The band that became NIGHTSHIFT formed in 2019 in the ecosystem of Glasgow’s current indie scene. The city’s fertile & creative group of musicians have been committed to pushing the boundaries of and blurring the lines between DIY, punk, experimentalism and indie pop for decades now; a home to bands like Shopping, Vital Idles, Current Affairs, Still House Plants, Richard Youngs and Happy Meals as well as forebears like Orange Juice, Teenage Fanclub & Yummy Fur. NIGHTSHIFT slot right in with all mentioned, featuring members from current indie stalwarts Spinning Coin, 2 Ply and Robert Sotelo. The band was formed by David Campbell (guitar), Andrew Doig (bass), Eothen Stearn (keyboards/vocals) & Chris White (drums) as a “No Wave/No New York/early Sonic Youth/This Heat-esque” group, but their sound quickly evolved once guitarist/vocalist/clarinetist Georgia Harris joined (as the band was writing “Zöe”). The band self-released a full-length cassette on CUSP Recordings in early-2020, laying the foundation of their sound; hypnotic, melodic, understated indie post-punk with hooks that stick around long after you’ve heard them. “Zöe” is the band’s newest effort, and first for Trouble In Mind.
Unlike the band’s previous album, the songs on “Zöe” weren’t conceived live in the band’s practice space, but rather pieced together and recorded remotely during quarantine lockdown, with each member composing or improvising their parts in homes/home studios, layering ideas over loops someone made and passing it on. The isolation actually allowed for an openness and creativity to flow and many of the songs took on radically different forms from when they were originally envisioned. Vocalist & primary lyricist Eothen Stearn says “The process of writing these songs separately during lockdown was a kind of exquisite corpse – I liked this gesticulation of reaching out to one another and responding. Building up the next layer and passing it on.” Stearn says “poetic restraints” to writing & Eno’s Oblique Strategies concepts were on their mind when composing the words to the songs on “Zöe” and lists the influence of author Rosi Bradiotti’s book “The Posthuman”. “Zöe” means “live drive”, derived from the word conatus. Bradiotti defines conatus as “an effort or striving, endeavour, impulse, inclination, tendency, undertaking, serving is an innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself.” and Stearn views it as “…a kind of feminist re-claiming of communal public, anti- privatisation, looking to strive for social and environmental justice. Zöe kind of became a character of striving for me when writing.”. “Zöe” kicks off with “Piece Together”, a hypnotic song anchored by the band’s chanted vocals and serpentine guitar licks. “Spraypaint the Bridge” showcases Harris’ clarinet in an unexpected & delightful melodic shift during the song’s anti-chorus. Elsewhere tunes like the swooning “Infinity Winner” and “Outta Space”s minimalist, slinky rhythm swirl in a late-night vibe, while “Make Kin” ruminates on “Looking to kinship as a way of engaging with entangled environmental and reproductive issues… how a band is a bond” and lurches forward with kinetic guitar strangling & staccato rhythmic percussion from White & Doig. “Power Cut” is the album’s centerpiece, kicking off Side two & lures the listener into its world over it’s 7-minute runtime. Lulling them into involuntary movement with its waves of melodic harmonies, synth drones and metronomic pulse, until they all come crashing down in the song’s dissonant midsection.
The band acknowledges the whiffs of nostalgia prevalent in “Zöe”s songs (the title track in particular), and the nature of writing & recording the album is soaked in the self-work, reflection & reevaluations involved not only personally but creatively in each member’s lives. Consequently, the album becomes a collection of sketches of hope, growth, awareness of the power of the world & the power of self, kith, kinship, friendship, resistance, and possibility.