A study in contrasts, Nicole Atkins and Jim Sclavunos make music that is a perfect synthesis of their eclectic tastes and backgrounds. With up-tempo kraut-rock grooves sitting alongside deconstructed sambas, space-rock confessionals and wistful ballads – the pair’s songs evoke thumbnail intimacies in vast empty spaces. “I think our music sounds like heavy ancient books thrown down to the gutter by gods during a hurricane -- in slow motion,” declares Atkins. “Or psychedelic folk tunes written by lonely Martians,” counters Sclavunos.
Debuting at SXSW in 2019 and invited to play at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion festival that same year, both singers also enjoyed unique, distinguished musical careers of their own before they began collaborating.
Starting out in NY’s infamous No Wave scene playing bass with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks in 1978, Jim Sclavunos carved out a distinctive reputation for himself as a drummer, recording with Sonic Youth and The Cramps before joining Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in 1994, and co-founding Grinderman in addition to his solo project The Vanity Set. An in-demand producer (The Horrors, Gogol Bordello, Beth Orton) and remixer (Depeche Mode, Grinderman), he also hosts his own monthly show on London’s Soho Radio.
Nicole Atkins’ 2007 debut album Neptune City introduced the world to a charismatic performer and writer with a powerful, versatile voice of dramatic subtlety. A unique arranger, Atkins’s critically acclaimed albums Mondo Amore (2011), Slow Phaser (2014), Goodnight Rhonda Lee (2017) and her latest, Italian Ice (2020) recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound with members of the Swampers, Bad Seeds, Dap Kings and Spoon, have established her as a genre-bending artist with a penchant for noir-ish sensuality. Nicole has hosted shows for Sirius XM and the pioneering Amazon Music/Twitch tv series “Live from the Steel Porch”.
Following a chance encounter at a benefit, Atkins and Sclavunos began writing songs together in London. Despite having barely just met, the duo dove in full tilt with only a Casio keyboard and an acoustic guitar and within an hour flat completed their first co-write “Gold Was My Baby”. Reconvening their endeavours on the other side of the pond in Harlem -- this time with a battered upright piano and an unruly guitar (and an even more unruly cat) -- the songs poured out fast and furious.
In a matter of days, songs for the duet album took shape before their eyes. Against the freewheeling backdrop of their music, Nicole and Jim’s lyrics address the thorny emotional conflicts and complexities in relationships, the interplay of their voices infusing their songs with depth and humour. “I’m kind of like Nicole’s Darth Vader,” offers Sclavunos. “And I’m his Yoda,” affirms Atkins.
Advance tickets £20 stbf from Tickets Scotland. Buy online here. Over 18 only.