After years of touring as an instrumentalist for Connan Mockasin and Mac DeMarco, Rory McCarthy shifts centre-stage with his gently composed lo-fi pop, ever-so-sweetly named infinite bisous. An Englishman in Paris, Rory has found the comfort of home in the city of sex and literature. Only making music when it feels right, infinite bisous fogs your bitter outlook on life with delicate, funk-infused billows of pure romance. We spent a late Friday morning on Skype, musing on the art of making music, the sound of sensual and the brighter side of our digital times. ‘This is the most personal project yet,’ he ruminates on infinite bisous. ‘It’s me.’
What got you out of bed this morning?
My alarm I think… I’m supposed to do this, then going to meet my friend Alex – one of the Alexs in Aldous RH – to go for a walk and visit a museum. So I was excited to get up for that!
How did you end up in Paris?
This is the first placed I moved to, from England. We toured France a lot with Connan Mockasin, and every time I came here I thought ‘I wish I could stay a bit longer.’ At the end of a solid 3-year chunk of touring, for me from the ages 19 to 22, I thought ‘where am I gonna live?’ and I thought I’d go to Paris and see what happens.
I remember seeing everyone kissing all the time, and I thought ‘this is great.’
How has France influenced your music?
France won’t have influenced this album, although it could be thinking of France. I remember when I made the first things that I was calling infinite bisous, I was in the east of France to do this show with Connan and Sam [Dust] for a project that’s just coming out now called Soft Hair. I remember seeing everyone kissing all the time, and I thought ‘this is great.’
Actually being in France, you won’t hear that on anything I’m releasing now, because most of the stuff I release is at least 4 years old. I have a backlog of stuff; it’s not intentional but if I still like it after 3 years, then it’s worth releasing.
So, how much material are you sitting on? Are we talking about Prince-like vaults of unfinished material?
[Laughs] No… the dichotomy of that is I’m like that, I backlog, but I’m also incredibly unproductive. I don’t make that much music. I made the decision to only make music when I really feel like making music. Then, it should only be good – because you’re making it when it’s entertaining and genuine.
The other problem is, when you have a total idea of something and you finish it, it’s finished to you. You kind of forget, that the idea is to release it. So, to answer your question, I think 3 infinite bisous records.
The whole thing is about relationships. Getting to the very end of one and the very start of another. So it’s like a screenshot of that period.
You talk about being genuine. You’re not fearful of showing a little skin.
Uhm… [clears throat] I assume what you’re referring to is I’m always taking my top off.
Is that a way of making yourself vulnerable?
It’s this weird thing, especially when I started the project, people kept saying all these stupid words like ‘sexy, man’. And I was thinking, how can music be sexy? It didn’t make sense to me.
But then I thought, I guess that’s a way of presenting myself. I’m pretty self-conscious about my body, so if I just take it off, it’s just like ‘oh my god I’m so terrified in front of this group of people’, so then I get too excited and end up doing things I didn’t expect.
Your music brings a sensual, romantic atmosphere to mind. What do you want your music to evoke in people?
This is what I get confused about. People think it’s all about sex. See, I am a romantic. But as for sensual, I’m not really sure what that means in terms of music. I think an album should just be saying what you were thinking at the time and I think that’s just what I was thinking about.
It sounds really boring when you put it like this, but the whole thing is about relationships. Getting to the very end of one and the very start of another. So it’s like a screenshot of that period. So that’s the only thing I was wanting to evoke, I suppose. I guess I didn’t really want to evoke anything. I wanted to make myself feel better.
You’ve spoken about releasing music for free online, saying it’s an act of wanting to get your music out there. Regardless of what it gets you in return…
It’s kind of what I was talking about earlier; it wasn’t really my prerogative to release my music, so the fact that I’ve made it and I’m happy with it, I’m happy to put it online for free, and only for free because I think it’s kind of a joke to charge for a file.
The good thing about digital music then, one of the only real benefits is you can do it on your own terms, you can do it without any money, and you can do it as quickly as you like.
What’s the real difference between releasing online versus on a label?
The only thing that drives me to release is the physical side. It might be nostalgic or romantic, but until it’s a hard object it feels like it isn’t really finished. The downside is, a record label would try to push a campaign and ensure all the attention at once, because otherwise you’ve got no chance. I think that’s nonsense. If you go into any record shop, and you find something you’ve not heard before, possibly released a long time ago, you buy it, you listen, and you get super excited. To you it’s new.
We should be happy that the record industry is kind of dying, because it’s a real mess.
When you release online, even if you release it and nothing happens, it stagnates. And then if it starts to pick up heat later on, that’s fine by me. As long as people hear it in a nice presentation, I think they’re really happy to stumble across it themselves. Or at least, certainly I am.
Often when we talk about digital music, we seem to focus on the future of making money and miss the point about emerging ways of discovering music.
Totally, yeah. The only music that I feel attached to that I found online, I found in the middle of the night trolling through some website… You find some guy who has posted some good stuff so you keep going through, and then like, four in the morning you find one, and you’re like ‘this album is incredible’ and you feel like it’s yours. Because you found it.
Is that what (net label) tasty morsels is about?
Me and my friends set it up, just as a library of stuff we thought was good. And the best part is that it doesn’t matter if people find it in ten years or find it tomorrow. There’s no financial loss of people not getting to it straight away. There’s no financial gain, anyway, so… it’s different when you start releasing physically I think. That’s the best part of digital music.
And, I’m probably going to get told off for saying that, but what a weird idea that mostly musicians are complaining about not making money from their music. I just find it a really crazy idea to believe you’re owed money for something you’re supposed to do for yourself.
Now I’m all up for making money with your music, and I think it’s a real blessing if you can do it. It takes a lot of hard work and it is a job. But the fact that the world, the digital environment, is changing, is not a point to complain about. I think our generation grew up knowing that was the case. If anything, we should be happy that the record industry is kind of dying, because it’s a real mess. It either needs a gigantic revolution or a very slow one, which I think is what’s happening… a really mild, slow operation.
infinite bisous plays OT301, Amsterdam on Thursday, 13 September.