By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of The Sound of Sight.
The new year can yield a new frame of mind, if you let it. We live in a culture that demands rebirth and reawakening as the calendars change, but who really abides for the whole 365 days? The promises we made before the ball dropped seem to linger above us like a cloud for the year. Here to show us that change IS possible is (no, not him…) The Sound of Sight from Norwich, UK.
Their first release, the Crumpled Clothes EP, tells the true story of a man leaving a job he has lost passion for and focusing on his music full-time all set to lovely English folk. The group is comprised of Paul Hubbard, the main man, and Iain Lowery, Hubbard’s accompaniment and head of the group’s label, Meat Fer Manners. BTR was able to speak with the pair as they were awaiting a proper English storm, complete with flood warnings.
Paul Hubbard is by no stretch of the imagination a young, fresh-faced English musician unlike fellow Norwichers and former Discovery Artists, Port Isla. He claims to have been born in 1970, so we can take him at his word. The story of his ups and downs throughout life is long and expository so he condensed it down for us, and we’ll do the same for you.
Hubbard started his musical career as a drummer “from middle school age” (which we can only guess was the early ‘80s) playing in the orchestra but always had a gnawing hunger for playing in a “proper rock band,” doing his own version of ‘60s rock. At a certain point, he realized playing in high school bands in his little college town of Norwich wasn’t enough so he made a leap, in a way that only an Englishman could describe it:
“We did the classic thing of, being from a smaller city in England and everyone looks at London as being the place to go to make music, so we did that in our early-twenties. We had fun for a few years but it never really worked out in the kind of ‘naive, dream way’ we assumed. We came back to Norwich and just carried on,” says Hubbard of his younger days.
Lowery remarked in response to Hubbard’s “rise” chiding with, “and a brief career in film.” No big deal, really, just a cameo in Stanley Kubrick’s last and best film Eyes Wide Shut in the film’s most iconic scene. (If you know the movie, you know which one I’m talking about.) Hubbard describes being hustled into a room watching people come out from the “lovely ladies part, and I missed it!” and that if he was in one of these scenes, “I’d be smiling way more.” However, looking back at the movie now he can’t really place exactly where he is in the scenes because there were “people swapped around over days so you had different masks.” He was happy either way though, “I was there,” he says.
Throughout this whole time of bouncing around, Hubbard never lost sight of his one passion: making music. He always wanted to sing, but he said that “making the move from a drummer to singer is a big move.”
He was finally acquainted with Lowery through another friend, Mark Bigley, where they bonded over mutual tastes and got The Sound of Sight going. He was able to play out with him just singing with an acoustic guitar to bits of applause. Lowery gave Hubbard the chance to record the EP with him and the first Sound of Sight release was born.
One interesting thing about Hubbard is that, as I said before, he’s not a young guy but this project in a way gives him a new lease on life, or at least his life with music. And with this new year bringing along a second chance at “making it”, how could he not feel the least bit rejuvenated?
“It feels odd. It’s like returning to being 19 or 20 again because most of my contemporaries on the circuit are 19 or 20 years old. But then, the reaction I get back from the songs, I just think, ‘Well that doesn’t bother me’ and I just feel really comfortable now. For the first couple of gigs I was scared to death and thinking, ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ but then as soon as you get a reaction back from people, you realize that what you’re doing is kind of valid,” says Hubbard.
The Sound of Sight’s first show was held in a “cinema bar” at a night that Lowery hosts called Original Soundtrack. He had three songs prepared, the three he released as the Crumpled Clothes EP. Before he went on, he said to himself, “I’m either gonna hate this and then at least I’ll know that I gave it a try or love it, and luckily I did absolutely love it.”
He wasn’t about to altogether quit if the gig went badly, but instead he wouldn’t have “taken the direction from there to think, ‘OK, well I can try to make a thing out of this.’” Our editors can only thank him that he trudged on to give us some copy.
Hubbard and the boys come from the small, isolated town of Norwich and it’s where they hang their hats as The Sound of Sight. It’s located on the island where it’s not connected to any major cities and it’s really just “on the edge.” This makes for an oddly specific music scene, as the two describe.
Lowery says on the town’s local folk scene, “It’s weird and insular but very creative and interesting. It’s kind of hidden away and it doesn’t seem to be particularly influenced by what’s going on elsewhere in the UK. It’s always had this slightly odd, left-field indie thing going on since the ‘80s, really.”
The town’s lack of media focus yet wealth of musical talent can create a kind of malaise or laziness in the major players there but for Hubbard, it’s what keeps him going. Yet he’s always had an outsider’s perspective to what was going on in popular music in England, hence being from Norwich.
“I think the stuff I’ve done has always been slightly isolated, if that makes sense. I think back to different bands that I was playing with and writing songs with, the songs we were writing weren’t really going along with the current movement and that’s probably why we didn’t get picked up. It’s always why I’ve known exactly what sort of songs I want to make and so I end up making them no matter what’s going on around me,” says Hubbard.
The second track from the EP, the eternally uplifting “Change My Life” is the song that best describes The Sound of Sight. In it he tells the listener about throwing away a job that didn’t mean much to him (for those interested, he was a chef) in order to live the life of a full-time musician.
“I had enough of working because it was never gonna get anywhere, to make a living you had to have a love for it and my love was always music.”
So now that he’s had six months of “technical” unemployment and released an EP, how does he look back on this life-changing decision?
“The best decision I ever made.”
To change your lives with the Crumpled Clothes EP, click here.
Check out The Sound of Sight’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.