London dreamers Woman’s Hour
, along with the help of Secretly Canadian, have finally released the debut album, Conversations
. The album moves like a journey—the emotional ambiguity developing through the listener’s personal context. It’s filled with spooky innocence and dreamy melodic progression. Conversations
is not for the passive, it’s not an album for a barbecue, it’s not the album you put in your earbuds during a workout, but it is an album to put on when you’re looking to get lost in an existential world of thought or trying to drum up realizations of the heart. Did I mention it’s brilliantly titled?
We know what you’re thinking, 'another synth-pop band?'
, but there’s so much more to Woman’s Hour than that. On paper we are talking about synth driven melodies, light percussion, subtle grooves and textured vocal patterns that become well-produced foggy electro pop. Once it hits the ears there is an innocence and authenticity that can’t be formulated into words. The journey ends with proper “go forth and be awesome” sort of closure on the Phantogranthem-esque final track “The Day That Needs Defending”.
The album also comes with intriguing monochromatic visuals. Woman’s Hour teamed up with artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
to decontextualize imagery and upcycle a viewer’s pre-conceived perspectives. The art direction, get this, started with just a casual conversation. How fitting.
Leading lady Fiona Burgess
gave us the scoop on what the process has been like for the band. She talked about the importance of connecting with fans on a physical level, being vulnerable in the studio, and how this seemingly well structured approach to branding grew from practical decisions. Check it below. Congrats on Conversations!
It’s so crazy. I feel like I need to play a gig or something in order to feel like it’s out there. I’m at home, I’m not engaging on the human level. I’m really looking forward to touring the album and feeling like that is my way of engaging properly. Digital engagement is very cool, it’s very cool that you over in Minneapolis are able to listen to it and that is phenomenal. I’m basking. It’s so great we are able to share. You’re not touring for a short while right?
Well, we are not going on an official tour, but at the moment were doing festivals about every weekend. That’s nice. We just started working with a drummer, so we’ve been practicing a lot. I don’t want to sit and listen to the record, I want to communicate through playing live. It’s nice that you can introduce the album with a built-in festival audience.
Yeah, we’ve never done festivals before. I really enjoy it, it’s completely different to having your own gig. At a gig you have an audience that knows what to expect, and at a festival you’ve got an audience where most of them are completely naive. You have to persuade them, which I enjoy. I love the challenge of trying to engage an audience. I don’t know how to explain the feeling because it’s quite intangible—all of these bodies in one space, and you’re performing for them, and you have to persuade them to listen and pay attention. I’ve read about you and the other members talking about “beautiful flaws” and being vulnerable when creating. How did that translate in the studio? Were you able to open up and take things in unexpected directions?
To be honest although we took certain parts of songs to the studio, a lot of the album was also written in the studio. It was quite a strange process which was kind of dictated by time and money. It was very logistical. We had to be careful about how we structured writing and recording. Originally we would rehearse a couple times a week and then do a couple days in the studio. It was very much at the same time. I remember writing the lyrics to a song on my way to the studio and putting vocals down that very day and it never changed. It connected between the studio and rehearsals. How did your producer Tom Morris play into that?
He was amazing. We all felt completely ourselves with him, which was important. We looked to start working with him about a year before recording the album, so by the time it came to start working with him he really understood who we were and the music we were making. It’s hard to describe his role. For example, he didn’t write parts of the music, we wrote all of it and structured songs, but he would have this distance from it and question things and encourage us. It was always a proposal, and every decision we made was our decision. He was great at encouraging us to explore rather than go with the first sound we found. Sometimes he would also make us reign it in, encouraging us to stop being indecisive. He’s not part of the band, but he’s such a part of the process. I’m intrigued by the sequencing of the album, it flows brilliantly. Were you meticulous with it?
In some ways we’re really meticulous, and there are other things we don’t give much thought. We honestly said to each other “the truth is we are happy with every song on the record and we love every song and we are proud of every song on this record”. We really didn’t know how to structure it because the songs were never going to be new to us. In that sense our producer encouraged us to give it some real thought, which I do think we did, but it wasn’t something we dwelled on an awful lot. It was at the end of the process, it was closure or something. The final piece of a puzzle. It really stands out to me as a journey. Also, “The Day That Needs Defending” feels like an anthemic closure to the overall theme of “Conversations”.
“The Day That Needs Defending” was always going to be the album closer, we knew that, and we knew “Unbroken Sequence” was going to be the opener. Those were things we instinctively knew, but it wasn’t something we spoke about until it came to it. When I hear the songs in the order they are in there is a definite journey, but when we were writing the songs we were writing them as a body of work. There is connection because of the state of mind that we were in, we created songs that have a connection to each other. Simply, I really strongly feel that this album reflects a time in our lives and the next one we write will be different because it will reflect a different time in our life. The consistency and lack of context in your visuals is fascinating. How did you come to the decision to work in the absence of color?
It was totally coincidental. We became friends with Adam and Oliver, and we were fascinated by their practice. We loved the fact that they often used recycled imagery. We liked the idea of recycling imagery in order to question the role of imagery in society and visual culture. The preconceptions due to a system that we’ve applied to images in different context and all these other political things that were connected to images.
They [Adam and Oliver] had all of these manuals that they had collected over the years (self defense manuals, first aid manuals, etc), and they collected them because they really liked the images and the photographs that accompanied instructional text. They were interested in decontextualizing images in order to read them in a new way. We never even sat down and even said “hey do you want to work together?” it just began with a conversation about how they had been collecting these manuals and we had just written “Our Love Has No Rhythm”—that song acted as the beginning of the album, really. It was the first song we had written that had this ambiguity to it that we really liked and it also had this rhythm and sound that we wanted to use in that direction. We were really interested in the freedom of being able to express and communicate a visual image as well. They were really excited to help us with this, so we looked through all of their manuals and found images. It happened one by one, a very gradual process.
We once used an image of a self defense manual from the 80s—it was all of these images of a woman and how she can protect herself from sexual assault. So this image, when you crop it, it looks like this powerful unifying image of love and strength and unity and all of these positive emotions. It’s crazy when you see it now and when you see it in it’s original context. In the same way the song was a blueprint to the album the artwork for that song was a precursor to the rest of the artwork for the album. The only reason we began to work in black and white is because all of these images were in black in white. It was coincidental.
There have also been practical and financial restrictions that have actually made us create something that a lot of people think is a well-structured format. It’s really a logistical way of doing what we are doing. Conversations is out now worldwide via Secretly Canadian.(By Laura Yurich)
Posted 1 month ago