With the release of their second album, Chew Lips have achieved an impossible dream. The as yet untitled follow up album is a whip-smart pop record, bold and sassy, bursting with sharp melodies and huge choruses. It is how pop music should sound in 2012; it is never formulaic or sterile. Chew Lips’ realize their vision for their take on ‘classic future pop’.
Chew Lips are vocalist Tigs and multi-instrumentalist James Watkins. Formed in 2008, the pair had previously been in indie bands. “We were both bored,” James reveals. “In some ways, supposedly experimental indie music is actually the most conservative of genres. We wanted to do something fun, something free and something pop.”
If the remit was to have fun, neither James nor Tigs had any initial preconceptions of a Chew Lips ‘vibe’. “We had no real thoughts at the start”, James admits. “We just hung out, listened to records and got drunk a lot. We never set out to sound like we do.” What became immediately apparent to the duo was an intrinsic frisson of creativity. “We went into a rehearsal room one weekend and wrote ten songs each day,” Tigs recalls. “I think we felt immediately that we had a sound worth something.”
In 2010, the release of an elegant debut album, Unicorn, showcased their minimalist electronic pop. From the outset, the idea for album 2 was to create a more fleshed out version of the Chew Lips’ sound. “Unicorn was quite an austere version of what we were trying to do,” says James. “This album is more like the pop music we wanted to create. It was about clarity of communication - each song builds towards a single emotional moment.”
And Tigs is clear about the source of inspiration for these moments. “The album is 99 per cent a love album,” she reveals. “I met someone and was inspired by how that made me feel.” Her relationship meant that Tigs spent a year living Paris, and the record was written during this period, with her travelling back and forth from writing sessions with James in London, “Paris was an influence on the album, especially on the track ‘Hurricane’, and the journeys themselves were very emotive.”
The record was recorded in London with producer Ant Whiting, who ensured that James had “a meeting of geek minds.” It is an album brimming with ‘classic-in-waiting’ tunes, be it the über-cool ‘Do You Chew?’ which takes the sweetness of a trademark Chew Lips melody and mixes it with the ‘streetness’ of an R&B beat (“it’s a beautiful marriage,” says Tigs), the majestic shimmer of ‘Rain’ (“the darkest song we’ve ever written”) or the magnificent nostalgia anthem of the closing ‘Mixtape’.
At the very core of the album is the magical spark that flourishes between Tigs and James. “We have the chemistry of long-term friends and can go between love and hate by the hour,” says Tigs. “But it is really rare to find someone who you can write great songs with.” Each person is central in making Chew Lips a very special band. “James is the driving force. I am the personality and the face of the band – because I am the singer – and whilst we write all the songs together, James is the one with all the impetus and self discipline.”
However, the Chew Lips magic doesn’t happen only in the recording studio. Their live shows are a relentless blast of energy and have delighted fans around the globe. Having recently been invited to play in China (“it was so exciting just to visit the country,” says James), some of their personal highlights happened a little closer to home. “The best gig for me was Camden Crawl in 2009, in a tiny room in the Dublin Castle, where we had a room full of people singing our songs back to us,” James reveals. “Tigs was in tears and I was smiling so much I couldn’t play. Another great one was the first trip to Poland in the summer of 2010. We played a headline show in the courtyard of an old brewery with 1,500 crazy Poles singing along to every song.”
And James is certain about what will happen for Chew Lips. Unconstrained and living for the moment, Chew Lips are readying themselves for lift-off. “I think music is defined by how far you’re prepared to go, how true to yourself you want to be; those are the things that make artists interesting. So, we wanted to step up what we were doing. We are going to work harder and we want our shows to be properly brilliant. We want people to hear our music.” Tigs shares the excitement, “Having been locked down for such a long time we are really eager to see what people think of this record!”
Chew Lips have delivered their vision – this is classic future pop.