Louis La Roche, real name Brett Ewels, has released his new album Saturday Night Griever. The Norwich native first started bubbling up in the late 2000’s blog house era with a sort of fun nu-disco that helped spur a genuine movement from the Internet, to clubs around the world. Now over a decade on from his unofficial debut in 2008, Ewels has released his new album and third overall Saturday Night Griever. Instead of having us go through the entire project, we had Louis La Roche break it down, track-by-track to get a better sense of how it came together, how the collaborations were done and what fans should look for in each track.
1. Lights (feat. 8 Graves)
Back in 2017 as I sat down to write for the album, I was reading a lot of articles and videos on the decline of nightlife here in the UK. We lost half our nightclubs and music venues in 10 years. It’s two years later and it’s still happening at an alarming rate. I wanted to have a spoken word intro to the album, something that would explain the albums title.
So I emailed Brent of the NYC band 8 Graves in June of 2018. I asked him to write a rant on the decline of nightlife. I gave him a few key words and left him to it. Within a week, Brent sent me this amazing recording he’d written. I was so inspired by the words he spoke, I wrote an entire song around his vocal. The final song is the perfect summary of modern life in the electronic music world, our lack of community and the “every man for himself” mentality of recent times. It’s like a love letter to club culture, to remind ourselves of what we’re losing. It's a nod to disco, a slow build, adding layer upon layer and breaking tension. Until finally there's the climatic release and a guitar solo to bring you into the feel of the record.
2. Desire (feat. Frankmusik)
Vincent (Frankmusk) got in touch in January of 2018 about writing some songs together. The timing was perfect, I was already 9 months into writing the album at that point. The two songs we wrote together were “Desire” and “Always.” Vincent not only has an amazing vocal range, but his delivery is so vast. During the writing process, we tried all kinds of singing. Soft, strong, falsetto, head voice, masculine vocals, feminine vocals. Comparing his variations in styles and approaches, you could swear they came from different people.
By giving me all these fantastic takes, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I can try out every combination possible to see what works well, thus making the song the best it can be. ‘Desire’ is my take on the modern Pop sound. It’s very much rooted in nu-disco and synthpop but keeping things "retro" sounding. There's been so many pop records in the last few years that play off disco and funk. I felt that my "sound" over the last few years wasn't too far removed from that, so I wanted to push myself to see if I could write an album of disco/funk inspired pop songs. "Desire" is a great example of that.
3. Better (feat. Lucy Pearson)
Lucy lives in Norwich (my home city) and I’d heard her music on BBC radio. We got in touch in November 2017 and ending up writing two songs together "Better" and "Play Along." Being a producer and a singer/songwriter, Lucy has a great understanding of how modern pop records sound. Not just from an arrangement point of view, but also from a technical one. Though we’re both in the same city, I chose to not get in the way of her creative process, so we did both songs remotely. I think when someone has such a good setup themselves, they know exactly how to get the best performance out of what they do. In "Better," I had the first verse, bridge and chorus vocals written, so I sent the lyrics and my vocal over to Lucy to re-sing. When she sent it back my way, she not only had recorded all these harmonies, different takes, and gorgeous melodies. She also wrote the second verse, the middle 8 and some fantastic ad-libs.
4. Dive (feat. HEDDIE)
I’m not really the kind of person who’s bothered by how famous an artist is. It doesn’t really impress me. I’d rather a singer/songwriter be absolutely amazing at what they do, than work with someone just because they have X amount of followers. Heddie is that amazing writer. Vocally, I’d say she’s exactly the kind of voice I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. Musically, she writes great, catchy, and rich melodies. We connected in February 2019 and worked on two tracks, "Dive" and "What You Wanted". "Dive" showcases a great balance between emotive, heartbreaking songwriting and groovy, funky beats. It also has some of my favorite vocal chops of all the songs. I love that 2001 RnB sound with Aaliyah, The Neptunes, Michael Jackson, Timbaland. So I tried to channel that into "Dive."
5. Running To You (feat. Ryland Blackinton)
I reached out to Ryland back in May of 2018 and I sent over a rough instrumental idea I had. The original demo was a lot more full-on, loud, euphoric and slightly rock. Over the course of the next few months, Ry and I would send emails back and forth and slowly but surely add more pieces to the song. The final song "Running To You" ended up being so much more laid-back, almost like a ballad or an 80's AOR record. It's the perfect result of being on the same page. The best collaborations are the ones where you’re both in the zone and buzzing from the electric excitement the song gives off. It’s hard to put into words but somehow certain songs just write themselves. I think he understood the "modern nostalgia" sound I was looking for. Many of the album tracks have subtle influences from the 80’s/90’s. Just enough to give you that nostalgic feeling but still keep you firmly in 2020.
6. One Night
I always fall in and out of love with my own singing voice. My debut LP To Rest Is To Rust, had my vocals all over it. I know my limitations, and I know I'm not the best singer. I think looking back, a whole record with me singing is a little overkill. I knew I wanted my vocal on at least one song on the new album. "One Night" is actually one of the earliest songs I sat down and wrote for the record. It definitely is the most "commercial" of all the tracks, but I'm not really bothered by that. A good song is a good song and it sat well with me. I actually sent it to Frankmusik to re-record my vocal at one point and he told me to keep it as it is. He said that my vocal had a certain emotion in it that he couldn't replicate. So I took his advice and left it in and I'm so glad I did.
7. Play Along (feat. Lucy Pearson)
The second track I did with Lucy. I had that instrumental for a long time. I think I wrote it for the last album Sleepless Nights but I couldn't find a good place to fit it. I always pictured a female vocalist singing on it, so I sent it over to Lucy. I has an early 80's sound very reminiscent of something the RnB group Imagination would write. I love the sound of 1983, so many great records came out that year and the instrumental demo for this song was titled "1983" for so long. When it came to the vocals, I think the only thing we ended up changing was that the chorus Lucy wrote ended up being the verse and I gave her a little idea for the chorus that she took and made it her own. This album has a lot of techniques and sounds that you don't really hear in music anymore. In this particular track I decided to fade out. A good fade out can really be effective and it gives a song an also timeless feel to it.
8. Always (feat. Frankmusik)
This is the Yin to "Desire's" Yang. It's much more dancefloor. It's slightly synthwave, a little touch of French House too. I can imagine it blasting out the car stereo of a convertible somewhere in LA. The demo was pretty tight, I had a solid mix finished from the start. There was a vocal idea for the chorus I had, so I sent that over to Vincent and he completed nailed it. The verses he wrote are so Prince-like, which I love. I originally didn't have a middle 8 for the song. Vincent had this idea to filter it right down and build it up. It works so well! I think I got so obsessed with writing these complicated middle 8's all the time, I forgot that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. I think you can tell all the fun we had when writing this one, the song is just so bouncy and happy.
9. Waste (feat. Vicky Nolan)
The first chord is the last chord of “Always.” It's like a nice comedown. Vicky and me go way back. We did some recording in 2010 at London’s Strongroom Studios. The song we worked on that day was never released and never finished. However there was a vocal line from the session that Vicky sang, which can be heard on "The Wall," a song released in 2011 as the b-side to "Gimme Gimme."
Fast forward to October 2018, I had an instrumental I was sitting on for a few months. I knew I wanted a female voice and it had to be someone who knew how to deliver a convincing RnB throwback vocal. I never gave Vicky the chance to shine before and I’ve always loved her voice, so I sent her the track. Within a matter of days, Vicky had sent me some phone recordings of her singing all these amazing lyrics she’d written for the melody. It was perfect. Exactly what I pictured in my head. Soft, delicate vocals, perfectly controlled and beautifully sung. We met up in London at The Old Hit Factory. It's the studio that Stock, Aitken and Waterman used to own in the late 80's. Kylie Minogue, Dead or Alive, Rick Astley all recorded there. We recorded the full song, top to bottom, in a few hours. It’s the only song on the entire album that was recorded in person. All the other collaborations were done remotely.
10. Deepest Blue (feat. Delfy)
Back in October 2018 I reached out to Diana (Delfy) to work on a song together. I came across the song "Move On" that she wrote with my buddy Luxar and really loved the sound of her voice. I sent her an instrumental I had with a scratch vocal idea I had laid down for the chorus. Delfy has a real ear for melody and wrote all these lovely stacked vocals, harmonies, ad-libs, and the middle 8 she came up with is to die for. The result was "Deepest Blue," a slow, dreamy, 80’s emotive track that just hits a nerve. It’s really beautiful. I enjoy working with Diana so much that I’ve been helping produce some future releases with her. She’s sitting on some amazing music, so watch this space!
11. What You Wanted (feat. HEDDIE)
HEDDIE's vocal sounds so effortless on this track. On my vocal demo, I could not sing the melody at all! It was completely out of my vocal range. It ended up being the last song on the album, as well as the last song to be completed. I think production-wise, it's possibly my best on the album. I’m not much of a guitar player but it’s some of my favorite guitar work on the record. It’s a pretty and majestic way to finish off the record. I adore that balance of airy, elegant sounds and chunky beats in songs. I used to write 124bpm house music for years, which is great to dance to, but there's a beauty in slower tempos. You can fit so much more groove and swing in there, and I think this song really represents that well.