London lass Sarah Tanat-Jones, aka Synaesthete, raised pulses and warmed hearts this summer with her thundering, disco-infused debut LP, Array. Hinting at her combined drumming and vocal talents (she's also a professional illustrator), Array came in the form of a beautifully painted, techni-coloured picture-book.

Her end-of-summer single 'Luxury' wowed and shone its way into our Track of the Day slot a few weeks back, and the magma-like video was equally gorgeous. We caught up with Sarah to chat about painting, women in music and her evolving sound.



Array has an illustration paired with each song - are they supposed to be enjoyed simultaneously?

With Array I wanted to create something with plurality, something that combined two sense experiences, music and illustration. I don't know how easy it is to pair music with still imagery - video achieves this a lot more fluidly. But I wanted to explore how words and pictures can go together, and what happens with the end result - do you feel more attached to the music? I made a book of illustration that accompanies the CD - it encases the CD, and provides a home for it, whilst continuing the colourful, upbeat feel of the songs. I suppose when I was younger and bought CDs, I'd spend ages staring at the tiny little bad quality photos in the cover slip - getting more of a context to the music - and making Array a book as well as CD was my way of magnifying that.

And which comes first in the creative process?

In this case, the music came first. I named the project 'Synaesthete' because I have synaesthesia - I see words and letters in colour. So when I was making these songs, a few visuals for each one began to take root in my mind. I was working in this beautiful farmhouse in Devon, recording these songs all day with my producer James Elliott Field. And in the evenings I'd be drawing and painting. It was really fun, a very intense couple of weeks' work in the summer.

Between Earth & Air and Array your sound has become more polished and upbeat. Any idea where it'll go next?

Yes, I've been really pleased, and lucky that both releases came on waves of inspiration. That's what seems to happen to me - I have fallow periods, then I start thinking - 'how do I create really good drum sounds on a computer?' 'How do arpeggiators work?' 'What is MIDI?' and all these endless questions. Earth & Air was the first time I began to answer those questions, it was a completely self-made thing, and it sounds quite DIY. But I'm really happy with it because all that knowledge was newly gained - before that I'd just played drums and sang and kept things acoustic. So it was a step into the unknown. And then a lot of ideas came along 6 months later, and that was Array - and it's sunnier and poppier, maybe because I wrote it in the summer and was in a great frame of mind, positive and full of energy. I built on what I'd already taught myself and I think it's quite a bit more together-sounding. Next will be new songs, new experiments with rhythm, percussion, and pop.

Desert island scenario: you have to choose between the drumsticks and the paintbrushes!

Wahh! I'd choose paintbrushes, because you can use anything to drum with! Sticks, rocks, your hands. However, I suspect this is more of a metaphorical question - which discipline would I choose if i could only do one, music or art? Well, there's no answer to that. I'd be like choosing between your eyes. They're both so fundamentally important to me. I've always been singing, since I was a tiny kid, and I've always drawn and had scribbles on bits of paper. Both have grown, I've dedicated a lot of time to both and I really love them equally! We can do more than one thing in life - look at Christopher Wren, he was an architect, astronomer and mathematician too!

Have you fulfilled your ambition of kicking Robin Thicke in the balls yet?

[Laughs] I said I'd kick him in the balls a while ago but I don't think that's necessary any more - you shouldn't kick someone while they're down, and the plaintive (and ultimately unsuccessful) album he recently made to try to win back his ex-wife is pretty sad. OK, funny, but sad.

I've noticed some feminist themes in your illustrations. How do you think the music industry is stacked for solo female performers today?

I think it's an interesting time. Women still always get compared to other women in music - it appears to be something that just happens, like putting butter on bread. Voices that sound like so-and-so; a look that is reminiscent of someone... etc. Comparisons will always be rife amongst music journalism, I guess. There are definitely inconsistencies among the way women and men who make music are received - e.g. women producers who, it's assumed, didn't do all their own work, or were 'assisted' by guys - like Grimes' amazing rant outlines. But generally, I've noticed, even in the last couple of years, there's less tolerance for this sort of thing. Which is great. We always have to push to get people to change their attitudes. Personally I feel lucky to have great friends and supporters who aren't sexist but I know it's something women have to deal with in many different, subtle ways.

What's the best live act you've seen this year?

Fimber Bravo and his band! What an amazing act. If you could bottle that feeling, it would be dangerous and kept on the top shelf. He made me feel half-crazed with triumph. I loved 'Life after Doomsday' - it was one of my favourite tracks of the year in 2012 - so seeing it played live was great. Fimber plays the steel drum. He's from Trinidad but he lives in London, lots of people have used his talents on their record, Hot Chip, people like that. His band features a stupidly talented drummer, an amazing synth player (both so cool) and Kadialy Kouyate, the Senegalese Kora player. It was in the basement at Power Lunches at Kit Club, the club nights put on by Kit Records who released my album. Just so, so good. Four great musicians and a happy crowd.

You can visit Synaesthete by heading to her official website.