Prior to the deliverance of their ethereal new single, we caught up with Spang Sisters to discuss the inner-workings behind the band, their dream festival to play, and much more!
Spang Sisters release their new track ‘Caves of Altamira’ today, a three-and-a-half-minute instrumental piece written during a month-long pilgrimage across Northern Spain to the tomb of St James the Great in Santiago de Compostela. After discovering the Caves of Altamira, Rachid (guitar, vocals, keys), explains that despite their now restricted access to the public, a distant marvel of the site inspired the chords to the track. With the trombone line and flute accompaniment written afterwards back in the UK, this track acts as ‘an ode to man’s discovery of the divine self and the genesis of artistic expression’.
I caught up with Jules and Rachid of Spang Sisters on a busy Saturday evening outside Bar Italia over copious cigarettes and cups of coffee discussing impressionist influences, post-pandemic live performances and what the future has in store for the pair.
Callie: Introduce yourselves, who are you and what do you do within the band?
Jules: I’m Jules Gibbons, I play guitar and sing and write the songs.
Rachid: I’m Rachid Fakhre, I also play guitar and a bit of the keys and sing as well.
Jules: Exactly the same things as one another.
Callie: How did you meet?
Jules: On the moon-kissed eves our glances met…
Rachid:…and thus Spang was began.
Jules: It was the back streets of Naples I recall?
Rachid: Let’s turn down the glibness…We met in London at a rave, Flux rave, it was run by the one and only Jacques Adda.
Jules: We met and had this MDMA that was very powerful and through that I guess we bonded.
Rachid: In a sense, Spang Sisters is quite an apt name.
Callie: What was the catalyst in starting Spang Sisters?
Rachid: We met that night but didn’t see each other for a while after. We then both moved to Bristol for separate reasons and then a friend, through whom we met, gave me Jules’s number and I called him up because he didn’t have any friends.
Jules: I didn’t. We’d both been in Bristol for like a week and this guy already had a hundred-million friends and I was just stewing in my corner. He gave me an opportunity and I took it with both hands.
Rachid: We started jamming immediately and it just clicked.
Callie: Did you have an initial, clear idea of what you wanted Spang Sisters to sound like or was that a product of time?
Jules: At the time, Rachid was the only other guy who was into that sort of music. Old-timey stuff. He had all these records and cool guitars meanwhile I was at BIMM at everyone was doing drum and bass.
Rachid: We were playing with Ali who was a really hard rock guy, he loved Foo Fighters. Before meeting these guys, I hadn’t listened to rock music in a while, and I assumed they both loved Foo Fighters, so I was kind of worried. I remember after one early practice Jules telling me he hated Foo Fighters and it was a huge relief.
Back then we weren’t called Spang Sisters but then I went away for a year and came back, and we started Spang Sisters.
Jules: A long gestation period really, there was no real ambition beyond doing the open mic once a week. That was our only gig for like two years, every Wednesday at Leftbank – which is now closed.
Callie: Not specifically regarding musical but in a general creative sense, who and what do you pull influence from as an artist?
Rachid: Impressionism. I think in some ways both of us are impressionist musicians.
Jules: Right. What’s impressionist music?
Rachid: It’s a precursor to jazz, like Debussy. It’s like if you make a Van Gogh painting make a sound – oh gosh I don’t like that.
Jules: Let it be known that he actually covered his mouth as he said that but it’s too late. It’s too late…But yeah, Debussy, Ravel, a lot of early jazz. Soul, in my case a lot, Otus Redding, the good stuff.
Callie: Who have you been listening to at the moment though – new bands, old bands, who’s on the radar for you both?
Jules: I can’t really answer that as I just live in a little bubble where I only listen to mine and Rachid’s demos. And Frank’s. All my friend’s demos I suppose.
Rachid: I listen to Jules’s demos a lot, I haven’t listened to the new one you’ve sent me but I’m excited to though.
For the last two years, I’ve been listening to Connie Converse all the time. She has one album that she recorded in a hotel room and it’s one of those albums that every so often your favourite song changes, so right now my favourite song is ‘Playboy of The Western World’. She is the best songwriter I’ve ever heard I think, I’ve never heard someone write songs like that. They’re so dainty and idiosyncratic but are really great catchy songs as well.
Callie: How did the pandemic affect you as artists? Do you feel like it positively affected, negatively affected, didn’t affect it at all?
Rachid: It was perfect for us, I think. Before the pandemic we didn’t have a band together, we were just recording projects for a while. So, when we had no jobs to do or anything, we had all the time in the world. We lived across the road from one another, and we just hit it hard with the recording and the writing. Of course, that dried up after a while, it’s not an infinite fountain of creativity.
Jules: It was good for a while. We gladly accepted it and I’m a homebody anyway. But as Rachid said, it does have its limits and so by August, that was it.
Rachid: But then by that winter it picked up again. We hit the winter melancholy, well I did anyway I don’t know about you, where all the songs that were coming out were a lot sadder.
Callie: How did it feel playing that first gig post-pandemic?
Jules: Well, that was the Moth Club and we hadn’t played in a year and a half. It was a brand-new band; brand-new songs and I think we were the most nervous we’d ever been in our whole lives.
Rachid: Yeah, more so than our first gig. Also, because it was the Moth Club, which is a venue I never thought I would be playing, and everyone was sat in rows, and it felt like we were doing a school recital. People just sitting and vaping and watching us. It was the first time I’d played the piano in front of anyone too. The lucky thing was, that we had a matinee as well, at the matinee we were a bit shaky but by the evening it was really good.
Jules: I actually threw up before the shows, I just couldn’t stop. We did the matinee, and it went okay, but as soon as we did the second one and it was going well, it just all went away. I got off stage and I felt like I was on drugs. I’ve not really had that; a lot was built up for that show.
Rachid: We were also playing almost all new songs that only knew the bounds of Jules’s bedroom and suddenly we were in London, and we were playing at the Moth Club. Everyone was staring and we didn’t even know if anyone would like it.
Jules: It was the re-birth.
Callie: After playing Moth Club, a venue so esteemed within the London scene, have you got a venue that you’re now aspiring to play?
Jules: Generally bigger ones with more people.
Rachid: Scala would be nice. But I think Moth is my favourite, after that, it’s more like better festivals that we are wanting to play.
Callie: What festivals in particular?
Rachid: Primavera. La Route du Rock. European ones. Glastonbury would be great, just festivals I would like to go to but have never been able to.
Callie: Final question…what can we expect from the future of Spang Sisters?
Jules: Already!? But I was having such fun…More beautiful songs I would say. It gets slightly less pop-y and slightly more lush and orchestral.
Rachid: We’re in the process of relinquishing the control over production, not completely though. Up until now we’ve done it all ourselves so we’re looking for someone to put their own flavour on it.