Everything you need to know about… CIEL’s ‘Make It Better’ EP

Michelle Hindriks from Brighton upstarts CIEL lets us in on a few behind-the-scenes tit-bits about their grungy new EP, ‘Make It Better’.

→ Spur of the moment

We purposely didn’t listen or overly worked on our demos prior to the recording of the EP, which made us take some brutal decisions whilst in the studio. Completely new vocal lines and lyrics for choruses were written in the moment, as well as guitar, bass and drum parts while tracking in the studio (there’s a lot of first takes!). We felt pressure, but we believe this way of working made us stay true to ourselves and go with the flow. This was fueled by our producer Steven Ansells’ belief that, most times, the first idea is the best idea. Doing this really brought the songs back to the core and made us write the most authentic music we could have done at this particular time of our journey.

→ We joined a next-level acting class to bond as a band

Tim, Jorge and I went well out of our comfort zones as introverts when we joined an acting class to bond as a band on a deeper creative level, getting closer to our instincts. We had to jump, scream, pretend we walked over glass and do a lot of hugging with each other. We had to make sure to really feel empathy to whatever we were doing – and if we didn’t really mean a thing, we had to do it all over again until we did. I felt like this experience was quite spiritual and made us connect to our own bodies and really project a certain emotion in the moment. It was a great way to unthink and reach the subconscious part of your brain that is all connected to creativity.

→ Studio routines

During the recording of the EP, Michelle drank an average of at least 10 coffees a day, Jorge solely listened to Death Grips (still does to this day) and didn’t change clothes, and Tim had to pop in and out of sessions to go to his day job, building modular synthesisers.

→ A brutal murder of CIEL – how a love song turned dark

When we showed our song So Scared to videographer Craig Murray, he immediately had an idea for the music video. So Scared essentially is a love song – the lyrics are about not being able to connect to someone and open up but really wanting to be able to do so and working on that aspect of yourself. Craig put the song in a much, much darker context. In his video Jorge, Tim and I are statues, and actor/dancer Joss Carter plays the role of a sculptor who can’t connect with his piece of art and keeps trying to sculpt it, changing the statue endlessly. He, however, keeps being unhappy with his art, and the video ends in a brutal but static murder scene of CIEL’s statues. This was the second video we worked on together, and Craig is a true artist who lives for his art and comes up with the most crazy and unexpected ideas. We even had to cut the original ending as it turned out too grotesque, but hopefully, we’ll show it one day. We were also very lucky to work with Joss Carter, who is a super-talented dancer and actor. We filmed the video in his dance studio, which is in a big artist warehouse complex in North London. It was a very inspiring environment to be working in.

→ The concept for ‘Somebody’ came to life in the studio

Some of the songs were still quite rough ideas when we sent them over to Steve. We like to work like that. When we sent ‘Somebody’ to Steve, it was literally quite a slow dream pop song – none of us thought it was anything special, but Steve really picked up on it. In the studio, we kept speeding it up, and speeding it up, making everything A LOT more messy, adding wildly over-the-top drum fills and scruffy guitars – we didn’t want it to sound perfect at all; it just needed to be fun and in the moment. The song reminded us of a house party, so we kept calling it “The House Party Song”. It was only after we had finished the whole recording of the song when I finalised the lyrics. I felt like I needed to write something “fun”, but I only kept coming out with these introspective lyrics, about needing to connect with other people, to be out in the world and to party after having experienced an extensive period of solitude. It took me a while to accept that this was what the song was gonna be about, but now I’ve fully embraced it, and I like it a lot! When winter was just coming to an end, this was a feeling that me, and a lot of people around me, were experiencing, so I think I needed an outlet for that.

→ House party in Michelle’s Living Room

The video for ‘Somebody’, however, turned out to be a house party as it felt the right thing for the song. This one is also directed and shot by Craig Murray. We filmed it in my living room which I completely emptied of all furniture – it was quite the task as all my housemates are artists and kind of hoarders. We dressed in different subcultures, built about six different sets in one day, and we had 20 extras coming over. It was ABSOLUTE chaos. All of the furniture was throughout the whole house, so there was no space anywhere, and all the extras arrived with bags full of extra clothes and make-up. There were people dressing up in every corner of every hallway. Everyone was so involved with helping to make this video. It was so good to see what an amazing group of friends we’ve gathered around ourselves during our time in Brighton – the making of this video really reminded us of that.

Taken from the July 2023 issue of Upset. CIEL’s EP ‘Make It Better’ is out 7th July.