Interview: Bipolar Sunshine

When I spoke to Bipolar Sunshine, whose real name is Adio Merchant, on a Thursday morning, he was sounding decidedly (and appropriately) sunny, responding to the standard “How are you?” with a not so standard “I’m ready for the day”. Adio has good reason to be happy. Since leaving the Manchester six-piece band Kid British in 2012, he has had considerable success as a solo artist. His debut EP was released in June 2013, and from there he has played at Glastonbury and had his single ‘Where Did The Love Go’ included on BBC Radio 1’s Playlist.

As far as his name is concerned, Adio’s explanation for his choice is pretty damn cool. He told me that he was concerned that people are too quick to put music in boxes, to restrict it to certain genres. Therefore, by calling himself ‘bipolar’, it would almost be expected of him to experiment, and experiment he does, with his songs stretching across various genres, from indie to hip hop to house to rat pack. The addition of sunshine, Adio said, was that it reminded him of the light at the end of the tunnel, and so even his sadder songs will not end bleakly. It is clear when you listen to his various EPs that this is indeed the case. The voice is recognisable, but in each different song it is masked and arranged to suit his purpose.

One thing is certain though; Bipolar Sunshine is a clean break in style from Kid British, Adio’s old band. Kid British was a group of six young men from Manchester, and has been compared to The Streets because of its social commentary. Adio is keen to explain that despite the break up, he will never lose the connection he had with that group, which was based on friendships formed when they were young. However, when performing, Adio is now far freer to break away from even what the track sounds like recorded. He wants to use his live performances to experiment, saying that if people want to hear it like it had been recorded, they should just buy the CD.

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Nonetheless, Adio has maintained something from his Kid British days; namely, ensuring that his upbringing in Manchester influences and affects his music. He thinks what is currently happening in culture in Manchester is important for music that is essential coming from the city. However, he wants to make sure that, unlike some of his favourite Mancunian artists, he still looks beyond Manchester. His influences are wide-ranging, much like his style. They include The Streets, Kayne West and the Carpenters. The ability to listen to and appreciate a wide-range of both new and old music is vital for spurring new artists on, and exciting them about the ever-changing, constantly evolving process in which they are involved.

Adio is more aware than most of this need for chang and evolution. He feels that he is distinguished by being “someone who has been able to grasp onto what is crackers, what Manchester’s music is… but also the music where hip-hop is starting to come heavily into play, where rap heavily features and uses those sounds in the music… whereby I’m not just trying to make a standard indie track, because that to me is not what it is anymore.” Adio has taken this so far as to invent his own genre: ‘grey’, “a new style that’s coming up which is born from me and Manchester, and a few artists that I’ve known, in that we’re looking at music and any musical genre through the eyes of someone who lives in the north, who has lived through this type of culture and who understands what’s going on, who understands what’s been before them, but also understands where they’re going.” This new, innovative genre would be inclusive of the kind of fluidity that Adio is so keen on.

Therefore, Adio, under the pseudonym Bipolar Sunshine, is an exciting and progressive artist, keen to innovate and move music forward. He has certainly enjoyed some amazing moments, from playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 people at Glastonbury, to sharing his love of music with Jeremy Piven at a party, but there will be more ahead. His tour will be continuing over the next month or so, but I hope he will be around for a while to come.

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