CleverGreen Festival team member Sharna caught up with Cess, lead singer of Greenness to find out more about them and their upcoming performance CleverGreen Festival.
Tell us a bit about Greenness and how you started?
Graham and I met nine years ago and started playing music together casually, jamming and doing covers, and writing original songs we'd play to ourselves and for our friends. I was doing a very intensive course at uni at the time, so we only began recording demos and playing gigs after I graduated in summer 2013, which is when we moved to Brighton. Since then, we have released two EPs, performed everywhere from garden sheds to the Royal Albert Hall, had some BBC airplay and we're now working on a brand new album. We perform both as a duo and with a full 5-piece band comprising of members from local prog-rock outfit The Case Of Us.
How would you describe your style of music?
I was recently told at a networking event with the Musicians' Union that we sound very distinctive and should make up our own genre! However, the closest term we've found to describe our music is 'folktronica', because we were an acoustic duo to begin with and later progressed into something more electronic, but without forsaking our folk roots. So on certain songs we use acoustic guitar, ukulele, thumb piano and percussion such as tambourine, which have very warm and organic tones, whereas on others we layer electric guitar, bass, synthesizers and beats, and sometimes we mix it all together... and then I sing my heart out on top of it!
What are your musical influences - growing up and now?
I'm a huge Björk fan, I've been listening to her since I was a kid and was instantly captivated by her voice and personality. Generally speaking, I draw inspiration from women in music who are passionate, powerful and wildly creative – Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Joni Mitchell... and there's this whole new generation of young artists walking in their footsteps, people like Angel Olsen, Joanna Newsom, Aurora, Alice Phoebe Lou... that's what I've been into lately, but I also listen to a lot of small local bands as there is so much talent in Brighton!
What's the highlight of your career so far?
Our last EP launch in summer 2018 felt like a great accomplishment and gave us the stamina to follow up with an album, which will be out next year. We got great momentum around the single 'Dance With The Light', and I am super proud of the music video we made for it – turning Queens Park into a mysterious midsummer night's dreamland! This single has also just won the Brighton Song Competition 2019, and we are delighted that it resonates with so many people.
What's the best advice as a group you've ever been given?
To keep going. It sounds simple, but resilience is really key.
Why is it important to support eco-living events like CleverGreen?
As a musical and artistic project, Greenness has always been very much rooted in environmentalism and we are really happy to be involved with CleverGreen Festival. We have been keen to apply the green principles we follow in our everyday life to the band from day 1, and this includes supporting green, sustainable and eco-friendly festivals as much as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of gigs and events are really wasteful, so we hope that initiatives like this one will pave the way for a greener industry.
In what ways do you all try to live more sustainably?
As a band, we try to play locally and support green events and charities on a regular basis, for instance we have performed at previous CleverGreen events, wildlife protection fundraisers and vegan festivals such as VegFest. We are both vegan and try to consume responsibly, to avoid waste and to reuse, refill and recycle as much as we can. We get our musical instruments and equipment second-hand, as well as most of our clothes. We don't own a car and have toured France by train, which was pretty epic! Since January we've also become involved with the Extinction Rebellion choir, staging flashmobs around the city to raise awareness about climate change, and many of our songs celebrate nature and question our relationship with the wild. All our band merch is eco-friendly as well, with carbon neutral organic cotton tees and tote bags, for instance.
Do you have any quick tips for people who are interested in eco-living but don't know where to start?
Don't try to be perfect right away! Take it one step at a time, and don't despair if you struggle at first. Start with one little thing that you find easy enough to change – whether it's adopting a greener diet, reducing your overall consumption, or driving/flying less. You can build it progressively from there. Changing lifelong habits takes time and the infrastructure is not always there to support this transition, so we must challenge governments and businesses to play their part, because ordinary people shouldn't be bearing the full burden of a green revolution all by themselves. Society needs to change on a big scale, and we're all in this together. There are a lot of great initiatives here in Brighton, and joining one of them can be extremely helpful to learn more about eco-living and feel part of a community, which makes everything so much easier and nicer!
Greeness will be playing at the SPACE + THYME main stage at CleverGreen Festival on Saturday 20th July at The Level Brighton. Click here to visit their website.