Bernard and Edith

Bernard and Edith

The last time I spoke with Bernard and Edith (here), they had just released their bewitching single ‘Poppy’. There was no hope of a record deal with Bella Union and the thought of recording an album was a distant one, a dream drifting over their every thought. A year on and this is all a reality, it is quite surreal to think that their album ‘Jem’ is out in just over two weeks and that this summer they will be playing the Now Wave stage at Parklife, how things change.

We meet in Font in Chorlton, we talk for around three hours, in fact, it is hard to get them to stop; their excitement is infectious. Yesterday, they got their hands on their album which is the product of years of hard work and expectation;

Greta (Edith) : “It feels so good to have the finished product, it’s just so good to just say we did this together. It is so good to think that this will be all over the world. It’s going to last for like years.”

Nick (Bernard): “We have created something. Music lasts so much longer than any other art form, it lasts forever. Art develops but not like music, music lasts forever. Music is the core of everything.”

Greta : “I know many artists who make artwork but they remember the songs they heard while making it, rather than the art itself.”

On the front cover, two women’s hand reach across a table and grasp each other, it is a cross generational image, it is an image of bonding, love and family. It’s not what you imagine a Bernard + Edith front cover to be like, you imagine it to be an image of Greta  lying on the beach looking into the sky thoughtfully, but this, this is more than that.

Greta : “It’s my Mum and my Grandma. My Grandma had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was terminal. My Mum was an amazing photographer, I was there when she took the picture. I had it in my room and Nick  went ‘that’s an amazing image.’ Nick went that’s an amazing album cover. Family is so important to me and Nick, I still live at home and I live half of my life in Scotland with that half of my family being up there.”

Nick : “We had that idea from the start.”

The album name also stems from that importance Greta  and Nick  give to family. It is named after Greta’s dog, Jem, who you would have seen plenty of times if you follow Bernard + Edith on Twitter. She has been a star on the duo’s t-shirts, their first single and has been in the room helping to relieve their stress every step of the way. But it is named after Jem for a reason other than Jem’s status as a treasured member of the Bernard + Edith family.

Nick : “The album is named after Jem because she is in the moment and all the time and that’s what this album is. She doesn’t think about the past at all. This album was all just made in the moment and we wanted to reflect that.”

Once you get past the artwork and the title, this album unravels itself with the tantalising opening song ‘Mr Crocodile’ and closes with the tantalisingly repetitive ‘Girls Night Out’, written after Jamie Lee’s, MONEY’s lead singer, infamous trips to transvestite clubs. The album reveals itself in layers and each time you listen to it, a new song emerges as your favourite. It very rarely has the same sound from song to song and that is something these two put a whole shed load of emphasis on.

Greta : “We want people to think that we don’t just have one sound. Our album has so much diversity, that we can mess around with it.”

Bernard and Edith - Jem

Bernard and Edith – Jem

However, the fact that an undeniable quality seeps through every pore of this record does not stop the duo from being nervous, ahead of those first game-changing reviews.

Greta : “I’m really nervous about the reception. I’m scared that people won’t know where it is coming from.”

Nick : “It’s the best we could do right now.”

Greta : “You’re putting out something that represents your life, each song reminds you of a moment in your life, a moment of time. We try not to read too many reviews. After a bad review one time, I deleted everything off our Soundcloud and Nick  was really mad.

“Also, this guy once said I sounded like I woke up in a drug den in Camden, firstly I’m from Whalley Range so I don’t know how that works. There is so much negativity, there is no point in reading it.”

That voice which the music critic cruelly disregarded is a rare one, it is deep, resonant and can make you stop in your tracks. It’s Billie Holiday, it’s Juliette London, and I mean it’s really fucking jazzy.

Greta : “These days there aren’t many deep voices around, everything you hear is extremely high pitched. I mean, Nina Simone is my god but there aren’t many people with voices like hers around today.”

This marginalised position as one of the only deep singers in today’s landscape is emphasised by Greta’s position as a woman in a male-dominated industry (I’ve said it before but just look at the Reading and Leeds line-up and count the number of women).

Greta : “I get pushed in to being a feminist, whenever we play the sound people are men, the engineers are men, and the promoters are men. It’s just me, I’m the only woman. I am very sexually provocative in my performances. I feel that women sometimes feel the pressure to be more like that.”

Now the recorded product is finished, the touring comes next and what a summer these two have got to look forward to. Not only do they play Parklife, but they are also featured in the Standon Calling and the Iceland Airwaves line-ups. Playing live, for this band open up new dimensions for their recorded tracks.

Nick : “We find different ways of playing songs and sometimes I just think, I wish we had done it like that when we recorded the album. But you know, you could go on forever with that, it’s good to have a point where you just stop and move on. When you play live, you play the song over and over again, so you find new ways of doing it.”

They also have a landmark show at St Margaret’s Church on May 29, where the band have put on a number of shows before. It will be the official launch of their record and tying in with the regard they pay to family, it will have a backdrop of a painting by Greta’s Dad.

Nick : “It is an amazing space, it is just a beautiful place and one where we can really experiment.”

Greta : “It’s hard putting on your own shows but it’s really important to us. We can then create the visual experience and make sense of what we really want to do.”

Despite all these upcoming celebrations Bernard + Edith can never be like Jem and live in the moment. Instead, they have just agreed to rent BC Camplight’s former flat in the centre of Manchester and will convert one of the rooms into a music room where they can continue to develop and record. They can’t live in the now, they are always thinking of the next creation, the next step on their journey.

Greta : “We think about what’s coming next all the time. When we recorded the album, we wrote about five more songs and we can’t ever stop because this is how we live. We live by making music, we just can’t help it. We immediately want to create again, whenever anything comes to an end.”

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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.