That’s a good question! Thirty years ago at the beginning of ’86 when Swans way had disbanded and I had just formed Scarlet Fantastic, I wrote this manifesto kind of thing and I called it the ‘Anti Depression Act 1986’. It makes me smile reading it now with all it’s bright undaunted optimism. It’s interesting for me to note how I have visited similar themes in these new songs but with the addition of thirty years life experience under my belt. I felt it was time to mark my thirtieth anniversary, time for Scarlet to re-emerge! My new album ‘Reverie’ is different stylistically to my ’24 Hours’ album, but I’m different now too.
Putting my music into a genre or category has never been my favourite thing, I leave descriptions to the listener as I’m not very good at describing my own music! However, as well as ‘alt-folk’ the album has been described as ‘pop noir’ and ‘Brechtian ballroom blues’,I quite like that one! It’s a collection of songs inspired by my life events, my travels, nature and dreams. I wanted an acoustic/organic vibe for this album with emphasis on vocals, drawing from classic folk influences spanning the decades since the 60s, European and American. It’s funny, I looked up Swans way on one of the major sites, I think it was iTunes, just to see how we were classified back then and it came up as ‘unclassifiable’ which made me smile!
I really enjoyed ‘doing my own thing’ so to speak, I loved the freedom of just going with the flow, and following my own instincts although I had a pretty positive direction on how I wanted to be moving forward. Some of the songs are co-writes, but once I had the finished song I loved being able to tailor it in a way for myself that felt free and honest without too much angst or stress. Does that make sense? I felt it important to keep a kind of open & simple approach to this album, not over processed or over thought…
A couple of the songs just flew out of me whilst in the middle of recording the album. ‘Taste of You’ for example, I sat down at my piano, hit a few simple chords and within the hour I had the song written. A similar thing happened with ‘You Will Get Through’ which had actually started off as a poem for a friend to make them feel better, and I kind of ended up writing it to myself as well to make myself feel better! Most of them are very recent, written with this album in mind, there are a couple of exceptions, but we made the older songs work with the newer ones in the way that we arranged them. The songs do fit together, I’m glad you felt that. I felt it was important to have an overall cohesion and a sound that flowed throughout. I had fun making it that way. Leif and myself enjoyed the process, Leif, my husband, produced the album. Recording it and finding all the right sounds to compliment the songs was a really great experience. It felt very fresh.
I’m glad you think it’s appropriate! I do too. It came to me during the project, actually whilst I was writing ‘Taste of you’. Yes, I think the word ‘Reverie’ sums up the sound.
How astute! I grew up on Bowie and Roxy and so on and so I guess there will always be some kind of influence in there. Yes, I think I can hear a bit of Bowie in ‘Beyond Pluto’. I wrote that song in New York quite recently with producer Mike Thorne who worked with Soft Cell and Bronski Beat and so on, he’s a lovely guy and a great friend of mine. I was a huge Prince fan in the 80s. I’m flattered you think there’s a bit of Prince in ‘The Phoenix’, that’s great! I co-wrote Phoenix with Martin Watkins with whom I recorded my last album ‘Union’ by Maggie and Martin. I’ve listened to a lot of 60s and 70s stuff lately, some quite diverse stuff: soundtracks, classic folk tunes, Nico, Marianne Faithful, Nancy and Lee, Spirit, The Doors and so much more. Nature, surviving each day, and being present are big themes throughout this album. There have been some quite big personal events occur in my life recently and I have had to deal with them and the album has been a fantastic positive focus and I believe it is the music that has kept me sane(ish)!
That’s interesting how you see that. I think perhaps you’re right. Thirty years on it’s inevitable one has a different perspective. I think it’s wonderful you sense an innocence in there, I love that! Yes, for whatever gets thrown at me in life, I seem to still manage to be the eternal optimist, let’s hope I can make that work for a good while longer. It’s the very basic simple things that rock my boat, the wind in the trees, the sky, the sea, the flowers, the animals, the birds. However shit everything else might get, those things are always there. That’s where I find my solace and sanctuary! In that sense I think there are definite similarities between the Scarlet of thirty years ago and the Scarlet of today. I think I’m still hankering for that same freedom and celebration of life.
Gosh, that’s not the easiest question to answer… my personal peers back around the time of ’24 Hours’ were Grace Jones, Prince, Bowie, Eurythmics. These were the people I admired and to whom I aspired. I loved Frankie too. These days I relate to bands like Wildbirds and Peace Drums and Book of Fears. I feel I have a common thread with my friends’ bands: Glean, The Avon Guard and Bird Eats Baby. Dominic Silvani from The Avon Guard joined me in a duet on ‘Reverie’ and I sang some vocals for Brooke on her Glean EP ‘Shadows and Sand’ from Minneapolis.
Yes, I was a drummer indeed! My sixteen year old son is now an amazing drummer, a lot better than I ever was, and he has his own band. I played a lot of percussion on this album and I also played some keyboards. I play flute and recorder too, but they didn’t make it onto this album. All the vocals and vocal arrangements are my strong point, I love singing. Leif who produced ‘Reverie’ is a multi talented instrumentalist and he plays guitar, mandolin, some keys and he’s a brilliant programmer. We had Adam Seigal on saxophone, Sean Dickson – Hifi Sean who used to be in The Soup Dragons – on omnichord and Amanda Shaw doing some backing vocals on ‘You Will Get Through’.
That’s very funny!! A ‘f**ked up spiritual feel’… you hit the nail on the head and I think that says something about us both! It really depends what mood I’m in as to which is my favourite track, it’s really hard to say. I played live the other night with a fab band and some of the songs I enjoy playing the most live might not be the ones I like listening to best, strange that, isn’t it?! Ok, I like ‘Nature’s Way’ and ‘Taste of You’ today!
I plan on playing some dates and I’m looking into organising gigs right now. I played a showcase gig this week in Soho and it inspired me, it was a great night. I love performing live so I hope to be doing as much of that as possible. Watch this space!
‘Reverie’ is available on CD and via Digital Download from June 3rd 2016.
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