The musical project of Suffolk-born, London-based singer-songwriter Joseph Giffard Tutt, The White Russian released their new EP You Are in March. Covering a range of musical styles from intimate folk to bluesy numbers and energetic, expansive rock tracks, a major influence on the record was Joseph’s experience of chronic fatigue and the altered states of consciousness which ensued, as he explains, “I’ve had periods of feeling disassociated from my body and from a normal reality, it has felt like my life may as well have been a dream”.
We asked Joseph to guide us through the EP, track by track.
This song is maybe the start of the movement of the group from the realms of singer-songwriter to more of a full-band feel. I wrote all of these songs on Spanish guitar and this was one of the ones that moved over to the electric in the recording process.
The song is essentially what it says on the tin; it’s really about childhood, and most of all having to go to school. It also touches on the idea of ‘growing up’ in later life and having to fit into society just as you did with school.
I had a pretty rough time at school, especially when I was only in primary. It never made much sense to me; how we were taught and what we were learning. I seemed to relate more to the adults or to kids in the years above me, so it was a pretty lonely time until I got to around 12.
It ends up in the salutation to music itself. The lyric, ‘All that you need is…’ leads into us going full-pelt into the melody and that’s really the answer to the question, at least the one that I’ve found in my life.
I wrote this song in the midst of a really bad flu a few years ago. At the time I was getting ill every couple of weeks from a pretty broken immune system. That physical condition touched most of the tracks on this EP and is pretty central in what the whole record is addressing.
I was practically delirious at the time of writing the song. That’s why the lyrics are so out-there. I just kept them the same as they were from when they first came out of my mouth. I also had a cool husky voice because of being ill, like Phoebe in Friends for that one episode. I have a voice memo somewhere of how it’s supposed to sound, with that husky timbre.
I was basically musing on my own physical condition of being ill over and over again, and trying to find some form of meaning in it. Which on some level, I’m sure there is.
‘You Are’ is delving into the emotional space I felt at the time of having all of this chronic fatigue. The kind of depression that just leads you to feel like you’re just fading away, and already like an old man in your 20’s. I felt in a very liminal space, unable to hold down a job, or to have energy for socialising and really having a life at the time. The chorus mantra came up and felt like an affirmation that would be good to just say over and over. I was just telling myself that I existed, without needing to be anything or do anything. I exist!
The spacey kind of atmosphere/synth sound throughout was just from the Spanish guitar going through a cheap reverb pedal that had this crazy ‘Space’ setting. I liked that is was just triggered by finger picking spanish guitar, it felt so low-tech for something that sounded quite produced.
My friend Charlie really championed the track to me as something worth pursuing and helped elevate it with his electric guitar parts that cut through clearly, lifting it from acoustic realms to something more sculpted and modern I guess.
I was told that what was wrong with me physically was from some form of a poison in my blood. I imagined these little critters to be like Platipi swimming around. I really couldn’t tell you straight-forwardly what the rest of the song is about.
This is the most autobiographical song on the EP. I was having a tough beginning of what became a longterm relationship. My partner-to-be just wasn’t ready to open up yet and I was meeting this push-pull resistance. One evening as we were having something like an argument or talk and she just sat down in the middle of the road. She wouldn’t budge, and I had to console her and try and get her to eventually get up off the tarmac. This meant both of us sitting down in the middle of the road for quite a while having a ridiculous conversation.
The rest of the song was taken from other events with the same girl, and just musing on her in general. The line about washing-up a rose felt like it was about trying to perfect something that was already perfect and getting cut up in the process.
You Are EP is available now on vinyl or digital download via Bandcamp
Find out more on The White Russian’s Facebook / Instagram pages
Introduction by Paul Maps
Photograph by Joseph Giffard Tutt
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