Ed Watson sits down with James Page, the man behind hotly-tipped singer-songwriter Sivu.
I’ve been playing acoustic stuff under James Page since I was about 15. Then I moved to London and started writing the newer songs that you hear on my EPs. I think the first problem was that James Page is obviously the guitarist of Led Zeppelin, so there was that initial issue – and I thought, ‘I better change that’. But yeah, the music was going in a different direction and I just wanted a fresh start. I wanted a name that would be a bit different but would incorporate me into it somehow, so I Google translated ‘Page’, found ‘Sivu’; and it just felt right so I stuck with it.
There are a lot of names you’ve been compared to recently, including Wild Beasts, Other Lives and Gotye. How would you describe your sound?
Yeah well fundamentally it is just pop music, but I think there is also a strong alternative edge to it with the things I listen to normally like Bjork, Wild Beasts and Deftones. But yeah… alternative, ambient, acoustic are fair phrases I think. There is also certainly an essence of folk there too – I do write all of my songs on the acoustic guitar. But I think listening to artists like Gotye and Beck – they are songwriters but they do things in perhaps not the most obvious way. They aren’t just singer-songwriters with guitars, but rather have a greater focus on production. There are loads of great artists doing similar things. I think I try to put a spin on the singer-songwriter notion too.
So you’re working on your album at the moment. How has it been working with Alt-J’s producer, Charlie Andrew?
Yeah it’s been amazing. We’re really good friends, and we’ve been working together for the past 2 years throughout this whole process. He’s helped me so much to kind of figure out who I am as an artist, how to shape my songs, and how to put the sound on it that would help me progress. I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far.
A lot of your recorded songs are heavily textured. How does this transform into a live scenario? Do you think about this a lot when you’re in the studio?
Yeah, It’s been the hardest thing to do. When we went on tour a couple of months back it was just myself and the two string players, Kirsty and Rachel, who played all the string parts on the recorded tracks. We kept it quite understated, but then I really wanted to ‘up-it’ for future tours and try to incorporate more of the sound from the record. We’ve got a drummer now, some keyboards, synths, a bass in there. I kind of think with each tour we will try to push ourselves a little bit further. But I think the live set-up is in its early stages at the moment, and I wouldn’t want what it is now to be what it is in a year’s time. It’s sometimes a little hard when we record 20 piece string sections, and I think ‘yeah, that’s not gonna work live’, but right now I think we’re going in the right direction.
A recurring theme in a number of your songs, especially ‘Bodies’, is Biblical references. Are you a religious person and do you think using such references help you to express yourself in song?
No, I’ve never been religious. The whole thing started because my friend Simon told me the story about St. Christopher and how he carried people on his back. Because in the past I was always writing songs more obviously personal, old stories that we were taught in school – like Noah’s Ark which was the story for ‘Bodies’ – just seemed a lot more interesting and helped me with moving forwards in terms of song writing. People can relate to the mental image of those stories whether they are religious or not. I just found a way of talking about myself using analogies derived from those stories. I think I now try to paint more of a picture of a song rather than being quite obvious; it’s a lot more interesting that way.