FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview With Fyfe & Iskra Strings

Fyfe & Iskra Strings might be one of the most unique talents out there and with today’s digital release of their album Interiority the world is now getting the chance to experience their new music. We caught up with the duo to discuss their process, album and of course, their FAULTs.

Do you find that being so unique in what you do has made is difficult to find your place in a music industry which likes to categories musicians? 

Paul (Fyfe): Most of my favourite music would be pretty hard to categorise cleanly into genres, so I’m flattered you place us in the same category of artist. It’s true that making music that’s easy to place means it’s easy to sell, but on the other hand by definition it’s harder to stand out in those spaces especially in an incredibly crowded market. I really believe in making the music you love and feel inspired to make, and then finding the pockets of supporters and fans who’ll love it too. 

Your style can be at times very cinematic, do you ever find that the visual world has a large influence on the music you create – or is it the other way round? 

James (Iskra Strings): Cinema has certainly played an important role in us creating music together. I can remember referencing the visual language of films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters Of A Third Kind in the studio. Also collaborating with visual artist Dan Whiteson made a big impression. After listening to ‘Interiority’ he introduced me to painter/violinist Paul Klee.

Paul (Fyfe): I find that visual art and cinema inspire me more than music on its own. It might be partly to do with music being something I’m doing all day – which I love – but in terms of stepping out of that mindset and getting fresh perspectives and dynamic takes on culture, I find other artist mediums do that more readily for me. 

As you gear up for your live dates later this year, do you find your music take on new form and meaning when played in a live setting? 

James (Iskra Strings): We recently filmed live acoustic versions of new songs with collaborators Aquilo, Rae Morris and Mysie. I was struck by how emotional the songs sounded. I’m looking forward to creating a unique live experience for audiences in September. 

Paul (Fyfe): we’re exploring the live show now. In a lot of ways it would be really fun to do something quite electronic and tie the set together as a performance piece. We’ll see how much time we have to prep!

What would you say has been the most challenging musical hurdle you’ve had to overcome? 

James (Iskra Strings): Most musicians struggle with imposter syndrome. I’ve spent a lot of my career as a musician helping other artists to realise their musical vision. I’ve definitely had to battle my own insecurities by wanting to release my own artist projects.

Paul (Fyfe): 100% imposter syndrome. My wife has to talk me out of quitting music at least twice a year. 

What’s the last piece of music that moved you to tears? 

James (Iskra Strings): Hideous by Oliver Sim (The xx) addresses his HIV diagnosis at the age of 17. Brave and honest songwriting alongside a powerful vocal performance. I’ve worked with The xx a number of times and Oliver has been always been so kind and welcoming. 

Paul (Fyfe): Steve Reich – Different Trains. I was listening to Reich on the podcast Song Exploder describing how he went about composing the piece and was so moved by the story which contrasts his childhood of riding trains in America, to those who at the same moment in history were riding trains across Europe to their deaths in the millions as part of the Holocaust. A deeply moving and important piece of music.

Are you very regimented in your songwriting process or do you prefer to create when inspiration hits? 

James (Iskra Strings): I tend to write in short time periods. Come up with an idea and then have fun playing with it. When I get stuck I tend to take a break and then come back to it later.

Paul (Fyfe): It depends on the scenario. If I have a clear day I won’t force anything and I’ll move between projects and start new ideas if it feels right. If I have a writing session with another artist or certain deadlines then days tend to take a more structured shape. I do think it’s an important skill to be able to work through blocks and deliver music even when it’s hard work. I can’t always do it though. 

What would you say was the most challenging track to create on this album? 

Paul (Fyfe): I think An[n]ew was tricky for me because it’s so sparse and I recorded the piano on my upright which has very noisy pedals. The rustling and clunking creates a certain atmosphere which is important but too much of it and it’s all the listener will think about. It’s an emotional track for me as I wrote it when my Granny was close to dying so that naturally made working on it both hard and cathartic. 

What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever received? 

James (Iskra Strings): Be curious and never stop learning.

Paul (Fyfe): “Trust your instincts”

What is the worst? 

Paul (Fyfe): “Dont trust your instincts, trust my instincts.”

What’s the biggest fear you have for your music? 

James (Iskra Strings): The biggest fear releasing new music is always about how it will be received.

Paul (Fyfe): Probably that no one will hear it. 

What is your FAULT? (Personal flaw) 

James (Iskra Strings): Probably overthinking things and retreating into my shell. Our time recording’Interiority’ together have sometimes felt like therapy sessions. 

Paul (Fyfe): We can’t have biscuits in the house because inevitably I will eat the whole pack. I found out recently my wife has her own stash. Sadly I’m yet to find it.