Bernard & Edith

Bernard & Edith

Bernard + Edith create dark pop, combining the sultry elegance of FKA Twigs with the eclectic ambition of Grimes to produce winding soundscapes which are joined by Greta’s [Edith’s] sometimes smooth tones and sometimes deep ‘murrrrs’.

The duo have racked up quite the storm recently having released their debut single ‘Poppy’ through leading Manchester record label Sways Records, which has seen them championed by many well-regarded bloggers and inspire many who have stopped by to watch the hypnotic video.

On meeting them in Common Bar today their excitement is visible; they are eager to show me the video they’ve just created for Poppy b-side ‘Eyes on U’, and even more eager to discuss the recording of their album in London – the world truly lies at their feet.

These days seem far away from what started out as just a mess about between the two in Greta’s [Edith’s] parents’ house in Whalley Range, after the duo deciding to join forces when they met at a Test Icicles gig;

“Well, we met each other at a Test Icicles gig and we found out we both were making and into music. Greta [Edith] was doing her own sort of thing and she asked me to help her use software and all that sort of stuff.

So, she was doing like Jazz singing and stuff and making her own beats, so I helped her out with that and I thought it’s really good, so we started making music together and it sort of went from there

At first, we were just messing around though, we didn’t ever think of doing anything proper with it [Nick].”

Nick [Bernard] will be known to many who keenly follow the Manchester music scene being one of four members of teen Manchester band Egyptian Hip-Hop, who experienced relative success with their debut album ‘Good Don’t Sleep’ in 2012. However Greta’s [Edith’s] musical past remains a mystery to many, who have seen her pop up on stages around town sporting audacious outfits and experimenting with her vocals to produce both calming and threatening undertones;

“Well I’ve always been very into art and I used to make films and I’d just started singing on top of my films, like weird stuff.

I love Jazz and started playing it with people and that’s my biggest influence of how I started making music is Jazz. I then started making my own beats and stuff and I’d been making music for a while, but I’m really dyslexic so I find it really hard to get it exactly how I want it to be, because I can’t get things on time, so that’s why I really needed the help from Nick.”

Having both being brought up in Manchester, Bernard + Edith are bound to be pigeon-holed and compared with music scenes of the past, despite their music bearing scant resemblance to anything what’s gone before.



Facing this inevitable classification, I wondered if that music inspired or even inhibited them;

“Nah, I don’t know, not massively, but the Manchester music scene obviously its’ really helped us but its’ not had a direct interest from us, where are the Smiths from? [Greta] Manchester [Nick laughs]. Don’t look at me like that; I don’t know, I’m dyslexic [Greta]. Ah that’s alright then sorry [Nick laughs].

Like the Smiths they might influence you guitar-wise I like the lyrics but it’s not something that inspires me. [Greta]

Getting pigeon-holed with these bands is annoying though, because if you’re from London people don’t say the same about London bands, they don’t ask every London band ‘Oh, are you influenced by the Jam then?’

I don’t know if those scenes hold you back or not, there are loads of people that aren’t into that sort of thing [ladrock] nowadays, I think maybe in like 2008 it would have held you back quite a bit if you weren’t like that. I remember with Egyptian Hip Hop when we first started that sort of lad-rock music was massive, so it affected us a lot back then. It was the sound of a period of time that’s now passed and doesn’t exist anymore [Nick].”

As we speak they list off a series of inspirations, The Knife, Fever Ray and Portishead are all name checked, but with Greta’s art background it soon becomes clear that, like many artists who work with Sways, art is just as important in inspiring the duo, if not more so

“I absolutely love making films and have so many ideas for them, we know what we want to do with everything; art is a big part of our music [Greta].

Yeah, because of your background in art, we want to do as much art as possible, we’re always going to do our own videos [Nick].

But it’s other things as well, whenever we see imagery, anything that inspires us really, even if it’s completely opposite to what we’re doing, even if it’s a live metal band who are amazing [Greta] I don’t know about that [Nick laughs], you know what I mean though something with energy, which makes you want to stop what you’re doing and go home and make music [Greta].”

The shifting, epileptic, video for ‘Poppy’ opens with a gold Chinese translation of the song-title, behind which Greta stands adorned with sparkling oriental headwear before beats distort that still beauty, as transitioning images see Greta’s faces blasted with white and black, as her head gyrates hauntingly.

The effort to produce this hypnotic effect demonstrates the importance of the music video to Bernard + Edith and how to them it is an essential component of their music;

“Music videos are an important part of our music; bands who dismiss them are just being ignorant because it’s just a bit of art which complements your song [Nick]. Maybe to some people, they won’t understand some music videos but it’s just about you as a person [Greta].

Bernard & Edith

Bernard & Edith

Obviously when you hear a song it generates something in your head doesn’t it? Images or feelings, so music videos are just a way of interpreting how you feel about a song [Nick]

In our next video we’re going to get our friends to help us because they have lots of amazing ideas, we’re always going to do our own videos [Greta]”

The song itself opens with a haunting repetitive sound, which sounds like time-ticking, the tinkling of a gong to announce the start of a procession before jabbing beats unite with Greta’s vocals which are laced with deep vocals singing at the same time, ASAP Rocky-like.

By the end of the song, you are both disturbed and enlightened, astonished at its’ unique ability to be both accessible, yet completely fucked up. The duo sees it as the perfect way to entice people into their universe, which confounds just as much as it impresses;

“I guess we just thought it was a good introduction to us, it’s quite accessible and it’s a good representation of us. We’ve got stuff lined up, we’ve got our plan sorted out, ‘Poppy’ is just going to be the first of a load of things we want to do [Nick]

It was definite from the start, as soon as they said ‘do you want to release a song?’ we were just like ‘Poppy’, we just knew [Greta].

Before we were even with Sways we put it on the internet and it just went around and we got 2000 plays and for a band who hasn’t played a gig that’s a really good response, so because of that and this time around we’ve had a really good response to it, an amazing one [Nick].”

Their excitement at the response ‘Poppy’ has received is visible in their faces, which shone with new vigour every time they talked about the release, yet their views on what the single can do for them remain modest and down to earth;

“It’s just a step up, we’re not expecting to do massive off it, we’re not thinking of anything, we are literally just like a little dog and we’re taking every moment as it comes and if it didn’t work out well than, whatever, and if it does work out well then, amazing, but it has worked out, well I think the response has exceeded our expectations [Greta].”

A series of doors have been unbolted as a result of the release, allowing the duo to go beyond their previous capacity of supporting other bands, so much they can now mount their own stage, having recently announced their first headline shows at Birthdays in London and an appearance at Liverpool Sound City and most importantly, being announced as one of the main headliners for Now Wave’s Sounds of The Other City stage in the decadent Peel hall, which they speak of with particular excitement;

“We’re really looking forward to that, we’re so excited to be part of the list, to be among those bands feels weird and that venue’s really good were going to be playing in, it’s part of Manchester, it’s a big thing, we went to it last year and stuff.

Bernard & Edith

Bernard & Edith

I’ve already got my outfit planned [laughs] and I think we’re pretty high on the list, we’re second to last that’s amazing for us, it’s pretty major that they’ve done that [Greta] I’m well excited for that [Nick] me and Nick are really excited about that [Greta]”

The duo are now travelling down to London regularly to record their debut album which is now in its final throes with recording expected to be complete by the end of the month, further strings are also set to be attached to the bow with the upcoming release of a tape and a flurry of singles before the release of the debut record;

“In the next few months, we’ve got a tape coming out that we’ve done ourselves and it’s just sort of ambient music, little bits and pieces we’ve put together because we’ve got different sides we want to show.

We’re recording the album down in London, it’s nearly finished so we’ll do a couple of singles then release an album. I think it’s quite similar to our sound it’s all of that combined with different things, it’s quite poppy, it’s like a dark pop, like an Iron Brew.

We never thought we’d properly make an album, we thought we make an EP after the Sways thing but things have just taken a really good turn.”

However, despite their obvious positivity surrounding this upward turn, Greta and Nick are more than aware of the fragility of a career in music. Nick has had to move home and work a job to fund the project, while Greta is on the dole and has never flew the nest.

Both are aware of the small amount of time they have to make this a success and regularly dread the fear of not having the resources to support the project, which could cripple their creativity and see them endure careers which they don’t see as their fate, the momentum that drives them forward;

“I find it really hard, If I didn’t have my mum and dad I would be forced to work and couldn’t be in a band because I can only focus on one thing, it’s like I’m an artist and that’s what I want to do but how am I ever going to be able to afford that, like to go to London and play a gig.

Literally I’ve got two years, that I’ve put like this in brackets and if it doesn’t work I’m just going to be a fucking, go and join the man, join the army, I just feel there’s this pressure, it’s all about money and that’s it. [Greta]

It’s really shit that artists and musicians are just seen as lazy people that don’t work and it’s probably one of the biggest money-makers in the British economy and people are still like you’ve got to work at the AA and it’s really fucking annoying [Nick].”

When I ask them where they think there’ll be in a year, their thoughts follow a similarly grim route;

“We could be nowhere, we could be forgotten or dead or something, crash the car and die probably that, yeah. Imagine if that actually did happen, like this time next year we actually died on the way to a gig or something [Greta].”

Those depressing final words of the interview pose haunting similarities with the press release which accompanied the release of ‘Poppy’, which read “”If ever I found the body of a murdered girl amongst the weeds and litter of the riverbank I’d like Bernard + Edith to soundtrack the discovery.”

From the strong bond I have seen between these two today, I am certain we will not stumble across their bodies on the road any time soon. Their interplay is what stands out most, at one point Greta told me that Nick is the most amazing musician drawing a shy pensive laugh out of her bandmate, while later when Greta questions whether she can sing, Nick immediately silences her doubts telling her she’s a great singer.

This signs of support and belief in one another are sure to see them push each other intensely in forthcoming years to new found directions and ascend the mountain peak, which for so many seems far beyond the sunlight, but somehow it is within the grips of this duo and even then, these two would probably imagine themselves plunging down to an untimely death.

Yet, somehow although there are numerous pitfalls placed along the way for those choosing a career in music, their strength and immeasurable belief in one another will see them grow and avoid becoming just another band with talent and ambition lost in the land-pile and while they will stumble among the bodies of those who do fall by the wayside, I believe that yes they will provide the soundtracks to those untimely falls, yet avoid becoming the victim, because then who would provide the soundtrack?

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Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.