Interview: The Anchoress

Having released her debut album Confessions of a Romance Novelist back in 2016, multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress has been involved in various projects all whilst creating her upcoming second LP The Art of Losing through unforeseen challenges. We spoke with The Anchoress to find out more about her surprise collaboration with Bernard Butler, which was released last year, and what we can expect from the second album.

We’re looking forward to your upcoming album The Art of Losing, how did you face the challenge of creating and promoting an album through lockdown?
I actually finished the album way before the pandemic hit – back in 2019, but I needed a bit of time out before I was ready to have it come out in the world. It was originally due to be released in Spring 2020 but, of course, we needed to adjust our plans once circumstances took over and Covid took a hold. I have really been very lucky as I have my own studio at home so I’ve been able to continue creating and recording without having to leave the house since then – the result of which was Reprise 2, the “quarantine” covers that were released via my Bandcamp. I’ve been shielding since March, so it’s been a necessity really to be able to carry on working from here.

So far we’ve been enjoying your single ‘Show Your Face’, what else can we expect from the album?
I was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Twilight Sad and Bjork, so you can expect something darker and more dense than the debut album. As I was writing and producing alone for this one I feel like it is certainly more coherent and purposeful as a body of work too. You can expect fourteen tracks in total which I realise is quite a meaty offering these days for an album, but it just kept growing and growing. I was writing a lot more in the classical vein when I was recording the album, and these began as little instrumental segues that just sort of took on a life of their own as I began experimenting. There’s also many more traditional “singles” on there alongside these more experimental pieces. Lots of vintage synths (on which I wrote most of the album) and tonnes more of me playing guitar than people are used to!

The Art of Losing is centred around loss. How did you balance being honest and open with protecting your own privacy?
I think it’s always important to have some boundaries when you are creating and sharing any kind of pain or grief with the wider public. I had a lot of trauma-based therapy over the past two years and there were certainly discussions about how much I felt I wanted to share and what I would let the songs speak about. Safety and health always comes first obviously and you don’t owe anyone all the details of your trauma – you get to decide what is too much and what is helpful to share. Also, that is what songwriting is for – it enables you to be both honest but also leave space for the listener’s own experience to fill in the gaps. It’s a fine tightrope to walk, especially when you are keen to talk about subjects that people shy away from – sexual assault, baby loss, death. I’m not sure any of us entirely get the balance right, but that’s what I have found particularly challenging about the project, and also equally frightening. I’m a very private person and it was certainly not the album I had intended to make, and yet I am very proud of it as the body of work that it turned out to be.

You also launched a podcast series by the same title. What inspired you to open up the conversation?
I really wanted to delve deeper into some of the ideas and different cultural reactions to loss that I had encountered during my writing. I also felt that I wanted to connect, perhaps selfishly, with other people that had gone through both similar and different kinds of loss. It was part of my own journey, and healing, really to have these conversations and remind myself that I wasn’t the only one. Songs can only go so far to explore themes and concepts and I wanted to hear from other perspectives and experiences that dovetailed with my own. It’s been such a healing experience recording the first series and I’ve made some lovely new friends as a consequence. I’m hoping to begin recording season two shortly.

You surprised us all in 2020 with In Memory of My Feelings, an album in which you collaborated with Bernard Butler. How long had you both been sitting on that project?
We had finished writing the album in 2015 and the bulk of the recordings were done before Confessions… even came out! It has been a long wait for it to find the right home with the right label that understood what it was about but I’m so glad in a way that it took the time it did because without that long delay we wouldn’t have ended up on Pete Paphides’ label Needle Mythology. If you believe that everything happens for a reason, then the wait was worth it to find such a thoughtful label that knew exactly what Bernard and I had been trying to do with the collaboration. The packaging is beautiful, there was such attention to detail about everything in the artwork. I hear that there is talk of a repress of the vinyl as it sold out so quickly!

What advice would you give to musicians during these uncertain times? Have you been offered any advice which you can share with us?
Oh goodness, I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice! I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. I’m also not certain that my advice would have changed that much to when I was starting out myself: try to be as self sufficient as possible. Make it your business to understand all aspects of releasing music – not just the creative side. Teach yourself to record – even if it’s just the basics. Apply for funding. Practice your craft. Make good work. Remember why you are doing this. 

As we’re a new music site, which bands or artists can you recommend that we keep an ear out for in the year ahead?
I’m currently producing a few really talented up and coming artists – Tega Mendes is one who I am really excited about. She has a wonderful approach to arrangement, a fabulous voice and a really unique set of influences.

Huge thanks to The Anchoress for answering our questions! 

 

The Art Of Losing, the upcoming album from The Anchoress, is set for release in March this year. Pre-order here.

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