Egyptian Blue talk their just-announced debut album: “Every song can stand on its own”

With a pair of brilliant EPs under their belts, EGYPTIAN BLUE are ready to unleash their debut album, ‘A Living Commodity’. Read our latest Dork Playlist cover feature now.

Words: Sam Taylor.
Photos: Jennifer McCord.

Of all the debut albums whose trajectory was thrown off course due to the events of 2020 and beyond, Egyptian Blue’s is one of the most anticipated. ‘A Living Commodity’ saw the Brighton-based band bouncing around Sussex sketching out idea after idea for a record that’s both bigger and more meticulous than anyone could have expected. And now, with two buzzy EPs already under their belts – 2019’s ‘Collateral Damage’ and then ‘Body of Itch’ the following year – its time has finally arrived. Vocalist/guitarist Andy Buss and co-frontman Leith Ambrose tell us more about the record and early teaser single ‘Skin’.

You’ve reached debut album time, congratulations! How long have you been working on the record? Was there a defined starting point?
In a sense, there is no defined beginning, really. I think any band that forms always envisions their debut right from the very beginning. I feel like we’ve written out the track listing 100 different times with 100 different songs throughout the years. There are early songs on this record that people will recognise, which we’ve always intended to be included on the debut, but then there’s the appearance of songs written only weeks before recording, like the title track. When you boil it all down, it has evolved and matured with us.

Obviously, you were starting to get attention before the pandemic hit with a couple of Really Very Good EPs. Did having that forced time away result in you rethinking anything about the band’s sound or impact the making of the album? Or was it more of a case of building on what you were already doing?
I don’t think there’s a conscious approach. Creativity is a broad, broad thing – sometimes, you just need to let what’s happening around you show you the way. You obviously evolve as musicians and songwriters, and that has an effect, but what I could say is this record is actively based on emotion: every song dials into feeling. I had a moment of clarity, realising every song I adore in this world makes me feel something – anger, love, joy, hate – they all do something, and that’s what makes them special. On this record, we really tried to accentuate that through every song. We made sure that every song can stand on its own, creating a much more powerful body that reflects a spectrum of feelings.

“Every song I adore in this world makes me feel something – anger, love, joy, hate – they all do something”

Your new single is ‘Skin’ – what can you tell us about it? Where did it come from?
I wrote the riff to ‘Skin’ on my balcony when we lived in the Sussex countryside. It was played on a beginner’s classical guitar we found on the street. I recorded it later that day, obsessing over the idea of having a shaker in it – the whole song, for me, became about the shaker. Lyrically, I was reminded recently that I read an article about a surgeon who got stuck with an injury on a South Pole expedition and ended up needing to operate on himself. I took this idea and twisted it: being uncomfortable in your own skin, yet being unable to escape from it. We took it into the studio, where it took on this new shape. Every extremity was thought about. I remember Leith was obsessing over the late great Keith Levine, circa his PiL days which played a big part in his thinking during this song.

What other themes does the record touch on? Were there any particular topics you found yourselves returning to?
Lyrically, I felt kind of unable to comment on anything other than the emotions I was feeling or what was in front of me at any given time. I couldn’t sit here and say it came from a particularly positive place, either. There are themes of longing: for love, but also for release from bedlam, the kind that lives in your home. I think our lyrics comment on every part of life, whether that’s the things people hold dearest to them or the parts that make you feel like you’re being pulled through the trenches.

Are there any places you frequent for creative inspiration or a refresh at the moment?
Alone time is important. It gives you the opportunity to reflect and look. The location doesn’t always matter: if the idea is there, then nothing that’s going on around you makes a difference. I feel like listening to what’s going on internally helps, and when we all come back together, these thoughts can become projected on a bigger scale. I remember when we shot a music video in Sicily recently. I was listening to a song we wrote in soundcheck at a show, watching the waves crash against the golden cliffs. This illuminated everything, made everything bolder and more fearsome – I wish I could go back there.

Did you hit upon any unexpected challenges during the album’s creation?
For sure. It’s by no means an easy ride. For example, we rewrote the record two or three times. There’s a whole other album’s worth of songs that never made it, some of them we thought the entire record would be centred around. We ended up setting so much aside and starting again. This gave the record a sense of cohesion and left us with a sense of freshness, not allowing us to feel like we had a stale record we’d been sitting on for far too long.

“There are themes of longing: for love, but also for release from bedlam”

What’s top of your bucket list for what you’d like to achieve with the album?
We wouldn’t want to jinx it! But I think a big one for us is to have an emotional connection with our fans. To make someone feel something is the highest form of gratitude you can take from anybody listening to your music. Another huge ambition for this record is we would love to tour it across North and South America, Asia and the corners of the world we haven’t been to yet – that would be a big dream for us.

When can we hear some more new material?
I’m sure you will be hearing parts of the record, or the record in full, very soon. We’ve also got some sessions for you to look forward to, as well.

Is there anything else we should know?
We’ll be touring this record back to front in November/December in the UK and France. They’re gonna be the greatest Egyptian Blue shows to date. See you there, and we hope you enjoy the record! ■

Egyptian Blue’s debut album, ‘A Living Commodity,’ is out 27th October. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.