Over four years ago you started collaborating on Asphyxiology EP. The artwork shows Utelka with two hands around her neck, the hands have Betrayal, Anxiety and Fear written all over them. What enabled you both to show this kind of vulnerability in your songs?
Utelka: For me, these were a visual aspect to set the tone for the EP. Dealing with a lot of negative emotions at the time, it seemed like the only way to have a visualisation of the journey the music would take.
Jermaine Soul: Music has always been the way I am able to express how I’m feeling without words. I struggle a lot with expressing my feelings vocally, even to people close to me. At the time we were recording Asphyxiology, we were sharing our inspirations for making music and our journeys to that point, which exposed our vulnerabilities without us realising. Naturally, that transfers into the music.
Utelka: I think being able to make music in a safe space, helps in the creative process. Garth (Jermaine Soul) has always championed me to deliver raw emotions no matter how abrasive they may seem and this is the main reason why I felt comfortable baring all.
Jermaine Soul: For myself, I have to embrace that darkness in order to understand it, so I’m able to pull myself towards the light.
On your single "Signs" from 2022, you reveal that it is hard staying true to who you are. Would you say it was cathartic to talk about the struggle of not letting dreadful thoughts pull you back?
Jermaine Soul: Yeah it is, but it’s not always easy! Sometimes those thoughts can be so dark, it’s hard to pull yourself away from them and it can be debilitating. For myself, I have to embrace that darkness in order to understand it, so I’m able to pull myself towards the light. Then I feel more comfortable talking about it with friends or family. Everyone has their own way of dealing with those difficult situations. I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family to help me through those dark moments.
Utelka: That’s correct, Signs was almost like a message to myself. To my younger self even. Signs was written pre-pandemic, and these were very trying times. Writing songs like these helps me personally to shed the emotions that would otherwise build up and create some sort of tensity within myself. These things are extremely hard to verbalise in a normal conversation, topics similar to Signs I have personally struggled to speak on with my close ones and I think being able to musicalise that is only beneficial, if not just to myself but to others too.
What do you remember about the session you had when writing "Seven Sisters"?
Jermaine Soul: I remember Utelka feeling worried about releasing it after we recorded, which is understandable. It’s a personal song and it can be hard to expose yourself to the world like that. As a producer, I can hide behind the ambiguity of a songs vibe. For a songwriter, your heart is laid out for everyone to see. She did so well in the session given the content of the lyrics and feel honoured to have been a part of it.
Utelka: I remember hearing the beautiful strings and they struck an emotion within me. It was a surprisingly easy write, despite how dark the content of the song is. It’s always daunting to speak on topics such as these but Garth (Jermaine Soul) as always made it really serene safe space.
Can you tell about the meaning of "Seven Sisters"?
Jermaine Soul: This is a question I feel is best answered by Utelka to give it the justice it deserves.
Utelka: Seven Sisters is a beautiful cliffside, near the South – and whilst it has a stunning scenery, it was the highest destination for suicide in the UK at one point. Being extremely honest with myself, lyrically this reflection on my mental state when I’ve suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts in the past. Confronting difficult emotions, and being able to process those is really important. The lyrics tell of suicidal thoughts which I feel is seen as a taboo, whilst being paired with the most beautiful strings and ethereal music it’s a very bitter sweet song.
How important is music in general and the creative process in particular to deal with symptoms of not being well?
Jermaine Soul: As I said earlier, music has always been the way I can truly express myself. It has been an integral part of my life for a long as I can remember. The memories I vividly remember as a child, as a teenager, at university, have a soundtrack to them. For me, it can be a way to understand a traumatic situation more clearly to work towards overcoming. Sometimes, it can just be a quick release of tension and stress. Like banging a drum when I feel tense and want to let it all go or playing piano when I feel overwhelmed and need some calm.
Utelka: Music is healing as they say, there are many songs that can evoke an array of emotions, and I think for me music plays a huge part in recognising those in myself. It’s very easy to brush past these spouts as life is really hectic but sometimes a simple lyric can strike a chord within you.
Are you prepared for friends or even fans to come checking for you because of your revelation in the song? Has that happened before and how did that effect you?
Utelka: I suppose, I’m not really expecting anything but I can understand how it can be really confronting and concerning to hear people you care about speak of these. I wouldn’t necessarily say people have checked in but they’ve mentioned how certain things are relatable and that means the most. Again it’s that same feeling of not being alone with these thoughts.
How significant is the sense of being understood during challenging times?
Jermaine Soul: It’s vital. It can be difficult if the way its communicated seems hostile, but it’s important to try look past that and, at the risk of sounding cliché, read between the lines to discover what’s really going on. As I say, it’s not easy and I haven’t always been the best in those situations. It’s all about working on yourself though.
Utelka: To feel understood and to feel heard are vital in helping somebody. You may not be able to solve all the problems in the world, but a problem shared is a problem halved as they say. Just being able to listen to someone can be the very thing that goes on to save a life.
Utelka: Speak to anyone as we do not need to carry this burden by ourselves.
Would you say that the description of your feelings in the song can help to recognise the situation someone is in and to take steps to seek help?
Utelka: First and foremost, speak up. Speak to anyone as we do not need to carry this burden by ourselves. Nobody deserves that. Do something kind for yourself, treat yourself with love and care. My final and maybe hardest step would be to seek help, there are an array of services available and it’s completely okay to get help whether it’s the therapy, helplines - we are human and we all need somebody.
Empathy is the key, isn't it. What is a good way to nurture it?
Jermaine Soul: Naturally, empathy is very important. I think the best way to nurture it is to listen and be there.
Utelka: Just be kind to yourself, take time that you need. We are our own worst critic, we should treat ourself and each other with much more compassion.
I agree. Thank you both for your time.