They could be forgiven for taking it easy for a year or two, but Wings of Desire’s Chloe Little and James Taylor haven’t been resting up.
For anyone involved in the UK indie scene around 2016/17, the band won’t be an entirely unknown entity. Speaking to the duo - formerly two-fourths of indie-punky-shoegazey outfit INHEAVEN - it’s clear that they’re itching to get back out and tour. It’s been a good three years since they were last on the gig circuit, and in the time since we’ve had plenty to deal with - not least a global pandemic.
As Wings of Desire, they’ve been handling everything themselves, and so far it's culminated in their debut EP End Of An Age, which landed on 17 February. “I produce the tunes and Chloe makes the videos. We actually use a self-timer for our press shots,” James laughs, “we haven't even got a photographer! It’s worked out well during this pandemic - everything's so in-house that we haven't had to stop any kind of creativity or production. We haven't had to outsource anything, which has been really good.”
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It’s not just the band that they’ve been working on, either. The duo have also started their own label: “we wanted it to have that kind of DIY ethos and we wanted to counteract Burger Records - all that shit that was going down in the industry. We wanted our label to be a safe home for people and provide advice on mental health for artists and things like that as well” James tells us.
With this DIY attitude, we have to ask whether COVID has actually affected their plans at all? “We’ve made a number of plans that have shifted,” says Chloe, “I think we probably would have launched it a little bit earlier, but you’ve got to be mindful of where the world is, you know?”
She describes wanting to play live shows this year, something that James agrees with: “INHEAVEN was definitely about playing live, and that’s where we thrived. We got all our fans from playing live. Launching this project has been the opposite because we can’t go out and play and meet all the people that always supported us. It’s been tough, but we’d love to come out and play - we’re gagging for it because we haven’t played since the last INHEAVEN show in New York in 2018!”
As well as being a live band, INHEAVEN were lauded by fans for their DIY aesthetic, making everything from music videos to zines themselves, with plenty of authentic punk spirit. It’s something that has continued through the formation of Wings of Desire - but now things are being taken to another level.
“With INHEAVEN, we had labels and other people informing some of our decisions and that was definitely a learning curve for us. When we decided that we really wanted to do Wings of Desire and launch the label it was definitely at the forefront of our mind to keep it exactly how we see it rather than listening to outside influences which happens all the time,” explains James.
It’s hard to talk about Wings of Desire without bringing up INHEAVEN - James was the main vocalist of the band while Chloe played bass as well as joining in on vocals too - but while they look back on the band fondly they want people to know that this is a different project entirely.
“I’d say we try to consciously not ride the coattails of INHEAVEN too much because it’s important to set [Wings of Desire] up as its own thing,” Chloe explains, “we appreciate everything we’ve got from INHEAVEN and we’re very fortunate and lucky.”
I ask what they think about the ‘ex-INHEAVEN’ label they’re so often tagged with. Chloe admits that she didn’t like it at first, but that now she feels proud, and that it’s just “part and parcel of being in a band before - we just hope people take it as a new project.”
After a few years of touring the UK, both headlining and supporting the likes of Blossoms and Circa Waves, a debut album and a US tour with indie peers Pale Waves, it’s fair to say that the announcement of INHEAVEN splitting up came as something as a surprise to fans. Unsurprisingly, many of these same followers have been supporting Wings of Desire over the past few months of activity. It’s evident just how much respect and appreciation James and Chloe have for the fans who’ve stuck by since the INHEAVEN days, too.
“There have been a few people messaging us - that’s really nice…we welcome them,” laughs Chloe, while James explains that they intended to “have a separation” from INHEAVEN, but that at the same time, “a lot of people who loved INHEAVEN really love this” too.
“We don’t want to shove it down their throats and be like 'because you liked INHEAVEN you will like this'. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved before - it’s getting the balance of launching something new and being respectful of our past”, explains Chloe.
Their last live shows were those across the Atlantic, supporting Pale Waves. James explains that after the tour, “me and Chloe just stayed in New York for a little bit - it was more about having some time off and meeting new people. We met a few musicians and actually ended up meeting the guy who mixes all of our stuff now.”
However, most of what would become Wings of Desire material was written back in the UK, where the band had a decision to make.
“I think everyone in INHEAVEN wanted to go and do different things. Joe [Lazarus] is playing drums with loads of other bands, and Jake [Lucas] has got Jumbo Press. It felt natural to move on and start writing in a new way” says James.
For James and Chloe, there was something of a lifestyle change at this point. “We got really into self-care,” says James, “I stopped drinking and started meditating, and trying to sort out my mental health - we just started living differently to how we lived before. And so, the songs are kind of about that healing process.”
Chloe describes the new material as something of a ‘natural progression’: “originally it was like, potentially write another INHEAVEN record, and then the stuff that was coming felt like it had a different narrative - the scenes felt like they were going in a different direction.”
She describes differences between Wings of Desire’s music and INHEAVEN’s output. “From where we were before,” she says, “we’ve both experienced quite a lot. I see that more now in James’ lyrics - quite bold ideas, and I think that’s really cool.” For James’ part, he sees the lyrics as more “inwardly-focused”. “I think they’re more personal,” he says, “INHEAVEN was just, like, raucous!”
When we ask about their current influences and inspirations, we’re told that the countercultural movement of the 1960s and 70s plays a big part in Wings of Desire, Chloe and James mentioning Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, Creation Records and Factory Records among other influences.
It all goes back to the idea of doing everything in-house and making their label a safe space: “the band is definitely about the label as well,” says James. “I really want to take that forward. There's space for new ways of thinking and living within the industry at the moment, especially with so many changes going on in the world. We’re bringing back that counterculture thing, and modernising it and to a new generation.”
“We’ll be releasing more music this year,” reveals James. “We’ve got our album finished, so we’re leading up to that.”
New music might be on the horizon, but what about gigs? It’s been three years since we last saw Chloe and James take to the stage. “We’ve worked really hard and hopefully we’ll be playing live as soon we can,” finishes James. “It’s been a long time - we just can't wait to see everyone again.” Looking at the reception Wings of Desire has received already, it certainly feels like, for fans, the feeling is mutual.
End Of An Age EP is out now via WMD Recordings.