Set to play the next Pennyblackmusic night at the Half Moon on March 26th, the Hall of Mirrors bring to mind a thousand stylish sepia-tinted images of the sixties and seventies, with Jessica Spencer’s dreamy voice intoning over the best space-age pop heard this side of Broadcast and Stereolab via Kate Bush, together with the imagery of ‘2001’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Blow-Up’ and ‘The Holy Mountain’. Imagine a hypnotic, kaleidoscopic Dream Machine or lava lamp revolving while Spencer intones, “Let me swim in your river/Floating out to an open sea” (on '[Land of Wind and Ghosts') over enchanting musical backing and you’re there.
Together with bassist Gareth Jones and Buchy Davy on guitar, plus other assorted floating musicians, the band have released a number of psychedelic, bewitching tracks, including collaborations with featured established British songwriter Ed Harcourt (whose wife Gina Harcourt-Williams will be playing violin with the night’s headliner, Anthony Reynolds).
Pennyblackmusic spoke to Jessica Spencer to find out what makes the band tick.
PB: When did the band start and what inspired the band to start? Were you involved in any musical projects before the Hall of Mirrors?
JS: The band started in January 2009 and has consisted of lots of different people since then! But the original members since the very start that will be playing with me on the 26th are Butchy Davy on guitar and Gareth Jones on bass.
Before the Hall Of Mirrors, it was just me playing piano and singing under my own name, but I was also involved in a few other bands - the Confederate Dead - who are droning psych - lots of feedback on stage! Before that I was in Holy Roller - a similar sound, and Endos Santos an improvised drum 'n' bass band! So I kept myself busy! But now I'm just in the Hall Of Mirrors !
PB: One reviewer described your music as bringing “a haunting sepia tinted sixties styled pop that reminds us of cult French films, Burt Bacharach and rainy days in bohemian Paris coffee shops.” What’s your take on what influences the Hall of Mirrors, whether music, film, or anything else?
JS: My inspiration for the Hall of Mirrors ranges with my mood. If I'm happy I'm drawn to 60s French pop, I love Serge Gainsbourg and all the ladies that sung for him. If I'm sad or feeling rebellious I listen to the Velvet Underground, Suicide, MC5, Jefferson Airplane and many more! I love a lot of music from the 60s and 70s but also enjoy more modern music but nothing is really coming to mind right now.
I have a passion for classical music as I was taught classical from a young age - my favourites being Liszt, Bach and Mozart. I love films by Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and Roman Polanski and art deco fashion and artists like Martin Sharpe, Andy Warhol and Klimt.
PB: There are two songs on your MySpace which feature Ed Harcourt. What was it like working with him?
JS: Ed Harcourt is a crazy individual. He is not scared of anything or anyone and working with him is inspiring but most of all it is great to not have any limits in creation. I have worked with a few people that have tried to push me into genres that I don't fit, trying to make a hit 'pop' record. When working with Ed we don't think about that and just enjoy the music and see what happens.
PB: Who are Quixodelic Records?
JS: Quixodelic Records are an online magazine... they recently featured one of my tracks on their annual compilation album which was cool as a lot of like minded people had their ears opened to my music.
PB: Can you tell us something about what you’ve got planned for your performance at our night?
JS: Well, seeing as we don't have a drummer right now, we will be creating the drum beats at the studio and playing along to them. We will be experimenting with drum loops and samples so expect a more electronic sound for this show with songs like 'Silver Stream' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MAXQz82Gbs) to give you an idea.
We have a surprise cover from one of our favourite bands to end the show and of course we will be putting a light show on using oil wheels and projections to give the audience something they won't forget!
PB: Thank you.