“We’d leave Nottingham on the train and explore. We saw a Brocken Spectre on a mountain one morning.”
The intended cover for Brocken Spectre was meant to be a photograph. Sightings of such spherical phenomenons remain a rarity, and the constraints of an older camera with a low blurry exposure made the colourful orbit hard to document. Instead, the moment has been painted and re-imagined by Nina Silverberg.
“Once on a really hot day we were swimming at a quarry and this kid started drowning, Chris jumped in and saved him but nearly drowned himself. We were both pretty traumatised, I think it stuck with us and kind of leaked into some of the themes of this record.”
Chris and Celia met at school in the midlands, and played the same folk open mic nights, “I remember once someone asked who my influences were and I said Chris and Bright Eyes, I thought he was really good“, Celia recollects. The pair have been making music ever since.
With a move closer to Nottingham, home to DIY-space JT Soar, Chris and Celia went on to form their former band The Blue Period, releasing multiple records on long-standing label strictly no capital letters including a split with the understated emo-trio Human Hands (final track ‘Morning Sun’ is a cover of theirs).
What morphed Radiant Heart were the stages before, and during a relocation to London. The conclusion of The Blue Period, and the distancing from the “emo” card they were often ascribed to, caused a change in sound and direction. The disquiet and mood found itself a home among the gentle layering of tambourine, glockenspiel and banjo – an arrangement you’d find on a folk record more than anything else. On their direction, Celia goes onto say –
“Musical influences are hard to define – there’s just so much, you know? We both still listen to a lot of American indie circa ’07, so that would always be an influence, and I guess we are always trying to hark back to that. We both grew up listening to sad singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith. We love the song ‘Me and Magdalena’ by The Monkees, if we wrote a song a fraction as good we’d finally be satisfied – it was actually written by Ben Gibbard. We have really similar taste in music and we definitely both get it when a song is our definition of ‘good’, but I think defining that would be impossible.”
The pair share vocal duties across the LP — whether it’s Chris’ gentle refrain in the single Museum, or Celia’s heartfelt correspondence in Love Like That; but when they come together it’s a climax to a crescendo like no other. “Don’t stop humming that song”, they sing together on For Avery, After a Party — a beautiful refrain that opens a window in a delicate and intimate moment, the lyric sounding both a request and challenge at once. It’s the idea of a delicate balance — love and the loss of it — that permeates across the entire record; even outside of the lyrics.
“The song ‘All the World 4 Him’ is kind of an amalgamation of that event [in the quarry] and my experiences of young but very real love. Chris saved that kid’s life”
On Brocken Spectre, recorded in house and mixed by Lewis Chandler, Chris and Celia are joined by good friend Stephen Wragg (also, ex-The Blue Period); a familiar hand and set of ears responsible for the synthesiser, piano and strings you can hear as part of the instrumentation. Perhaps it’s that comfort of old friendship that’s responsible for the ease in which all these instruments meld together. The record is a return to the world of folk music; typically so distant from that of the emo-adjacent roots that the three of them inhabited while living in Nottingham. Speaking with sincerity, Celia adds “I usually end up really not liking the songs we write over the years, but I like most of these.”