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Me Lost Me "When I write songs they always exist somewhere – real or imaginary"

We speak to Jayne Dent (aka Me Lost Me): the award-winning electronica and woodwind innovator.

Me lost me
Me Lost Me.

The Circle Dance EP is the outstanding new release by Chesterfield raised Jayne Dent, recording under the moniker Me Lost Me. Now Then caught up with Jayne to talk about folk, weird pop, three-dimensional collaged environments and worms.

How did you got into music in the first instance?

I was always around music growing up. My parents and their friends were a huge influence. They were really involved in folk music and dance so we were always at a folk session in a pub or at a Morris dancing day out.

I danced myself too and never stopped singing all the time, both solo and in choirs. Occasionally I performed at folk clubs, so it's just been there from the beginning really. I think those experiences firmly planted the idea of music being a community activity in my head, and that it’s there for everyone to enjoy and experiment with.

Did you start to extend your musical curiosity in a different direction when you were in your teens?

Yes, when I was a teenager I started getting into more emo / hardcore / metal stuff and then indie and weird pop, people like Patrick Wolf and Owen Pallett and Tune-Yards, then exploring all sorts of genres, going to as many gigs as possible with friends in Sheffield.

And then you moved to Tyneside?

When I came up to Newcastle to study fine art, I got more into electronic, experimental and improvised music, the space where the lines blur into performance and sound art. I think that was an important moment where I realised how expansive and exciting music can be, discovering people like Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk and Pauline Oliveros.

I joined an experimental choir not long after I moved – Noize Choir – who totally transformed my idea of how to use the voice and introduced me to graphic scores. A number of artists down the years have embraced studio technology and electronics, and melded those with traditional songwriting.

What events led you to embracing those two styles?

I think the combining of acoustics and electronics came very naturally when I started making my own music after growing up with folk music. I was always being hungry to hear more music in all kinds of genres, with electronic and ambient stuff really grabbing me at the perfect time. The voice was always my main instrument so initially it was about how I could use that in different ways with looping and effects, and it just grew from there with my own sounds and then through the introduction of clarinet (Faye MacCalman) and double bass (John Pope) for this EP.

I love the sound of electronics and how fun and experimental they can be, it's a total dream playground for me to be sat at my desks surrounded by synths and random acoustic instruments to sample using Ableton. Folk music runs through it all though, I think it's a perfect match – the drama, the drones, the atmospheric storytelling really lends itself to being told in this way.

The EP includes field recordings such as surf breaking at Blast Beach, Durham on the title track and 'Sing To The Sun', and bird song on 'Binoculars'. Do you see field recordings as another instrument when composing?

When I write songs they always exist somewhere – real or imaginary. It's how I come up with the music, thinking of 'where' the song takes place is always step one. I write them to be kind of three-dimensional collaged environments, and field recordings add to the collaging of the space. Often I go out walking to take field recordings and it inspires a whole song, such as 'The Circle Dance' and 'Sing to the Sun' which both came about this way. Even if the recording doesn't end up in the final mix, there's often one there while I'm writing.

When writing character based songs, do you write from an observational perspective, or do you actually 'become' the character you're writing about?

I think there's always an element of myself in the characters in songs, although the specific scenario is almost always fictional. I don't think I ever really write in the third person, it's a lot of "I" and "you". I imagine a place and what might be happening there, but then usually tell it from the direct perspective of a character.

'Worm Unearthed' (from the LP The Good Noise) is a good example of expressing myself through a quite absurd character. I was reflecting on living on an estate which was undergoing massive construction work and gentrification, and wanted to talk about it but wasn't sure how. Then I latched onto this idea of the worm being churned up by the diggers in the earth and their whole world being turned upside down.

I also like playing with scale, making small stories huge, and vice versa, and I suppose speaking through a character is a big part of that. 'Binoculars' on the new EP is probably one of the most "me" songs I've ever written, because really it was about a process I was going through directly – trying to imagine and write about a positive future and struggling with that.

You're playing November shows in London, Sheffield and the north east. What challenges do you face when playing live?

When I first started making music I was using hardware, making sounds live and with live performance as the only output. Then I would struggle to know how to record them and capture the same atmosphere. Now I write in a combined way, so there are occasionally songs that I write and think "oh, I can't physically perform this live". I don't mind that too much though – I'm happy that some songs exist only in one form.

It's just a different medium, like translating a painting into a sculpture, some things can translate across both recorded and live and they work really well, and some things are best left to exist in one medium. Some songs do lend themselves to being played live and some need restructuring or reshaping, but it's a process I enjoy most of the time – it's like a puzzle to solve. The thing I want to make sure I keep is the atmosphere and the story. If I have to sacrifice a cool digital effect but the core feel of the song stays intact, I'm okay with that.

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