“I started by myself and then on my journey the band joined me. Then we got split up because of recent circumstances, but I’ve wanted to play on my own again for a while now. Just to muck around and showcase some new ideas… possibly.”
Myles Morgan is building a name for himself in the recent uprising scene for jazz based indie music. His two most recent singles, ‘Ikywc’ (I Knew you Wasn’t Coming) and ‘Left Here’ are both musically and lyrically impressive in their own ways, each managing to showcase the North London singer-songwriter’s influences and talents going forward. With basslines that bring a similar energy to what the indie-rock scene saw in the late 2000s and vocals that voice an admirable vulnerability, the fusion of genres in each of his songs is impressively nostalgic for someone so new to the scene.
Myles and I share a phone call just as the UK seemed to be emerging from a stricter end of the national lockdown; after a decent few minutes of singing our praises for various jazz musicians and late 2000’s indie bands, we get talking about the reason why he started making music.
“I was always hanging around my brother, and he’s close mates with Taskforce – they’re like an early 2000s late ‘90s UK Hip Hop group,” he says. “I always used to watch them making music in my brother’s flat; It was very eye opening to me, seeing all these different artists coming in, them lot making beats and then people just going in the hallways to record their verses.” He tells me that his brother introduced him to people like the Spice Girls and Amy Winehouse, with the former coming as a surprise considering the soundscape created by his own music. “Both my older brothers are DJs now, too. My parents were both into reggae and stuff like that. I’m the only one in the family who plays an instrument, they were all into their beat-making stuff and I was more interested in guitars. I guess that came from Arctic Monkeys – when I was younger a lot of people in music were a bit flamboyant and a bit over the top. When I saw Arctic Monkeys I was like ‘they’re normal lads, they just dress normally while singing about normal stuff, this is quite cool! I reckon I could do this sort of thing.’ so I just picked up a guitar.”
The first guitar Myles got was called a Tanglewood Nevada. “You get a little amp with it and a learning CD, It was so hard to play,” he laughs. His uncle tried to teach him jazz, but he struggled just as anyone new to the instrument would. “It was a bit too hard for me, so I just went online and taught myself instead. Once I learnt how to play guitar, I wanted to be able to read music but the closest thing I got to that was the tabs on Ultimate Guitar… and that’s fine. Through websites like that you realise that all these artists like Amy Winehouse and Arctic Monkeys are using the basic chords but with a 7 or a 9 thrown in there, its like ‘How did you do that?!’ Sometimes a tab or your ear doesn’t do it.”
“At the moment I’m cool with just letting it come out naturally. Whatever comes out comes out.”
“It’s just two chords man,” Myles tells me about his latest single ‘Ikywc’ that he performed over a year ago for Pirate Prodigy 2019, a competition he went on to win with his band at the time, The Self Help Group. “Just keeping the mood all the way through the song, that’s my thing really. I like to let the band just do their thing and build around the simplicity. I don’t know how to play trumpet or sax or bass, any of the other instruments. We just all enjoy doing our part and having fun.”
“We all like Chet Baker and the way his songs sound. The way he sings, and then the way he just goes off onto his trumpet.” Myles started off with a trumpet in the band and then moved on to the saxophone. “I think it was pretty important to have that horn section because it really adds a certain feel to some songs.”
After telling Myles about learning Rex Orange County songs on guitar by watching videos of him playing, he nervously laughs at the knowledge that he’s a ‘BRIT Schooler.’ Growing up in North London, Myles avoided the catchment area for the BRIT school by quite a distance, but in doing so has begun an endeavour as one of the first indie-jazz-rock musicians to come from London, but North of the river. He’s now in East Central London, making music in and around a whole new scene.
“I try to spend as much time in that world; my own world”
“I think it just comes from me getting older and getting into jazz,” Myles says with a laugh after I suggest that his music has an unignorable recent-South-London sound to it. “I’m in South quite a lot, so I get exposed to a lot of new music and different genres. I was in a band called Young Native and half the band were based in Brockley, so we were always there, rehearsing down at Brockley studios and knocking about around there basically. It’s so fun, South London, there’s so much culture and stuff to do. We haven’t got that in North London, really.”
Myles spent some time growing up in Edmonton and Enfield. “They tried to build a music scene there, like an instrument music scene there with bands and that but it didn’t really quite happen.” The music scene in North London has been somewhat dominated by electronically produced music, namely Garage and Grime. “Loads of Grime artists are from North, places like Tottenham and Hackney. I used to listen to grime when it first came about when I was at school and everyone was making their own beats. It was really exciting. But as I’ve got into my own stuff, I try to spend as much time in that world, my own world.”
Myles goes on to say he’s not a fan of taking control in the writing process, avoiding telling them what to do and instead letting them exercise their creativity. “We just play the songs live and then once we’ve got it really good that way we’ll go into the studio and try and record what we’ve come up with. I’ll come up with a few chords or I might have a little demo, I bring it to the band, and then we’ll work it out. We really try and mould the song to all of our likings but while still maintaining the integrity of the song that I wrote. I’ve always wanted to be in a band and there’s no point trying to be in it if you’re not gonna operate like one. Despite Myles Morgan being a solo project, they still try to work like a band and have the band feeling. “It would just be so boring being in a group telling people what to do, there’d be no creativity”.
“The way Amy sings, her vocal texture and tone is so honest”
“I’m just making music to be honest. If people like it they can like it, if they don’t they don’t, and that’s also fine. That’s the beautiful thing about music though, we all love different types.” He tells me, going on to make it clear that he’s making music purely because he likes doing it. “Yeah, it would be nice if someone wanted to pick us up and give us some money but till then, ayy, we out here.”
“We’re just looking to explore as many creative possibilities as possible. I’m really bursting at the seams to get back into the studio – and it will be very eminently so do expect some music this year,” Myles tells me excitedly without taking a breath.
“I don’t even know what’s on that,” he admits with a laugh about a demo tape he recently uploaded to YouTube. “I just started putting stuff on tape because I don’t wanna lose all my demos. One day I could lose my hard drive or something like that, so I was like fuck it, I’m just gonna put it out. Loads of people break their hard drives and they never get their songs back, and the fans never get to listen to it. When I made those demos I didn’t really think they were sick, but after knocking back, leaving it for a while and then coming back to it I thought ‘these songs are actually alright you know!’ so I just put them on the tape and then put them out, easy.” “One or two” of the demos will be on the next project, “so we’ve got some early versions if you will,” he says in the knowledge of how cool that really can sound.
“Amy Winehouse is a big influence for sure. The way I play and write my lyrics is more inspired by Alex Turner, but the way Amy sings, her vocal texture and tone is so honest. When you watch interviews of her you can see how insecure she probably was, but that’s why she had her voice; you can hear the vulnerability in it.”
“It makes me want a little studio in the back of a garden or something like that”
“I used to write a lot when I was younger, like onto paper. I don’t find myself writing onto paper as much now, I usually just creative a vibe within my studio and sort of play around like a kid.” It’s never the same way twice when Myles is making a song. “Some of my older stuff was more calculated, but at the moment I’m cool with just letting it come out naturally. Whatever comes out, comes out.”
Asking Myles about what’s inspiring him right now, he tells me of a social media discovery. “There was a girl doing this set I saw on someone’s Instagram, she’s called Otta,” and he spells out her name. “She’s really interesting, I showed her to a mate. Her voice is really interesting, and she uses a sampler along with a guitar, as well as a saxophone, all in some small studio.” He recently bought the same machine as Otta, and was originally planning to use it for playing tracks straight onto, but she’s given Myles some scope to see what he can do with the sampler. “She didn’t really have many effects on her voice, apart from a bit of delay here and there but that was just for transitions, I think. It’s really raw. It’s called something like Otta Live, I keep just replaying that set. It makes me want a little studio in the back of a garden or something like that.”
Illustration by Jake Purkiss
Stream Myles Morgan’s latest single ‘Ikywc’ here.
Illustration by Jake Purkiss