Henry Binns, co-founder, along with Sam Hardaker, of the popular electronic band, Zero 7, keeps a garden. There isn’t much else for the artist to do these days in the time of social distancing, COVID-19 and quarantine besides make music and tend to the burgeoning flora. But it’s alright. Both endeavors, actually, are coming along rather nicely. Both are producing. Today, Binns says he has a “lovely, big” garden in his home in rural Somerset, England. And his acclaimed group has a new record, Shadows EP, set for release on October 23rd that features the up-and-coming Australian Jeff Buckley-esque vocalist, Lou Stone. And we’re proud to premiere the EP’s second single, “Outline” today.
“When Sam and I met,” Binns says, “we had a lot of similar ideas and aspirations. He was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have a recording studio in a garden? Sure enough, that’s what I got now basically. But we’ve been very lucky. The personnel we’ve been able to work with – I mean, just look at Sia.”
It’s true. Zero 7 for their gobs of talent and keen production sensibilities has worked with some of the world’s top songwriters, including the platinum-selling and nine-time Grammy nominated, Sia, on the 2001 hit, “Destiny.” The duo has also worked with the smooth-singing vocalist, Sophie Barker, on that track and on the single, “In The Waiting Line,” another smash from 2001. But while these songs were ubiquitous for a time, they’re not in your face in any particular way. Quite the opposite. They often fill in the spaces around the room in the best of ways.
“It’s warming you up, in the background in a way,” Binns says. “That’s the thing that does it for me.”
While Zero 7’s newest EP is cut from that same cloth, it’s hard to let any of the four tracks go unnoticed. The opener, “After The Fall,” could be a lost track from Buckley’s Grace. And the new single, “Outline,” recalls the U.K.’s Sam Smith in the opening notes. Shadows EP is the first record Zero 7 has released in a decade. The wait was worth the time. The songs may give Zero 7 another taste of what the duo (and friends) experienced years ago starting with a popular Radiohead remix and later with songs like “Destiny.”
“As soon as that Radiohead remix did well, everything happened very, very quickly,” Binns says. “It was all very shocking. We weren’t really equipped to deal with it! It was unbelievable in a profound way.”
The origins of Shadows EP are simple. Binns was passed along some of Stone’s work and the two started to collaborate together. Simple at first, but quickly the music got to be so good and, in fact, so reminiscent of the popular Zero 7 vibe, that the duo along with Stone decided to release the material under the band’s longtime moniker while featuring the swelling vocalist.
“He’s coming from a bit more of a folky, soulful aspect,” Binns says. “But he has an extraordinary voice. It’s lovely.”
Binns, who first remembers finding music “embarrassingly” through a Rod Stewart album as a young person, met his group’s co-founder after the British equivalent of high school. At first he was an acquaintance but as they got to know they shared the same ambitions and creative outlets. Soon, they began to work together. They loved music. But not shredding, aggressive music. Rather, they loved the kind you could bliss out to. The kind you put headphones on and bled like ink into the galaxy night. Together, they got jobs at the RAK studio in North London and got started.
“There was a staircase that went up to the dining hall,” Binns says. “People would be walking up and we’d be blasting out a 909 kick drum from underneath the stairs. That was our little space. We had a sequence, a tiny mixer – it was hard to get your fingers on the sliders. But we were off!”
The band’s latest single, “Outline,” for the new EP, is about a philosophical out-of-body experience. It’s about seeing yourself in the distance, in an outline, wondering what could have been different, what about yourself that you recognize. It’s a lingering moment of retrospective thought befitting of the delicate timbre of Stone’s voice and the parchment paper-like music that delights from Zero 7. And while the three songwriters are happy to release the work, it doesn’t signify the conclusion to their collaboration. Indeed, more work shall be done. There is more earth to till for Binns and company, both metaphorically and literally.
“Music is my escape,” Binns says. “It’s my refuge, my place, my comfort zone. My wife tells me I’m such a daydreamer. Because normally ninety-five percent of the time, I’m thinking about music.”