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Soft Set – Photo Credit:Heidi Athay
Just a week ago, we premiered the new single from Mark Gardener, frontman of UK shoegaze icons Ride and subsequent band The Animalhouse (together with French electronic producer 2Square of Telepopmusik).
Therefore it’s a delight to also have the opportunity to premiere another new song he is involved in – this time from behind the mixing desk. The song is ‘Never Die’ and it’s by a relatively new Toronto-based sun-guided spirit pop duo known as Soft Set.
This also happens to be the lead track from their forthcoming Love and Dancing EP. Such a beautiful slice of sunshine and hope, all rolled up and delivered on a sonic silver platter. It’s a brilliant taster for their debut EP, leaving us wanting more.
Mixed in Oxford, UK by Gardener in his recently-launched world-class OX4 Sound Studio, this debut offering was mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal. The entire EP was written, produced, and performed by Soft Set at E5 Studios downtown in Toronto.
Soft Set is a songwriting and music collaboration between James Gray and Nathan Athay, two life-long friends who became musical collaborators years after growing up together in Barrie and then Toronto, Ontario. While Ride is certainly the most striking association for this debut single, other bands that come to mind are Pia Fraus, Chapterhouse, Washed Out, Catherine Wheel, Alvvays, and Slowdive.
Laced with the Day-Glo dream-inspired sonic glee of ’90s indie rock royalty such as shoegaze icons Ride, Soft Set’s brand of melodic pop-rock is earnest and natural. Cloaked in the finest realm of nostalgic reverie, this debut single ‘Never Die’ is equally stunning and infectious.
A golden web of acoustic guitar strum ushers in the track, along with a steady, but brisk drum beat. Lightly wavering notes glow throughout, while gauzy vocals flow with just a touch of tender wistfulness. The atmosphere is contemplative, but also filled with hope and the ability to dream and reminisce…
“Before we started this project, we agreed to never intentionally try to sound like anyone but ourselves. We really wanted to take an honest approach in the process and never discounted any ideas that we presented to each other. We gave everything a chance to see what worked and what didn’t and took it from there,” says James Gray.
“I think what makes this album so special is that it’s very relatable. The lyrics are about feelings and settings that everyone experienced in one form, or another and we feel each song is consistent with that.”
Not long after meeting during high school, they quickly realized that they had much in common, especially when it came to their taste in music. Nathan started playing drums in a local shoegaze, space rock band and James wasn’t far behind, learning guitar and writing songs of his own. Soon after, James became the band’s backup guitar player, filling in whenever the main guitar player couldn’t make a show.
Although that band lasted only a few years, James and Nathan continued to work separately on other projects, as well as working together whenever they could. Things really amped up in 2006 when James and Nathan were part of a Toronto indie rock band, recording their debut album at E5 Studios Downtown. James and Nathan learned a lot about recording and production through this process, inspiring them to continue to push themselves musically, eventually creating what is now Soft Set.
Guided by Mark Gardener / OX4 Sound and drawing on influences from iconic artists that have inspired them on their musical path – The Stone Roses, Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, RIDE, Slowdive, Happy Mondays, Boo Radleys, Mercury Rev – it’s no surprise that Soft Set’s debut EP is a body of work that is sure to appeal to a broad audience.
“This debut is incredibly special for both of us as we’re showcasing everything we’ve learned from the other projects we’ve been in in the last 20 years. We’re extremely proud of this body of work and we hope people enjoy the music as much as we did making it,” says Nathan Athay.
As of July 17, ‘Never Die’ will be available digitally everywhere, including directly from the artist’s Bandcamp. The full Love and Dancing’ EP will be released on September 4.