anything. at. all.
Billy: Thank you! Being in a duo is an interesting dynamic for me. I’ve been in bands as the frontman for years. And I’m fully aware that I was probably difficult at points (typical frontman!). But as time goes on you get a bit more relaxed and learn to have more compassion. So I just make sure every decision is OUR decision and that we have good communication. It’s been a great journey so far! I certainly wouldn’t be upset if Annie learnt how to drive though 😉
Annie: If I drove, who would do all the admin? 😛 Yeah, we’re both frontpeople and used to taking charge, but in a way I think that’s why this project works so well. We’re both experienced musicians and bring individual strengths to the table. If there’s anything we disagree on, we always talk it out. I think we’ve learnt a lot from each other, growing as musicians and as people.
Before we wrap up, could you suggest a few songs each for our readers, and tell us why you love them? A mini Dust in the Sunlight playlist if you will…
Billy: 10K, Obongjayar – “This song gets me going every morning during lockdown!”
Don’t Laugh At My Astroturf Diane, Giant Boys: “I stumbled across these guys via BBC Introducing and I just love everything about them, this song is genius. Just listen to it and do not play it your Nan!”
Full Moon, Eden Ahbez: “I discovered this song whilst re-watching ‘Fargo’, and it transported me back to a Californian beach in the 60’s. The production on it is beautiful.”
Annie: Above All Else Be Kind, AJIMAL: “A beautiful new song with a powerful message by my friend AJIMAL that particularly resonates at this moment in time.”
It’s Raining, Keeley Forsyth: “I discovered Keeley Forsyth via BBC 6 Music and her record is stunning. Extremely haunting and dark, which I love.”
People’s Faces, Kate Tempest: “I was really lucky to witness Kate Tempest previewing her latest album at a small venue in Peckham a couple of years ago. After she performed this song, the whole audience was in tears. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever experienced at a live show. Just listen to it, you’ll understand why.”
Thank you both for chatting with us, and we look forward to hearing much more! Keep well!
Annie: Thanks Catriona, and you!
Billy: Thank you so much for the great questions! Stay safe!
Strangest Places is out now on Project Melody. Keep up with Dust in the Sunlight below:
Photo: Kezia Cooper