Interview with ROSH

ROSH

ROSH has been playing in bands in Sheffield for a number of years, most notably as part of cult jazz-rockers King Capisce. In 2020 he branched out with a solo release (See Them Rise EP) that knocked us off our feet, revealing a sophisticated songwriting talent and unique voice that we couldn’t wait to share with you all. We’ve recorded a wonderful live session in the glorious surrounds of Sheffield’s Ecclesall Woods, which will feature on our Season Finale show on Thurs 27th May 2021.


So tell us Rosh, what inspired you to make the leap from reliable band member to putting yourself front and centre with your own solo releases? How does it feel?

I’ve always written songs ever since I first learned to play an instrument in my teens, but I’d never felt like I had lived enough, or had the right language, to present them to the world. Playing bass in bands and being involved in writing and arranging in an instrumental way became my focus. Then there was a serendipitous period where I’d taken a break from the band, gone away and had lots of time to focus on writing songs. I used whatever tools were at hand, and that happened to be an acoustic guitar, and I found that I had a new confidence in my playing, singing and lyric writing. And the songs just kept coming! It felt like I had finally come to the songwriter form at the right moment. I had a lot to get off my chest. And I also enjoyed the new freedom of being able to communicate directly with audiences through singing and lyric writing, instead of cloaking my intention and meaning behind instruments. It feels great to have that kind of discourse with an audience, I’ve always just wanted to communicate with people.

You released your debut EP in the midst of the pandemic last year, what plans have you got for this year as the world starts to open back up again?

I just feel grateful to be able to do anything other than being at home all the time! But I have been working on a new full album which should be out in the summer. I’m really excited about it as the sound is much more expansive – there are more complex arrangements and instrumentation – and the songs are much more outward-looking. The songs on the ‘See Them Rise’ EP are a couple of years old – it took me time to get the confidence to record and present them – but some of my most recently written songs are on the new record – and it feels like I’m speaking more directly to the moment we’re all living through.

I’m also very excited about playing live, in any format. The live experience is where songs can really find their own life, in conversation with an audience, and I’m really looking forward to hearing them recontextualised to a live setting where you have that radical possibility of things falling flat or succeeding better than you could ever expect that you don’t get from anything else in life. If it ends up being just 10 people in the park I’d be grateful for that. I’ll play anywhere!

The live session you recorded for Buds & Spawn features two other very talented musicians, tell us a bit about them and any other projects they are involved in. 

I’m incredibly lucky to be able to play with really talented musicians who also happen to be my friends! On vocals and melodion we have Lucy Huzzard. 

Lucy is a veteran of the folk scene, she grew up in it. She’s also a really talented dancer in loads of styles and she studied music at folk school in Sweden. She plays with the folk singer Rosie Hood a lot. So she’s steeped in this stuff, whereas I feel more like a visitor. It’s such a pleasure playing with her because she just jumps straight into the songs, she picks out harmonies really easily and she’s got a lovely voice that compliments mine really well. I never really have to explain myself with Lucy, she just gets it.

On electric guitar and fiddle we have Ric Booth. Ric is a veteran of the Sheffield scene and has played, or been involved in some way, with a lot of great bands that have started here. I met him when he was playing guitar with Kill the Captains, and we’d often play gigs together when I was playing in King Capisce. I’d always liked his playing, it’s always incredibly tasteful and musical, and he’s such a student of music that he can basically play in any style. We were really lucky to have him come on board as a 2nd guitarist in King Capisce. When I started playing my own songs I knew he’d be perfect for decorating my tunes. Now he’s helping engineer and produce my new record and his excellent playing will be all over it.

The three of us play together really easily, it’s probably the simplest musical relationship I’ve had with other musicians. I should also add that they are both great songwriters in their own right and I love playing their tunes. Lucy writes great feminist folk tunes and Ric has a really uncliched and musical style. They’re also both great lyricists, of which I’m very jealous.

If you could only pick one track / video to introduce someone to the very best of your music, what would you play them / show them?

I would probably play something off the new record! But it’ll be a bit of time before I’m ready to do that yet. I’m very wary of being just another guy with an acoustic guitar – I don’t find that interesting and wouldn’t expect anyone else to. So the larger band sound of the new record is definitely the one which I would like to be defined by.

But if I was to play something to someone now, I’d probably play them Old Road from the Buds and Spawn session! I’m very happy with how that turned out, and the location in the woods is just perfect. I don’t think it’s necessarily representative of the rest of my songs, but I think it’s an accessible country-pop song.

Which artist do you think has been most influential in the development of your sound?

This is an incredibly difficult question – especially as I’ve only really started listening to folk music very recently. Prior to getting into folk I’d almost exclusively only listen to contemporary instrumental jazz and math rock bands.

There are two artists who I have always listened to obsessively, and they are Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley. I would in no way compare myself to them though: I can’t read music, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the chords I’m playing and I only recently got comfortable singing in public. They were both incredibly studious and virtuosic musicians in their own way. I think Elliott Smith is a really underappreciated pop songwriter and lyricist. He gets dismissed as a dour and depressive artist, but there is a lot of joy in his songs, and a lot of chord progressions I can’t play!

Jeff Buckley is just such an incredibly expressive singer, and he was able to make himself very vulnerable on stage. I also love that he’s so comfortable singing in a falsetto range. I feel that affinity with him. He was also a really underappreciated guitarist who could play in any style. His songs always have a sense of flow, and the way he could direct their restraint or release is something I’m very envious of.

I’d also have to mention PJ Harvey. I love her commitment to rawness and vulnerability, and simple songwriting that is still powerfully affecting. I don’t think I write in that way, I think I tend to be more mannered and composed, but I’m envious of her for that. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea is an immensely powerful record.

In terms of tracks, I’d choose:

Elliott Smith – Happiness

Jeff Buckley – What Will You Say

PJ Harvey – We Float

Any recent musical discoveries or new obsessions that you’re evangelical about? 

I don’t know if I could choose just one! I’ll pick some that maybe don’t get as much recognition as they should. There are some artists who I’ve returned to again and again the last couple of years. The first is Tigran Hamasyan, he’s an Armenian jazz pianist who combines math, djent and Armenian folk melodies. He just makes the most excitingly dynamic music that sounds so life-affirming.

Next would be Adrianne Lenker. She’s the singer from Big Thief. Big Thief is awesome, but she writes the most intimate, compelling, finger-picked folk songs under her own name. I’m awed by how someone can captivate you with just their voice, an instrument and some words. She’s a master at it, and writes in an incredibly idiosyncratic way.

Next would be Kojey Radical. I was obsessed with his songs ‘Water’ and ‘Can’t Go Back’, as anyone who has lived with me over the last couple of years could tell you. The production is incredibly crisp, clear and propulsive. It’s hip hop with a big heart and incredibly catchy hooks.

Tigran Hamasyan – Vardavar

Adrianne Lenker – Symbol

Kojey Radical – Can’t Go Back

It’s been a very testing year for all of us, but there have also been some surprising benefits and wonderful creativity that have appeared during these strange times. What has kept you going through the tough times? 

It’s been an incredibly hard year for so many. For some people more than others. I’m incredibly lucky in that I’ve got work and a social network to support me. But we’ve all lost something. Not being able to share my life with my friends and family like we normally do has meant there have been a lot of emotions very close to the surface, that are usually repressed in the day-to-day of trying to get by. But music unlocks that emotion, and it’s had an incredibly profound effect on my emotional state – more than usual – this last year. For example, I can’t listen to Kae Tempest’s – People’s Faces, without crying. It captures the hurt of the moment too rawly and too well.

On a more joyful note, I love hearing about an artist’s process so the Song Exploder and Broken Record podcasts are really fascinating, and you can often glean some great songwriting advice from them.

I’ve found it really difficult to read over the last year, I’ve felt really distracted and inattentive. I’ve found that upsetting because I’m a pretty hungry reader, and a lot of song ideas often come from what I’ve been reading. I did read Richard Powers’ – The Overstory this year. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to novels, but this had me gripped from the first pages. It was such a welcome and familiar feeling, to give yourself up to the world of a novel, and I happily acceded to it. It’s a really beautiful, but flawed, book. Probably the best novel I’ve read in years. It really captured things I had on my mind about the desecration of nature and how to live honestly in the face of that crisis. It obviously had an effect on me because I wrote a song directly inspired by it after reading it. So I would recommend it to everyone.

It’s starting to look as though live music will be on the agenda again very soon – which artists are you most looking forward to seeing and why?

Well, we had tickets to see Thom Yorke and Bon Iver in the Before Times, which have been rescheduled to the end of the year. I would love to be able to see them if it’s possible. They’ve been two of my favourite artists and they are such excellent live acts.

I’d really like to see the Irish noise band Girl Band. I’ve really gotten into their live album and I think that would be a cathartic experience.

I’d also love to go down to Hatch on a random weekend and sway around drunkenly in that dark room with other sweaty bodies. I haven’t seen a live band in Sheffield for far too long, and I’d love to be able to dance around to party bands like Dr. Fat Lip, Renegade Brass Band or Cosmic Triceratops (and maybe play with them too!). I’d also probably lose my head at the next Sheffield Techno Institute or Barang night. On the folk scene I’d love to see the Rheingan Sisters at an intimate venue. I’d also love to get the guys from King Capisce back together for a Sheffield reunion because I love them and it would be beautiful.

ROSH joins us on our live stream show on Thursday 27th May 2021 along with The Display Team and Perhaps Contraption. We’ll be premiering the exclusive live session they recorded with us along with live chat and opportunity to ask your burning questions!

You will need to register for a ticket in order to receive the live stream URL. This link will also let you watch it back after the show has finished.

Tickets range from FREE (for low/no-waged) to £10 (50% of these Scene Champion tickets to be donated to The Theatre Deli in Sheffield, the original hosts of this gig).