London’s Ski Lift are pretty new to the music scene, but listening to their vibrant and crazy-catchy latest single, “Portal”, you wouldn’t be wrong to think they were a skilled trio of veteran song writers, as their latest work is truly a piece of pop rock perfection.
We talked with the group about their latest single, how they formed and what’s up next for them in 2021:
IR: How did your band form, and how did you decide upon the name Ski Lift?
SL: In 2018, after a creative hiatus, I had a songwriting flurry, where I sat in a dark cupboard with a guitar and wrote a number of songs in quick succession. I took those to Jovis Lane (our drummer), a university friend and regular collaborator, and we thrashed them out on guitar and drums at a local rehearsal studio. The wonderful Anna Vincent then joined the live band for around a year, but she now has her hands full with some amazing projects, including playing bass for Max Bloom and Happyness. Ailsa Tully took over bass duties at the end of 2019 – we grew up together on the Welsh border, and she also studied at Goldsmiths around the same time as me and Jovis, so we all have a lot of shared history. The band name… hmm… I like the way it sounds, I like the way it looks, and I love the image of this magical machine which sweeps you up the side of a mountain. I want Ski Lift to take you higher!
IR: As a band, how did you find your sound? Did you form with a conscious agreement on influences and direction, or did it evolve naturally?
SL: The sound of the band right now is definitely grounded in the tradition of 60s and 70s rock n roll, even elements of proto-punk acts like The Modern Lovers and Patti Smith, but the music I grew up listening to has seeped in too. My parents had me listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys from day one, and those harmonies seem to follow me wherever I go. I take the song-skeletons to the band and they’re the ones that really bring it to life. I don’t think we really have a spoken agreement on how we go about things, just a shared sensibility. I think it would be a mistake to limit the pallet of colours we can paint with.
IR: First, I love your new single “Portal” – it’s crazy catchy. What inspired the lyrics?
SL: Thank you so much! The lyrics to “Portal” are inspired by nature and the elements. This is a song about reuniting with nature, which really resonates for me right now during lockdown. I grew up in a small town on the Welsh border, nestled in a beautiful valley. Living in London, and most recently Croydon, is such a dramatic contrast. I love it, but I still need to escape and find nature when I can – it just soothes me, calms me down and keeps me sane! But being here in lockdown has really shown me just how easy it is to find nature in and around Croydon – there are so many amazing parks, commons and woods here and exploring them has been a revelation.
IR: Would you say there’s any thematic connection between your first single “Comfortable Here” and “Portal”?
SL: Certainly not that I had in mind when I wrote them, but if I had to make a stretch, I would say if “Comfortable Here” is the problem, then “Portal” is the solution.
IR: The layered/overlapping vocals on the chorus add a great Beach Boys quality to the track – what was the process of figuring out those harmonies?
SL: Thanks! In terms of the harmony (on the word ‘see’), that was pretty straightforward. Working out the timing of the delayed vocal was trickier than we thought it would be, not least because Jovis has to play a drum beat with loads of half bars, and sing my delayed vocal all at the same time. It’s a great testament to his skill, you should see him play it live!
IR: What is the muffled vocal at the very start of the track saying? What led to the decision to have that in there?
SL: Perhaps I should leave that as a mystery! Oh okay fine… It’s basically just a bunch of ramblings before various vocal takes – I was psyching myself up for a big one. It’s so much easier live because the crowd and atmosphere gives you adrenaline, and this songs requires energy. So I think the first one I go “do it again yeah! ooh!” and the second bit is “dance dance” as in the Fall Out Boy song… maybe?? Who knows why I said that one. Patrick Fitzroy, who produced the track, decided to leave those in and I kind of liked it, so it stayed.
IR: What are your plans following the release of “Portal”?
SL: We have two more singles stacked up for release throughout the spring, and then some bigger plans later in the year, so make sure you follow us on the socials, streaming platforms, and sign up to our mailing list on the website to be in the know!
There you have it! Take listen to this musical gem in our A Single Sit-Down Playlist, and be sure to follow the band on social media!