Tracy Chapman's 'Where You Live'. It's an album packed with social commentary and defiance in the face of darkness, unafraid to stare at the road and spot all the pimples and cracks forming in its skin. At ten years old, it was that album that Catrin Vincent (vocalist/lyricist) found herself drawn towards, played on repeat at home by her parents, subconsciously filtering into her mind. It's a memory that fascinates her, that even though time has passed and everything that comes with it, it still rings true. Its words and emotions perfectly distilled into who she is as a person now. Even through 'I Slept On The Floor', Another Sky's powerful opening statement to the world, its similarities and parallels stand together. "That was the album of my childhood… and now we're here."
Reflection and the importance of words couldn't be more critical for Another Sky. It's only now that Catrin spots it, weaved into the sounds and lyrics they've created from years of bonding and finding solace in one another. This isn't just another band; it's their lives projected for all to hear.
"It's funny, when we were in the process of making an album I just couldn't see," explains Catrin. It's another day making do with a global situation that bizarrely feels rather fitting to be releasing their debut album out into. "It's like in real-life situations where you can't see fully what's happening until you look back. Looking back at those lyrics, they're so metaphorical. I can see what I was actually trying to say, but I was too afraid to. You go in a trance, and you don't realise what you're writing about until years later.
"It feels a bit of a stereotype as a woman lyricist, but what that translated to for me was that I wanted to get how I felt about the world out in the open so much, but I felt I had to hide it. To be so open, I can't imagine being any other way as a lyricist because, with lockdown as well, it's forced me to confront what music is to me and it's almost a compulsion. I only feel okay when I'm doing music."
A deeply personal yet universal album that stares directly into darkness both in anger and hope, 'I Slept On The Floor' is a record of wounds and healing, both biting and anguished, setting the path for a band delivering something undeniably special. By speaking from one perspective of pain, it opens up the feelings of countless others. It was the only way it was going to be with Another Sky.
"This album. There's that question of, I don't know who I am. I'm supposed to know who I am, and I'm supposed to talk about it, but I just don't know how. It's running away from a problem that will catch up with you because if you're constantly running away, you become part of the problem. You have to confront them."
Catrin sighs and laughs. "I can't believe this album is all about my hometown because it's the one thing I don't want to talk about!!"
Catrin's hometown is one both familiar and distant. A picket-fence town where everyone stays locked into place, where the idea of leaving its familiar surroundings feels like a wild risk. It serves as a comfort on one end, and a prison on the other. "I definitely felt out of place there, and I wonder if every kid did," recalls Catrin, thinking back to those days that would come to define, influence and inspire every move she's made since. "I remember my cousin coming to visit and saying that it looked just like Desperate Housewives and as soon as she said it, it just clicked. It looks like this really pretty place, but so much is going on underneath."
There was a trapping sense of inevitability to life there. "It felt like all you were allowed to do was grow up to be a business person or work in an office; nothing else was acceptable. Everyone held so much privilege there, including myself, but you were trapped because of it. Kids at school bullying other kids just to fit in. I'm sure it's the same at every school.
"There was always a joke growing up that I should find a rich man to marry. That always was in my head, just completely and I didn't want it to be."
Dealing with an environment that scratched against everything Catrin wanted to be, music became a solace that she could turn to. A coping mechanism during the heavy days at school, it was when she stood on stage and sung that everyone had to stop. "You almost play a character," explains Catrin. "This character who, despite everything going on around you, you can say whatever you want because you've got the stage. That's how I felt at school. When I played those school assemblies, oh my god everyone had to listen to me because I was the only one up there performing. Music is just this moment where everyone does shut up and listen to you."
It was clear that to escape the surroundings, preconceptions and boxes around her, Catrin had to follow that passion. Those experience feed into 'I Sleep On The Floor' in every facet, a questioning and layered exploration of the emotions and social constructs that define humanity not just in its loud moments, but the quiet ones too. The looks. The comments. The ingrained beliefs of what and why a person should behave and act in a certain way. Of what's expected and accepted, and how those very beliefs have torn apart that freedom it represents.
"I hear all the time, like a friend from school said to me the other day 'oh I'd never get played on Radio 1', but you would have! It's everything that's happened in your life which means you couldn't access the studios; you couldn't pursue something you were passionate about, you were made to feel like you had to fit into your parents' expectations of you! And another friend said to me, 'I know this sounds weird, but I think because you got bullied, you could do what you really wanted to because you had nothing to lose'. I think that's actually true. We are bound by expectations of us".
It was moving to London and studying at university that changed everything for Catrin. On 'Fell In Love With The City', that moment is captured perfectly, getting away from what was before and entering something bigger. "It felt like this triumphant release from that feeling of - even though nobody had said to be 'you should be a housewife' - I had that feeling ingrained in me that that was all I was good for. It feels like we're breaking free of that, these traditions and view being held by people."
Surrounded for the first time by musicians and people who all loved the same thing, and wanted to follow that as far as possible, Catrin felt both at home and also a stranger. "I'd built this identity of being a loner so when I moved to London, it was almost too much, it was so overwhelming," she recalls. "It was like, who am I? I didn't know any of this could even be possible. I didn't know that I would find people who agreed with me and who would fight to do the same thing."
A time to recalibrate who she actually was, it's at university where she met guitarist Jack Gilbert, bassist Naomi Le Dune and drummer Max Doohan. Together they quickly bonded, naturally heading to practice rooms. Experimentation, pulling in each personality of the band - the result is an anthemic tidal wave of emotion and sweeping grandeur. It forces you to stop in your tracks and take notice. "If one of us is missing, then it isn't Another Sky. Until that last person has put something in, it just doesn't work. We're not similar musically, the stuff we listened to when growing up or the stuff we listen to now.
"The last lyrics on the last song on the album is 'I am nowhere I go, I am no one I know' and that feels true of us - we're just floating between all these different genres."
Driven to perform, create and play - they'd try anything to bring their vision to life. Whether it was an early uni show involving them performing in total darkness but for a few projected videos shot right on them, or doing shows where one of them (no pointing here, but it was Max) would fall off the back of the stage and persevere to the very end, it showed them all that they were doing something that they loved. "You know you're in music because you love it when nobody else in the room is loving you," cracks Catrin, "but as cheesy as it sounds, we've just never tried to be something that we're not. There have definitely been struggles, but as long as every week you know you're going to hang out with your mates and make music, then it doesn't matter what happens around that. It really doesn't."
That determination would pay off. The nights would keep coming, and one night at St Pancras Church in London felt like a turning point. The secret of Another Sky's prowess was out, and in no time they were standing in front of TV cameras performing on Later… with Jools Holland. That risk, that jump, it was all worth it. Catrin's hometown felt like a long way away now, but its impact was still nestled within.
'I Slept On The Floor' came together in chunks. There were recording studio sessions on the Isle Of Wight and in London, finding the time where they could after working during the days. "Because we've always self-produced, sometimes we overthink recordings," notes Catrin. "We're reaching when it can actually be more lo-fi and easy, but Jack and Max, in particular, have always been ahead of the game with production. From the start, we could record ourselves, which was really important, and I think that's something that can hinder bands a bit, so that was always really lucky."
Knowing exactly what they were after, but also following the music wherever it took them - the end result is an album that shifts, swoops and swipes in equal measure. 'Brace Face' is a slow-burning explosion of emotion and runaway adrenaline, 'Tree' is an outpouring of resistance, 'All Ends' and the album's title-track dig right inside, before 'Avalanche' and 'Riverbed' whip up cinematic levels of release. "Sonically, it's a really weird album. We're really proud of it in that sense because I don't think you can place it next to anything sonically," comments Catrin. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but we'll see…"
It finds Catrin embracing that voice that allowed her to speak above the noise in assemblies from years gone by. Whether it's toxic masculinity, police brutality, sexism, the silence of society or more, its impact is profound - channelled through the prism of a hometown and upbringing that she had to get away from.
"Being able to put into context what I went through has helped massively, and I feel like this album is wanting to let everyone know that these feelings of not belonging or not feeling good about yourself are a direct result of how the world works," states Catrin. "I don't think I've ever consciously thought that I must use this as a platform, even though that's exactly how it comes across, it's just those are the things I always think about."
Not so much pointing the finger, it's asking a much more important question. "I just think, why has this happened to this person? Why has this person ended up like this? Why is this person sexist? Why do I feel this way about a certain scenario?" For Catrin, it comes straight from those experiences growing up, of being in that town and being in a school where everything was amplified.
"It's just so fascinating to me how schools, in particular, are a kinda microcosm of the bigger world," Catrin explains. "People would always say to me; you're going to have a great time when you get out of school. They were wrong and right at the same time because I got to do music, but things don't go away after school. That's a myth, almost."
It's hope that 'I Slept On The Floor' is built on; for all the darkness that reflects back, for all the odds that feel like they can't be climbed, those questions of why are asked with the hope that a brighter day can come. "You can never know everything; you are constantly learning," says Catrin, "We just aren't okay with being wrong. It's seen as massive damage to the ego when actually we can be wrong, and then you figure something out. Then you're wrong again; you're constantly learning.
"I think that's hopeful, though. People can improve themselves, we can all improve ourselves, and we don't have to live with the person we may have been in the past. It's a hopeful way to look at the world because you don't have to be that person you were forever."
'I Slept On The Floor' then doesn't just act as an opening statement of intent from Another Sky. It's a story, a journal, a history that means so much more. In turn, it sets them apart from the rest of the pack, with an album of unrelenting experimentation, uncontainable anthems and unbridled power. Those days live with Catrin, but their importance and meaning will resonate far beyond those early practice rooms ever dreamed. The doors are open far and wide for just how meaningful Another Sky could become, and their vision remains clear. "I think what we want to do going forward is create an experience every time," explains Catrin. "It doesn't have to be the same genre or the same sound, but as long as we create something that people can get lost in, then I think we're happy."
"It's crazy actually," adds Catrin. "Recently I've actually come back into contact with a few people from school. There was a big chunk of time where I tried to completely distance myself from my hometown, but recently I've spoken to them, and they've told me their stories of what happened to them. I guess what I want this album to say, as cheesy as it is, is that you are not alone. I want people to listen to it and say, yes that's exactly how I felt but could never talk about it. That's what I want people to take away from it."
Taken from the August issue of Dork. Another Sky's debut album 'I Slept On The Floor' is out 7th August.
Featuring Declan McKenna, Fontaines DC, Another Sky, KennyHoopla and more.