Aliens describe themselves as a “music, film and animation” collective and began life as a song writing project in 2016. The brainchild of Del Amitri guitarist Iain Harvie and filmmaker Tim May, the Aliens collective now comprises 15 members, from musicians to photographers. Inspired by the worldwide turbulent times of the past two years, Aliens aims to inspire creative collaboration and serves as a reminder of the current troubled political climate.
Iain and Tim met at a party and a couple of years later, began writing songs inspired by their shared unhappiness with modern society. They felt discomfort over how groups such as the homeless or refugees were being dehumanised by leaders like Trump and Putin. Tim May explains the name “Aliens”:
“The rise of Trump, Putin, and other demagogues; the victimization of people branded as ‘other’ by the right, be they refugees or homeless, was contributing to a feeling of alienation I had at the time, I’ve been lucky to live… in the West and enjoy many freedoms denied to others. For the first time, I could see that things I’d taken for granted for so long, like democracy and free speech, were seriously under threat. And still are.”
As these concerns coalesced, Aliens set out to fight against the “post-truth” ideas that were starting to become apparent in mainstream media. They hoped that they might inspire others to fact check and speak out. Tim explains, “…it’s easy to feel helpless, powerless, outraged, or react wearily and cynically. But you make the effort to inform yourself you can stand up and speak out. No one is stopping you. One of the captions in the opening video at our last live show read: Pursue Facts. Believe in Truth. Post-truth is pre-fascism. I really believe that. The film also urged people to be ‘as brave as you can’. What we do as Aliens might make a difference. That’s good for enough for me.”
Realising that their music could potentially make a difference, Aliens decided to broaden their focus and bring other collaborators on board. They were joined by director Gary Birch, motion designers Andy Rogers and Tom Huxley, photographers Andrew Ogilvy and Karen Stowe, editor Phil O’Dea and graphic designer Kitty MacColl. Other contributors included keyboardist Helen Turner of Style Council and Paul Weller fame, New York cinematographer Alex Corn, photographer Jacob Queensbury, guitarist Fraser MacColl, drummer Martyn Baker of Shriekback, multi-instrumentalist Tom Sheen and Tim’s daughter, musician Indira May.
Speaking of how the different personalities and skills of these individuals influence the creative process, Tim says, “Musically, the others in the band are so strong that I tend to let them take it where they feel it should go. In any case, it is incredibly rare that anyone plays anything that doesn’t feel right. There are no prima donnas or ego maniacs in Aliens, so everyone can bring what they do best. Ultimately, Iain is the originator of the Aliens ‘sound’ – the chiming, swirling guitars, the pedal steel, reverb heavy vocals and big drums. When I first heard the rough mixes of the songs we’d sketched out together that first Saturday afternoon in 2016, I couldn’t believe my ears; they were so powerful, gritty and intense. Since then, Helen, Tommy, Martyn and now Leroy Lendor from The Bible have brought their own magic to the party. Film wise, I am very dependent on the creative input of the directors and animators who have taken up the challenge of interpreting the songs. The animation, Song 5, is a great example. When Andy Rogers delivered the first cut, I was blown away. I don’t think I changed a single frame.”
Now a film and music collective rather than just a song-writing project, the group’s creativity is aimed at those who care about human rights, free speech and civil liberties.
Aliens’ first single, “Baby’s Like an Alien,” was launched at a live event in London on the 19th October 2017. Whisperinandhollerin described the debut single as “a shuffling psych-tinged acoustic-led alt-rock effort with a neat melody and a crunchy, slightly rough ‘n’ ready production that gives it a bit of an edge.”
Director Gary Birch and editor Phil O’Dea produced a video to track “Pursuit of Love”, filmed at the Ovada venue, part of the Oxford Playhouse. Dave Franklin of Scene and Heard compared the track to Bowie and said of their ethos, “Maybe the world changes one conversation at a time, one idea, one slight shift of perception, if so, Aliens are as vital as any more obvious rallying cry.”
The latest single, “Lockdown”, was released in September 2018. Tim May said about the track, “That song was inspired, if that’s the right word, by a terrorist attack on Bastille Day in July 2016 when a lorry driver ploughed along the boulevard in Nice, murdering 84 innocent people. I found it very shocking and upsetting… I wrote the lyric the next morning from the perspective of a couple who’d witnessed the event from their hotel room… A few weeks after I’d finished it, I came out of where I was working in central London to see a headline in the Evening Standard that read LOCKDOWN. I knew then that we had our finger on the pulse of what was going on.”
In line with their ethos of supporting human rights, Aliens will be releasing a single called “Desolation Angel”, the tale of a love affair between two homeless people. The single is going to be launched at a special charity event hosted by HotVox at the Finborough Arms in Kensington, London. The band will play “unplugged” and there will be a live video to accompany the single. All proceeds from the single sales will go to charity Centrepoint which is dedicated to helping young homeless people between the ages of 16 and 25.
Despite budget restrictions on distribution opportunities, Tim May states that Aliens would be interested in producing an album at some point in the future, and hope it could be made available in all formats; CD, vinyl and streaming.