Quarry, real name Ashley Carvell, is distinctive. He’s wearing Balenciaga trainers, black nail varnish and adorned in trinkets + jewellery. I can’t help but think he looks like a modern-day Jack Sparrow. His eyes are bright and he’s full of energy.
We muse over his appearance, his leftfield dress sense might cause a stranger to give a second glance in Peckham where we meet. But his home town or rather home village; he raised more than a few eyebrows.
“People are cynical of your dreams. Don’t you want to get a real job? Do you want to cut your hair? Just because I looked different. I’m gonna wear what I like because it feels like me.”
Quarry grew up in Pitstone, a small village on the outskirts of Buckinghamshire – famous to teenagers in the area for its local swimming attraction – Pitstone Quarry. A large body of stagnant and unhygienic water home to litter, quickly changing temperatures and the odd dead animal.
As a teenager, he performed in a few bands but when he turned 18 he took a typical route for a village child from the home counties and went to university, to study maths. Not unheard of for a musician, Caribou springs to mind, but still an odd degree choice. He says he’s still interested in the subject but it didn’t give him what he wanted:
“I was hoping that I’d get to university and it would feel like stepping into a new world of ideas and people that were passionate about what they were doing. The reality though was that most people were just there because they were good at maths at school. I wanted to feel like what I was doing mattered and was leading to something bigger. All we were doing was learning how to pass a test, which felt like such a waste of time.”
He graduated and went back home but his welling dissatisfaction caused him to spurn the traditional post-university route to stay at home and pursue music. His track “No Ordinary Love” a single release off his debut EP, “Q1” talks about this period and how he felt at the time.
“I thought I have to do music, I didn’t think I had a choice. The average starting salary of my year was around 50K. And 7 years later I’m in earning £10 an hour as a cleaner, with a degree.”
Despite being overqualified for his job he still felt good about life – as he had something to comfort him and something to strive for – music.
“It let me do what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel any better than people around me but I did feel frustrated because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.”
He spent a fair few years crafting his sound and creating his vision for Quarry. The time was productive. His sound is distinctive and varied – ranging from the touching and personal, “Angels + Kings” or the quietly aggressive “White Wishy Washy World” – which defines a racist white culture followed by a verse that rejects it. He half raps and half sings “Take your bias and your preconception, we the same race, but it ain’t a reflection.”
“The reality is black and white people are different because they’re treated differently. Being a white man means you’re a certain thing in this world. I’m saying I’m done with that world because it means nothing and its stagnant. I don’t relate to you when I look at you, we don’t feel the same. I don’t have to be the same as you.”
Sensitive subject matter, but for Quarry – continually questioning and finding his identity is a huge source of inspiration for his creative output.
“I’m always asking myself what art do I wanna make? What do my videos wanna be like? What are my beliefs? Music for me has been defining who I am to myself. With my music, I always try and show different sides of me. I don’t want to evoke emotions as much as expose my own emotions. I want people to recognise the rawness of it. I want that to be the inspiration for what they feel.”
Despite COVID creating some disappointment for the live music scene, Quarry remains optimistic about the future:
“I want to get back on stage soon if I can! Cancelling the European tour with Tom Grennan was gutting. I really miss it. Looking people in the eye when you perform is just something you can’t replace. I’ve got new songs on the way though, videos to premiere, and a whole bunch of stuff that I’m really excited to share.”
Quarry has one more acoustic track out before Christmas, some singles in the New Year and is working on a mixtape – which will be released in Spring.
Press play on Quarry’s ‘Torn’ below now.