"Music takes you over and once you are caught in its jaws you’re basically screwed" - hmv.com talks to Smoke Fairies
As they prepare to release their new self-titled album, we talk to folk duo Smoke Fairies, a.k.a Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies about making the record and coming back from the brink of breaking up…
Your new self-titled album is due out is out in a few days, how are you feeling ahead of release? Nervous or excited?
Jessica: "Excited, its great to get it out into the world."
Katherine: "We played it live for the first time last night from start to finish in album order. It was a really special night for us."
When did you finish the record? Have you been sat on it for a while?
Jessica: "We recorded it in the Summer and then continuted mixing and mastering it until the end of the year so it was fairly fast. We started to work on the artwork at the very beginning of this year, so I would even say there was a bit of a rush to get everything ready. That always seems to be the way no matter how much time you have."
When was the album written? Have you been writing for it for a couple of years?
Jessica: "I think the album was writen in under a year. We started thinking about the posibility of doing it the summer before last and almost a year later we were recording. Some songs like 'Koto' were just a little riff for a few months and then gradually took shape. We weren’t even sure that one was finished right up until the end of mixing."
Katherine: "Once we started writing again the songs seemed to pour out of nowehere. I think there was a lot of pent up emotion that needed to find its way out. We were experimenting with new ways of writing, using simpler chord structures and stripping the arrangements down to the simplest forms, so that was spawning a lot of new ideas."
What was recording like? Were you in the studio for a long time?
Jessica: "It was a wonderful experience. We went to our friend’s studio, Squarehead, in rural Kent. There was a heat wave happening so there was a lot of lounging around and cider drinking during breaks."
"Recording wise, it was very different to our past experience. We went into the studio not really having an idea of how the song should sound and just reacting to each part that got recorded."
Katherine: "The warmth seemed to really affect the sound. There is a summery quality to some of the tracks. We could go off for walks and we found a great pub across the fields, with loads of great ales. I look back on it as a very joyful time."
Jessica, you said openly that you weren't sure you wanted to carry on making music together after your last record Blood Speaks, what made you want to carry on?
Jessica: "Quitting wasn’t a very realistic idea. After stepping back for a second I realised the music defines everything and there wasn’t much point in stopping. Plus, writing songs has always been the way I deal with upset or sadness and going through such a troubling time naturally brought out a few songs."
Katherine: "For both of us there was a feeling of overwhelming emptiness that probably hits all ambitious musicians struggling along. It’s hard to keep going when you can’t tell whether you are successful, failing, living life properly. Music can really take you over and once you are caught in its jaws you’re basically screwed, but it’s a wonderful way of messing yourself up. I don’t know if I’m capable of anything else. I’m very proud of this album, nothing else gives me this sense of satisfaction."
How do you feel this album moves on from Blood Speaks?
Jessica: "I think it is the progression we had to make. After questioning ourselves we had to shake everything up a bit."
Katherine: "We just felt free to explore different instruments and approach things in a new way. It felt a bit like starting again, it was definitely a rebirth. Anything that sounded a bit like something we’d done before, like chord structures, harmony patterns, metaphors in lyrics - were thrown out. We never really like the idea of treading old ground. It’s important for us to feel like we’re moving forward in some way; it keeps things interesting for ourselves and for our audience."
You worked with Kristofer Harris on the album, what did he bring to the process?
Jessica: "We couldn’t have done this record without Kris. He used to be our Bassist and we have had the idea of going down to Kent to record an Album with him for years. Because we are all good friends he was able to be really push us and force us to come up with the most interesting ideas for the songs. We called him the Wizard because he would use his computer wizardy to morph sounds and polish everything."
Katherine: "For this record we felt we needed to shut ourselves away and only be surrounded by people we knew very well. We had to rid ourselves of any outside pressures.We knew we could trust Kris with the project, and the three of us puzzled away at songs for days, working out how they should best be produced. It was quite an intense and rewarding process, because it was three friends coming together with a shared passion for the music."
What kind of album is this lyrically?
Jessica: "I feel the lyrics are more direct than anything we have done before. We really tried to make all the lines precise."
Katherine: "We didn’t want to rely on metaphors relating to nature and environment, as perhaps we have previously. We tried to avoid flowery, overly descriptive language and tried to get to the core."
What does the rest of 2014 look like for you?
Jessica: "We have a few tours lined up. In a week we do a tour a record stores, playing the songs in their most stripped back form which should be interesting."
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment? Are there any new artists that have caught your attention?
Jessica: "Matthew and the Atlas has a great record out in April. We got a sneeky listen of it the other day and it is great. I also thing Pinkunoizu has a great album out at the moment."
Smoke Fairies' new self-titled album will be released on Monday (April 14th) and is available to pre-order now from your local hmv store. You can also check out their back catalogue in our download store now.