The London-based duo of Alexia McAvoy and James O’Driscoll, artistically known as Driscal, released their first single from their 25-years-in-the-making album on February 8.
The narrative of “You Didn’t Stand By Me” takes place both over one evening and half a lifetime simultaneously. It’s the story of a toxic relationship and the lucky escape from it, with the subject of the song blissfully and ignorantly unaware of their own crimes.
James penned the song after a situation Alexia found herself in. Alexia’s heartbreaking vocals are front and centre here, tracked at James’s flat in North London over a half hour visit. With eerie post production by the unhinged Scottish artist Tom Kills and mixed by UK stalwart Jeff Knowler (Goldfrapp, Blur, RHCP), it’s a huge statement of intent for the album ‘It Took A While’, to be released later in 2023.
The video for “You Didn’t Stand By Me” is an emotionally charged piece in more ways than one. Choreographed by McAvoy, it is portrayed spectacularly by Melody McAvoy, Alexia’s eldest daughter, the 20-year-old sensation of the UK dance scene.
Alexia and James have been friends and colleagues for many years since growing up in North London. Alexia began her journey as a performer and singer at fourteen, by fifteen she had already turned a major label deal down. That desire to record more meaningful material brought her on a darker dance sound that led to a number of UK airplay hits.
At this point she was asked to join an oversized Jazz Funk band from the area. They had been signed by various labels (Sony, Acid Jazz), James was the guitarist and co-writer in that band. Both children of migrants (Cyprus & Ireland respectively), they seemed to share a love of ‘storytelling’ music that spoke to the listener on many levels.
Alexia performed in the West End in ‘Saturday Night Fever’, which in turn landed her a deal with Warners. She toured with many pop acts of the day (Sugababes, Steps, Blue…). Her love of dance and singing led to her opening up the internationally renowned ‘I Got Soul’ school for the performing arts (a school which has produced a plethora of very famous faces in UK entertainment) which is still going as strong as ever.
James followed his love of music to start working in the independent music sector, firstly plugging many of the UK’s Britpop generation of artists as well as artists such as Bjork & Pavement, then becoming head of A&R for a now defunct label who reignite the career of Tom Jones & Aswad, then becoming an artist manager to bring Orson to the UK and have a #1 single and album.
There wasn’t much time for Driscal at this point, but when they did something, things generally happened. The demo to one of their songs ended up on ‘Cold Feet’ in front of 10 Million people (without their knowledge). They Toured the UK as support for major label acts, but always had to go back to the day job.
Still, there was always some other business to take care of: Alexia working on projects with Universal & Sony, James working to support some huge acts, amongst many new ones coming through. With all this, however, when there was a (precious) hour or so spare, they’d record. They’d get some downtime at the legendary Konk Studios (owned by Ray Davies of the Kinks and hardly changed since its purchase in the late 70s) and just run the tape. The moments were fleeting, but by pulling in some great players they met along the way they started to find the sound that ticked their own very specific boxes.
So, how come we’ve arrived here then? It’s really the testimony of friendship, Alexia and James have remained friends all this time. In 2022 they started collating all these recordings they had made and realised that there was a full body of work here, not an album like those tight sounding, all recorded in one place and time ones of the 90’s and 00’s, but a stream of consciousness collection of emotions that could only be released now.
The album ‘It Took A While’ by Driscal will be released autumn 2023, but for now, listen to ‘You Didn’t Stand By Me’ on all platforms to your heart’s content, as it’s a sign of what’s to come.