"I’m still figuring out my rhythms" – hmv.com talks to EMA
As ethereal, electro terrorist Erika M. Anderson (a.k.a EMA) prepares to follow-up her critically adored 2012 record Past Life Martyred Saints with new album The Future's Void, we grabbed a few words with her to talk about making the record, how Trent Reznor's early demos shaped the album and how it's a lyrical mixture of internet paranoia and pretty things...
Your new album The Future's Void is due out next week, how are you feeling ahead of release? Nervous or excited?
"Right now I’m actually just exhausted and want a nap."
Fair enough, so when did you finish the record? Have you been sat on it for a while?
"I actually finished writing the songs last summer. A good number of them have been in demo form and almost mixed for like, 9 months. But it takes time to get the mixes right, finalize track order, get it mastered, do the album art, all that stuff."
When was the album written? Have you been writing for it for a couple of years?
"A good amount of lyrics and themes come from experience and just subconscious processing. So in that regard I guess I’m always writing!"
"Melodies come usually when I’m in a relaxed state and then hopefully I have something around to record them on, otherwise I just hum them to myself until they disappear or reappear."
What was recording like? Were you in the studio for a long time?
"We have a studio set up in our basement. Sometimes things go quickly and sometimes the pace is glacial or utterly blocked. I’m still figuring out my rhythms."
"I don’t have a schedule like some people where they sit and work for a certain amount of hours a day. Many times I need breaks to let my brain figure out a problem if I’m stuck. I rarely just get unstuck by sitting in front of the computer."
Did you have many collaborators or did you record most of the instruments yourself?
"I work with my drummer Billy Sandness who I have known since high school, and Leif Shackelford who I worked on the last record with. I’ll often come up with the form of something and then Leif and I will work together on production."
You've talked about the influence that early Nine Inch Nails recordings had on the album, what did you find so inspiring about those tracks in particular?
"It just felt like something that hadn’t been referenced or re-examined in a while. I discovered the early demos and that was just amazing. Most of the NIN stuff is so well produced that you don’t even think about the songs existing in demo form. I loved hearing the songs so raw."
You worked with Leif Shackelford once again, what does he bring to the recording process?
"Well, he studied and taught recording so he actually knows how to do things correctly, unlike me who just kind of plays until I like it but that can take forever and doesn’t always end up sounding that great. Leif and I balance each other out. We have almost zero crossover as far as musical taste, so if we can get something we both like then it’s a win."
"Sometimes we totally fight and get in almost metaphysical debates about grids and synths and genre, but it’s great to have someone call you on stuff that isn’t working. We don’t let things slide and we keep each other in check."
How do you feel this album moves on from Past Life Martyred Saints?
"I’m not sure. I might only know that in hindsight."
What kind of record is it lyrically? Are there any unifying themes?
"Many people have latched onto themes of internet exposure and online life, but it encompasses our integration with technology, media representation, and identity."
"It also just has some pretty things and my attempts to write in a funny grunge language as a shoutout to the Pacific Northwest, where I’m currently living."
What does the rest of 2014 look like for you? And when will we see you back in the UK?
"I’m going to be doing a lot of touring, back in the UK in early June. I already have new songs percolating inside of me, so I hope I have some time off to actually create things as well."
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment? Are there any new artists that have caught your attention?
"I’m stoked about this new wave of female-fronted punk bands that are coming out. I was influenced by Riot Grrrl the first time around and I’m excited to see how that influence resurges."
EMA's new album The Future's Void is released on Monday (April 7th). You can check out here back catalogue here. EMA tours the UK in June, playing shows in London, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol. You can find full details here.