Tusks – Avalanche

Vergangene Woche ist das zweite Album der britischen Singer-Songwriterin EMILY UNDERHILL alias TUSKS erschienen. Exklusiv für Popmonitor hat sie die zehn oft herrlich verrauscht produzierten Songs von Avalance kommentiert …

DEMON

This song was always written and intended as a love song but I’m not sure how much that relates to anyone else until you get right to the end with the happy pay off from the synth. I love it and it’s one of my favourites on the album – I feel like as a song it sums up my sound and musical taste more than any other. I wrote it last summer about falling in love with someone, being all consumed by them and wanting to be open completely, but also knowing that you have to leave doubts and previous experiences behind and be vulnerable, which is something I find hard to do. The song grows into this kind of euphoric resolution at the end after a long build, which I wanted to relate to the payoff of opening yourself up and falling in love with someone.

BE MINE

This was the first song we finished on the album and was probably one of the quickest to write and create overall. I guess it draws and expands on the writing ideas of Last from the previous album, I’ve really enjoyed creating these punchier guitar songs with a load of energy and direct lyrics in the choruses. The main ‚do you want to be mine?‘ hook started from just messing around in a practice room one evening and I never really intended to keep it or saw it as a serious lyric, but it just stuck around and the more I played it the more I decided I wanted it on the album. It comes from being in that initial stage of a relationship when you’re not sure what the other person is feeling and you’re excited but also nervous and feeling a bit vulnerable all in one. I think the production fell into place quite easily too – we wanted to recreate the impatient feeling of the song by keeping it short and having that driving feeling in the choruses. I think the juxtaposition between the bigger, powerful choruses and the more stripped verses with the pitch bends in the guitar and the unusual vocal melody creates the uneasy feeling we were going for. It was a fun song to make and play.

PEACHY KEEN

This is the first properly political or protest song I’ve written and I think it’s taken until now to feel like it’s okay to write a song like this without feeling either like I haven’t got the knowledge or debating skills to follow it up; or that I won’t just be perceived as a girl with a chip on her shoulder who’s just moaning and being ungrateful. It’s about a load of different areas of sexism and inherent patriarchy that are still really engrained into our way of life in the UK and even though I was raised by a very strong and independent mother, there’s elements of my life, especially growing up 15 years ago that I’ve only now just started questioning and realising how detrimental and suppressive they are to women. I really wanted a nonchalant overtone to the way the lyrics were delivered because I think they’re powerful enough to be said simply and I believe the way to progress in these areas is about staying calm, having conversations and showing people your side to things. It’s intended to catch you out a bit like ‚ohhh okay she’s just being dramatic there, except that’s true, and so’s that… and that, okay yeah this is actually kinda messed up‘.

The first verse is kind of a rhetorical question to men who are stuck in this patriarchal male privilege where deep down I really don’t think they can be happy because it comes from a state of insecurity. I think that especially if you look at people like Trump, it feels like they get a lot of their status from being the stronger, heroic man who looks after the women who are weak and inferior to them and this gives them an ego boost. I think men that have this mentality really think that women need to be worth less than them for them to have stature and the women’s value comes from being beautiful and loved by a man.

The second verse is kinda replying to these implicit rules and assumptions placed on women in our current society – there being different rules for men and women, the idea that women are just there to facilitate men in how they look and if they dress a certain way then they are inviting male attention and the consequences that may then follow; the sexism that I’m sure every female musician has faced at one point in her career and then the wage gap between men and women.

Then yeah, the end is just kind of highlighting that when people just dismiss any progression in this area by saying it’s all too PC, they’re basically saying all the above statements are okay. The ‚Take it like a lady‘ line is definitely something I’ve experienced a lot in my life where you’re expected as a women to be grateful, calm, quiet and accepting and even being pretty tomboyish for most of my life and being around both very loud, outspoken powerful girls and around guys a lot, I’m still aware of feeling bossy, unfeminine, difficult and basically unladylike for acting in a way that is needed to progress in most careers or challenge sexism. There are so many studies at the moment about how women are perceived so differently to men when they act the exact same way – e.g a man will be seen in a positive light as assertive and productive and a woman will be seen in a negative light as bossy and domineering – when they’re acting in exactly the same way.

‚I show my skin off and you know what that means, I’m here just for your taking‘ is pretty obvious I guess and something I think every woman can relate to.

Personal experiences that I think have filtered into this song:

Growing up being told by my school, the media etc that if you dress a certain way you will invite unwanted male attention, with the blame being put on the women not the men. I’m lucky to have not had any sexual assault happen to me past being grabbed or groped but if you look at even really current rape cases they bring into court what the woman is wearing as evidence that they were inviting the man….

Having worth from attracting men and being in a relationship – I got thinking about how growing up I was surrounded by these magazines always telling me how to be thinner, how to be more beautiful, how to attract and keep a guy etc whereas for men the value is put on being successful, earning money, being good at sports, being a hero etc. Constantly reinforced with fairytales read by kids all the way up to household films like James Bond where the woman is always just beautiful and helpless and saved by the man who is rich, talented, smart, fit, charismatic etc etc etc vom

Experiences if I show off my legs in shorts or something – normally with a pretty androgynous baggy t shirt (not that that should matter) and consequently being whistled at, followed, shouted at, having men grab me, grope me, act towards me like I have a massive sign on me saying TAKE ME I’M YOURS PLEASE

Sexism faced throughout my music career: turning up to a gig and instead being told where to go set up the merch, turning up to a video shoot ready to play a live set which I have programmed and created and being asked (totally unprovoked) if I need help with understanding Ableton by a sound tech who was then so inadequate that we couldn’t actually use and release the music video that he was being employed to do, being told i’d done well for a girl when I past my Logic 101 course at university, not being listened to by male FOH’s or engineers, actually once solving a problem the FOH was having with my DI box and instead of listening, I was told to ‚please just be quiet while I fix this problem then I can listen to you‘, having situations where I have written, produced and taught the male session players in my band parts and then have audience members either only complimenting or asking the boys questions about the music or production and just assuming that I am just there to sing, being told to not play any instruments.

DELUSION

This song is a call out to this manipulative guy who is pretty delusional and ends up treating a lot of people like shit. We were friends, got a little too close and I saw his nasty side and yeah… here it is in a song.

MIND

This is another song written to anxiety and how it’s felt living with it. Initially it was started by writing the two verse chords on guitar over a 7/8 beat that I’d recorded with my drummer, which I then cut up to create different time signatures that changed throughout the verses as I wrote the song. It was never a conscious decision to do it that way, it was just what sounded right, but it’s ended up creating a song which I think moves between 6 different time signatures; 8/8, 7/8, 6/8 and 5/8 in the verses, 3/4 and 4/4 in the choruses and ends on a polyrhythm of 3/4 over 4/4 in the end section. It’s a weird song because of that and because of how Brett and I decided to produce it with the straighter sounding poppy verses and deep expansive chorus and end section, but I think that really reflects how I feel living with anxiety – it can be fine then it can be dark and huge. It’s definitely another one that I feel really sums up the kind of music I love and want to make.

FOREIGN

I started the initial creation of this song with my bassist Joe. We were messing around with these drum samples and a piano and bass line that kind of played off each other then I took them away and wrote the rest of the song and the vocals. The choruses are meant to feel pretty uncomfortable with the distorted drums and vocals which Brett really brought out in the later production – the song’s kinda beautiful but nasty I guess. It’s about the painful end of a dysfunctional relationship where it feels like you’re strangers to each other by the end.

BLEACH

This is the oldest song on the record, I wrote and produced most of it in 2016 during a really tough relationship, with the idea of it being on the first album but I couldn’t get it quite right so gave it to Brett to finish. We decided to keep most of the original recordings, especially the vocals, to keep the emotion in the track and wanted to keep it sparse and dreamlike compared to the rest of the album.

AVALANCHE

I wrote this just over a year ago at the start of 2018 about living with Pure O OCD. I was diagnosed with it in 2017 and it’s just a really honest account of how I was feeling at the time during a really bad period. As shit as it has been to overcome, I do find the neurological aspect of it fascinating, so there ended up being a lot of imagery in the lyrics of how OCD is generated and maintained in people’s brains. The explosion of instruments at the end came from messing around with my drummer one evening and this Avalanche lyric came to me and seemed to just sum it all up.

BETTER THAT WAY

I think this is a bit poppier than my usual songs, it was kind of a fun guilty pleasure track that I wrote to anxiety. We started following the process that a lot of the other songs went through by adding a lot more production and electronic elements to the initial band recording, but then ended up stripping it back again and having it quite rough and raw. The end guitar riff was written and recorded in my parent’s garage when I was trying to train my fingers back up after breaking my elbow and creates this cool positive ending – kinda like a journey through anxiety to recovery.

SALT

This was written as an escape from a bit of a strange and messy time in my head. It’s about finding solace down by the sea from problems. There’s a lot of related imagery to that in the lyrics and even though the actual song’s meaning is ambiguous, even to me, the idea is that you’re free of whatever it is by the end of the song – whether that’s for better or for worse. Sonically we wanted to create that kinda euphoric freedom at the end by letting everything grow out of control with the layers of synths and distorted drums getting bigger and growing out of the song which then seems to implode on itself. It’s an ending to an album that I’ve always wanted to create.

TUSKS
Avalanche
(One Little Indian / Indigo / Believe Digital)
VÖ: 14.06.2019

www.tusks.eu

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