To begin, you need really to understand two music venues, some 5000 miles apart: firstly the Rotary Room in Hollywood, where Ciancia – known for his collaborations with T-Bone Burnett, including the soundtrack to True Detective, and his unprecedented project with Jeff Bridges, Sleeping Tapes, among others – and Vincent, held a long-running music salon at which their fellow musicians could experiment, collaborate; each night curated expertly to the diverse array of genre and film influences by the MD of the night. The pair – known for their experimental group, The Jade Vincent Experiment, and Vincent & Mr. Green compositions – met in Los Angeles some 25 years ago, when Ciancia arrived in the city from Colorado, and Vincent, a displaced Arizonan, was singing in the city’s clubs and looking for a piano player.
The second venue is the Maple Leaf Club in Belfast, home to Holmes’s night God’s Waiting Room. Holmes, who earned a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative, inquisitive and ingenious DJs, recast himself as a master of sound and image providing his debut score for Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 Out of Sight, followed by Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, HBO series Mosaic, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, and BBC series The Fall and London Spy (both collaborations of Holmes and Ciancia; London Spy earning them an Ivor).
Like the Rotary Room for Ciancia and Vincent, God’s Waiting Room was a place for Holmes to explore music and film and to invite thrilling artists to play — Jane Weaver, Jarvis Cocker, Andy Weatherall and Sons of Raphael among them. That they should one day meet and dovetail into a wholly new musical project seems a particularly serendipitous stroke of fate.
Introduced to Ciancia through soundtrack work, Holmes found himself invited to DJ one night, to curate another, and another at the Rotary Room. To invite Holmes to DJ is to unleash a kind of whirling dervish of musical enthusiasm but through those nights the trio discovered a shared love for 60s’ girl groups and French pop and film noir soundtracks, Brigitte Fontaine, Shuggie Otis, George ‘Shadow’ Morton, Bruno Nicolai, Lee Hazlewood and Jack Nitzsche, along with a tremendous desire to work together.
Their debut EP Guilty of Love, and the full-length, self-titled album that followed in the spring of 2016, offered a quite remarkable thing: a sound at once hauled out of the silty depths of the past, and simultaneously wholly modern. There was the soft hiss of a lo-fidelity recording, the murky crackle of sample, beats, half-remembered, long-lost favourite tunes. But much of the songs’ success belonged to Vincent’s sublime voice and lyrics, both possessed of an aching, rich-smoked tone of loss and love.
Unloved’s second album HEARTBREAK is about love. The album plays out each song like a vignette of nothing but love. The songs that rose up were in some ways surprising, but also felt insistent. “They’re real feelings and real experiences that I had the guts to finally say, but always ambiguous, this is very important to me.” she explains, “and always about love, one way or another.”
Crash Boom Bang has us lost asea: undulating flutes, whispered voices brush your cheek, readying you for the tumult of the ‘bang’ steady headiness of the beat incessantly claiming you a bad ass member of the Lonely Hearts Enthusiasts.
Heartbreak, drum roll: she’s telling it like it is in sweet refrain and you take it because the music is so heavenly, almost angelic, and the groove infectious and the sass of the drums are all it takes to give in, taking the sting out of the sadness of heartbreak again, and again.
Love : straight up rock n roll old school style, shake a tail feather and don’t dare stop kind of beat, this is a love spell of the voodoo kind with mello-twang, driving bass and heavy brass to match the sass of the chants, “Love, love, everybody wants that love, love . . say you do – ooh – you know you do.“
There were, Vincent says, “two that really stung badly. Bill,” she remembers. “sent me into a really strange place, reminding me I’ve lost my Dad. It seems like yesterday, but it was a long time ago. It was a shock, and it was sudden, and he is a very big influence on my life, so I hate to remember this, in this way. His death changed everything, and that seeps into everything I do. And so – Love Lost,” Vincent describes as being ‘like a conversation with someone who just has to leave’ pivoting around the line ‘The hardest thing I ever did, was to let you go – something I’ve been meaning to do,’ “the hardest kind of love. At the time David was losing his sister,” she explains. “And his experience with that weighed heavily on me, for him. It’s a very hard place to revisit, to accept. They’re laments is what they are.”
It is Vincent’s voice that guides Unloved. “There’s a maturity to Jade’s voice and a maturity to the songs that sounds like this is someone who’s lived, and properly had her heart broken, and is full of love,” says Holmes. Indeed it was her voice, too, that led the soundtrack he and Ciancia made for Killing Eve. “We started using her voice as an instrument” he explains. “And it’s such a potent instrument,” adds Ciancia. “A lot of times it’s just the sound of her humming, her voice has the ability characteristically and sonically that becomes it’s own unique instrument.” An experience carried over from the recording of the new songs: “I felt a little more confident in my stride with this album,” she says. “I let myself completely go lyrically — and vocally as well. I would sometimes laugh at myself, about where I would go. I’d go high into the world of opera and come back in low. I just threw myself into it and felt uninhibited. It was freeing. And I kept layering, to get to as many emotions as possible. It was like painting: I was layering to add to the immense, vastly wild landscape of music given me from Keefus and David.”
“This music was dangerous and bold and tested me, tempted me and led me on a path I’d never go with company, if you know what I mean, like I was ‘sleep-singing’ and I couldn’t help what came out of my mouth. Their music does this to me, like a dare. The alchemy between them is heavy, entrancing, like they ‘dare me’. To use a pretty word, they ‘inspire’ me, and as corny as it sounds, I feel like I’m the luckiest woman in the world to be writing with these extraordinary composers, nobody like them. It’s not easy at all, no one of us would say so, but then where’s the thrill? Just three nutsos jumping off a cliff into the deep end with nothing but our influences and experiences ‘on’.”
For Vincent, singing has always been a curiosity, “For this record I have to tell you I was most definitely deeply in love with Elvis,” she laughs . “But this is more than Vincent trying to replicate the contours of Presley’s voice. “When I’m singing along with Elvis I’ll jump into his background with the Jordanaires or his love for Jackie Wilson, exploring every influence, taking it all inside, another place, another time,” she explains. “I’ll sing and sing and sing. It’s like eating really delicious cake and you want more.” She laughs again — slow, deep, breathy, dark. “Singing to me is the feeling you get watching a film and you leave the earth for a while,” she says. “It’s like an escape into another world.”