U.K. singer-songwriter Sarah Howells appears on Skype with damp, fresh-out-of-the-shower hair, her classic dark brown fringe hanging just above her eyes as we adjust the volume for a cross-country chat. Howells, who goes by Bryde when she's singing from the depths of her soul, just finished up touring in the U.S. to support her EP1, and is preparing to start writing EP2 in a week. The night before our interview, she played a small show in Hollywood, and I could faintly make out the California sun pouring into the windows behind her.
Howells went solo after many years of playing in other bands, namely folk duo Paper Aeroplanes, but a shift in energy led her to create Bryde, a moody, raw version of her music, culminating with the release of EP1 in May on Seahorse Music. EP1 houses heavy songs like "Help Yourself," an isolating track packed with grumbling guitar, foreign howls, pounding drums and Howells' helpless wails attempting to break through the noise.
The tunes are heartbreak-laden, with "Nectar" using the sweeter side of her voice to symbolize the effort put into a relationship that you realize is not going to be reciprocated. "Wait" embodies the feeling you get when you know your love is doomed, but delusion kicks in and can't leave. Electric guitar and menacing melodies are laced throughout the project, ending on "To Be Loved," an aggressive track driven only by six strings and Howell's vocal harmonies. The EP has caught the attention of BBC Radio 1 and Nylon, and with a small group of fans behind her, Bryde is ready to release another sachet of songs.
Before the singer trekked back to England, Fuse chatted with Bryde about breakups and why she got in a bathtub for her "Help Yourself" music video.
Fuse: How did you know if was the right time to break away and do this project?
Bryde: It’s weird. It felt like everything happens for a reason and all that stuff. It just came at a really good time. We’d kind of come to the end of a German tour and an album promotion with Paper Aeroplanes and I’d broken up with somebody and everything kind of just felt really, I don’t know, really sort of dramatic, like I has some big realizations about things in my own life, like, good ones. I learned a lot of things. My bandmate in Paper Aeroplanes just was ready for a bit of a break, and I wasn’t ready for a break. I wanted to keep on writing, keep on playing. We live in different cities as well. it was just the perfect time. I always wanted to try and do something a little bit different so I wanted to get into something slightly darker. Dark music. And so it was just the right time to go and make music like that.
I noticed it was darker, and I also was wondering if you just wanted to play an electric guitar instead of acoustic.
Yeah, I really wanted to play electric. I used to play electric when I first learned the guitar, actually. When I bought a guitar, it was electric, and I was in a band at school for years when I was growing up, I was playing electric guitar. It was quite rock-y—it had emo influences. We liked Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters and things like that. When that band broke up, that’s when I started Paper Aeroplanes, that’s when my tastes kind of changed into this mellow acoustic stuff that was going on. I feel like I’m combining the two now. I’m going back to the things that I always wanted to make on my own.
Do you think the breakup is what spawned this new project?
You know, I’ve had breakups while in Paper Aeroplanes. You might notice that from some of the lyrics, but this is different. It’s not that straightforward. It’s something much more unusual and interesting, for me anyway. It sparked something in me that had not really been explored. It was just a really good catalyst for doing this. I think I’d been sticking to what I know. It was life-changing in a lot of ways.
Do you think you’re going to do a full-length?
Eventually, yeah. I’m doing another EP. I’m recording it in August. I’m actually doing one of the tracks next week in L.A., which is exciting. I can’t wait. It’s a beautiful studio.
The other three tracks I’m doing someone will Bill Ryder-Jones, who used to be in in a band The Coral, and played guitar on tour with The Arctic Monkeys. And he’s got some really amazing material. ...It’s gonna be quite raw hopefully, not as shiny as the previous one. Not quite as produced.
It is hard to recreate the big sound of ‘Help Yourself’ on stage?
Yeah. It doesn’t come out the same as the recording. I kind of like that. It’s very stripped-back and raw. It’s just me and a guitar, it doesn’t need any backing or anything. I might have a drummer at some point.... It’s just so quite intense anyway, I hope it is. I don’t think it lacks anything. It’s almost like a different thing altogether.
All the songs gets really deep. Is it good therapy when you’re writing this stuff?
Yeah, I think so. And I don’t feel as awkward. I’m quite honest, anyway. I’m a bit of an oversharer in general. I don’t know, I just feel like I’m not really a storyteller. I wouldn’t invent stories or I don’t tell folktales. That’s not just something I’m able to do. I think my skill is to be really honest about stuff. I really want there to be a purpose to the music, not just trying to sound pretty or get famous. I want it to have a point to it.
I definitely felt that way with “Wait,” because I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten in a fight with somebody and walked away, and someone says, "Wait." It’s that one moment where I feel like everybody’s had that. Maybe even multiple times. It could be the game-changer.
In my mind, it’s not really a positive "Wait." You’re hooked on something that you know is bad for you. It’s almost like a drug. It’s like you’re going to give up that toxic thing, whatever it might be. That toxic drug, you let it come back. It’s obviously the same with a person, but you’re like, "This is a disaster, but wait! Let’s just try it one more time."
Like you said, it’s an addiction.
I’ve read a lot of books about that sort of thing, and it genuinely is a drug. There are chemicals in your brain that are released that even when you are being treated badly that you can start to enjoy it, and need it, because it’s like a buzz. Especially when it gets better. It’s like the two opposite sides. It wasn’t the most awful relationship in the world, but it wasn’t great, and I understand other people’s experiences when before I might’ve been quite harsh about somebody who would stay with someone who was treating them badly, like, "What are you doing? Just leave." But it’s not that easy. I think it’s really useful to have lots of different experiences because it makes you understand people better.
As far as visuals go, how did you decide that you wanted to get in a bathtub for your music video?
That was quite last-minute. We’ve been talking about for years and the latest video had the forest idea, and I was looking into the different parts of the personality. ... There’s like the water, the earth, the fire and wind side... Water is a quite interesting part of the relationship dynamic that I’m talking about in all the songs. It just felt like a really good idea. Visually, it’s the blue. I’m in love with the color blue. And it’s all tying it together.
Are the visuals crucial to the whole project?
I love taking photos. I did a photoshoot—a really short one. I really enjoy it. It’s really the only hobby I’ve had since playing in a band forever. For me, it just wraps everything up together and explains the music a little bit better. Even just Instagram. I think when somebody sees someone’s visuals all laid out, you can get a sense of if their music if for you. If it’s what the intention behind the music is. I think it’s important.