Mystery over mastery… A mantra close to Ephyra’s heart. Little is known about the Bristol-based artist besides the fact she broke through on Pilot earlier this year, she’s been known represent Transparent Audio, she runs a fine line in blends as a DJ and she deals strictly in dark, barbed soul liquid D&B.
“I don’t think I want there to be that much about me out there,” Ephyra reflects. “I like the mystery of artists. People like Workforce, Satl, or any of The North Quarter lot. They’re not in your face. They keep focused on their craft. I love the idea of keeping your cards close to your chest.”
Instead, Ephyra – real name Bell – prefers to leave a trail of no-context WIP clues in her Instagram stories, which you can catch if you’re quick enough. “As much as I hate social media, I do like posting sketches without context,” she admits. “I think it’s a bit it’s frowned up on now, but I love putting a 30 sec clip up. It lets people know I’m still there but I’m not in your face with something that’s not finished.”
It’s a technique that led Pilot to her and sign her debut release – Can’t Forget Your Face / Seeing You. Released in February this year, it followed a near-debut on Soulvent months before; a release which fell at the final hurdle when the label realised she was using a well-known vocal. “I got so carried away with the vibe of the tune, I kinda forgot about copyright legalities,” she laughs. “That definitely won’t happen again.”
Both raw, rolling and largely instrumental, neither Pilot track suffered the same experience and came as surprise to her. “It was totally overwhelming, in the best sense,” she smiles. “They asked me for stuff but I didn’t think anything would materialise. I sent Can’t Forget Your Face, it was pretty much finished but I said it was a demo. They loved it. I thought it needed more work but people have said they like the rawness of it. I’m glad I put it out and went with the rawness. That’s what I’m about and what I want to push, but it’s hard to put that into practice with your own art.”
This is the discipline that Bell’s been teaching herself over the last few years. Having originally moved to Bristol to study philosophy, her plans and changed after falling into the city’s famously vibrant and creative party scene. At first as a fan, but then much more seriously.
“Like anyone I was a bit too into the party side to begin with,” Bell laughs. “I didn’t know production was an option – it wasn’t seen as accessible where I’m from. But I got so enamoured with the whole culture and sound and what could be done creatively and sonically. I’d be in a club setting and I’d be thinking about what I could do and how I could make it, what emotions it would invoke in people.”
It wasn’t long before the studio lured her in. While production might not have been accessible in her hometown near the English south coast, Bristol’s progressive nature opened massive doors. “I had mates who went to dBs and BIMM and thought, ‘Fuck it, why can’t I try this?’ I tried and tried and got so fucked off with it, but there was something that kept me coming back. I’d never been able to stick with anything I’d ever done before and that used to really piss me off, but the fact I stuck with it was a big thing for me.”
It now remains a big thing in Ephyra’s mindset and approach to both music and life in general. The discipline of daily production has established a routine and a creative lifestyle that outshines any opportunity her original plan to study philosophy could have presented.
“Allowing yourself to fail and knowing you’ll find the right thing is so important,” reflects Bell who adopted the Ephyra alias when her mum found the name reading about jelly fish life cycles. “I never believed that before and maybe it sounds a bit cheesy and wanky but I’ve got very firm belief that things will happen the way they’re meant to happen. I’d never be in the position I’m in now if I didn’t drop out so there’s definitely no regret. And even if this doesn’t happen the way I’d like it to, I love it anyway so it doesn’t matter!”
Hearing the major league collaboration Ephyra has coming up in the future – something that’s just a little too far ahead to confirm or reveal more details on – makes us think things are definitely happening in the way she’d like them to. In the much more direct future, meanwhile, she’s making her debut at London vibe institution Soul In Motion this weekend.
“That’s a bit of a dream!” Bell exclaims. “You know specific nights where you feel completely accepted and absorbed by everyone? Soul In Motion is definitely one of those. I feel privileged to play there. It’s really special.”
Plenty more special manoeuvres and missives from Ephyra are lined-up before the year is out. But for now they’ll remain a mystery…