Formed in 2017, Easy Life’s dizzying rise to the pinnacle of mainstream guitar music over the last five years has been both quick and prosperous. With an armoury of EPs, the band were named on BBC’s Sound of 2020 list and won Best New Act at the 2020 NME Awards.
Their debut LP, Life’s A Beach, was released in May of last year to critical acclaim, landing at number two in the UK album charts. Combining numerous influences from hip-hop and funk to crowd-pleasing indie, the band have developed a winning formula which shows no signs of letting up.
Following their recent performance for Fender Sessions, we sat down with guitar player Lewis Berry and bassist Sam Hewitt to discuss their “super modern” approach to recording, why the key to their songwriting prowess is their multi-instrumentalism and why their relationship with Fender is a dream come true.
Your approach to guitar and bass is quite unique as each band member is a multi-instrumentalist. How do you delegate guitar duties when recording?
Lewis Berry: “When we’re composing, we don’t think about who’s gonna play what. When we first started that was okay, now when we play an hour and a half set and we’ve got all these instruments on stage suddenly it does get a little bit confusing. But it’s always been our ethos. As really the only guy that plays the guitar, I ended up having to try and incorporate multiple guitar tracks. Particularly the last album, I had to integrate multiple guitar tracks into one which meant some crazy stretches.”
Sam Hewitt: “I feel like that’s the easiest way of doing it. It can be a nightmare, we can end up with 10 guitars on track, and no one’s realised but ultimately, it just means we’ve got the creative freedom to be a little more interesting.”
‘Have A Great Day’ sees you release a song that is unashamedly guitar-driven for the first time. Why did you focus specifically on guitars here?
Lewis: “I think because we had strayed away from that a little bit. That album, with it being our debut album and all, we wanted to explore a few avenues and show us in all our entities. I don’t think we even really grasped the sound of Easy Life. We kind just wanted to try things we like.
“The way we record and write music super modern, you know. We’ve recently started working on a new album, but up until that all the guitars were just DI’d, it was all just digital processing. Going forward, we really would like to geek out a bit more on the guitar tones. A shitload of amps, different guitars, using real pedals rather than digital pedals… I’m really excited to start showing people the new music.”
Sam: “Sometimes it is enjoyable just to play a really nice, simple, bass line and be able to focus on BVs and stuff like that. I guess it’s a little more of a crowd pleaser. It was one of the first songs that we put brass to live. It gave us that little extra bit of creativity.”
Is it difficult to relay your songs in a live setting?
Lewis: “If I’m honest, we’ve pretty much finished our next album. I think the listener will notice a difference. It does feel more ‘live band.’ Whether that’s because we’ve just spent a little bit more time on the bass, guitars. We’ve just slowed down a little bit with the writing, which has been really nice. The bass will take priority over the guitar live. I don’t think we would ever put bass on a backing track, the bass is always getting played. It kind of trumps the guitar sometimes.”
Sam: “Live bass is so important. You see a lot of hip hop artists; they’ll have a DJ and then they’ll have a live bass or live drums and bass and then backing track. I think it’s really important for a live setting to have that feel.”
How does your live approach differ from the studio?
Lewis: “My pedal board has always been pretty stripped back. We don’t make it sound like a direct guitar. We use a lot of modulation effects like the RC-20 plugin [XLN Audio]. It’s a vinyl warp setting that we put on quite a lot of guitars when we’re producing. I’ve got an equivalent in the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl, which basically ramps up the modulation and then slows it down and then ramps it back up over a period of time.
“Other than that, I run it through a Jazz Chorus, and have that on permanent chorus as well. It’s not completely identical but it’s wonky. It still sounds like the Easy Life guitars, but maybe a little bit more coloured in its tone.”
Sam: “I used to lug around this massive Ampeg SVT tube amp, which was beautiful, but it was the biggest thing to haul around, and I just wanted a little bit more control of the tone. Everyone always gives me lots of stick for this in the band, but I didn’t change my bass strings on my guitar for years. I love that muted, jazzy sound.
“I got a new guitar, and I was like, ‘I hate these strings, they’re too fresh!’ So, we got a Sansamp pedal, which is beautiful to tour with because it’s literally my only setup on stage. Just this box and a couple of other pedals. It means that I’ve got all this control over tone now.”
You also performed ‘Music To Walk Home To’ for your Fender Session. This song seems to develop through improvisation…
Lewis: “We stop when the drummer stops! There’s no real thinking behind that tune. It’s the last song on the album and it’s a little bit weird but it comes into its own when we play it live. Honestly, every time we play it takes a different form.”
Sam: “The issue was Murray didn’t know any of the lyrics. By the end of the set Murray had had one too many and there’s just a million words for him to remember. Eventually we had to tell him to write them down. After a certain point, I forget what Murray’s doing. I just turn around and me and Oli [Oliver Cassidy, drummer], have a jam for however long it lasts. The brass just make some squealing noises too. Everyone’s enjoying themselves getting away with making random noise.”
How important is your relationship with Fender?
Lewis: “They’ve always been super supportive of us. We’ve always used Fenders. It’s super nice to work with a company that’s got such good artists relationships and can help because it’s an expensive game, guitars! It’s been a bit of a dream to do these Fender Sessions because it’s a brand that we really care about. We don’t work with brands very often unless we really care about them.
“I think a lot of times you can get misunderstood by a company and it doesn’t it doesn’t feel very authentic, but this felt the opposite of felt super authentic. I think you can really tell in the session that we’re all very happy to be there and are enjoying playing the instruments.”
Sam: “The new products that are coming out, the Player Plus stuff, is really, really cool and that’s what we were playing in that session. Also, their general art direction. We didn’t have a clue that we were wandering into that set when we went that session. They’d picked up on the Easy Life world. Everything’s a little bit surreal. Fender hit the nail on the head with the surreal aspect of the session!”