Rophonic EP Launch at Club 60
Rophonic may be a new name on the Sheffield music scene, but in actual fact they are the result of collaboration between two well established local acts. Animat, (Mark Daly and Michael Harding) have joined Third Half, (Peter Rophone and Graham McElearney).
Before their gig at Club 60, we met in the Shakespeare to celebrate the launch of their first EP, and I started by asking them how this collaboration started. It turned out no-one could really agree on how and where the four friends first worked together, as Animat and Third Half have supported each other, or worked together on small projects several times over the past few years. It was finally agreed that it was most likely when they provided a live score to the animated film Prince Ahmed, at a Sensoria festival event in the Showroom a few years ago.
‘It gradually felt like we were evolving into the situation where we worked as a single group, so it felt like it was a natural thing to work together as Rophonic. A few weeks ago we were both booked separately for the Beacon Festival, but we decided to appear on stage together. We asked ourselves how long we could continue as ‘Animat and the Third Half’ before we gave ourselves a discrete identity, and eventually, after a good deal of discussion we agreed upon the name Rophonic. We will still continue to work separately as Animat and as Third half though. ’
‘We’ve been recording over the spring and summer of this year at our own home studios, passing the sounds between each other. For example our first single, which we’re launching tonight, started life as an Animat track, that we were never really sure what to do with. We knew I needed a vocal but we were never happy with what we could produce, so we gave it to Peter and Graham and they finished it off. Much of the rest of tonight’s set came from material we came up with by just jamming, recording and editing the results and seeing what we liked. There are two tracks on the EP, ‘The Sun Fell From the Sky’ and ‘Earth Lift’, plus a couple of remixes, which we are really pleased with. We’re gradually working on more material and getting it to the stage where we can release it. We’ve really hit on something we really like. The combination of Peter’s amazing voice, the harp playing of Graham combined with the beautiful, sumptuous lounge-core style of Animat means we’ve really feel we’ve nailed something here.’
Fast forward a few hours and we’re crammed into the basement tunnels which comprise Club 60. Too few people know of this place, but it’s so small, cramped even, it’s probably best that things stay that way. In the Sixties it was a jazz club, when there was a pub above, but that’s long gone. However, by some good fortune what was underneath has survived. In its day job it is now a recording studio, but on nights like tonight, it’s transformed into something which echoes its heyday as a nightclub, where performers can play to a small but appreciative crowd of devotees. So it was tonight as Rophonic made their debut and played for almost an hour. Peter Rophone played his guitar and sang, with the sounds then fed into a stack of electronic devices and filters, while Graham played his harp. Sitting to one side were Michael and Mark weaving their laptop magic of sounds, sometimes underscoring, but at other times taking a more upfront leading role. Each tune or song has its own distinctive sound, but is untied by the combined talents of this extraordinary new band. One typical track, and which was a standout moment for me, was a track called Molly. We’re all familiar with the poetic beauty of the shipping forecast, and samples from this were weaved into a tale about a woman who, in the days before technology intervened, spent her time watching for ships in distress from the clifftops. Peter’s vocals started to tell the tale, and he was soon joined by a bed of sampled sounds, loops of guitar playing, percussive beats and synthesised tones and colours. It was a brilliant night for anyone who managed to get an invite. Watch out for their next gig, and get to hear that Rophonic wall of sound.