When news reached our ears that Dublin-based artist Hilary Woods had signed to Sacred Bones – a label which hosts our favourites Zola Jesus, Jenny Hval and The Soft Moon – our excitement for her debut album, Colt, gave us palpitations. Both Woods (a former member of JJ72) and Sacred Bones have a reputation for releasing altruistic sounds, so the pairing felt like a divine meeting of musical talent and opportunity.
Hyperbole aside, it’s clear from singles ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Prodigal Dog’ that Hilary Woods’ debut LP is going to be an exquisitely painful listen. Soaked in stark, minimalist, ambient electronic sounds that explore feelings surrounding grief and abandonment, her melancholic music is the perfect fit for venues like St. Pancras Old Church, which she headlines on 11th June (tickets available here).
We caught up with Woods to talk about her anticipations for this show, her multi-disciplinary creativity and what went into the making of her debut album…
Can you tell us a little bit about your recent single ‘Prodigal Dog’? What went into the making of this track, and why you chose to release it as a single?
I made the album without thinking of singles, pretty naïve really! But I think when ‘Prodigal Dog’ was suggested as a single it made sense. This was the first track I recorded in the record making process, bringing it to James we spent a lot of time on drum sounds and enjoyed layering vocals.
Your debut album has been described as “an intensely personal journey through grief, abandonment and mutating love”. How did you manage to translate these emotions into lyrics and music? Do you have a particular process when it comes to song-writing that you follow, or is it a more improvisational?
I’d say both, usually songs either arise after a lot of playing around and experimenting, or they just appear like a bolt. I think emotions and feeling are translated in any given process whether subconsciously or consciously.
You recently signed to Sacred Bones, who we love. What is it about the record label that drew you in? They’re on the ball when it comes to modern electronic music. Zola Jesus, Jenny Hval & The Soft Moon in particular are our favourites (and you of course)…
Thank you! I love their aesthetic, integrity and taste, that’s what drew me in, I’m a fan of many of my label mates.
You were a film, literature and fine-art student back in Dublin. Your music is intensely cinematic and your visuals are highly ornate: did studying a variety of subjects help you to develop your own sound and style easier than if you’d simply chosen to study one specific thing? Would you recommend a multi-disciplinary approach to other creatives?
I don’t know if I’d recommend anything! Everyone is on their own trajectory. In my case I was curious. I liked getting my hands dirty and the physicality of painting. Re studies: I went to college to get out of the house, literally. I needed some structure at that point in my life and I was lucky enough to be awarded some funding to go. It was all a bonus then to be super excited by what I encountered and be inspired by the material I was reading and seeing.
You described Colt as a way to “explore aloneness”, which is particularly poignant as many people use music to escape this feeling. What artists or bands do you listen to when you want to feel less alone?
Gosh, I think a good definition of a good film is one which makes you feel less alone, Music wise: I genuinely don’t have one specific answer to that, anything from Sybille Baier to Jlin to Father John Misty and beyond.
You have two upcoming London shows, St Pancras Old Church on June 11th and Southbank’s Meltdown Festival with Moon Duo on 20th June. What are you anticipating from these gigs?
I’m looking forward to them, they’ll be intimate and atmospheric.
Finally, you’ll be playing at The Sugar Club in Dublin on 14th September. It’s a hometown show, so are you anticipating something extra special from the night?
It’s always different playing at home, feels more vulnerable if anything. It’s a beautiful space with the best of promoters and a great PA and some good friends helping out. I have some plans for it, it’ll definitely be a special one for me.
Huge thanks to Hilary for answering our questions.
Colt is released via Sacred Bones on 8th June. Pre-order your copy here.
Photo Credit: Joshua Wright