Thomas White Interview Translation: Meeting with Thomas White, head of The Fiction Aisle.

With the fabulous Jupiter, Florida, Tom White probably comes to realize the centerpiece of his already well-developed discography (The Fiction Aisle, but also The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes). The native of Brighton comes back here to talk about his desires, the genesis of his music and his influences.

Jupiter, Florida … why this title? What does this association of names represent for you? Does it refer to a place that really exists (Jupiter is a Florida resort) or a dream place?

The title was just right – it had something magical, familiar and strange at the same time. I wanted to evoke a feeling of escape and belonging at the same time. All these contradictory things that we feel every moment. That’s what I wanted. I am less interested in the direct meaning of things these days.

You seem to have expanded your musical palette on this album, less jazzy, more pop, also injecting a small dose of electronics. Is it a deliberate desire to evolve The Fiction Aisle or did it come naturally?

With this new record, I deliberately incorporated more elements that I see as “pop” and accessible – a wider frequency range, simpler, repetitive arrangements (musically and at the lyric level), though there are still many chords, and the music is still very dense in places. I do not know exactly what I was listening to at the time, nor what influenced that change. About halfway through the recording, I played some rough mixes with my friend Andrew Mitchell, and he answered me by playing Jesus Love Never Failed Me Yet by Gavin Bryars (post-minimalist music composer and british bassist), which is a wonderful piece. The slow movement and evolution of this piece had a profound effect on me, and definitely gave me the courage to be really bold in this regard – to allow whole passages to evolve at their own pace and take more time than they should, before everything suddenly resolves – as if you’re holding your breath underwater for as long as you can, then coming in to get some fresh air.

What inspires your lyrics and makes you want to write songs?

Part of what I do is to preserve moments in my life, to revisit them and remember them more easily, and maybe learn from them, even though I’m sure I do not realize that at the moment I decide to write about a particular thing. I try not to over analyze what I do. I really do not believe in writing songs with other people or in committee. Dalí did not paint his paintings with art dealers in the room telling him which colors to use. Song writing is no different. It’s an art, and my approach is to allow the unconscious to guide this process as much as possible. Throughout the process, my conscious brain will try to intercept and shape these unconscious expressions, and it’s the constant battle: try to shut your brain down long enough to let the good things go. I think the best things happen when you are detached from other people and let the universe guide you. It is at this point that you potentially reach a place where others are not and the best art is when we come back from this place and we can translate the experience into something elusive for others. No matter what form it takes – art, songs, film, writing – that’s what I always aim for.

The atmosphere of your music is quite melancholy but it seems more serene, sometimes almost optimistic about this album. Is this an impression or is it really the case?

I think everything I’ve done may sound superficially optimistic, but there’s always a line of melancholy going through it. I think it’s an expression of what it’s like to be human, and that’s something I’m very proud of in my work. Many writers or musicians would not want to project that kind of thing, and I appreciate that it is a complex and moving thing – many people are not interested in songs that could make them sad and happy at the same time and have to deal with what that brings them. For me, it’s just the reality, and I reflect it in music. I do not see it as objectively good or bad, it’s just like that.

Musically, do you have influences or models? Do you always listen to pop or have you moved on? I find some of your songs very cinematographic, is that part of your influences? (I’m thinking of John Barry for example or a few musicals) How did this taste for the jazz or orchestral ambiances that characterize The Fiction Aisle?

There were some turning points in my writing. I’ve been very influenced by writers Simon Gray and Nicholson Baker in recent years, both using an incredible amount of detail, John Updike as well. I love everyone who can go into the details of something and get something broader and deeper. I feel that it has become something that really interests me and that I always come back to it – something very specific and lyrical in detail, often very personal and perhaps obscure to others, coupled with music that gives a greater scope to interpretation. Alasdair Maclean of The Clientele does it very well, and I am a big fan.

Do you consider The Fiction Aisle a real group or rather a solo project that includes the collaboration of musicians as needed? Electric Soft Parade was the project of two brothers, Thomas and Alex. What is Alex’s role in The Fiction Aisle?

I do not really see it as a group, unless we all play together in the same room. At the moment, the band is made up of six people – all the people who have played on the albums – but whether it’s alone in the studio with my voice and building songs from scratch, or a group of twelve musicians with a brass section, it’s still The Fiction Aisle. So far, Alex has played on the first album, helping with drums and various drums, but he recently joined the band on guitar, so he is currently very involved.

Do you intend to play in France then?

I would love to take the group to France. We are about to tour much more than we have ever done, and this new album was our best in terms of welcoming fans and journalists. We will therefore try to make the group play as much as possible in the rest of Europe. It’s a certainty.


New Thomas White Track

From the Thomas White FacebookDrone 1: Sinai Night Sky (for Foxy) by Divine Androgyne (click to listen)

Facebook, I hope this finds everyone well. Feels right to be going live with this in the dead of night. I’ve been working on some very soft drones for a while, and I’m really excited to finally have some ready to be heard. It’s a bit of a continuation of what I did on Fuchsia Days, though I’ve decided to present it under a new name as it clearly stands alone from my more song-based stuff. It has been deliberately created for people to use alongside meditation/relaxion, or to just zone out to and not do anything in particular. It would make me happy to think it could help alleviate anxiety, or maybe help someone focus their mind and make positive decisions. Anyway, there it is. The idea with this first piece is to evoke the sparkly night-time views my friend Claire and I enjoyed while visiting a tiny beach-side settlement in Nuweiba during my stay in Egypt in 2010. An incredible, calm, unique place that healed us both. It’s also a tribute/memorial to her dear desert hound Foxy, who died late last year and is much missed by all who knew him. By calling the project Divine Androgyne I want to draw attention to and explore parallels between the “one-ness” of the drone as a sort of musical singularity and, as one blog puts it, “…the wholeness of all binaries held in tension within a single being, offering us the hope that our own ennui will be soothed via our own internal marriage of opposites.”
Though they don’t discuss the musical/drone element (which is my own conflation) these blogs are well worth reading in terms of understanding the androgyne from an historical/religious perspective: Link 1Link 2
So yeah, Queer Drone is most definitely the thing right now. Hopefully do some live expanded/ensemble shows at some point this year. Happy blisstening.

Electric Soft Parade Festival for Music Minds Matter

Sat 26 May 2018 – Circle Arts Centre, 55 North Street, Portslade, Brighton, BN41 1DH. Visit link for more info: Chord Orchard presents a new one-day Festival raising funds and awareness for Music Minds Matter, providing mental health support for the music industry. Featuring: BC Camplight, The Electric Soft Parade, Danny & The Champions Of The World, Diamond Family Archive, Brother Twain, Fierce Friend, The Delta Bell, Hattie Cooke + DJs, fully stocked bar and stalls. TICKETS:


New Electric Soft Parade album?

From the Electric Soft Parade Facebook So if Alex and I were to do ESP #5 and fund it through some sort of Kickstarter-esque crowd-funding setup, would you lot support us in that kind of endeavour? We’ve umm-ed and ahh-ed about how to do some new stuff for quite a while now, and this looks like it might be the most feasible way forward. It may even allow us to tour the record at home and abroad, etc etc. We’d start album 5 tomorrow if we knew we could afford studio time and turn out the best fucking record of our career for our none-more-loyal peeps! Whadda y’all think?

The Fiction Aisle – Jupiter, Florida

Jupiter, Florida by The Fiction Aisle was released worldwide on 19th January! BUY HEREBANDCAMPFacebook hereLISTEN ON SPOTIFYLISTEN ON YOUTUBE

The Brighton native delivers swoonsome, electro-orchestral arrangements that hark back to the sounds of Pulp, Morrissey & Manic Street Preachers.

Thomas James White is nothing if not prolific. Jupiter, Florida is the third album in just two years from his latest project The Fiction Aisle and is released through Chord Orchard on January 19th.

Whilst the previous two Fiction Aisle albums were low-key, limited edition affairs – the result of White taking a deliberate step back from the music industry – his ongoing mission into widescreen emotional pop has reached tipping point with Jupiter, Florida. This cult act are now ripe for wider discovery.

Despite their swoonsome, electro-orchestral arrangements, the first two Fiction Aisle albums were created in a swirl of depression and drink, largely exploring the personal rollercoaster White had been on since coming out as a gay man. An artist with rock solid credentials – a founding member of The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes, and a host of solo works and collaborations with the likes of Patrick Wolf and British Sea Power amongst his impressive CV – White is now reconnected and channeling his muse into something profoundly positive.

Drawing from a musical palette of influences including Nina Simone, Harry Nilsson, Broadcast and Lee Hazlewood’s 1970 album Cowboy in Sweden, and produced at Jolyon Holroyd’s Valvetastic Studio near Exeter, from its opening cut, ‘Gone Today’, Jupiter, Florida announces that things are getting better in the world of Thomas James White.

Pulp-ish ballad ‘Some Things Never Die’ is a co-write with White’s life-partner. It’s about, explains White – “that sad/beautiful feeling that when we leave this world, it will carry on as normal and we’re just this thing passing through for a little while, making our tiny little imperceptible mark. Those intense emotional moments where things are so heightened you’re almost seeing and sensing the world in multiple dimensions, or with extra senses. It’s my favourite song on the record, and I think some of my best writing so far.”

‘Black River’ is a photographic wintery snapshot about how accepting change may be the key to happiness; the Morrissey-esque ‘Ten Years Time’ is full of pithy self-assessment, while the twinkling space-disco of ‘Memory’ is aglow with hope.

“I don’t keep a diary,” Thomas explains, “but a record is a loose encapsulation of a period of time. In a lot of ways the new album is a break from the past – it’s me saying, ‘Right, I’m going to do something with all this building up inside me’.”

Titled after a white picket fence American town, Jupiter, Florida is the sound of Thomas James White mining his emotions with newfound relish, letting The Fiction Aisle truly blossom, ready for whatever comes next.

1. Gone Today
2. The End of the Affair
3. Ten Years
4. Black River
5. Sweetness & Light
6. Memory
7. Some Things Never Die
8. Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?

Jupiter, Florida Reviews – click links to read in full Jupiter, Florida is the notably more exuberant third LP from the solo project of English songwriter Thomas White (the Electric Soft Parade, Brakesbrakesbrakes). Where prior albums by the Fiction Aisle were limited, self-released works intended as an outlet for more personal material, it also marks the project’s Chord Orchard label debut. While still immersed in wistful, extended chords and complex harmonic progressions, there’s a spring in the step of Jupiter, Florida, with its full drums, more active basslines, and brisker tempos. It also touches on ’70s art rock, with three of its tracks lasting over seven minutes, and prolonged instrumental rock outros on at least a couple of tracks. Reinforced by synths, opener “Gone Today” offers a borderline dance-rock that was totally absent from 2016’s Fuschia Days. Later, “Ten Years” is thematically repetitive until it turns a corner both lyrically and musically. A song like the nearly eight-minute “Memory” passes through a mix of styles and musical references, though crisp, pretty chord progressions à la Roddy Frame dominate the album’s sound. The only taut, under-four-minute pop song here, though, is “Some Things Never Die,” a reflective, midtempo entry. Listeners who can hang in with the other tracks’ more sinuous song forms will be treated to engaging melodies, bittersweet lyrics, and those luxurious chord structures. The band’s music is superb, and in line with the sort of thing one heard on later Boo Radleys records, for an easy comparison point. I really can’t stress enough what a wonderful listen this one was for me.

Tracks like “Gone Today” see White favor a kind of languid spaciousness in his sound that is inviting rather than indulgent, while the downright lovely “The End of the Affair” suggests those Aztec Camera records where Roddy Frame favored smooth production and sleek surfaces in his sound. “Sweetness and Light” percolates like the best sort of Britpop stuff that White clearly draws a lot of inspiration from even still, while the longer “Memory” is trippy and closer to what Spiritualized was doing at one point in the past. If Thomas White is using parts of the output of The Fiction Aisle to explore some interesting sonic corners, he’s also clearly a strong songwriter and one who is interested in classic forms. Looking to predecessors as diverse as Lennon and Bacharach, White can pen a really strong hook, like on “Some Things Never Die”, even as the final cut on the record, the epic “Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?”, nearly drifts away even as it gently enchants with waves of the melody-line coming in like slow ripples from a distant ship on the horizon.

Jupiter, Florida was such a pleasant surprise to me that I am almost angry that I hadn’t heard of this band so much earlier. The Fiction Aisle make beautiful and affecting music that both fits with the sort of Brit-rock I consumed some decades ago, even as it expands the genre in some interesting and unexpected ways. He’s back with his third album in just two years and it’s a hugely enjoyable listen with yet more melancholic ambience.

Jupiter, Florida is a very difficult album to pigeonhole. Its soaring, sweeping orchestrals that wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack are incorporated with a collection of fantastic 90s work. For example, opening song ‘Gone Today’ has the melodic charm of an early Morrissey album, but the otherworldliness of Spiritualized. It becomes quite clear early on that White has an immense amount of talent for ambient melody. In fact, it instantly feels like an album that overcomes your entire body with inflected assonance.

For an album released in the middle of winter, it’s a summery, warming listen at times. ‘Ten Years’, for example, recalls the soothing, reassuring tones of Father John Misty with the brass section of Pink Floyd’s Animals. Likewise, ‘The End of The Affair’ is where the jazz inflections come to fruition. The Fiction Aisle has always been a project that is exceptional in its audacity and its production.

The best song on the record is without a doubt ‘Black River’. The sheer scope of the song is massive, but it’s the execution that is most impressive. With its sentimental pop escalation, dynamic guitar lines and sweeping synthesisers it’s a colossal song that continues to propel forward until its surging finale. If Tame Impala released this you wouldn’t be surprised, it’s certainly a song that is deserving of a massive festival crowd.

Additionally, Thomas White’s voice is an absolute delight, worthy of a listen at any point in your day. Like the huskiness of Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz, mixed with Kevin Parker’s sentimentality, it’s arguably the strongest part of the project and the album. This is especially clear on ‘Sweetness & Light’ which is admirable in its idealistic and aestival aura. Furthermore, ‘Memory’ sees White exploring the dance-pop genre with an introduction that sounds like The xx exploding into a bombastic 80s pop song akin to Tears for Fears or Visage.

Ultimately, this is an album that is a spectacular achievement, showcasing White’s awesome production expertise, impassioned magnitude and rhythmic ambidexterity. Jupiter, Florida is a glimmering pop album that feels like high-art. It’s a pensive and studious record that is comparable to some of the greatest artists in music but, crucially, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Dream of a summer night…

Those who like me frequented the songs of The Electric Soft Parade in the first decade of the 2000s, agree that Thomas White has this little extra thing that allows him to stand out from all indie pop. In ESP’s time, it was his ability to… build catchy lines punctuated with electric breaks that made their music so special.

Particular and endearing, the music of Thomas White is just as much since he officiates with The Fiction Aisle, but even more singular and personal too. After two beautiful albums of orchestral pop mastered cinematic jazz (you must absolutely listen to Heart Map Rubric and its lot of classics, one of the most beautiful things heard in 2016), here is the time to visit Jupiter, Florida, third The Fiction Aisle album. Always imbued with the same melancholy color (blue… like the color of a summer night in the moonlight), The Fiction Aisle extends its musical palette and varies a little more ambiances.

The album opens with Gone Today, which from the beginning sets the bar very high, marvel of melody to the exacerbated romanticism, to the meticulously proportioned instrumentation (of the heart and the choirs, the electric guitars just what it takes, a touch of synthetic rhythm), heart-catching piece that immediately snatches the listener to not let go. Then comes The End of the Affair, a title necessarily melancholy and sensitive, desperate songs are decidedly the most beautiful. Ten Years marks a return to a more classic and simpler pop format, again melodically perfect, in the end nicely brassy. Black River, a seven-minute piece of bravery that, while it may be a bit confusing at first glance by its repetitive and disturbing side, ends up fascinating and overwhelming.

Come the aptly named Sweetness & Light, melodic balm mid tempo which, by its softness and its prettiness, will heal all wounds. Memory, song in the long course, gives pride to the synths with its hedonistic chorus and electro aerial which invite us a few steps of dance. Some Things Never Die, a magnificent piece that Thomas White considers to be one of his finest ever written – and I quite agree with him – would not be mismatched on a soundtrack composed by John Barry. We will end up pleasantly drifting along the nine minutes of Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready, rocked by swirls of dreamy guitars.

Besides the impressive sound setting and remarkable melodic sense, we must emphasize the quality of Thomas’s song, always fair, perfectly adapted to formats and moods, sometimes pop storyteller, sometimes beautiful crooner. Here is a wonderful record that will allow the lucky listener to contemplate, in the middle of winter, the sky, a summer night, if possible on a Florida beach… I was rather cautious with the solo production of Thomas James White, formerly The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes. This is because the second album “Fuchsia Days”, which showed itself in all its synthesized orchestrality, between sugary and too heavy passages, had not convinced me. Of course, for White it was a moment of transition and detachment from a more rock production and a mainstream world, but I admit that this lo-fi trip had a bit worn out in the long run: refined, but also excessively redundant. That’s why when I got closer to “Jupiter, Florida” there were more fears than hopes. Fortunately, the perky and captivating departure of “Gone Today” brought back my smile and erased my fears.

There is no lack of spatiality, arrangements and airiness of compositions that look with pleasure at the ’70s, but the whole does not sound self-indulgent, but appetizing and in the disk certainly increases the “pop rate”, more varied than the previous album, with a nice degree of closeness to certain structures that we can also find in the most inspired Martin Carr writing. The delicate “The End Of The Affair”, with the instrumentation that grows around us, not to mention the total climax of “Black River”, show us an artist who feels inspired and wants to field ideas and various solutions. There is a reference to the work of synth of the previous album (“Memory”), but where previously we used lower and dense tones here that, at a certain point, the rhythm rises and we feel catapulted into a sort of ‘space-disco’ from ‘Tempo delle Mele’.

There are also moments when “classical pop studies” emerge in an emotional way. From the “morrisseyana” “Ten Years” (in which you can see delicious wind instruments), to the classical and exquisitely guitar-pop ballad of “Sweetnes & Light” that brings us almost to the Rialto, in this game of pop refinements that is accentuated by “Some Things Never Die “, still close to the poetry of the band Louis Eliot, as well as to the Pulp. The epic closing of “Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?” (10 minutes!) Is the superb Viaticum towards that sense of gratification and positivity that has accompanied us throughout the record and that here finds magnificent suggestions.

A great record, which marks a reconciliation with pop for Thomas James White who does not work so much on originality, but on a successful blend of influences that enhance his melodic taste. Thomas White, the guiding force behind the band has a credible indie CV in Brakes and Electric Soft Parade. Here he expresses a rather different and more thoughtful vision.

The Fiction Aisle are an elegaic concern. Musing on the passage of time and how life happens to us just as much as us being conductors of it. With a sound supplemented by woodwind and burbling almost eighties synth to augment the standard indie trimmings, the record pleasingly recalls the likes of The Clientele and Blue Nile, characters who were content to haunt the margins of the Pop World.

It’s one of the more exciting albums to appear in 2018, a year that I’ve already complained has taken a while to get going, for me at least, musically. Jupiter Florida does its bit to make amends. A fine record with a quiet and achieved inner ambition. Layers upon layers, jolly blue sky and tender prayers… I am prone to believe that there is still hope for indie music. Not that it’d be in a particularly bad, or even moribund shape, but let’s be honest with ourselves that it isn’t in as strong a presence or as influential a phenomenon as it once was. Today we are reduced to listening to either washed out twee glitter waste, or to a line of somewhat lamentable revivalists. But I do still hold on hope that it is not going to fall into complete shapelessness or banality. At the very least I always could hope for decent enough execution within those styles. So when it comes to the latest Fiction Aisle release, I am somewhat torn, although my mind is now mostly made up.

This album is good. I do understand that it is a strange instance of that aforementioned washed out lounge mood-setter, but with a stronger instrumental presence. But it is also a strongly executed piece with above and beyond pretty melodies and a certain cleverness about how to go about turning them into something remarkable by playing on increasing intensity of the music and adding or changing the instrumental line-up.

… no matter how much I’ve tried, I just can’t figure out the ‘why’ of it. So the only real way out is to try and forget all about it and enjoy the truly intricate sweetness of the song-writing and the staggering musical finesse displayed here, because if anything, that is something I can point out with certainty.

Thomas writes on the Fiction Aisle Facebook I’m finding it quite amusing that some reviewers are “torn” in this way. My theory is that, having had a pretty much complete press black-out on the first two records, most reviewers have had very little to go on, or to reference, other than what the record conjures in their own mind, and the information offered in the press release. I think it highlights how much writers these days rely on what others have already written, especially when faced with an album that has had very little fanfare in the press but that arrives fully formed and musically (at least) highly developed. It catches people offguard, and I think writers are afraid of sticking their necks out and saying something is brilliant (not that my record necessarily IS) without the consensus of others. Having said all that, I don’t think it’s reasonable to revel in great reviews unless you’re willing to accept the bad ones too. He also gives it 4 stars and comments on the quality of the recording and arrangements, so I’m happy with that. My only beef is my earlier point – it’s frustrating to read a review that essentially speaks highly of the record but reserves total commitment/praise for reasons *other* than the record itself. In some ways I think the tone of this review is bang on. I made this and the last TFA record from a pretty heavy place of depression and bad drinking, so it has various aspects perhaps pulling in different directions. On the one hand I want to express that feeling and explore it and possibly shine a light on that reality and how it feels; at the same time I’m using my music to lift myself out of that hole, and hopefully do the same for others. I hope I’m in some way clear in what I’m trying to say. Thomas xx The Fiction Aisle is the musical project of Tom White who founded the no less britpop Electric Soft Parade. If you are not a fan of English pop, you can go your way and resume your yoga session where you left it because for once the music of The Fiction Aisle releases scents of English cuisine … musical I mean because for the rest …

Strongly inspired by the Beatles, Tom White is one of the most talented composers but also relatively unknown. Jupiter Florida their latest album is more than solid, very consistent but it will not be recognized by the general public for sure.

Too ambitious, too classy and especially not trendy enough…

Too bad, because The Fiction Aisle proposes yet a melodically searched and well produced music. I take and will probably listen alone. This time round the mood is more tentatively upbeat than previously, and White’s Pink Floyd-ish tendencies are on the back burner, but, at its core, cosmic easy listening is still the game.

The Fiction Aisle aspire to John Barry’s cinematic orchestrated scope, but tinted with hints of Morrissey’s vocal tics, and a broader electronic palette scoping about underneath. “Memory” even has a touch of late Nineties/early Millennial chill-out about it. However, it’s White’s characterful lyrical pith that sets The Fiction Aisle apart, giving his catchy songwriting extra reach and heft.

Previous outings have broached depression in an occasionally desperate or hedonistic manner but “Ten Years” hints at a newfound peace, or at least looking the issue in the eye (“It’s up to me to find any positivity – do I have the strength?”), while indie-ish opener “Gone Today”, despite its summery vibes, may be about existing in the moment rather than letting the past and future nag at the mind.

Another stand-out track is “Sweetness & Light”, a very straightforward, unembarrassed modern love song that’s also contagious. As the album goes on, White relaxes into it, spreading out, letting the sonic stylings grow ever more blissed, notably on the multi-tracked vocals of “Black River”, which bring to mind sunshine in 1970s LA, and the lusciousness of “Some Things Never Die”, until he eventually ends up drifting off on the final ten-minute “Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?”, with its extended instrumental passages heading into balminess.

Jupiter, Florida is as sunny as its title suggests, but cut through with a realist’s lyrical perspective, albeit a realist with a tendency to dream. Once again, The Fiction Aisle prove to be mining original, thoughtful and often lovely territory with a class that’s a cut above the usual.