Track-By-Track zum grandiosen Debütalbum der britischen Sängerin…
“Ashes” was written over a long period of about six years. The oldest song on the album was written when I was nineteen, the most recent when I was 25. On the whole it is a record about the end of several relationships, simply because those were the times that I felt the need to write songs. Because the songs are very personal and about particular people, I never say exactly what they are about, but I hope the following will give a little bit more information about each song, without giving too much.
Walk Through Walls
I wrote this song when I was living in a tiny basement room in a house in South London with four other people; I had to snatch brief times when everyone else was out in order to sing without disturbing anyone, and I’d stand in the hallway with my guitar (where the best acoustics were) and write. I had the verses for this song for a good couple of weeks and couldn’t work out what the chorus should be, then one day, standing in the hallway, it just came to me and I finished the song very quickly. It was the first song I recorded with Brett Shaw (who recorded most of the album) and straightaway it felt really good. I don’t really like playing it live though, for some reason. I don’t know why. Maybe I feel like I’ve outgrown it; the sentiment doesn’t ring true with me anymore and I don’t like singing things when I can’t feel them.
”Courage” is one of the few songs I’ve written that is about somebody else, not me, though I could identify very strongly with what they were feeling. My friend didn’t love his girlfriend anymore, but he didn’t tell her for a long time, and I kept thinking how hard it must have been for her, knowing he didn’t love her but not being able to let him go, so the song is written from her perspective. The choruses are uplifting but only in the sense that this is what she wishes she could say to him, she wishes she were able to call out for help and tell him to stop dragging it out. In reality she doesn’t, because we never do. There is a very monotonous, unchanging beat to the song, which i feel is important because it reflects the dynamic of the relationship.
I Could Be
This is one of my favourites from the album. I wrote it very quickly, in about an hour, and at first I didn’t really think much of it. I started with just the two chords swinging up and down with a bluesy feel and the words just formed themselves soon after that. It’s about being in dangerous state where you feel like you would give yourself to anyone. When we were producing it I really wanted a tuba-esque sound to be growling underneath the song to give it a sense of heavy menace, and I still love performing it live.
To Be Torn
This is my favourite song from “Ashes”. Of all the songs I’ve ever written it is the one for me that most accurately captures what I felt when I wrote it. Usually I finish a song and I feel like it hasn’t quite got across what I felt, but with this one it was everything I wanted to say. I wrote it half in tears, very late at night, in my bedroom. I didn’t want to wake anyone up or for anyone to know I was upset so i was sort of whispering the words, and perhaps that’s part of the reason the choruses ended up being half spoken. I recently got to do a version of this song with Richard Russell, Bassekou Kouyate and Nick Zinner, for a project called Africa Express, and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. I actually think I now prefer the version I recorded with them (though I will always have a soft spot for the original). You can watch a video of us playing it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUV_QOHQyY4.
This is the oldest song on the album. I was at university when I wrote it, and was completely obsessed with someone I shouldn’t have been obsessed with. In the end the obsession only lasted a few weeks (feelings like that always tend to be short-lived..) but at the time I felt like I was going mad. I wrote the song in my room in about half an hour, and I couldn’t stop singing it to myself, like a mantra. I think i realised quite quickly that it was a much better song than any i’d written before (i’ve often heard songwriters talk about the song that made them think that they could actually write songs; this was mine) and i started playing it at acoustic nights. I never realised how much people connected with it until it started getting a lot of hits on youtube and people started shouting out requests for it at gigs. Nowadays when I play it live the audience often sings along, and I still can’t get over how special that feels.
Woke Up Dead
This is pretty much my favourite song of mine to play live. We usually open the show with it, and each member of the band plays their part of the intro before I come on. It started its life just with that little vocal loop that starts the song: We were on tour with Guillemots and about 10 minutes before we were due to go onstage one night I got this vocal loop in my head and I had to just run off and record it into my phone quickly. When I got home off tour I recorded it on garageband and started building up the rest of the song around it. As soon as I played it to the band it felt so natural, it just came to life and we all had a lot of fun rehearsing it up for the live show. I feel like it has a really good energy and I love starting with it because it puts me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the show.
”Been Better” was originally quite different on the demo I made at home; much folkier and more stripped down, but I knew I wanted it to have heavy guitars and drums because I felt so angry when I wrote it, and I wanted that anger to come across in the production. My guitarist Alessio and my drummer Mike were amazing and came up with the perfect parts to complete the atmosphere, and we just rehearsed on the day we recorded it in the studio. Looking back I think we would probably have changed the recording if we could, because having gigged it so much now it has changed and everyone’s parts have got better, but the recording does have that rough and ready feel to it which is perfect for the song. I was frustrated with myself and the way I was behaving when I wrote it, so it is angsty and a good song to release a bit bit of energy to onstage.
”Heavy Stone” took a very very long time to get right. It was the second song I wrote that I thought was any good (after “Vampire Smile”) and I was desperate to record in a way that would capture what I felt, but I had so little experience working in a studio and with producers that the first versions just didn’t work. We released a single version of it that was fast and had loud drums and big layered guitars, and I realised soon after that I hated that version and that it never should have been recorded like that. It is such a sad song, about breaking up with someone and then hoping they will forget you so it doesn’t hurt them anymore, and I realised it should be sung as simply as possible. In the end, for the album, I completely scrapped the old version and recorded it with just a piano, vocals, and I subtle tom echoing in the background. As soon as it was done i knew that was the way it always should have been done. When we play it live people are usually very quiet, which feels wonderful, like they are really listening.
You Let It Go
I was playing around a lot with the idea of singing in a round (like some songs I used to sing in choir as a kid) and I love doing it at home on my computer because you can quickly make yourself sound like a whole choir. This was just an eccentric little song that I made at home and then replicated in the studio with Brett. It’s impossible to play live though! Even a loop pedal wouldn’t work because the original loop changes every time. I’d need a choir of my own, then I could do it.
We always finish our set with this song, because it works itself up into a big frenzy by the end, which is a lot of fun to go offstage after. It was one of the last songs I wrote for the album, and goes at the end of gigs and the album because it is about change. Sometimes one thing has a huge impact on you, and forces everything else to switch around, which is what happened to me.
”Lambs” started its life as a folk song, and I used to play it on guitar at acoustic nights. At the time though, I was a bit bored of folk played just with with voice and guitar, and I wanted to experiment with programming and different beats. I was working with Marky Bates, who is amazing at keys and programming, and we started playing around with a few sounds. I’d recently been listening to the Cat Power song „American Flag“ and I love the way she’s made the beat out of a reversed kick drum, so we played around with that and cutting up some claps to make the beat. It soon became this big beast of a song, and it sort of reminds me a bit of those big 80s power ballads (which I have a fondness for). When I sing it live it kind of takes over; it becomes this big melodramatic theatrical performance, and is a lot of fun to perform. It’s very cathartic to throw yourself around onstage to.
KYLA LA GRANGE
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