Pulling together a huge tapestry of influences, ranging from A Perfect Circle to William Orbit via Peter Gabriel and Soundgarden, Dartmoor-based Gravity Machine have released debut single Dreamtime, from their forthcoming album Red.
Core of the band is multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Niall Parker and Bob Shoesmith on drums, with guest musicians including Kat Marsh (Lionface, Choir Noir, Bring Me The Horizon) and Pete Miles. Niall and Bob first met in 2001 and worked on a variety of projects together, including rock band Age
of Reason (2004-2009), followed by a long hiatus.
In 2011, Niall’s wife Sophie was diagnosed with breast cancer, which sadly led to her death in 2016. Niall turned to music to process losing Sophie.
What started as a distraction grew into a rich tapestry of songs documenting his path through grief…along the way celebrating life, and the growth and expansion that can emerge from the toughest events in our lives.
Niall and Sophie met in Ethiopia so Africa was an important element in their relationship and therefore of the album. Niall grew up on Dartmoor and also partly in Zambia and Ethiopia.
He shared how Africans have a culture of embracing death in a way that is very different to how we often deal with it here: “Over there, the presence of death is not something to be especially welcomed but it was far more present than here.”
Niall referenced the Malian griots and Ethiopian azmaris, who are praise singers, poets, musicians, historians and storytellers. They would tell tales of births, deaths, marriages, battles, hunts, affairs and all the happenings of life.
He continued: “Sophie’s funeral was lovely but not enough for me emotionally.” No wonder, with that abundant seam to be mined from their time in Africa. Part of his aim with the album was “to have something to allows others to feel through it and project onto it”. The inspiration behind it should not deter anyone; as Niall conveyed, the music “moves through different moods: softness, celebration…happiness, anger”.
After their long break, Niall and Bob attended writing sessions at Harvey Summer’s Broadoak Studios in Sussex to revitalise, followed by extensive writing and experimentation, creating songs that captured a range of moods.
Influenced by John Bonham, Niall’s best friend Bob Shoesmith brings a massive groove to bear on Niall’s music; his Ludwig Vistalite kit adds a distinctive sound.
Recognising that capturing the palette of sounds they’d created would require production skills above their own, they approached NME-nominated ‘super-producer’ Pete Miles at his Dartmoor facility, Middle Farm Studios, who agreed to produce the album.
A cluster of recording sessions followed through 2018/2019, allowing the material to be fully realised in ‘a rich and satisfying record’.
Primarily a guitarist/vocalist, Niall also plays bass, keyboards, mandocello, dulcimer and synthesizers. He has a longstanding interest in open tunings and a range of musical influences, from West Coast rock through to English and Celtic folk via electronica and ambient.
Simon Farmer of Gus Guitars built the spectacular purple guitar Niall used on the album, which was particularly fitting as besides being a good friend, Gus was Niall’s best man at his wedding to Sophie.
Lucia and Tavia are Niall’s and Sophie’s daughters and they were involved too, with Lucia singing on one song whilst Tavia contributed artwork and photography.
Sarah Clarke took the documentary photography of the studio sessions and Harry Duns the main band photography. Both are Dartmoor-based.
Friend and tattoo artist Sarah Edwards creates nipple tattoos for people who no longer have their own, due to surgery.
For someone whose sense of self has been harmed by cancer, this can make a big difference but is not available on the NHS so the band are supporting Sarah’s work with a limited edition of tee-shirts.
‘Red’ also features one song that was written for one of their friends, Niki, who succumbed to breast cancer the day before Sophie was diagnosed. The album is a fine and fitting tribute to them both, whilst looking ahead in hope and with love towards the future.
The launch is on 8th March, which would have been Sophie’s 45th birthday, and the album is available for download from 11am. There is also an album preview at Phoenix Arts in Exeter on 29th February at 7pm and all are welcome. Visit www.gravitymachine.co.uk for more information.