Sometimes one has to grab an opportunity just when it is about to present itself – that is one way of describing how Mike Barret and Phil Swan got around for their newly found indie pop duo act Awkward Branches. Longtime collaborators in several projects such as the experimental collective Holy Island Sketchbook or as part of Mike’s dream pop project Brand New Moon, the duo felt it was time to give their harmony a proper outlet. Both sharing a love for spacious soundscapes and melodic writing with a grip, they began working on new material over the course of several years, which now have found their way into their first EP Melody For A Friend. Now fully formed, the six songs exhibit a buoyant melodic sense, sparkling with light, affection and in anticipation of bloom.

“It’s been a process without much hurry or grand ideas. We started playing music together in the summer of 2015 after meeting at work. It began with a few sketches that sat on our phones for ages, but over the years – and between several other projects – a handful of fully-fledged songs emerged from the ether.”

Dazzling And Light

There is a certain sense of ease and space to the songs on Melody For A Friend and one can feel that the project is determined by its “slow-growing nature”, as the two note. No hurry involved to finalise the pieces but just give them the time and room to breathe, the EP sparks off an unhurried charm, patching together a synth-infused acoustic pop that unfolds a comforting notion, slowing down the haste of the day.

“It feels very much like a project born of summer – or somebody’s dream of summer. We both share an affinity for delicate, naive melodies and expansive soundscapes. Thematically there is a sense of separation and longing at the core – both musically and lyrically. The title of the EP takes its name from the final song, which is a reflection on slowly losing touch with people you once shared something important with; the melody feels like an outstretched hand – an olive branch through time.”

“Process-wise, most of the songs began life as melodic guitar parts” brought to the table by Phil, Mike explains, who then adds keys, vocal ideas and some production touches to structure the pieces into songs”, Phil notes. 

Shaping The Colours

From the songs as well as the accompanying visuals Awkward Branches apply both a love for giving their songs a lush and spring-inspired warmth as well as a notion for forms and space. While that applies through the open-mindedness of songs such as  A Frame (Not A Window) or In That House, it is the unintentional and seemingly accidental unfolding of rhyme and rhythm that flows through Melody For A Friend that displays the “protracted” sense of the project in the end. There is much colourful lightness to be found, skilfully implemented in aesthetic framings, but the beauty of it all comes down to the slow-burning ease that speaks through the fibres of each of the pieces.

“We’re both drawn to music with an awareness of space and movement, but there was no conscious plan there. It feels more satisfying when a collection of songs start to speak to each other without having to impose an overarching theme on them. In some senses much of the project has happened in the rear-view mirror.”

Awkward Branches’ Melody For A Friend is out now via Tip Top Recordings.

Every Monday, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin. Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly updates about new music.

This time, Awkward Branches curated our playlist update. Along with the tracks from their debut EP, the selection includes  Clarissa Connelly, Susan’s Boy, Blood Orange and more. Tune in below.