Spotlight: Corey Bowen
28 Nov 2014
Introducing the wonderful musings of Corey Bowen
I'm the one who is cold, as Corey Bowen and I squeeze into a café across the road from the Islington Assembly Hall. It is the final night of his stint as the tour support for Christopher Owens. Corey orders two cups of tea and then places his jacket carefully on the back of a chair, his t-shirt sleeve rises a little revealing a 'GIRLS' tattoo on his left arm. Corey seems a long way from home but he is contagiously content and I'm surprised he doesn't politely ask me to pinch him. His sensitive strange pop music, built in his bedroom in Middlesborough, appears faded and celestial. Like an old documentary on NASA made before the moon landing, he is down to earth but hopeful and starry eyed. His songs are rooted in feeling disillusioned with contemporary life, however his sound brings 60s and 70s sentiment in to play. If Syd Barrett and Harry Nilsson grew weary of wi-fi and facebook, meet Corey Bowen...
When did this incarnation of Corey Bowen come about?
CB: I had always played in bands growing up, but I had never really felt strongly about any of them. Too many people I knew were interested in being in an Arctic Monkeys cover band. About 18 months ago I started writing songs in this vein.
What changed in order for you to feel excited releasing stuff as Corey Bowen?
CB: Bands I played in always wanted to go into studios. I’ve never worked well there. The songs just never turned out how I wanted them to. I’ve always wanted to stick to my space. 18 months ago I found myself without a band, sitting in my bedroom. I didn’t need to adhere to anyone else.
I’ve always wanted to present work as truly my own. I’ve always wanted control, for better or for worse. On my demos I recorded all the instruments and I produced it. I don’t dress up, there’s no gimmick. It’s just me. I get worried because sometimes with solo artists, who perform under their name, a barrier is created between the artist and the person. I want this to be the real Corey Bowen.
How many of your songs had you written before you started recording and experimenting in your studio?
CB: There was a space of 6months when I recorded 50 songs. I’d just been kicked out of college and I didn’t have a job. I was pretty low. I had nothing going on at all and it was a pretty dark part of my life. Almost everyday I just sat and recorded.
Talk me through your song ‘Perfect Harmony’?
CB: That song was actually written before I sat down to record it. I wrote it on the acoustic guitar before sitting down and experimenting in my bedroom. It was my attempt at being cinematic.
It reminded me a lot of the ‘Submarine’ soundtrack, which is probably my favourite Alex Turner release. Where did the line ‘a world with no emotion except fear’ come from?
CB: This is may sound cheesy, but I really wanted to ask people to think about the state of the human race at the moment. The song is my dig at the world. ‘What do we have here, a world with no emotion aside from fear…’, that is how I see it when I walk down the street. I just observed. You never see people interact anymore.
‘Perfect Harmony’ was the only song on that release that I actually sat down and wrote before hand. The rest of the tracks, like ‘If the Birds Wish to Fly...’ for example, are more of a blank canvas where I just throw ideas around in the recording process.
To me ‘If the Birds Wish to Fly…’ sounded like a bad night out in Blackpool with a copy of ‘The Best of The Doors’ and some Buckfast.
CB: The Doors are a huge influence on me, so maybe.
What was it like when you first met Christopher Owens?
CB: Emotional. Chris has helped me through a lot. Not personally, but through his music before I actually met him in real life. For him to go out of his way to ask me to come and support him on tour meant so much. Being on tour with Chris has been a dream; I don’t really think it will sink in until we’re home.
So what’s the story behind ‘that’ tweet?
CB: I was tired of trying to get all my friends to listen to my music, so I just thought I’d tweet someone I admired. I didn’t ever think Chris was going to reply. The next day he followed me. Then a few days later he emailed me saying he really liked the songs and he’d kept on listening to them. It progressed from: “do you want to play a show with us?” to “do you want to support me on tour?”.
What other artists really impress you with their song writing at the moment?
CB: That last Smith Westerns album last year was really great, I liked ‘Dye it Blonde’ too.
A lot of people are really digging Tobias Jesso JR at the moment, particularly lauding his talent as a songwriter. What’s your opinion of him?
CB: He’s absolutely amazing, he already sounds classic. No frills. You can really hear him. He sounds a lot like my idol Randy Newman. I hope you subscribed to those flexi discs, they are so sweet.
Who are Sexx Tapes?
CB: That’s my pal Sammy Clarke from Kent. He got involved very early. A couple of days after the demo went up. He dropped me an email and said that he was starting up a cassette label, so he decided to put it out.
Where does Midnight Dolphins come from?
CB: A very strange vision I had at five to twelve in the middle of the night. I won’t go in to detail.
Tell me about Middlesbrough, I really really don’t know it?
CB: Basically throughout the 60s and 70s it was 100% industry, there’s this very strange residual feel to the place because everyone’s granddad worked in the mines or at the port. It’s a really depressing place. We used to go to Saltburn, on the coast, to get away from the smog. Oh yeah, people from Middlesbrough get called Smoggies.
What’s the scene in Middlesbrough like outside your bedroom?
CB: It’s pretty minimal. The last half-successful band was probably Maximo Park. There’s almost nothing going on. Cape Feare are sweet though, they got this great psych sound.
I assume like Adele you got the Band Aid invitation and turned it down?
CB: Yes, that is true. I’ve never really got along with Bob.
I just wanted to check. Do you have an album of the year?
CB: It didn’t come out this year, but the album I’ve enjoyed most is Tonstartssbandht ‘Overseas’. That’s a trip. It’s fucking amazing.
Grime of Grimes?
CB: Grime. I’m big on grime and I don’t really like Grimes all that much, she had a pop at Ariel Pink didn’t she? I really like JME and I used to catch the Logan show.
Finally Corey, what’s next?
CB: Finish tour. Go home. Sleep. Get on with working on an album. I’ve never put ten or eleven songs together before. I’ll just see where it goes.
The Midnight Dolphins EP is out now on Sexx Tapes and can be purchased here.