Roxanne Clifford on Patience debut album Dizzy Spells
Three years after the collapse of Veronica Falls and her synth-pop reinvention, Roxanne Clifford finally delivers her darkly danceable debut as Patience
"It’s been liberating for me to do things completely on my own terms."
It’s been a transitional few years for Roxanne Clifford. Up until 2016, she thought she knew who she was as a musician. She spent a long time in guitar bands, starting out with short-lived Glasgow anarcho-pop outfit The Royal We and then breaking away, together with drummer Patrick Doyle, to form Sexy Kids and then the group that, until now at least, would come to define her – Veronica Falls. Clifford was born in Manchester, served her musical apprenticeship in Glasgow and ended up in London by the time Veronica Falls were in full swing; they shifted shape between records, from their debut’s gothic noir to the jangling guitars of its follow-up, but stood musically as the logical culmination of all of Clifford’s work to that point.
Three years ago, things changed drastically. Veronica Falls ended up on hiatus after Doyle departed (tragically, he died last year). Clifford swapped Britain for Los Angeles and, without an obvious next creative step making itself apparent, decided she’d have a go at writing a synth-pop song, mainly to see if she could come up with something that sounded like Robyn. The initial results were The Church and The Pressure, two coolly-executed and atmospherically dreamy new efforts that sonically were a wholesale departure for Clifford, all sleek electro polish, with languid melodies that drifted across genre boundaries. Her old friend Michael Kasparis, who runs Glasgow’s Night School Records, put both out on seven-inch. The limited run was snapped up rapidly.
Ever since, Clifford has chipped away at more material under her new Patience pseudonym, never quite knowing where the project was going to take her but becoming more comfortable all the time with the latest musical identity that she was carving out for herself. "I considered calling the record The Early Years," she laughs on an early-morning call from LA, which remains home, "because it feels to me like a collection of tracks that have come together really gradually. But that might have been too on-the-nose."
Instead, the first album from Patience is Dizzy Spells, on account of it capturing both the disparate nature of Clifford’s work on the project to date and the disorientation of swapping London for Los Angeles – grey skies for blue ones, reservation for extroversion, an old life for a fresh start. It’s still a weirdly cohesive affair – there’s something about her airy vocals that helps anchor the songs, as does the beguiling push-pull between the hazy tone and the glossy sound. Ultimately, though, it’s a wide-reaching pop odyssey that delves as far into culture shock as it does the excitement that new beginnings engender.
"As soon as I started making music like this, I loved that there was that sense of instant satisfaction," she says. "There’s a very quick turnaround when you make something in your bedroom. There’s no external pressure; you’re doing it for yourself. I wasn’t thinking too far ahead – it was song by song. Diving into making a record without knowing how I wanted it to sound would have been too daunting. So, I took things as they came, and I had a lot of fun doing it."
A fair chunk of Dizzy Spells actually came together away from the city that’s at the centre of it; it was as if Clifford, who calls the record a "transatlantic compilation", needed distance from LA to properly assess her relationship with it. Those first two singles – "I had to include them, they’re a part of the story" – plus White of an Eye were cut back in Glasgow with Free Love's Lewis Cook.
Elsewhere, some of the vocals were recorded in London with Misha Hering, including those for No Roses, which chronicles her disenchantment with her new hometown. "Everything was a little bit discombobulating when I got out here," she admits, "and it took a while before I started meeting people. I’m still figuring out how proactive I actually am in LA. I think I’ll maybe always feel more creatively encouraged in Britain. A lot of this record is about the lifestyle change."
It's also, musically, a whistle-stop tour of a lot of influences that Clifford has been keeping in her back pocket for years. She’s always loved Frankie Knuckles, for instance, but she’s never had an appropriate creative outlet to pay homage to him; on the gloriously sunny Chicago house-driven single The Girls Are Chewing Gum, however, that run comes to an end.
Plus, there’s something distinctly European about the night-time techno of Living Things Don’t Last, while the assured strut of Moral Damage, an Anglo-French duet with Veronica Falls bandmate Marion Herbain, feels like a different kind of pop diversion entirely. Hanging over everything is that delicate balance between darkness and dancefloor. "When I think of house, I can see the parallels between that and the guitar music I made," explains Clifford. "There’s a happy/sad feeling that I’ve always mixed together."
It is, overall, a reaction against everything that’s come before for Clifford; she continued to write and demo guitar-based material upon arriving in California, but she isn’t sure whether any of it will see the light of day. "It maybe feels too comfortable to me now. This seems like more of a challenge." She’s already got a raft of new songs in hand that are more a product of her life in LA than anything on Dizzy Spells; this album, then, marks the conclusion of Patience’s woozy inception, the sound of Clifford finding her feet again. "I always feel kind of uneasy when I’m not releasing music, and it’s been a while. It’s going to be nice to have something to build on. The sound will change a bit, and I’ll always do things in my own time, but I want to get to work on the next thing pretty quickly. This really just feels like the starting point."