Rosie Tee talks songwriting and sea monsters ahead of International Women’s Day gig

Rosie Tee is Birmingham’s answer to Bjork, an avant-pop composer-performer with a taste for jazz, psych, and atmospheric electronica. Her 2019 release, Chambers, was described as “poised and elegant” by Tom Robinson and had several national airplays on BBC Radio 6. Last year she returned with a new offering: Earth, Embrace Me In.

Image courtesy of Broaden

“It’s definitely grown up from Chambers,” says Rosie. “It’s far more organic. We went to Megatone Studios in Digbeth, a down-to-earth, homely recording space without any pretense – it was the perfect setting for this EP. This record was all about celebrating the great musicians I play with, getting our live sound captured. It’s still produced, but it’s got everyone’s personality in it: Tom, our previous keyboard player on an old Rhodes, Dan on bass, Kai on drums, a few overdubbed textures, glockenspiel… and Piera added a few extra synths.”

“Since Piera joined – she’s amazing, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened – we’ve developed our live set up. I’ve been working on my vocals. I used to use a delay pedal, now I’m using a Strymon NightSky so I’m completely in control of manipulating my vocal on stage. The next step is bringing these collaborations on tour. As a band we created a bubble and being able to rehearse absolutely kept us sane, the only thing we would do all week is have our Tuesday night rehearsals. We’ve ended up writing half of our next release!”

“I’ve been sitting on Earth, Embrace Me In for a really really long time. My main reason for not getting it out sooner was that I hated the idea of it only existing online. I wanted to gig it, that’s what I’m in it for! I just want to go down the pub and chat to my mates about the process behind it. The good thing about having waited is that, on a bit of a whim, I applied for some Arts Council funding, the first time I’ve done so…and I got it. It came at my lowest point of inspiration, in the winter of 2020. That spurred me on and gave me the confidence to go, ‘Ok, I’m going to make this release a really really good one! I don’t have to pull any bloody favours, I can actually pay all my very talented friends!”

Collaboration plays a big part in everything Rosie Tee does. “With anything I can always see a bigger picture and I know that I would never be able to achieve that on my own, that’s why I’ve ended up working for a festival.” When she’s not writing or performing, she’s kept busy as the Programme Assistant for renowned experimental music festival Supersonic. “It’s that classic thing of being immersed in something. What I love about being an artist is being part of this network. Like Analogue Bryony, she’s done all my collage artwork. She’s my best mate, and this year I was like ‘Guess what, I can actually commission you!’ She’s so talented, a really special friend.”

Image courtesy of Jess Ingram

Earth, Embrace Me In finally got its release back in autumn. It’s a cinematic and powerful record. The opening and closing tracks feature RIOT quartet , lending it the gravitas one would expect from a winner of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Composition prize.

“I need to get into the habit of not seeing them as two separate things.” Tee admits, “my dream for ‘Swept’ would be to see it used in TV or film. It’s bigger, coarser, more rough around the edges.” Why wait for someone else to pick up your music for a piece of film when you can just make it yourself, though?

“I knew that I wanted a concept music video for Anchors, when previously we’ve always done things centered around live performance. At first I was really up for a “Creature From The Black Lagoon” style sea monster, but as all concepts do it evolved…” For the video, Tee worked with videography duo Broaden.

“Bryony and George from Broaden ended up living with us for a while. They came back for Christmas and ended up getting shut out of Spain, with Brexit and Covid, so in deepest darkest lockdown we had some friends. I’ve always wanted to work with them as videographers. One night I put on Ari Aster’s Midsommar. I’ve always been into films but I’m a massive wuss. I’d heard it’s really visually beautiful, though it might be a bit scary… I think I only managed half of it. How can something be so scary in broad daylight? It’s so rare to achieve something so creepy, but where nothing’s hidden, it’s all there. That’s when the sea creature evolved into this amorphic embryonic sac, this kind of second skin. I’ve worked with experimental movement duo LYNNEBEC before, and as soon as we were coming up with these ideas I absolutely knew the perfect people to work with. Everything fell into place. We went to the South Wales coast, we’d mapped out a few location ideas and we pulled up and it was all there, every texture we needed. It was just a really really special day filming that video.”

Earth, Embrace Me In is rich with ideas, making it ripe for further exploration in the form of a remix EP.

“Something I’ve never done but always wanted to do is a re-work/remix project. I’ve really enjoyed being able to pass on the components of the music over to other artists I really admire and respect to see what they do with them. So many pleasant surprises! I’ve called the remix EP ‘re // embrace’, as things are starting to feel more normal and as we’re enjoying the social side of being artists again – it feels like the right name for this collection. There’s a whole host of musicians involved; Vanishing Twin, Matters, Nik Nad, Wildforms & Maya Yenn.”

Earth, Embrace Me In was released in October 2021, with Wonderland lauding its “warped production, serene instrumentation and other-worldly vocals” and Earmilk labelling it a “truly mind-altering release.” There are still copies available from Rosie Tee’s bandcamp, with the remix EP on the horizon.

You can catch Rosie Tee performing at the Hare & Hounds on 8th March alongside Lara Jones and Echo Juliet, with DJ support from Japes – tickets available here. Fans of ambitious and innovative live events would do well to keep 30th April free, too…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s