In early 2020, all the pieces were in place for UK alt-rockers Giant Sky. Band members Jay Amesbury, Jon Hatch, and Toby McFee had cut their teeth as teenagers in various bands in and around Bristol, and when they met singer Olivia Bond online, the foursome gathered together to start rehearsing and take on the world.
Then Covid hit. Now separated just as they were beginning to gel as a band, the group forged ahead and shared demos through WhatsApp, Google Drive, and Logic Pro. After previewing four of the album’s tracks throughout the year, Giant Sky are finally ready to release their debut Not Today.
Alternating between slow, shoegazey songs and aggressive, grungy tracks, Not Today channels a righteous fury and frenetic energy that plays like the best kind of rock music: inspired, liberating, and purely exhilarating. Compact in its length but sprawling in its ideas and scope of sounds, the band’s debut positions them as a collective force to be reckoned with in the larger rock and roll world.
We sat down with lead singer Olivia Bond to break down each of the album’s ten tracks and how the band were able to construct their debut LP while being separated during the pandemic.
Olivia: “John wrote that one. So the way we basically kind of panned out the actual album in its entirety was we were just all kind of writing demos and all kind of submitting stuff to each other over WhatsApp.
“So we all use Logic Pro together, and then we would drop the project into Google Drive and then pick it up and do our parts. John I think is the person who generates the most demos and he equally writes lyrics as well. Some of the time it’s me writing the lyrics. So I can definitely share what I think John’s vision is, but it’s definitely like, there is a division.”
Far Out: Is it strange singing somebody else’s words in that kind of way?
Olivia: “Yeah, it is actually at first because it’s like, it’s someone else’s vision, but I have to accept that if I’m singing it, people are automatically going to think that I wrote it or that they’re my thoughts or feelings, and that’s totally okay.
“It’s a little strange, but at the same time, by the time you’re actually performing it or by the time it’s finished in the studio, it has become all about equal you know? But it is, yeah, it is a bit strange.
“So we had a bunch of songs that we’d been working on throughout lockdown and ‘Rust’ was the one that we got the most excited about. It was super punchy. It felt really of the moment, and it was around the time that there were all of these protests with the Black Lives Matter movement. And, you know, you saw the dramatic scenes of statutes being pushed into harbours and rivers and stuff.
“And I think that was such a powerful moment. We were really thinking about it, and it felt like a real, you know, it felt like a track of the moment.”
Olivia: “‘Change’ was one of mine. I think that actually may have been one of the songs that the boys had written before I joined the band. So they had a few tracks already, actually quite a few that they’d been working on together there for a really long time. And then I’d put lyrics to it. And I think this is one of those.
“For me, this one was all about the tricky time I was having with work, being stuck in an office and finding that really challenging. Just getting furious with the kind leadership and with the management and with the unethical practices that can happen in big corporate companies. And perhaps that is actually quite political when I think about it. But that one for me was real. I was angry when I wrote it and I’m still angry about it for sure.
“It’s kind of about wanting to change your situation, but not necessarily being able to because, well, we’re all adults now. So, you know, we’re not kids anymore. We don’t have the luxury of being able to chop and change with ease and simplicity without tearing down our lives. You know, the established life that we’ve made as adults.
“Sometimes I do feel a little bit too old to try and change. I mean, I’m not old, it can feel that way. I feel like that’s definitely a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed around me, of people in my age group who were kind of approaching 30 and having to be faced with these ‘Oh, God, shit, is this forever?’”
Olivia: “That was one of John’s ones. And I suppose, lyrically, this was probably one of the ones that I found harder to connect with because it’s so out of my… it’s not really necessarily how I would express myself. But I thought John was clever because he wrote this song as a kind of pair of another song on the album, ‘Gold’.
“I work in film. I’ve worked in special effects for like seven years and being involved with that kind of Hollywood crowd is actually really strange and not as great as people might think it is. And so I wrote ‘Gold’ as a really sad response to that.
“Heroin is the fantasy version of what it’s like to work in that crazy celebrity, Hollywood big money, big worlds, you know? Fantasy land. It’s actually a really fun one to sing live though, which is great. It had such an ear-grabbing intro that was fantastic. I was so surprised at how filthy it sounded when it came out. So sonically, it’s probably one of my favourites just because it is really punchy and it’s fun. It’s a little bit different compared to some of the other sad things I wrote [laughs].”
Olivia: “That was one that I wrote as well. Again, I think this is one of the older tracks that the guys had written. I might be wrong. I’ll have to go back and check that.
“I was going through a bit of an existential crisis with work, so that was my inspiration, lyrically, behind ‘Wolf’. It’s probably my favourite song on the album. Simply because it feels the closest to my vision of what I would, you know, how would I describe that.
“Musically, It’s my favourite song. I know, like I said about ‘Heroin’ being the fun one to play and everything, but in terms of the thematics and, you know, the structure and the tone, this is the kind of that song is the kind of song that is my favourite type of thing that I like to create in this realm.”
Olivia: “John wrote that and I love it. It’s really beautiful. I think he was actually thinking about my wife and I when he wrote that one, he’d said that before. Obviously, I’m not from the UK, my wife’s from the UK. I moved from New Zealand a long time ago in my early twenties.
“I think that was the kind of a bit of a love song about, you know, being far away and making a new home for yourself. John has a real skill at writing these beautiful songs.”
Olivia: “This is one that John wrote, and I read his breakdown for this as well, and his explanation was that it was like a fantasy between two people who already knew each other, but were playing out this fantasy and weren’t necessarily strangers, but we’re actually recreating this moment.
“So I think this is one of the ones that he is super proud of and he was the one who developed the structure and everything. Again, it’s one of the more softer tracks on the album. It does build obviously towards the end. But yeah, it’s a nice one.”
Olivia: “I was a little uncertain about this one at first. I wasn’t super crazy about the sound. Some of the others I really sat with for a long time, worked for ages at trying to get it sounding lyrically, how I wanted it to tell the story that I wanted.
“This one, I just sat down and smashed it out in, I don’t know, 15 minutes? And it was terribly depressing, but actually told a really good story. I didn’t end up changing anything.
“I feel a lot of people who are creative are no strangers to having mental health troubles like depression. And so this was my kind of, ‘I’m so sorry to my partner for when I lose myself in a depressive episode,’ or when I find things particularly challenging and then inadvertently make life difficult for everyone else is kind of like a ‘I’m so sorry. It’s not you, it’s this other thing.’”
Olivia: “‘Snow’, when it started out, I wasn’t sure what the final result was going to be. But actually it is also one of my favorites on the album because it’s super emotional and I think it captures a very universal human feeling: not wanting to lose the people around you.
“John wrote the music, he did the demo and we all edit our different parts. I wrote the lyrics to this one. And initially, it was about, again, a bit of existential dread, not wanting to lose my wife and just thinking about how important she is to me.
“And then I actually found out that my mom had cancer. She was diagnosed with cancer around that same time ‘Snow’ was finished and she was playing it all the time and she was listening to it and she told me how much she loved it. And so the song took on this whole other meaning and even just talking about it now, it makes me emotional.
“The first time we performed it, I made the mistake at the time of saying, ‘Oh, and this one’s for mum.’ And that was it. I couldn’t get through it. I was just choked up the whole way through. And because it’s not necessarily a romantic song, it’s just ‘I really care about someone and I don’t want to be without them.’
“I think it’s probably our most accessible song on the album, at least from my perspective. And it’s certainly been the one that my friends and family have responded to the most. That might also be because I don’t have a huge amount of friends and family who are into rock [laughs].”
Olivia: “Another kick-ass track. I didn’t even realise that this was actually like an LGBT kind of song. It wasn’t until [John] told me afterwards that that’s what he was thinking about: hate and bigotry and, you know, people just wanting to be seen as human.
“And I think that’s awesome. It’s another really important song to me because I think it’s amazing that he would write a song like that in the first place, being a straight dude. That’s not to say that straight dudes can’t be allies, but I think it’s fantastic that he would want to write a song like that.
“It’s so powerful and has such an awesome message, and I feel really awesome singing that one. It’s again a bit of a political one. I think it sounds wicked. I think that’s, again, another one that people respond quite well to.”
Olivia: “So this was the first I ever wrote with the band. And this was when they were low-key auditioning me. They had, like I mentioned before, some tracks that they had that didn’t have lyrics against them.
“And I was really drawn to this one. It was so dynamic. It was so interesting. I couldn’t figure out where the lyrics would even go because, musically, it goes on quite a journey. But then I had just come off this really challenging project with work, and it was supposed to be the culmination of my career in many ways, and it wasn’t. Or at least if it wasn’t everything I had expected it to be.
“But I had changed. I was different, and as a result, it meant that the way I experienced that project was not great. And so I wrote it feeling like I was supposed to be happy in this place, like I was supposed to be gold. You know, cinema is all gold, it’s beautiful, it’s big and it’s exciting. But actually, I was so blue. I was the bluest I’d ever been.
“It’s that kind of ‘Oh shit, I achieved my dream and it’s nothing like what I thought it would be, what do I do next?’ You know? And then at the end, that experience of that particular job sent me off in a pretty bad depressive episode.
“And so the end of the song in my mind is when you’re spiralling out of control, when you’re spiral downward and you want to give up, you want it to be over. You just want it to stop. You don’t care how, but then ultimately making the pledge to yourself that you’re not going to let it. You know, ‘Not today. You’re going to get up and carry on.’
“And that ultimately became the title for the album.”
Enjoy the album in its entirety, below.