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Dear friends and fans, or franz, as I sometimes like to call you,
It is finally time to release In Tongues, my very first solo album, and release really is the perfect word.
I will feel such a tremendous sense of release when this collection of songs comes out.
I made this album honestly not knowing what I was getting into, in that I had no idea just how much it would challenge me, change me and teach me too.
To start at the start, it was a quietly confronting and emotionally charged decision to take a break from working with my brother Jess, as I’ve collaborated with him on 99% of my musical adventures since I was a child. Working with him was really the only job/passion/pattern I’d known since I was 13.
Big changes aren’t easy, but are often instrumental.
Before I made this record I felt like I was off track, uninspired, pushing shit up a hill.
You know that feeling?
I hate to admit it but I had been there, in that place, for a while.
I’ve never truly been a bandleader before, front person yes, but as much as it might look like I’ve been front and centre in my career, there have always been many running the show behind the scenes. I’d always been okay with that too, but as Saturn’s return began working it’s late twenties magic, I began craving control.
And the un-known.
Struggling with what to do and just how to navigate this crossroads I found myself at, I was inspired to start writing the songs that became In Tongues. Songs often spill from me trying to resolve my issues of the day, and it was a very turbulent time. Plenty of issues to go around.
I’d met someone yet couldn’t be with them… the tyranny of distance… you know the drill.
But it was the rawest and most awake I’d felt in a long time.
With blocks shifting and longing lifting me into a creative space again, I wrote nightly, furiously, on my beaten up parlour guitar and sang constantly into my IPhone as I walked down the street, garnering a few weird looks along the way I’m sure.
I was surprised by the material I was generating, I felt like it was new ground for me lyrically and melodically. Somewhere around that time I realised this stuff was definitely and deservedly, a solo album. That was a big and as I said tricky step for me, as someone who thrives on (and possibly hides in) creating community. But I finally had something I was compelled to express alone, under my own name. As I joked to Jesse, do you really want to harmonize with your sister as she sings about sex?
With all this change going on I felt I needed a new palette sounds to match the songs. Something to lure me away from my familiar, acoustic guitar tones.
Enter Jan Skubizewski.
Jan and I had known each other for years, moved in the same circles and always talked about working together, ‘one day’. In an insanely fruitful (and free, thanks Jan..) trial day we turned one of my acoustic ballads into a synth heavy, programmed drum backed, slightly Twin Peaks flavoured moody-pop piece, and I knew I’d found the right key collaborator for In Tongues. I began travelling daily to Jan’s little but light filled top of shop loft on Smith St. Close enough to N.Lee bakery to get fed, close enough to the Union to get watered.
Jan and his engineer, Michael Mixer O’Connell, recorded fast and un-fussily, making a bunch demo’s that shook up my usual way of doing things. It was ideas over execution, feeling over finesse. That period was such a revelation and an education for me.
At the time I was listening to 90’s era Massive Attack, Harry Belafonte, Lykke Li, Chris Isaac, Best Coast, Edwyn Collins and was obsessed with to PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. I think a little of all of them ended up influencing me in the hunt for this sound or that atmosphere.
We had guest muso’s come up the stairs and add their various colours, but for the most part Jan and I were the players, reaching for the Juno, the telecaster, the guiero, the half empty Jameson bottle, the piece of four by two on the floor, whatever we could grab and clank to make a beat or scrape out a slightly bent top line. The production evolved and became more complex as we went along, and I have to say we slightly overcooked it at one point… In that we meandered away from the raw, immediate aesthetic I felt so strongly about. The saying ‘when you paint with every colour – you get brown’ was weighing on my mind, and ears, and though it caused annoying delays and tensions within team In Tongues, I eventually went back over the record with Mixer, stripping off some production, resurrecting the demo’s.
(I didn’t want In Tongues to be an overly produced or ‘brown’ album. It has always been punkish black and neon pink in my mind..)
We combined the best bits of the rough and ready Smith st. demo’s with the bulk of a later slicker session at Sing Sing studios. At Sing Sing we recorded strings, written and arranged by my talented longtime friend and bandmate, Mads Davey. Watching her deftly conduct the quartet was another highlight of the project.
I’ve sung on two Graveyard Train albums (if you can call it singing, maybe more like screaming? It is horror-country after all) and while we were camped at Sing Sing they returned the favour, coming in and laying down the powerfully shambolic call and answer to Low High. The boys killed it and the session was a hoot.
Now all the pieces were arranged, rearranged, mixed, mastered and re-mastered (yes, I went back and fiddled a lot with this record… you only get one second debut right?) until I finally had an album I could really call mine. We had to wait quite a while to find the right window of time in my ever-changing schedule to share it.
I’m happy to say that time is now.
I’m more than happy.
I’m ecstatic. And I’m proud.
Not because it’s perfect. It isn’t. There’s much I would change if I could… (funnily enough they won’t let me back in the studio?!)
But because this is the first step, and I took it.
It’s a marker of an important time in my life and of a love that gave me many gifts as well as heartache.
For all the fun days, it’s been a hard process. One that tested my resolve, my patience and the patience of those around me. Maybe it’s Saturn now cooling off, but I feel like today I’m at the start of a new era.
I feel lucky to have made this record, and I truly hope I’ve done my listeners and my supporters, my collaborators and my muse justice.
Most of all I hope that In Tongues speaks to you.
Thanks so much for reading, and hopefully soon, for listening.
Digital version of the ‘In Tongues’ album delivered to you via secure link on November 21, 2014. Formats available will be high quality Flac and Mp3 options.
In Tongues on CD (includes digital download of album)
Tea Towel hemmed by Ella’s grandmother and screen printed by Ella with her own design (includes digital download of album).
Tote Bag printed with Ella’s own design (includes digital download of album).
T-Shirt screen printed with Ella’s personal design. (includes digital download of album)
Op shop T-shirts, personally selected and screen printed by Ella (includes digital download of album) *Note – these are all size medium unisex t-shirts as per description in video.
In Tongues pressed to vinyl. (includes digital download of album)
CD, Tote Bag and professionally screen printed t-shirt. (includes digital download of album)
Vinyl, Tote bag and a professionally screen printed t-shirt. (includes digital download of album)