I have a couple other interviews coming up this month, but here is an unexpected one. I did a little Q+A for The Music with Angie Bermuda from the likes of Sydney's Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune, Southern Comfort...and now Angie. Angie has gone it alone to release Turning (out now on Rice Is Nice and Easter Bilby), and the album is a classic of down-turn malaise, dour riffs and her excellent warbled, drained vocals. The full article only uses a fraction of the interview though, so here is the full transcript (Angie was doing a residency in Brazil at the time)...
SONIC MASALA - What's brought on the change to a solo guise?
ANGIE BERMUDA - I usually write songs with others, composing at least some of the music, or lyrics with a collaborator. Jack (Circle Pit) had moved to Melbourne and the new songs I had made didn't quite seem to fit my more heavier new project, Ruined Fortune, that I had created in the interim with my friend Nic (Warnock, Rip Society). What I see for Ruined Fortune is that it is inherently collaborative, and its a heavy, weird rock band. There songs just had a different vibe - they were more girly, sublime almost, and therefore didn't seem to fit the project. Over a long period of time, the songs evolved to a point where they were 'finished' with me alone. In that sense, I thought it was suited to also record them alone. I wasn't sure what the future would hold for these songs, or whether there was a live impetus, but I decided to record them with my friend Owen (from Straight Arrows) at his home studio.
The songs that ended up on the LP stretched back years, always around in the back of my head while everything else was going on. All of the songs were written whilst travelling or walking, without any instruments at hand or force to consciously write a song. They all just came to me, in a dream, on a boat, whilst staring at a strange statue or object, along an either strange or familiar skyline whilst reflecting on my life. I remember Parallels melody coming to me first while out at sea, on the 5th day the song came. I had no way to record it, so I sang it over and over to myself till I could make it back to land. Wandering was whilst walking around the city at night, along the expresslink, feeling lost and estranged from people close to me. Others were newer, like Missing Out and Do Yourself Right, and the songs just came together and fit in this strange sense that I knew they belonged together on one document. I guess it was mostly an instinctual feeling that I had to do it myself, that came from somewhere I don't quite understand even now.
SM - In what ways did making Turning push you out of your comfort zone?
AB - Making a solo recording is always an intense statement, no matter the form, as it is an artistic reflection of you alone, and in that sense I had harness a whole new set of confidence I had never used before. The recording process came at the end of I guess a year period where I was kinda all over the place and confused by life in general so it was also kinda cathartic, something I had to rid myself of. I can be very shy and anxious, so I had to force myself to be more extroverted in order to get the ideas out there and communicate them to other people which was definitely the most difficult, even now i'm not entirely comfortable with this concept. I played every instrument apart from drums, which meant basically no breaks in the studio, always on which was at times very hard, as although I am proficient at lead guitar, playing organ, bass and rhythm guitar was at times very difficult and frustrating as I have very little rhythmic capabilities.
It was also the best kind of challenge, and having Owen to record was perfect for me in a lot of ways as we are very close and have a long detailed history. He gave me a lot of time, space and patience to create the songs at their most fulfilled, exploratory, that I guess I wouldn't have had the ability or confidence to do with another producer. Lincoln Brown from Housewives helped a lot with details like my guitar tones and amp settings, so it gave me more time to focus on getting everything down as close to what I had in my head. I also had lots of feedback on my initial demo tracks from close friends so I never felt truly alone in the project which was really nice.
SM - The strong focus on guitars is steeped in a droning cyclical aesthetic - is this an experiment or something longer-form?
AB - I have been working on a new record since Turning, and the sound is different, it is more simplified in terms of instrumentation and the only FX used were my Moogerfooger Phaser and Wah. For Turning, there was a lot more FX to generate the guitar styles present. I made demo tracks of each song at home, and they were all very bass-heavy, with lots of reverb, and I tried to convert these feelings onto the sessions with Owen as best I could. The drums I had made with my hands but effected them so they sounded almost like programmed drums, or drumming that was barely there. We had a long discussion before starting where I communicated the aesthetic styles through listening to the demos I had made and comparing sounds with other records I liked, such as the dark guitar styles and tones in bands such as The Index, Witch, or Chrome. Lincoln had a good handle on my guitar style and really worked on the aesthetics with his large range of pedals that he brought to the sessions. I can't even recall now what exactly they were. I think because I did dual-lead tracks on almost the whole record, I really had time to regulate the sense of guitar solos 'swimming' around each other, or the sense they were related to each other, returning to the base note but also floating around with a loose sense of unpredictability and danger. All of the solos were basically improvised. I would have a rough idea of what was going on, but it was mostly unplanned. The first solo would be laid down, and especially on tracks like Shadow Twin and Wandering, the second solo would kinda comment and move around the other solo, complimenting it in a sense. Wandering I feel could go on for 10 minutes the way it did, its just a sample of an idea that live definitely will be more free and long-winding. I feel that as all of the songs started out without any kind of instrumentation, they started out as vocal melodies, the solos and instrumentation had the ability to be a lot freer, as they were add-ons that came later, as opposed to the other way around.
SM - The darker tone of the album is what really got me; this sense of claustrophobia. any particular focus that has brought this on?
AB - I would definitely say that it is a dark record. Listening back to it now, it elicits a very strong emotional response. What is strange is that it is the instrumental parts that really get me rather than the lyrics - the solos more specifically - the end of Wandering, the early solo in Shared Futures. It sure reflects some dark parts of my life, senses of betrayal and heartbreak, but also that of desire and longing, the complicated and changing nature of love and friendship. The period creating the songs was one for me of extreme solitude, and although perhaps it didn't feel so good at the time, I feel it was a very important part of my life, kind of my graduation into adulthood, as cheesy as that sounds. I guess learning to deal with the fact that nothing is sedentary, everything is changing, turning, and I guess the record is a comment on these things that we can't control despite all the wanting. Its both a blessing and a curse, but I guess sometimes we wish we could slow things down a bit. Sometimes I feel that I'm too sensitive, I constantly worry about upsetting other people and disappointing others - I guess Turning is the point of me letting go, or just accepting that you can never be perfect, and to embrace your imperfections.
SM - There are still chugging moments of your "past" musical endeavours such as single 'Parallels' and 'Shadow Twin' - how does such a juxtaposition with that and something like the dour drawl of 'Do Yourself Right' sit with you? Is such a juxtaposition somewhat the point, or incidental?
AB - I'm not sure quite how to answer this, as I can't listen to the songs objectively. The record is just something thats more 'me' than anything else I've done, because it lacks the collaboration with other parties. I guess the difference between these songs is just that DYR is more of an aggressive song that the other two, which are more reflective and listful. DYR I feel is more alike my past work, especially Circle Pit than perhaps anything else on the record.
SM - What about the lyrical context for the album?
AB - The first lyrics came through in perhaps about 2009 when I was in Europe. My notebooks from this time were a big resource for my lyrics. I write a lot, and go back and reflect upon the writings often. I know that Parallels came from around this time, being completely consumed by a feeling for someone you can't see, and thinking about them through everything, no matter how grand or banal, in my case travelling through Eastern Europe. In the end its not even about them, its about an energy that they give you, that colours your experiences. Its a romantic idea, but not necessarily about a person. Shared Futures came about regarding a found photograph of a young boy I bought at a market. The photo struck something in me, and then I had a dream about him, where we were related. When I woke I felt this incredible sadness that it was just a dream, that I would never know him, and the confusion over my irrational curiosity over his image. This got me thinking about how we are all related, and the sadness and nature of friends moving together and apart, and losing touch, and the collective history that shapes over time, that becomes your 'backup memory', and how everything always changes and nothing is ever the same. Missing Out and A Certain Friend are definitely quite personal and I guess the most 'upfront' songs I've written, as my lyrics are usually fairly oblique. DYR relates a supreme cool anger. I like the way it channeled itself, its intense, but kind of a relaxed anger, haha…. There is definitely a mixed bag of things going on.
SM - Playing this stuff live, is there much to learn/change outside what you've done with other bands?
AB - I've played live solo a few times now, but usually with a backing band which is the way I like it the best as I can solo as much as possible. I'm still fairly shy about playing live, I need to constantly tell myself to face the audience, haha. The live sets in Australia I have done with a band (Sam Chiplin, Liam Kenny and Nathan Roche) have been really jammy, longer, free and really exciting.. They are all great musicians and there is a buzz between us that seems to always make for a good show. We have played the songs in longer versions with room for improvisation which is the most exciting for me. I feel that this set up has the first potential I have to really use guitar at its fullest. There have been some other memorable moments playing solo, in Athens I played along a backing track with Marco from Acid Baby Jesus on drums to a stunned audience haha.. The drums and backing track kept going out of time so I had to slow down and speed up, directing both around each other haha… In Paris I played live in an abandoned movie theatre and I got mugged outside just before I arrived, they stole my stuff so I had to basically improvise the whole thing along to nothing. I played a show acoustic in Rio last week to a group of local people on a coffee farm, that was definitely the most memorable! … So I guess so far its been very different to anything else I've done as those opportunities would not have arisen as a band touring together requires heaps of organisation, money, planning, etc.
I wish I could be more of a 'performer' or be more expressive but its just not me, I dunno maybe I'll change but I'm still just a weirdo about playing live, nervous, freaking out, not making eye contact, etc. I guess the music is the main thing, right?
I'm bummed that I won't be in the country to catch Angie as she tours Turning. Especially as she is supported by SM fave Nathan Roche, who played a blistering set at the Ocean Party album launch we threw a few weeks back. But keep Saturday December 21 open Brisbane people - "new" venue The Globe will house them both.