An interview with Sithu Aye
Describe your music in three words.
Progressive Instrumental Nonsense
Who’s in the band, and what do you each play?
It’s just me, I do all the writing, recording, mixing and mastering on all my records along with playing the guitar and bass. I program almost all the other elements in my music. It doesn’t just feel like I deal with the music though, since I’m unsigned and have no management by choice, I also deal with all the business and admin aspects that are involved with being a musician in 2019. The only person who deals with any aspect of my music business apart from me is my booking agent, as I think that’s the only part I couldn’t effectively do by myself.
When I play live, I do play with a live band because it would be pretty lame just to see one guy on his own with a guitar playing along to a backing track. The current iteration of my live band has Liam McLaughlin on guitar, from Aberdeen, Jamie Black on drums, from Edinburgh, and Jack Elliot on bass, who I went to high school with in the Borders and who currently lives in Edinburgh.
How did you come up with your name?
My parents gave it to me when I was born.
How and when did the band form?
I’ve always been writing and recording music for as long as I’ve been playing guitar, but it was only after I was in university that I discovered how to home record ‘properly’, using an interface and a DAW around 2009, 2010. In any free time I had, I practised recording and mixing, and I guess after I released my first album ‘Cassini’ in 2011, my musical venture under my name began. However, it only feels like the ‘first start’ in a way, because I got a second start in 2016 when I quit my job, went full time with music with the release of my third album, ‘Set Course for Andromeda’.
I’m also on various other platforms that you can access from my website: http://www.sithuaye.co.uk/homebound
Tell us a bit about your songwriting process.
It’s honestly not that interesting, I just sit in front of my PC with my guitar and my DAW open, and just play. Anything interesting I play or come up with, I try to develop to a state where I can record it. I then just build up most of my songs like that, programming drums as I go. In terms of how I come up with parts, I’m usually just improvising chords or melodies and seeing what I like or what works. Sometimes I have preconceived ideas in my head about how a theme or structure to an album or EP, or sometimes I hear parts in my head that I just have to lay down and record. It really varies.
Name three other bands / artists that you’d say have influenced your music.
In terms of artists and the music I play now, I would say Dream Theater, Animals as Leaders and Periphery back in the day, as those artists were a reference for the style of music I would eventually play.
In terms of guitarists that have influenced my playing the most, I would say Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci and Guthrie Govan.
What do you listen to on the way to a gig?
I honestly don’t really listen to much music when I’m travelling on tour. I spend most of my time talking to the people I’m on tour with, or watching YouTube videos.
Which of your songs do you enjoy playing the most?
I have a few favourites to play live for various reasons. Personally, I love playing ‘Primary Ignition’ and ‘Footsteps’ from my latest album ‘Homebound’, ‘Set Course for Andromeda!’ and ‘Transient Transistors’ from my previous album ‘Set Course for Andromeda’ and ‘Double Helix’ from my first album ‘Cassini’.
‘Transient Transistors’ is fun and I think everybody in my live band enjoys it, and Liam gets to rip in his solo at the end. I also enjoy ‘Anime as Leaders: The Woven Weeab’ from ‘Senpai EP II’ because Jamie always surprises use with what he’s able to do with his drum solo at the end.
If things go exactly to plan with the band, what would you like to achieve?
Honestly, I just want sustainable growth. I want to keep being able to do what I do, while growing my audience both in terms of listeners and playing live. I want to do those things in a smart manner, where I’m not going for short term gains, but long term sustainability in my music career. I feel lucky enough being able to do what I love as a living, so I’m going to do everything in my power to keep doing it.
Which bit of music gear could you not live without, and why?
Honestly, and it’s not even a piece of music gear, my PC. It’s the centre of everything I do, including music.
What’s your favourite brand of music gear, and why?
I work with some amazing brands so it would be bad of me not to mention all of them.
Mayones make the best guitars in the world in my opinion and they’re a perfect fit for me and what I want to do musically, as well as just being incredibly well built guitars that feel amazing to play and are incredibly hardy and durable to the rigours of touring.
Jim Dunlop picks, I’ve always used their picks and they just feel great to use. I’m currently using their 1mm Flow picks as my go-to.
And finally, Focusrite interfaces. Audio interfaces are at the heart of my recording and live setups, and all my Focusrite interfaces have served me incredibly well.
What was your best gig ever, and why?
I honestly can’t pick one. I’ve played so many fun shows across the UK, Europe, the US and Canada, and Japan.
What was your most disastrous gig ever, and why?
I think I just played it! After my recent UK tour, I didn’t change the strings on my guitars and my guitar case had been exposed to a lot of rain during the last load-out in London. I didn’t even open my case until my next show a week later at ArcTanGent festival where my strings had been exposed to corrosion and damage from the rainwater. It was completely my own fault, but that was the situation I was in.
As soon as I hit the first bend on my high E-string on my 6-string, it snapped. Since that guitar had a Floyd-Rose style bridge, it would be out of tune so I switched to my 7-string, tuned the highest 6-strings on it to drop-D tuning and the same thing happens: the first bend snaps the high E-string. Luckily that guitar has a fixed bridge, so it was in tune and since I had no backups, my only option would be to play the rest of the set without the high-E. I had to change parts on the fly, either omitting the high E or playing parts down the octave.
Surprisingly enough, I still had a lot of fun and I still think we played a great show. It was an unexpected challenge to play without my high string, but I really enjoyed it and I think the audience at ArcTanGent enjoyed it too!
What are your favourite Scottish recording and / or rehearsal studios?
Honestly, my favourite Scottish recording studio is wherever my home studio happens to be, be it in Glasgow where I used to live or in the Scottish Borders where I am now. If everything goes to plan, I’ll be back in Glasgow before the year’s out.
What are your favourite festivals to play at?
The two I just played have become my favourites I think. RADAR festival just had an incredible first year, and the aforementioned ArcTanGent were joys to play.
How do you promote yourselves? Is there any method you’ve found that has worked particularly well?
I just do the usual things: post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit whenever I have new releases upcoming to try and promote them to the relevant audiences. It’s a crowded world on social media though, so it can be hard to cut through all the noise. Luckily, I feel like I already have an established audience so I can get my music out to the people that want to hear it.
What’s next for you guys? Any gigs or releases coming up?
I’m working on my next release, Senpai III. As for touring, I feel like I’ve done all the touring I want to do this year.
Out of all of you, who would win in a fight? What would each of your fighting techniques be?
In my live band, it would have to be Jamie, he’S an absolute specimen of a man. I’ve never been in a fight in my life so I would probably be useless. Also, violence isn’t the way to solve problems, solve your problems with words and compromise!