Silverdale duo Aquilo to play in Manchester

Tom Higham and Ben Fletcher form Aquilo
Tom Higham and Ben Fletcher form Aquilo
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When two young lads - Ben and Tom - joined forces to form a band, one of the biggest things on their mind was what to call themselves... step in Tom's mum who came up with the curious name of Aquilo.

Ben explained: "The name is unusual. Tom's mum actually came up with the name. We had a few names, but like really embarrassing names. I remember going to school and all my mates saying you can't call yourself that.

"But then Tom's mum, bless her, Adele, she came up with Aquilo and at first it sounded a bit ridiculous.

"What it means, in Greek mythology, it's the god of the northern wind. And I think because we are from up north, it made sense. And it made more sense than anything else we had come up with. We stuck with it and it's stuck with us. I quite like it!"

But who are Aquilo and what are they all about?

Aquilo's music has been described mainly as alternative, as well as electronica, dream pop, ambient and indie music. Though dream pop is something that Ben Fletcher was quick to dismiss, saying: "People have been calling it dream pop, but I don't really think it's dream pop. It's like alternative pop maybe. I find it quite hard to explain myself because I'm so involved with it."

Aquilo in action

Aquilo in action

Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham first introduced themselves to the musical stage back in 2014 with their larger than life cinematic sound, and have since released four EPs and debut album Silhouettes. With much critical praise, solid radio support and over two million monthly Spotify listeners, Aquilo are fast cementing themselves as one of the most exciting new prospects in pop.

Youngest member Ben told me how they started: "It's just me and Tom. We grew up together up in Silverdale in different bands. Then eventually when I was at school and Tom had just left university we decided to write a song together. And then we put a song up online and there was a lot of interest, which was all a bit crazy - a little bit hectic - and then we signed a record deal to Island Records and this is what we do."

Artists putting their music online and amassing millions of streams is something of a modern phenomena, which has now become part and parcel of the vast music industry. Ben went into a little more detail about how this works: "We just put a song online. I emailed a few blogs and then the rest sort of happened itself really. Word got round. Streams started happening on SoundCloud and then within a week it had 15,000 plays. It kept growing and growing. And before we knew it - it wasn't out of our control - but it just sort happened really quick, and I think that is just what is happening in this day and age now. Record labels don't really need to develop artists in the same way. I think artists just do it themselves. That's just sort of how it happened."

This meteoric rise to stardom hasn't gone to the heads of these two humble guys from the beautiful landscape of Silverdale. They manage the fame quite well. Ben had quite a lot to say on the matter: "I'm 22 and Tom's 27. And we are coping with it just fine.

Aquilo are from Silverdale in the Lake District

Aquilo are from Silverdale in the Lake District

"At first it was a bit of a shock.

"I had to move into my own flat at maybe 17 or 18. We moved in together and just started making music. It feels like it has been quite a steady build for me and Tom, but I am sure from the outside it looks different.

"We've got our feet on the ground. We're really happy, making music and we just really appreciate all the support off everyone.

"It's crazy. Especially when you don't really expect it. It's bizarre.

"We've just come off a European tour and it's mental. We were playing in places we've never been before and there were hundreds of people there. It's feels a bit surreal, but in the best way.

"It's really humbling to feel that people are interested. It's nice. Especially after like, me and Tom we've been in bands ever since we were little kids, playing gigs as, well as children really. And you can try and try and try, and no-one shows any interest when you are young, but the moment me and Tom stopped trying and just did it because it was a little bit of fun, people have started to open their ears a little bit. Though it works differently for different people.

"We're happy and comfortable, very comfortable."

With only two members in the band, and best friends at that, writing songs comes easily and they tap into one of the best sources on offer to them - friends and family.

"The first album was massively about our girlfriends at the time and just relationships we've been through, especially situations our friends and family have been in.

"We find it a lot easier to write about our friends and their situations - you know you are less attached to it than if you are writing personally.

"And all sorts of different places really. Sometimes it's not even necessarily a person that inspires. It can be place or a trip away," reflected Ben.

And of course, the music they write is also influenced by the bands they listen to themselves. Ben had an interesting tale to tell about one of his biggest influences - American rock band Steely Dan.

"My mum and dad were massive Steely Dan fans and I'm a massive Steely Dan fan actually - you probably won't have heard any of their music.

"Two years ago we were playing in New York and my mum called and said: 'Oh my god Ben, Steely Dan are playing seven sold out shows at a theatre.'

"So somehow - I had two shows that night - I left the first show, got a taxi and went straight to watch Steely Dan. I sat there for four songs and then got in a taxi and went to the next show. That's probably the best night of my life. It was amazing."

Although Aquilo have been described as ambient, dream pop by some, you should expect something more vibrant and animated when you catch them live. Ben explained: "I think people do turn up to our shows expecting it to be way more mellow than it is. But me and Tom come from quite a rocky background and when it comes to the live shows there is way more energy in the songs than there is on the record. And it's a chance for us to get quite deeply involved when we are playing live.

"Sometimes it can feel quite intense - or it certainly did on the European tour. We are quite loud - sometimes! Audiences can expect it to be a lot bigger. The sound is a lot bigger than on the record."

Those who are fans already, and those yet to be converted, may be disappointed to learn that Aquilo has no plans to release their third album in a hurry.

"We are releasing our second album on the fourth of May but we haven't got any intentions to make the third record. We made the second one literally straight after the first.

"We are actually thinking about getting into film music - writing scores for films. Which is quite exciting, it's something we always wanted to do. And the opportunity has sort of presented itself for us to start writing for film. So we might go down that route. Maybe a few side projects along the way.

"But no intentions of the third record yet. There will be one - just not in the next year or so I don't think," concluded Ben.

In the meantime you will have to content yourself with their latest tour supporting the release of the second album, ii. They are dropping into Gorilla in Manchester on Sunday, April 15. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £11, available online at https://aquilo.seetickets.com/event/aquilo/gorilla-manchester/1175571