Jessica Thandi Berry and Graham Godfrey continue a journey into psych-synth pop to take their Thandii project on to a playlist near you
Photo: Feature image @sterlingchandler_
With the wind of Margate seafront billowing out her Werkhaus shawl – not to mention ruffling her Seventies fringe – Jessica Thandi Berry looks every bit the popstar in waiting.
You’d have had to place your head in a bucket of Angel Delight not to have noticed the swirl of excitement around the psych-synth sounds of project Thandii over the past couple of years.
The electronica keys and encouraging lyrics first caught the attention of ‘cene magazine in 2017, when we placed it as one of our first tracks on the Spotify #KeepitKent playlist, where it has stayed ever since.
The soft-focus video for latest song Another One not so much repeats the Seventies trait as develops it, with the roller-skates on the Margate boardwalk and ethereal vocals doing nothing to dissuade mind’s-eye comparisons with Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks.
But, as it so often does, meeting the artist in person rather than over late-night Instagram messages reveals far more of what it’s really all about.
“That video was a crazy shoot,” says Jessica. “It was -1oC with really strong winds. We were trying to make it look summery and we wanted to have all our friends and artists in the video (if you look closely you will see local personalities Gemma Cairney and Gus Sharpe), but not that many turned up and I don’t blame them.
“Anyone who did really got battered by the wind. I stood in the sea that day and it was horrible.”
While Jess has been the focus of the original Thandii experience, featuring solely on the artwork (which she created herself), our shoot with WerkHaus also revealed the new dual direction in which the project is going.
Her long-term partner Graham Godfrey is very much part of everything.
“I’m not like Thandii the entity when I do a gig,” says Jess. “Graham and I work together, write together and produce it together. More recently, we’ve been bringing Graham into the artwork as well. We do every single part of it together, so why are we just focusing on me? I felt a little bit strange being the only face of it, when it is such a collaboration. I am not Thandii – we are Thandii.”
Enjoying a coffee from the Curve Roasters just off Margate’s Old Town, it is confirmed that, but for a bet between the two, Thandii may never have been in Margate.
“Yes, it’s true. But it was more like a dare,” says Jess.
“We were getting frustrated going out in London and feeling dissatisfied,” adds Graham. “All these great areas we used to go out in were getting rinsed for commercial benefit. After one long, drink-induced night, we had a moment of clarity. Why don’t we just try something completely different?”
Graham suggested Margate.
“We had heard a few people talking about Margate, but we’d never been here,” he says. “The day we came down here, we got our flat. It was a complete gamble.”
Jess continues: “And now I could never leave. Everything fell into place musically and mentally. Best dare ever.”
After a strong start from debut EP Forgetful in 2017, the following year saw a string of single releases including Alkaline, Not Much Room, Thursday’s Child and Another One.
Thandii has its own style, certainly, but putting that style into words is a whole different matter. We’ve seen it referenced as Disco 2.0, we’ve heard MGMT in there, The Doors and Fleetwood Mac.
“Oh nice!” says Jess. “We’re big fans, so I love that you hear that. The Seventies is definitely an era I love.
“One of our favourite albums is the first Buckingham/Nicks record before they joined Fleetwood Mac,” adds Graham.
“We’ve got quite a broad set of influences. We aren’t limited to a sound just yet, we are still kind of experimenting and getting creative to find our voice through it.”
The wide-ranging nature of Thandii’s music has seen it picked up from two ends of the musical spectrum. For example, 2018 track Thursday’s Child was added to both the popular psychedelic playlist Mellow Morning and that of world-renowned hip hop, indie and rock producer DJ Danger Mouse, propelling it to almost 300,000 listens on Spotify.
“That was really exciting,” says Jess. “It felt mad that he found our Soundcloud link by scrolling through music and then getting in touch. It definitely pushed us to do more.”
With the world of music still trying to find its new ways of making money, views on YouTube and listens on Spotify have become a currency but, according to Thandii, measuring success is not always as easy as counting hits on a website.
“We would judge it as to whether we’re happy with it,” says Graham. “The acid test is whether we think we achieved what we set out to do.” Jess adds: “You can feel slightly validated when something gets a lot of plays. We aren’t making any money from it, so you have to either choose play count or if you’re still happy with something a year or two down the line.”
January, the time for hibernating, has seen Thandii buried in the studio with a whole bunch of new songs almost ready for release.
“There is so much music we want to release this year,” adds Jess.
Though not originally from the area, the importance of Margate in helping Thandii to where it finds itself now is not lost on the pair, with the Another One video shot by local director Tom Dream and even the jewellery featured in the video created by a local designer.
“It’s quite important to us to try to keep everything local,” says Graham. “There is something in Margate that’s really special to celebrate. There’s a lot of inter-format relations happening.”
Jess adds: “This is why it’s such a nice thing to do this with ‘cene magazine, too. There is a real connect. It’s great to shout each other out and walk each other’s wildest dreams, that’s the most amazing thing about this place at this time.”