As author of the first and only album to gain five stars from Time Out Dubai so far in 2012, we were keen to hear more from Nzca/Lines, AKA UK-based Michael Lovett, whose cleanly crafted, synth-slick and harmony-heavy self-titled debut is never far from our playlists.
Lovett has a four-octave vocal range and finds as much inspiration in motets (unaccompanied choral pieces written for church services) as the techniques of Ciara, Aaliyah and Rihanna. But his lyrics are firmly anchored in geeky, sci-fi-esque narratives. ‘The whole record is not connected to reality: I wanted it to be less about me and more about the story or the character,’ he says. ‘The songs are like scenes from a film that doesn’t exist. The title track, “Nzca”, is the story of the guy who falls in love with this airship. He wants to take it all these places in the sky and has fantasies where he wants to kill everyone else to be with it on his own.’
The album’s best song, ‘Okinawa Channels’, has a similarly curious storyline reminiscent of authors such as HP Lovecraft or Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. ‘It’s about a town on a small island that’s become quite busy, but it’s isolated from the rest of the world so it’s stuck in a certain time period. People start to get interference on their radios, TVs and in their cars, start to hear stuff from this island nearby, which is Okinawa. It’s a different civilisation and, in an HP Lovecraft way, it starts to drive everyone crazy: people leave their cars in the street and it all goes a bit odd. But it’s all occurring among the mundanity of the real world.’
Lovett is part of a collective of musicians from the tiny town of Totnes. Based in Devon, in the south-west of the UK, the small town boasts a brace of closely connected musical kin. Lovett used to play bass in his older brother Gabriel’s band, Your Twenties, alongside James Hoare and Robin Silas Christian. Gabriel used to play bass in electro-pop hits Metronomy with Joseph Mount. As teenagers, Mount and Gabriel were in a band called The Upsides with Hoare and Silas Christian. The latter two are now in London-based bands Veronica Falls and Male Bonding, respectively.
‘I was 12 when Gabriel was in The Upsides. He got me into The Beach Boys and when he went to university he’d give me mixes, mainly alt.folky or guitar stuff. Then he gave me a compilation with a Metronomy track on it. Gabriel was my musical hero when I was younger. My mum always played his music in the car or while she was washing up.’
He was studying fine art in Edinburgh, but dropped out to move to London to play in Your Twenties.
‘If I’d stayed in Edinburgh I wouldn’t have played with Gabe or done this record. I wasn’t happy in Edinburgh and I felt like it was a waste to continue there for three years,’ he explains. ‘I was probably just being a bit first-year-of-university angsty, then playing with Gabe came up. I hadn’t had a gap year and it just seemed right. I’m back at the Camberwell College of Arts now. I switched to illustration because I wanted some structure. I wanted it to force me to do stuff I didn’t necessarily want to do but I could learn from.’ Nzca/Lines’ self-titled debut is available now on iTunes.