Young, London-based alt-pop artist Belonging is a deft mixer of genres – with his punky, electro-rock new single All I Can Hear out now on Spotify/Apple Music etc, we caught up with him for a chat about all things musical, London life and what’s next for him in 2019.
Tell us about the new single…
“All I Can Hear” basically only exists because I walk everywhere if I can help it! I’ve always made up songs in my head to keep me occupied for as long as I can remember, and I thought of the chorus walking home from working the late shift one night at like 2 or 3am, and just kept coming back to it. It’s sort of tied up in how different the city feels at night, like there’s a different character or a secret world going on, and also I’d just got my first “proper” job, so I’m wondering if it means I’m officially an adult now, because I don’t really feel like one still. It actually has two choruses stuck together because I couldn’t decide which one I liked best, so I left both in, so there’s a singalong one and a shoutalong one!
Where does the moniker ‘Belonging’ come from? Is there a story behind it?
I knew I didn’t want to use my own name, but it took a while to think of anything that wasn’t already taken or didn’t sound terrible. I have notebooks full of lyrics and I was looking through them in the hope I’d get an idea, and I said to someone “finding a good band name is the hardest thing.” One of the lyrics was “Belonging’s the hardest thing” and I took that as some kind of riposte, and it just sounded right. I haven’t actually used it in a song yet, maybe I can make some kind of theme tune…
I can hear a mix of sounds in your songs – who are your top 5 biggest influences, musically?
You’ll never pin me down to a Top 5! My Mum’s a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, so those are the first songs I can remember – apparently I got really angry at a teacher once because they said “I’m the boss” and I told them they were lying, “because Bruce Springsteen is.” I have no personal recollection of that though, before anyone @DHOTYA’s me.
When N*E*R*D did a Neptunes hits medley at Reading last year, me and my brother realised pretty much 90% of all the stupid songs we used to make up together were based on them, so I guess Pharrell is the father figure we never knew we had!
I’d love to see how he writes, same with Kanye West, you can just tell he has a million different ideas going on in his head at once, which I can relate to, except he hasn’t been distracted by Football Manager as much as I have. I‘d really like to see how Max Martin comes up with so many big choruses as well – there must be a secret formula somewhere, and I want in.
I’ve always loved Nirvana, Blur, and Arcade Fire, Foals and Arctic Monkeys are massive influences too. At the moment my favourite album is the Better Oblivion Community Centre record, I think Phoebe Bridgers is the best songwriter of the past 5 years and I’m a big Bright Eyes/Conor fan as well, so it was always going to be perfect for me! I really like the new Kevin Abstract songs as well. My favourite new acts are Another Sky, Pip Blom and Boniface, they’re incredible.
Living in London, the city seems to bleed into your writing. How does it inspire you?
It’s inspiring because it’s essentially the best and worst place rolled into one. Even if everything goes wrong, you kind of always feel like you’ve got another chance, and nothing’s too ridiculous, but at the same time it can be quite isolating and cruel – it’s so huge that you can be anonymous in a way that’s exciting, but then also feel totally ignored, and sometimes within the same minute. I think it’s really cool to have a city that’s so old also be the centre of so much innovative stuff too – you can stumble across something that’s been around since the 1200s or something, and then go and dance to a genre of music that someone accidentally created that morning.
Give us an insider’s take on ‘your’ London – where should we be drinking, eating, seeing gigs etc?
The Windmill in Brixton is one of my favourite places both to play and to see bands (it’s basically between there and The Horn in St Albans, only 15 minutes train from Kings Cross!). It’s tucked away down a side street so it always seemed to fly under the radar but in the last few years Shame, Sorry, Goat Girl, The Big Moon, black midi and loads of others have all come up from playing there a lot (Tim knows!), so it’s rightly getting attention now.
I like The Lexington, Sebright Arms and The Shacklewell Arms a lot too, both as bars and gig venues. Brixton Academy is always great for bigger acts. I don’t eat out very much to be honest, just make sure you go to Morley’s instead of KFC! There’s so many green spaces and the museums are free, so definitely use them.
What’s next for you in 2019?
Playing loads of gigs and releasing loads of songs I hope! I’ve recorded a lot of things recently so I’m going to try not to sit on them too long, whether that means trying to put 1 or 2 songs out every month or two or put out an EP or something…depends on what people’s attention spans are like I guess.
I really want to get a band together soon too. I love playing live, even if I’m basically the world’s most reluctant solo artist right now. I think I was going to explode if I didn’t do something with these songs. They were always meant to be “band songs” though, so get in touch if you want to come and play them with me. And if that sounds desperate, that’s because I am!