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Me, Charles’s new EP proves you can explore serious topics in your music and still have fun with it. The EP, Fine Isn’t Good, due for release 10 May 2023, offers a fresh and whacky perspective on who the musician is and what’s going on in his life through the caricature of Me, Charles, an exaggerated version of Charles Stooke: the man beneath the madness. Through the EP’s experimental and outlandish instrumental, lyrics, and visuals, Charles demands our attention and is certainly getting it!

Could you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Hello! My name is Charles. I am an artist and musician from London. I am 27 years old. I like dancing, birds (the animals), walking, tasty food, sci-fi and action films, nice clothes, swimming, playing guitar. I recently got a small harp which I have been enjoying playing!
Your new EP Fine Isn’t Good is due for release 10 May 2023! Can you tell us about your creative process and how you brought your vision for this project to life?
Well, I think the first songs that I knew were going on the record were Waiting and What Never Happened. We had been playing those live for a little while, and eventually I booked some studio time for them to be recorded. This was done at Snorkel Studios in Forest Hill, engineered by Luke Kulukundis, around January 2020 (I think). Waiting was written more recently, whereas What Never Happened was mostly extracted from a very old riff of mine.
Those songs were recorded and then sat on a hard drive for many months. When we did get round to working on them, Luke did most of the treatment on the live instruments, whereas I handled more of the synthesis and sound design elements. We worked between Ableton and Logic, which was a stupid idea, and I wouldn’t recommend doing.
The next tracks written were Fine Isn’t Good (Wet) and (Dry); I had been lent a synth (Roland System 8) by my boss and was fiddling around on it when I cemented the idea. Generally, with most of my favourite songs of my own, I will first have heard them in my mind, or just found myself humming them, before actually figuring them out on an instrument or in midi. This was the case with FIG. I don’t know why I decided to have two different versions of the same piece, I think I was trying out the chords on different patches and could see how it would work in different contexts, plus I like the idea of reprise or recurring motifs in a record.
Eventually I had built a track list of the four aforementioned pieces and felt like there wasn’t a strong enough single. In light of this, I decided to write White Pearl around an old bass line I had written in midi maybe six or seven years ago. I find myself drawing from really old bits of music I’ve written all the time now. I think I had a golden era when I was in my late teens, and now I’m just riding on the coattails of my younger self. Anyway, we made White Pearl and, in a very abridged way, that was the process behind the record.
The single White Pearl from the project has just been released! As the lead single, how does this track portray what you are trying to do on Fine Isn’t Good?
I think White Pearl works really well as the lead single for the EP as it bridges the main sonic and musical themes of the record. It has the more traditional live band arrangement and song writing, with the double bass very much grounding it through its acoustic sound. This is then augmented with sound design, electronic and production elements. It’s traditional band song writing meets more future facing production techniques. Lots of other groups are doing similar things at the moment.
These two motifs are concurrent throughout the record, sometimes in equal measure and sometimes not, but White Pearl marries them best out of all the tracks, whilst also being hooky enough to function as a single!

Are there any specific musical or lyrical influences that shaped the EP?
I was asked to give some references when the EP was being mastered, some of these were: These New Puritans - Field of Reeds, Nick Cave - Ghosteen, Jeff Buckley - Grace, Stereolab - Dots and Loops. Nothing ground-breaking, but I love these albums!
The project is “an experimental and theatrical fusion of warped jazz, glitchy electronics and chamber instrumentation”. What drew you to produce this kind of genre-bending music?
I think something that I’m always having to contend with is trying to balance making music I want to make, with making music I think people will think is good or cool. Ultimately, it’s the songs I like writing, and that, for me, are the truest form of my self-expression as an artist. Everything surrounding that acts as a way for me to contextualise the music as being contemporary; arrangement, production, sound-design, visuals etc.
With my music, when you actually look at the kernel of the song, it’s all pretty trad. I just tart everything up so that people will think of me as being a bit more future-facing. I don’t think I’ve answered your question very well but there you go.
The EP has been co-produced by Luke Kulukundis from the London-based hip-hop collective Nukuluk! How did that collaboration come about?
Luke and I are friends! We’ve been friends for quite a few years now, but definitely have become closer over the past year or so, in no small part due to our collaboration on the EP. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I think after Luke had engineered the recordings, I asked him if he’d help me produce it. The rest is history!
How do you think Fine Isn’t Good benefitted from Kulukundis’s creative influence?
I think the record benefitted massively from Luke’s influence. He is technically an extremely skilled producer and engineer, he has a very good work ethic, he is really clever and critical, he is thorough, he understands the value of deadlines and structure in creative work and has fantastic taste. I have never collaborated with someone else in that capacity on my own music, and it was a really positive experience. I hope he’ll do it again with me.
The EP follows the protagonist, Charles, on his quest to become rich and famous. Could you talk about how the project treats and unpacks the theme of narcissism?
I think you have to have some level of self-belief to try and pursue music, definitely as a solo artist.  How much that crosses into narcissism probably varies from person to person. As a lot of my work centres on my own self-awareness, I sort of amplify this self-belief to the point of ridicule. It makes me feel more comfortable with the fact that I’m doing something self-concerned by making work as Me, Charles. It excuses me from any criticism for being so self-absorbed, because I’ve kind of got there first, as it were.
We can’t help being flawed, it’s just about being able to identify these things, and hopefully deal with them in constructive, or in this instance, entertaining ways that make them a bit less heavy. People are interesting because they’re complex and weird, not because they’re perfect (because no one is)!
On the project you are exploring some pretty serious themes such as addiction recovery, disordered eating, and losing a parent at a young age, but you do so through the comedic and exaggerated caricature of Charles. Why did you choose to use character and voice that is, at least, slightly removed from your own to explore these topics?
This wasn’t something that I really thought through. I like to make jokes, but I also like to talk about difficult things. Me, Charles is meant to be a heightened or caricatured portrayal of myself, and so that’s how this has translated into the work.
Is this character inspired by yourself or did inspiration come from elsewhere, or both?
It’s all me!
In what ways will this new project be different from your previous releases, such as your 2020 album Like and Share?
I think it should just display a development in my tastes and techniques in making music. A lot of Like and Share was written a long time ago, between the ages of 16 and 21, so it was a bit of a retrospective. In this sense, it might feel like a big jump between the two records, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Even between now and when Like and Share was released so much in my life has changed, and I have changed a lot as well. This should be reflected in the music, as I’m the one making it. Whether it’s for the better or the worse is not for me to say!
Finally, what are you working on right now?
I am working on another Me, Charles release, and a new project that I’m really excited about, with a friend of mine called Elena Ware. I am also busy preparing for the EP launch show, which is going to be on May 19th. More information about this can be found on my social media. Thanks for having me!

Becca Child
Photography & Editing
Henry Mills
Charles Stooke

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