My interactive art show at Mario’s Cafe


Musician Polly Scattergood on why she’s debuting her new project onDeadWaves in the famous Kentish Town caff



Polly and Maps frontman James Chapman. Photo: Cat Mook
Polly and Maps frontman James Chapman. Photo: Cat Mook
My name is Polly Scattergood and I’m a musician. When I was 16 I decided to move to London to try and pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. I started off living in Croydon, but eventually moved north, settling in Kentish Town.

Fast forward eleven years, I’ve had two albums out on Mute, and the area is very much my home now. I’ve made some wonderful friends, and even met my husband on Brecknock Road, where I recorded some of my second long-player Arrows.

In particular I love how music and art play a part in everyday life here: there’s always something interesting going on, and it’s one of those special places that seems to embrace everyone. I feel very lucky to live here and be part of such a great community.

Each image will have a song attached. Photo: Cat Mook
Each image will have a song attached. Photo: Cat Mook
For the last year I’ve been working on a new project, onDeadWaves, with my label mate James Chapman (also known as Maps, who was Mercury-nominated for his debut We Can Create). It was born out of a feeling of freedom and the desire to embrace a single moment in time. We had both been on various journeys whilst making previous albums, but when we started writing together it was like a new start, maybe because the sound was quite different from our regular musical styles.

We didn’t even intentionally write a whole album; it wasn’t planned that way. It was just two friends, writing together for the love of music. It was only when we wrote the seventh or eighth track that we thought “maybe we should call this an album”.

We wrote it all in James’ studio in the countryside, and we wanted the artwork to really reflect the open and expansive feel of the album, which is why we chose to collaborate with photographer Cat Mook. He understood our music instinctively and captured it beautifully within the images (see left). The emptiness and expanses of space in his photos fill us with an overwhelming sense of wonder. We love that.

Exhibition is on till 4th June. Photo: Cat Mook
Exhibition is on till 4th June. Photo: Cat Mook
The idea for our exhibition at Mario’s Cafe started when we realised that it was strange how differently people consume art and music. The former still feels like it should be treasured, whereas the latter (especially online) increasingly feels like it is consumed and forgotten at such a fast pace.

We wanted to try slowing everything down a bit and blurring the lines between art, music and life, allowing people to listen to a track and look at a piece of art, while relaxing in the café – where there will be no pressure to click on the next image or scroll down.

We have an Instagram account which we update with new images most days, but because everything in the virtual world moves so fast, we just loved the idea of having something that would last a little longer.

A special place: Mario's. Photo: Dan Hall
A special place: Mario’s. Photo: Dan Hall
Mario’s Café in Kentish Town has always been a special place (read Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley on it here). We rehearse at New Rose studios in Camden every week. Mario’s is always a favourite place to go in the morning, after a gig or before rehearsals. It’s always filled with lovely, interesting people. You can never be lonely in Mario’s Café; there is always someone to talk to.

There are ten photos in the show, and each image will attached to a song that you can play via an Mp3 player. People can have a listen to the track, look at the image, and just be in the moment with it.

We hope that people enjoy the exhibition. It’s open for a month, so if you go there before the album comes out, you’ll get an exclusive preview of the record.

Our next single is called California – but the track that you listen to will, of course, depend on which table you sit at.

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The onDeadWaves album is out on Mute on 20th May (more info here or @onDeadWaves). Exhibition runs till 4th June at Mario’s Café, 6 Kelly Street NW1

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