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Interview and Video: Watch Re Teu's Isle Of Dogs (Orchestral Version)

5 March 21 words: Ellie Aindow

Re Teu catches up with our Ellie as he revisits his track 'Isle of Dogs', offering a new orchestral version, complete with a stunning video. Read on for chats on personal goals, film scores, revisiting the song and his thoughts on the Nottingham music scene... 

Emric John-Sawyer, or Re Teu as he is better known as, is a multi-instrumentalist now based in London. But over the years he’s graced many stages in Nottingham while studying in the city.

Gaining plenty of interest on the local music scene following an interview with BBC Radio Nottingham’s Dean Jackson, Re Teu went on to host a stripped headline show at Rescue Rooms, before performing at Nottingham’s Splendour Festival, not once but twice. With a gig at Rock City, back in the days when we could go out and sold out shows in London, it’s been a great few years for Re Teu.

Following on from what has no doubt been the strangest 12 months and to celebrate reaching five thousand streams of the original track Isle of Dogs, we catch up with the man himself to chat about what he’s been up to and what inspired his latest orchestral version of the song.

But first – view the new video here:

Who have been your biggest musical influences?
I like to split my influences in two sections. For the storytelling and lyricism the artists that have inspired and influenced me greatly are the likes of Bon Iver, Hozier and Ben Howard. Whereas the instrumentation I like to draw from Sigur Rós, London Grammar, Sleep Token and many other post-rock and "heavier" ambient artists that all work together in my mind.

What does your creative process look like and has lockdown had an impact on how you work?
Ideally the way in which I would normally start the creative process would be from a trip! Be it camping or a staycation by the coast, it just allows me to bring out my notepad and guitar and begin to write something from a story that has happened within my life, be it directly or indirectly.

That then makes it really easy to go back home to my tiny studio and create a demo before onto a mix and master. I think the most impactful lyric would come to me first, then I would focus on the instrumentation and aim to weave in my voice and lyrics to be part of the music, as opposed to "on top" of it.

Live music still faces a lot of uncertainty, what would your ideal gig be once we can get out there again?
Oh I won't lie, I have been dreaming of this A LOT recently. I would love and will be pushing for a run of concerts set within churches, with low lighting, smoke and ambience in the air. A seated audience surrounded by beautiful architecture and floral arrangements. Already getting excited for what is to come but yes, I am itching for it. Oh, and a nice big festival show would just be the icing on the cake!

What inspired you to make an orchestral version of Isle of Dogs?
I’ve recently been asked to create scores for short films, these generally include orchestral instrumentation. Marrying that alongside my love for Hans Zimmer, who creates the scores for all of my favourite films, it’s a no brainer.

It is also a celebration of the number of streams Isle of Dogs has reached, whilst five thousand may not seem like a lot to many and is not the most I have received, it is special to me knowing that it has reached so many ears.

How did it feel to revisit the song, particularly during such a strange year?
It did feel quite weird, but also reassuring.

The song is about reaching a certain goal or achievement before it is too late to "showcase" to your loved ones. However, at the time I was recreating the song I had just received good news on the music front and working with a team and management, it feels like a boom that will almost complete the puzzle that this song is about.

Just waiting for Bojo to give the okay for the team and I to claim it.

You’ve said in previous interviews you get a lot of inspiration from the sea, camping etc - has lockdown hampered the creative process at all?
I would be lying if I said it didn’t when it came to creating absolutely fresh pieces, at a really fast pace. However, it has almost certainly improved the musicality of the songs. I’ve had to go to a place in my head and relive those trips in my mind to pull out some new creativity.

I know I must also take into consideration that the songs will be listened to in a different capacity for a short while, so creating delicate sections and hair-raising swells that would be fitting in a church setting, distanced show or going on a scenic walk. Which is what I assume most people are doing or will be allowed to do in the near future.

You like to use sampled interludes in your music, Interstellar being the one to feature on the Isle of Dogs originally. How did this come about? Did you watch the film at the time of writing the song or did you already know you wanted to use it?
Interstellar is my favourite film of all time, I am 100% for space exploration and travel and I’m really into Astrophysics, (plus I am a little biased since the film was released on the same day as my birthday) so naturally I was really invested into that film.

The section I use *SPOILER ALERT* is when the main character is receiving messages from his daughter after being gone for so long, and not showing anything really matches the theme of the song. It's the point of the film in which I also note as the break in the film, the quiet bridge section. 

You’ve spent quite a bit of time in Nottingham over the past few years, how do you find the creative scene here compared to London?
Honestly, without shooting myself in the foot for some million-pound deal, it is so much better. You get the chance to be heard and for people to really connect with you without the oversaturation, which unfortunately is what London is, oversaturated. Still full of great musicians but it's so difficult to be heard and "break through". 

I have also made some really good friends through music that I'm always asking for advice on how they think this demo sounds or what the hell this chord is because I don't know anything. Because of this I am so grateful for the opportunities the city has given me and I hope they can continue to provide them for me and my stories.

You’ve said in the past you’d like to learn to play the piano, have you managed to learn any new instruments or improve any skills during lockdown? 
Yes! I’ve actually just purchased a new stage keyboard which I plan to use primarily through live shows, it is such a delicate and intense instrument all at the same time. So that has been my main focus, as well as really understanding music gear and the recording process to provide even better music.

What can we expect from you in the future?
There are some really big and exciting plans to come and plenty of music to come out this year. Many singles, an EP record, merchandise, a showcases of art and more!

I have always had to wait to put out music resulting in really large gaps before more is ready, so it always humbles me when it is greeted with the love and patience from people. It really makes me think this is just the beginning and it really is.

I hope you're all ready. I hope I am.

Keep up to date with Re Teu online at @reteumusic


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