I joined Arctic Lake, the duo composed of vocalist Emma Foster and multi-instrumentalist/producer Paul Holliman, to talk about their creative process, working relationship and prepping their UK tour for the EP, How Do You Make It Look So Easy?.
Released on the 20th October via Astralwerks and recorded in the US in 2022, the project spreads across a diverse range of genres and emotions. The Honey Pop note, “Silver Pendant is an ethereal alt-pop anthem about infatuation…a twinkling track with delightful lyrics paired with beautifully gorgeous vocals,” and Popdust observe, “When it comes to making a heartfelt, soulful track, Arctic Lake are somewhat geniuses.” – just to name a few approvals.
Arctic Lake’s alt-pop is an exploration of revealing vulnerability. This openness serves as the cornerstone for the emotive and thought-provoking synth-infused landscapes found in their debut single Limits and a series of EPs including Closer, What You May Find, See Inside and the 2022 release, side by side we lie awake.
Let’s tap into the duo’s artistic approach and story.
Collaborating with the same partner release after release can be quite challenging. Can you walk us through your creative process when working together?
Emma: To be honest our creative process is really fluid, sometimes we work independently and then sometimes we go away into the countryside for two weeks and spend 24/7 with each other, poor Paul. We’re basically like family so we both feel safe to create whatever we want which is a really lovely space to be in as collaborators! In general Paul tends to set the musical foundation and then I come in with a melody and lyrical idea and we sort of go from there, unless I come in with what Paul calls ‘my medieval, monk melodies’!
In your ongoing collaboration, how do you manage to keep things fresh and continuously generate new ideas?
Paul: We’ve found this really great concept called ‘plagiarism’ and so I think we’ll be fine forever now. Just joking (kind of) – we’ve been making music for ages together now so I think we look for inspiration in everything, from the obvious stuff of listening to new music, going to new places or even just taking a break from writing if it’s not working. Sometimes it’s best to just leave it a bit and come back when you actually feel like you have something meaningful to say instead of forcing a narrative that doesn’t need to be written. But mostly the inspiration will come from small things like a chord progression or a melody and we’ll go from there, painstakingly craft it for a year or so and then probably decide we don’t like it anymore and start again.
Reflecting on the beginning of your musical journey, what initially brought the two of you together to start making music?
Paul: We met at music university (longer ago than we’d like to admit), and I asked Emma to start a band because she was the best singer on the course. I didn’t think she’d say yes so I waited until she was smashed at the SU (big up messy Monday’s) and luckily for me she’d had about 18 drinks so agreed to the idea, I think she felt bad about backing out and here we are many moons later. So to answer the question I would say cheap alcohol brought us together. Oh and a mutual love of music or something.
Your EP How Do You Make It Look So Easy? explores relationship dynamics and changing tides. Could you delve into the personal experiences that inspired this theme?
Emma: I don’t really know how to answer this without chewing your ear off but all our music stems from our personal experiences and of those around us. Our aim has always been to try and connect to our listeners, to create music that they hopefully relate to. So with that in mind, I think we were seriously asking our audience how the hell do you all make this thing called life look so easy and on the other hand it’s a poke at the digital era we’re living in, where life on social media really isn’t reflecting what’s going on for the majority of us and then thirdly it’s an ickle lickle Easter egg for what’s coming next…
Your project encompasses a diverse range of genres while maintaining a consistent feel. Were there any specific influences that ignited these creative ideas during its creation?
Paul: Some of the songs were written at really different times so there’s a lot of different influences that inspired them. Fireflies was written 8 years ago and I think that was in the height of our ambient music obsession, and then we updated the production to fit it into the world that the rest of the songs were in later on. Some of the new ones are a complete mixture with everything from folk, dance, jazz and 80s pop having a little bit of a say in how the songs sound. We just try to mash loads of stuff we like together and see what happens really!
When you share your project, what emotions or reactions do you hope to evoke in your audience?
Emma: I hope they feel what I felt writing those songs. I want them to both laugh and cry. I want them to feel less alone. I want them to relate to the words because a lot of the time we’re all feeling the same just at different degrees! Fireflies is about grief. Fool is about loving someone who is bad for you. Hold Me is about the regret and loneliness at the end of a relationship. Silver Pendant is about lust. My Weakness is about being scared that someone doesn’t feel the same as you but telling and loving them regardless. All of these experiences are universal and whenever we get someone message us saying they’re in that exact moment or it’s helped heal them from something it’s honestly the greatest reward.
You’re currently preparing for your UK Tour, hows it going so far?
Paul: It’s going really well! We can’t wait to play the new stuff for everyone in a few places we haven’t been to yet, and have a cry/dance/laugh every night. I’m also really looking forward to being able to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes of exploring service stations and rating them out of 10. Gloucester services is the one to beat at the moment (can’t wait to stop there after Bristol), so we’ll see if anywhere else can come close – recommendations always welcome.
Is there a particular venue or city on the tour that you’re especially excited to perform in? If so, what makes it stand out?
Emma: I feel like I shouldn’t say this because it’s too obvious and honestly playing everywhere is so bloody special to us but I have to say London! Even though I’m not from there it feels like home to me and it’s where Paul and I live! I’m genuinely so excited, it’ll be our first full tech show there since the pandemic which is absolutely crazy!
Tell us 3 essential items that you always carry with you while on tour?
1 – My Dr Nelson inhaler, if he ever breaks i’ll have a meltdown
2 – This isn’t true YET but if it was up to me I would take a portable toilet because I drink so much water that in-between those service stations I am a feral creature rocking back and forth
3 – You guessed it… my two litre water bottle and thermos full of ginger
1 – My phone (essential for looking up the nearest McDonald’s)
2 – Trousers (to keep the phone in)
3 – McDonald’s (to eat)
What are your plans for the future in terms of music projects or tours, and how do you envision your creative journey evolving?
Paul: After this EP release and tour we’re hunkering down again to finish an album (finally!), and then next year will be a really busy one of releases and touring – all the good stuff really! Creatively, we’re always evolving as we grow as musicians and people, and the album is another step on from the EP in terms of where we want to be sound wise, so we’re really excited to keep just putting music out and having a good old time basically. See you next year at a show or service station!
EP How Do You Make It Look So Easy? is out now, follow Arctic Lake via @arcticlake
Interview Saina Penrake
Photography Jack Alexander