whynow is the time to listen to… Nightbus

With a new single out today, ‘Mirrors’, via So Young Records, we speak to Nightbus about how they formed, house parties, and balancing their ambitions for world domination with simply doing what they love – as part of our series on emerging artists.


They’ve been compared to The xx, and have an electronic sound that captures a dark, nighttime aura that’s reflected in their name. In fact, Manchester’s Nightbus – consisting of Olive Rees, Zac Melrose and Jake Cottier – don’t shy away from the bleaker, more existential aspects of twentysomething life. Their debut single ‘Way Past Three wasn’t just the result of a self-described “spooky” studio session, where they released just how well they clicked creatively, but drew on the experiences of despair among the late-hours, and has a compelling video to match, directed by Zac.

With a new single out today, ‘Mirrors’, via So Young Records, we speak to the trio about how they formed, house parties, and balancing their ambitions for world domination with simply doing what they love – as part of our series on emerging artists.

Hello, I note you’re not calling from the same room. Are you not in the same house?

Olive: No, I couldn’t deal with living with them.

You haven’t had a huge argument as a band then?

Zac: Not yet.


Photo: James Melrose

You recently played Manchester’s Band On The Wall. How was that?

Olive: We’re still riding a high. It was the peak of my music career so far – I’m sure the lads will agree. I’m a real worrier, so I was anxious before about turning up and the pressure of delivering. But it’s the biggest turnout I’ve seen.

How did you guys form as a band?

Zac: Me and Olive were at Uni together. We built our mutual friendship on a shared love – and hate – for things. I was a die-hard fan of Olive’s songwriting and solo stuff. Towards the start of third year I started managing Jake as a producer; we were DJing and doing club events. But then me and Jake felt a bit confined and weren’t getting much out of it, so decided to do rough sketches and demos – it felt like the natural progression to do something still electronic-oriented but with a live element.

You said you admired Olive’s songwriting. Was there a particular moment you three first played together and realised something could work?

Zac: Our first ever session was quite spooky. We’d rented this rehearsal space to just get together and feel stuff out. We played some instrumentals, had a bit of a jam and there was a song that stood out, ‘Way Past Three’. Olive was raring to write to that song; we just had a really collaborative way of communicating. I think in less than 24 hours we had ‘Way Past Three’, and we thought this is real. The whole thing’s been surreal from start to finish.


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You mentioned your mutual tastes; what were those bands you bonded over?

Zac: We love Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital, and me and Olive are massive fans of Jadu Heart. But we also have a shared hate for things – not to be wholly negative.

Why the name Nightbus?

Zac: For a long time, especially coming out of lockdown, it got to a point in time where I felt I was spending almost fifty percent of my life on night buses; whether that was coming back from work, going to work or coming back from a night out. It felt like Groundhog Day. When you’re on the night bus, you either see the best or the worst of people. Sometimes you’re so engulfed in that moment that it’s either a good thing or a really bad thing and you’re struggling to hit that balance with life.

It’s like a cluster-fuck of all these emotions in those early hours when you might be on a night bus. For a while I didn’t know what I could soundtrack that moment with because for a long time I ran my course with a lot of music that was floating around, nothing was really clicking and then that’s where the concept of Nightbus came from; I wanted to put together this music that could soundtrack those late-night endeavours.

Olive, you wrote ‘Way Past Three’. What’s it about to you?

Olive: I’d just quit my job that day [I wrote it], so was in a very manic mindset. This was the first time meeting [Zac and Jake] in the practice room.  I asked, “What do you want it to be about?” Zac just said, “I want it to be about: you’re going out, chasing something, and by the end of the night it ends up chasing you.” I thought how that was the exact day I’d just had; I’d just quit my job and responded to it in the worst way possible.

So that one silver-lining of you quitting your job… The music video was directed by you, Zac. It’s slightly creepy and memorable with its use of sheep masks. What’s the concept behind it?

Zac: I had an original concept, then we went back to the drawing board, condensed it, and went back to the drawing board again. But across that whole process, the concept retained that spooky, eerie vibe. I’m a social butterfly – I could talk to a brick wall – but there’s something about house-parties that’s never worked for me. I’ll either gravitate towards the ‘chill room’, or a corner just having a chat.

With ‘Way Past Three’, I thought of escalating that personal mindset and turning it into a bit of a lucid, weird, eerie idea. The concept is when ‘the afters’ has finished; when it’s way past three, and you have the fear of losing out, you’ll drag yourself to a situation like that, but actually it’s not benefiting you or anyone. The whole sheep mask thing came from the fact everyone’s just following the herd and doing the same thing, and probably avoiding their problems.

‘Way Past Three’ was obviously praised by The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis. How did that feel?

Olive: That was crazy because it was our first release, and it got shouted out by The Guardian, under the Paramore review. I read it and thought it was the best sentence I’d ever read in my life.

Zac: To be compared to The xx as well… since I’ve been about 12 years old they’ve been such a massive band. To be compared to them, you don’t know how much that means to me. It’s weird, but I’ll take it.


You recently signed with So Young Records. How did that feel too?

Jake: The word surreal gets thrown around a lot… To go from our first moment jamming, to our first single, the constant moving and then talk of signing a deal… it’s all a bit crazy. I think at the beginning, you get a bit of impostor syndrome, but then you remember that although this band is new, what we’ve done in music and creatively up until this point has been the work, and this is what we’ve been waiting for.

Zac: If there were ten steps to take as a band, we’ve been together since June last year, and it feels like we’ve taken six-and-a-half. That’s not being egotistical, just the reality. We went down to London, signed a record deal, we’re doing interviews with magazines, we’re playing to packed-out rooms in Manchester and things are looking up for the future. When the whole So Young thing came around – because we had to keep it silent for about three months – it’s only natural when it’s revealed there will be some form of animosity in the scene, because we are so new. But we do deserve it. Whether it’s Jake producing, or me DJing, curating and managing artists, or Olive pursuing her singer-songwriter capabilities, we’ve all been grafting for four or five years. So maybe it’s the right time for Nightbus to do its thing.

Olive: Yeah, I don’t have a plan B, this is it. In some way, shape or form, I will be making money from being a musician. I teach music business at a Uni, which I suppose is a backup plan. But I think we’re all really good at working full-time, and making time for Nightbus. We’ve jokingly talked about world domination, but it’s not that; it’s imperative for us to just be happy, to have a career that you really enjoy and don’t feel like a slave to the system.

Reading around you guys, it’s quite clear you want to capture an essence of twentysomethings life. How would you describe the way life is now for people in their 20s?

Olive: For me there’s a fear of instability. I juggle four jobs: two music things, I teach full-time and I’ve got a bar job. I’m always trying to create that stability around me. Without getting political, it’s not a cheap, easy or accessible world to live in right now. You really do just have to be lucky to be comfortable. It feels a bit grim, like we’ve gone back. That’s why it’s important for us to be doing something we enjoy.

And, finally, what’s next for you guys? Can you say much about what you’ll be releasing?

Zac: Over the coming weeks and months there’s gonna be a handful of singles coming out. I guess you could see it as a project of four chapters. Of these four songs coming out, there’s definitely an overarching story. It finishes with [the track] ‘Bell Tower’, which is about getting home, which I think is a good way to tie-up this first phase of Nightbus and what we’re about. We can’t really say much about stuff beyond that, but it goes back to what we said about ambitions. We’re definitely in a mindset now where we’re manifesting things.

We have a lot of self-belief and, to a certain degree, we’re wearing a bit of an ego on the sleeve, because things are going so well, but I think that’s natural. Whatever comes our way, we’ll just do it – for the love of the music and trying to escape this grim reality of being a young person. I don’t want to work three jobs anymore, and if this is the ticket out, then it’s the ticket.

The ticket for the Nightbus – thank you very much, guys.

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