Saturday, 10 November 2012

Wallis Bird

Last year Meath songstress Wallis Bird found herself snowed in and alone in an isolated
cottage in Connemara, with little more than a guitar and a microphone to keep herself
entertained. This is just one part of an amazing journey in the recording of her latest, self-
titled record.

The hugely experimental and rather excellent ‘Wallis Bird’ is the third album from the
singer-songwriter and it delivers on the early promise of her first two efforts, ‘Spoons’
and ‘New Boots’. The album was recorded against the backdrop of a former communist
broadcasting station in Berlin, the London riots and of course, the lonely Connemara Cottage
and Wallis allowed these settings to inform the sound of the record.

“That was the reasoning behind most of the song writing, it was allowing whatever came
in to affect the recording. Things like the weather, the season at the time, my surroundings,
the rooms where I was recording, the equipment I was using. I allowed every single facet of
whatever was happening; flatmates running in and out, riots, whatever, just to come in and be
part of the record”.

Wallis describes the album as sounding ‘free’ and it’s little wonder. For large parts of the
album she allows the sounds of nature to form the beats and rhythms to her songs, which can
be heard on tracks like ‘Heartbeating City’.

“I literally left the microphone on and pressed record for quite a lot of this record. I
thought ‘I’m not going to construct anything; I’m just going to let it all happen’. That led to
this huge soundbed that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like if I left a microphone on there would
come all these natural rhythms of people walking in, stamping their feet, or a bird singing in
time or pots and pans rattling and sirens going off”.

While making the album Wallis was conscious that where she was recording was having a
large impact on the sound of the album. This led to her to taking off to Connemara by herself
for ten days.

“I thought that would be really interesting for the record. To go in to somewhere where I’m
completely fucking alone, nobody can help me record. I couldn’t turn to somebody and say
how do you do this I just had to learn. I had to spend ten days alone in the middle of nowhere.
I couldn’t be reached, the roads were closed because of the storm last year. So I got there and
I was blockaded in. I had no telephone or internet” she says.

“I thought it was going to be fantastic, I thought I was going to go in there and be able to
record naked, do whatever I want. But what happened when I went in was that I got freaked
out, because I can’t remember the last time I had been alone for that long. I had no radio or
anything, nothing to entertain me only myself. When I got out there I was just so tired of
listening to my own voice”.

At this point Wallis took a step back and found herself listening rather than playing and this
is when she allowed the natural sounds to come in and take their place in her album.

It’s clear that Wallis has a keen sense of adventure, something which she tells me she
inherited from her parents.

“My parents are massive risk takers. They had seven kids and when I was a child we moved
up to nine times. They just put us under their arms and left and went on an adventure. That
was very uplifting to say that no matter what, you’ll make ends meet. They just have a
positive idea, to go for it”.

It’s the same positive idea that shines through ‘Wallis Bird’, a record that quite literally
sounds like someone freeing themselves of inhibition. There are reference points of course,
Wallis herself points to Radiohead and Villagers, but the final product is all her own. It is
perhaps best put, in her own words.

“I wouldn’t aspire to be anybody but I derive from everybody that I’ve ever loved”.

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