"Once we finally made the decision to just stick with the original recordings, it felt totally liberating."
When Micachu & The Shapes — singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mica Levi aka Micachu and keyboardist Raisa Khan — joined their drummer Marc Pell in a rehearsal space in London, the trio embarked on a long jam session, hashing out new ideas for songs. They had no idea that Pell had a recorder in hand. Afterwards, the band were so enamoured with how freeform and fun the recording sounded, they decided to fashion the ideas into songs, hoping to replicate that spirit when making the LP 'properly'.
"At first, we tried to learn the songs and re-record them, properly, but it just wasn't working," says Levi. "Once we finally made the decision to just stick with the original recordings, it felt totally liberating: we couldn't go back and change what we'd done, we just had to embrace everything about it."
"It's good to know what it feels like to be pernickety and precise, to obsess over things."
The result then was the unexpected third album, Good Sad Happy Bad. In the couple of years between it and 2012's Never, Levi recorded the score for Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin, her minimal, eerie electronic sound an integral element for one of the decade's best films. "It was a trip," Levi admits, "and one that I enjoyed going on. Jonathan Glazer's amazing. It was an amazing, rad trip, deep into someone else's art, and even deeper into my mind. It was hard to say what it was like, because it was so much less social than being in a band. I sort of just did it, wholly immersed myself in it."
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The "sense of freedom" Levi felt as composer was something she wanted to bring back to the band. Micachu began as Levi's solo project — its name a riff on her own — fashioning an uncategorisable blend of avant-garde, pop and grime for Matthew Herbert's Accidental label. For 2009's debut, Jewellery, they became Micachu & The Shapes. But when trying to capture that spirit on 2012's Never, they ended up getting bogged down in the studio.
"We got really obsessed when we went into the studio, trying to put in all these different ideas," says Levi. "This time, we couldn't have any of those conversations about song structure, or production, or mixing. If Marc was to say 'my kick [drum]'s too loud' or Rai was like 'my keyboards are sliding to the left' or I sneezed in one part, there was nothing we could do. It was all contained just in two stereo tracks."
In recording Micachu & The Shapes, making the Under The Skin score, remixing people like Metronomy and Matthew Herbert, collaborating with Konono No.1, and producing Diagrams and Tirzah, Levi has done a lot of time in the studio. That gave her, she reckons, the freedom to ditch high-fidelity for Good Sad Happy Bad. "It's good to know what it feels like to be pernickety and precise, to obsess over things. That way, you're not just blindly turning your back on something, you know what you're getting away from. Before you disregard a lot of rules, it's good to know them. If you're going to, I don't know, hate the Tories, you should at least know their policies. As tempting as it is to just hate them."