Tala Vala combines the talents of award-winning film & TV score composer Ben Locket and John Roffe-Ridgard, producer and one half of the band Coves. Their self-titled debut LP is a beautifully constructed work born from multi-instrumentalism and studio experimentation, assembled in their local-to-the-shop Hackney studio.
We popped in to find the pair hard at work on their next record, and asked them a few questions.
Who/what is Tala Vala?
John: Tala Vala was initially started as a passion project or a ‘bowling night’ for two musicians to hang out. A chance to explore musical ideas without the boundaries you have to impose on yourself when recording music for commercial purpose. A chance to learn how to use equipment in an interesting way and play instruments that we would not usually play due to lack of traditional ability.
How did you approach this new album?
Ben: The EP we first did I think set the groundwork for the way we work. As soon as that was finished we just started writing again. Our editing process is pretty harsh. That way everything is wide open. When I write for TV or film its the same actually. I'm used to something I thought was working well being thrown out.
John: The music we make is always approached with a deliberate lack of foresight. I suppose the approach is to run in blind. We jump in and create until we are excited by a sound. We are lucky to have a space where a time is not a constraint so we can throw as many ideas around as we like, often scrapping whole songs and sections until we happy with something.
What were you listening to/watching/reading while making this record?
Ben: Actually we don’t do any of those things. John and I don't reference or discuss other bands when we meet up. I still don’t know if that’s a good idea or not really.
Tell us about the recording process.
Ben: We don’t turn up with chord progressions or a song as a band might do. So we have no idea what we are going to do. We write as we are recording. This seems to work well for us as we are both pretty impatient with the recording process. Things move fast. If it’s going well it’s a joy.
John: We were very keen on this album to stay as analogue as possible, this is not for nostalgic reasons and more to experiment in how limitations can affect the music. We recorded the majority of the album to 2” tape, having no experience in using this and also having no tape editing skills, this gave us many limitations.
Most of my favourite recordings are raw and full of imperfections which add to the push and pull and yet in some recent projects I had found my music becoming more ‘perfect’ and therefore cold due to the endless editing abilities of modern software – using tape forced us into a corner and stopped us over engineering.
What's your relationship with Stranger Than Paradise?
Ben: One afternoon I walked in and got chatting to Noreen. What's great is that like all great record shops you’ll meet lovely people and are always introduced to a record you’ve not heard. Its my favourite record shop for sure.
What’s next for Tala Vala? A little birdy tells me there may be an amazing special guest..!
Ben: The next record is almost finished and we’ll be mixing it at the end of January.
Yes, we have the mighty Jim White (Dirty three, Xylouris White) on a couple of tracks.
Also soprano singer Grace Davidson and kora player Suntou Susso are going to be on there as well which is a real treat.