GIHE: Personal Highlights Of 2020

2020 has been a year unlike any other and we’ll be glad to see the back of it, but before we wave goodbye, the GIHE team would like to share some of their personal highlights. Thanks to everyone who has been following, reading or listening to GIHE this year. It really does mean the world to us and we couldn’t do this without you.

Shared Highlights

Seeing the GIHE name appear in a PHYSICAL BOOK was a landmark moment for the team this year. Music journalist Lucy O’Brien mentioned us in her 25th anniversary edition of She Bop, a fantastic book that explores the role of female artists and how they’ve helped to shape the music industry. You can buy your copy here.

Fellow GIHE Co-Founder Tash Walker was super busy recording & producing series 2 of The Log Books throughout 2020, a podcast which explores the history of the LGBTQ community via the phone archives of LGBT+ charity Switchboard. Tash is a co-chair at Switchboard and she is dedicated to celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ community through her work with them, and through her work with GIHE. She is one of the most resilient, informed and hilarious people we know and it’s a privilege to work alongside her and call her a friend. The Log Books are a truly necessary listen for all.

Now for some personal highlights…

Kate Crudgington (Features Editor)

GIHE usually takes up a big part of my life, but it was a lifeline for me during March of this year when the government text me (lol) telling me to shield for 12 weeks. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to talk to the people who were making the music that was distracting me from the panic-inducing headlines, reminding me what a huge privilege it is to have access to this amazing platform.

As our followers already know, Lockdown 1.0 instantly put a stop to our weekly GIHE new music shows on Hoxton Radio. We had 16 weeks off air, so when it was “safe” for me to go back in to the studio in July I was buzzing with excitement (which you can hear in my voice if you listen back to the show here.)

Like most platforms during the pandemic, we embraced technology and started interviewing artists over Zoom instead of inviting them in to the studio for the usual chat and live session. We managed to get time with Jessica Winter, BISHI, Lucy O’Brien, Tessa from Girlhood, Julia-Sophie, Lizzie from Bitch Falcon, Grave Goods, Problem Patterns, ZAND, Hannah from PELA, Seraphina-Simone & Penelope Trappes. It was so lovely to see Tash in person in the studio most weeks, and while we both missed seeing Mari a great deal, her weekly track contributions to the show still made it feel like a GIHE team effort.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by Niall Jackson, one of the hosts of Riverside Radio’s The Irish Jam, to be a contributor to their New Music Sunday section. Co-hosted by Kealan, Mel and Rob, The Irish Jam is a London based radio show that celebrates and promotes music from Irish artists. The crossover of favourite bands between GIHE & the Jam is huge and something I’ve enjoyed chatting to the team about both on and off air. They’ve introduced me to the likes of CMAT, fears, Denise Chaila, Silverbacks and Celaviedmai, whilst I’ve shared tracks by Kynsy, Party Fears and CAMI with them. Listening to their show on a Sunday evening continues to be a wonderful distraction from life.

Who could’ve predicted that bandcamp would become the musical hero of 2020? When the streaming platform announced that on the first Friday of every month they’d be waiving their fees so that 100% of profits would be going directly to artists, my newsfeeds were awash with new music recommendations. Moving home to Essex from London in March meant I actually had some expendable income to buy new records, so I was furiously typing bespoke recommendation threads on Twitter every time the date rolled around. bandcamps’ generosity meant you were able to genuinely support your friends (and the artists you secretly wish you were friends with) during a truly depressing year for music.

Normally, we’d be picking our live music highlights too, but for obvious reasons, we’ve hardly been to any gigs this year. Mari had to cancel half of the gigs GIHE she had booked pre-pandemic and it’s fucking depressing to not know when it will be (properly) safe for her to book more. That’s why I feel incredibly fortunate to have wedged in one last GIHE gig before Lockdown 1.0. GIHE worked together with Sofar Sounds to put together a special International Women’s Day gig at their Hackney HQ in March, with Beckie Margaret, Amahla and Indian Queens on the bill. It was so exciting (and nerve-racking) to host the evening with fellow GIHE pal Tash too. Even if I’d had a year full of gigs, this one still would’ve made my highlights list.

One last gloat – I published some of my all-time favourite features on our website this year. My Zoom interviews with the wonderful A.A Williams, the hilarious CMAT and the ultra talented Lido Pimienta are well worth a read.

Mari Lane (Managing Editor)

It goes without saying, most of the highlights I’d normally mention at this time of year were not able to go ahead in the void of 2020. They would normally consist of the monthly gigs that I host at The Finsbury, whereas this year I was only able to put on two before Covid hit. And, in addition to having to cancel at least seven of our regular gigs, we were pretty heartbroken to cancel what would have been our very first festival, due to take place in July. However, I did manage to fit in a couple of memorable live experiences before being confined to being permanently pyjama clad; my only weekly highlight being our regular beer delivery from Croydon’s Art & Craft bar.

The first gig I hosted this year felt particularly special. Personal Best headlined a night filled with all the best vibes. Drawing the night to a memorable close, front person Katie Gatt dedicated their set closer to the queer community. As a sea of buoyant voices joined in with “I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see / ’cause this is what we look like,” the poignancy of the lyrics was overwhelming and an empowering sense of unity took hold. The night also included the shimmering folk-strewn offerings of Athabaska, the quirky energy and sparkling charisma of Nun Habit and the sun-drenched swirling anthems of Hurtling. There is nothing quite like that joyous sense of togetherness that comes from hosting gigs filled with like-minded wonderful people.

I was also lucky enough to fit in seeing one of my all time favourite bands with a few of my all time favourite people. The last time that Tash, Kate, Paul and I were all together pre-Covid was for Sleater Kinney at Brixton Academy – a pretty special night. Not only did I get to see the legendary Carrie Brownstein deliver her distinctive gritty, scuzz-filled riffs alongside Corin Tucker’s unmistakable swooning vocals in the flesh, conjuring up massive feelings of awe and nostalgia, but they were supported by one of our favourite current bands. The second time we’d seen Big Joanie on the Brixton Academy stage (the first being opening for Bikini Kill last year!), they showcased just how deserving they are of their rising success; with their unique, raw, post-punk soundscapes and poignant lyricism, they delivered an absolutely incredible set. A truly memorable night.

My last ‘outing’ before lockdown was to the BBC 6Music festival for International Women’s Day at The Roundhouse. An epic line-up consisting of some incredible women and non-binary folk that I’m incredibly grateful I got to witness before everything fell apart. In addition to the immense poignant power of Jehnny Beth, the utterly beguiling splendour of Nadine Shah (who I fell in love with there and then), and the completely mind-blowing presence of hero Kim Gordon, Kae Tempest delivered a fiercely moving, truly breath-taking headline set.

And then gigs were gone. To be replaced by online streamed “events” which I think have had mixed reviews over the last few months – they’re of course no replacement for the “real thing” and it’s hard to feel motivated to “attend” things when you’ve been on the sofa in your pjs for weeks. However, I have managed to organise a few GIHE Instagram ‘Takeovers’, featuring some of our favourite bands and artists. From ARXX’s drum and guitar lessons, LibraLibra’s quirky tele-sales style feature and Tiger Mimic’s interviews with others on the scene, to inspiring chats with Amaroun, Eckoes, Foundlings and Husk, beaut “live” sessions from Gold Baby, Scrounge and KIN, and King Hannah’s EP run through, I feel grateful that so many creatives have wanted to be involved.

It’s a strange time, no doubt, but one which is made that much better by a sense of togetherness within the community. One positive from all this really has been the mutual support and genuine care that I’ve seen musicians and those within the industry show for each other.

John McGovern (Contributor)

On the one hand, there’s been almost no gigs, no festivals, much fewer physical releases and closed record shops. On the other, BBC 6Music’s response helped me stay indoors and make the most of my furlough life. Lauren Laverne‘s show was extended to cover the late morning, running to nearly double the length of most of the other shows on the station and basically saw her appointed as chief mood-lifter for the BBC’s flagship alternative music station. Amongst the days of uncertainty, where even leaving the house offered the risk of serious illness, with no guarantee of a job at the end of the summer, having Lauren there to soundtrack breakfast/brunch made a world of difference. It produced a kind of odd stasis: the background radiation of a pandemic, but an excellent range of music, usually featuring a smattering of classics, new music and obscure gems. The only disappointment was when the schedule reverted back to usual come the end of lockdown. Hopefully, that same semblance of normality will be back for us all, soon.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read our highlights!

You can read about our GIHE Albums of 2020 here and our GIHE Tracks Of 2020 here.

Keep an eye out for our Ones To Watch in 2021 feature next week!

GIHE: Albums Of 2020

It feels strange to be celebrating anything in 2020, but the GIHE team want to shine a light on some of the brilliant music that’s been released against the odds during the last 12 months. If you, or your band managed to release a full length record, Congratulations! You should be super proud. If you didn’t manage to write anything new this year though, we fully understand and we’ll still be here to sing your praises when you feel ready to write again.

In the absence of live shows where we’d normally celebrate the release of an album, we’ve coped by dancing around our living rooms, miming underneath our face-masks and telling as many people as we can on our Zoom calls to listen to these records. So, in alphabetical order, here are ten albums that helped us get through 2020 (with some honorable mentions at the end because we’re a little bit fed up of restrictions this year…)

Bitch Falcon – Staring At Clocks
Released via Small Pond Records in November, Staring At Clocks is a blistering cacophony of grunge, post-punk and shoegaze inspired sounds from Dublin trio Bitch Falcon. Effortlessly switching from a savage scream to a sublime extended yearning, front woman Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s elastic vocal ability never fails to impress and my admiration for her natural talent swells with each listen. Her intuition is matched by Nigel Kenny’s razor sharp cymbal strikes and Barry O’Sullivan’s brooding bass hooks. Equal parts gritty and graceful, I’m properly in love with Bitch Falcon’s debut album and no, I will not stop talking about it. Listen to Staring At Clocks via bandcamp or Spotify.
(Kate Crudgington – Features Editor)

Bugeye – Ready Steady Bang
A long-standing fave of GIHE, Bugeye have previously wowed us with their vibrant live shows, including performing for us at The Finsbury and at Cro Cro Land, a festival put together by front person Angela Martin in my hometown of Croydon. They’ve also received plenty of acclaim from the likes of Radio X’s John Kennedy and BBC Introducing, and rightly so. Ready Steady Bang is like nothing you’ve heard before; a vibrant fusion of disco, punk and everything in-between, all fused together with magnificent energy into a relentlessly riotous and utterly uplifting collection. This explosive debut fizzles with a wonderfully unique colourful pizazz as the band reflect on the state of the world today. Raging with Angela’s gritty, snarling vocals and whirring electro hooks, alongside crunching riffs and poppy harmonies, each track is a total earworm. Reminiscent of nineties indie legends Elastica, with shades of the retro energy of Blondie, it’s an album oozing a sparkling majesty that’ll charge you up and leave you ready to face whatever 2021 has in store.
Ready Steady Bang is out via Reckless Yes Records, listen on bandcamp or Spotify.
(Mari Lane – Managing Editor)

Dream Wife – So When You Gonna… 
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about the release of this year’s sophomore Dream Wife album. I had been so completely enamoured by their 2018 eponymous debut that it seemed impossible not to be disappointed, but how wrong I was. So When You Gonna… is both uplifting and poignant in equal measure. From the heartfelt and relatable stirring emotion of album closer and pro-choice anthem ‘After The Rain’ to the immersive inspirational power of ‘Validation’ and fun-filled playful energy and trademark charisma of ‘Hasta La Vista’ and the album’s title track, it proves that Dream Wife are here to stay. With this latest collection, they’ve come back more empowering, passionate and truly joyous than ever.
Listen to So When You Gonna… via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Gordian Stimm – Your Body In On Itself
I remember thinking “yessss this is a bit of me!” when Gordian Stimm’s (aka Maeve Westall of itoldyouiwouldeatyou) experimental gem of a record first dropped into my GIHE inbox in April. Released via independent Leicester-based label Amateur Pop, Stimm’s debut album is a vivid exploration of bodily autonomy. There’s an enjoyable violence underscoring their vision; a gleeful, sometimes painful dissecting of the self and the social cues that either help construct or dismantle it. At times reminiscent of early Passion Pit or Crystal Castles, Your Body In On Itself is a wonderful collection of distorted, dance-able beats that I continue to enjoy even after multiple listens. The cassette tape is cute af too.
Listen to Your Body In On Itself via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Happy Accidents – Sprawling
Probably my most listened-to full album of 2020, Happy Accidents’ Sprawling follows 2018’s equally addictive Everything But The Here And Now. Since first falling in love with the band back at Indietracks of the same year, I’ve been continually seeking comfort in their sparkling creations. Now a duo made up of Phoebe Cross and Rich Mandell, Happy Accidents have showcased all there is to love about them in this latest collection. An album about “getting out of your head and allowing yourself to connect with others on a fundamental level”, it offers a perfect juxtaposition of honey-sweet vocals, swirling jangling melodies and luscious harmonies, all delivered alongside the heartfelt emotion of the reflective, relatable lyricism, making it impossible not to get utterly immersed in. With Rich and Phoebe taking turns with the lead, each track maintains the glistening warmth and twinkling uplifting charm that first drew me to the band. And now I can’t seem to stop listening; forever seeking soothing catharsis in Happy Accidents’ shimmering, Sprawling indie-pop.
Listen to Sprawling via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Hilary Woods – Birthmarks
Inspired by field recordings, images from post-war Japanese & wet-plate photography and the secret life of trees, Hilary Woods’ second album Birthmarks is a cohesive set of shadowy soundscapes that smolder with quiet intensity. Released in March via Sacred Bones, the Irish multi-instrumentalist collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer Lasse Marhaugher to create a record that was “of the body…a more physical record” than her previous work. She crafted eight fleshy, twisted, charged lullabies that are laced with a mix of hushed vocals, melancholy strings, saxophone sounds, distorted drone noises and Okkyung’s exquisite cello playing. Recorded over the course of two years between Galway and Oslo whilst Woods was heavily pregnant, Birthmarks feels like her most personal and powerful record to date and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it this year.
Listen to Birthmarks via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Indian Queens – God Is A Woman
Described by lead vocalist & guitarist Jennifer O’Neill as “a late night record”, London trio Indian Queens’ debut album is a sublime offering, designed to dissolve uncertainty and soothe anxious minds. Released via Cool Thing Records in April, the band have written thirteen dizzying tracks that are as driving as they are delicate, providing a welcome rush of blood to the head every time they’re listened to. I love everything about this band and I’m so glad I got to hear them live again in March before the rest of 2020 got cancelled.
Listen to God Is A Woman via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Nova Twins – Who Are The Girls?
Us GIHE grrrls collectively agreed that this is a stunning debut album. Nova Twins’ battle cry for equality and diversity on Who Are The Girls? resonates long after the record stops spinning. Amy Love & Georgia South are a force for fun, for fury and – most importantly – for change in an industry that still “struggles” to book women as headliners at major festivals. This album, released via 333 Wreckords in February, is a collection of thundering bass lines, uncompromising rhythms and wicked riffs. It’s an aural uppercut that proves the London-based duos talent and instinct for writing anarchic anthems. Nova Twins always have us riled, re-energised, and ready to ask for more.
Listen to Who Are The Girls? on Spotify. (KC)

Screaming Toenail – Growth
Having blown us away with the impassioned magnificence of their live show at The Finsbury last December, anti-colonial queer punks Screaming Toenail have become firm favourites here at GIHE, and their message is more resonant now than ever before. Opening with a jarring recording of reports of trafficking migrants and “swarms” of refugees coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, Growth starts as it means to go on: honest, politically charged and utterly necessary. Combining shades of ‘80s post-punk with the band’s raw magnetism and angst driven drive, the album covers poignant subject matter, ranging from institutionalised racism and damaging hetero-patriarchal norms, to “little old ladies shoplifting from Boots” and other inspiring female figures such as Diane Abbott and Reni Eddo-Lodge. Growth is truly a soundtrack to our times. Fuelled by a motivational cathartic rage, it starkly reminds us that on returning to “normality”, we need to create a new normal. One in which voices like Screaming Toenail’s can be amplified to the max; one in which we prioritise creating safe, queer, inter-sectional communities and spaces for people to share their art together.
Listen to Growth via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Sink Ya Teeth – Two
Long time GIHE faves who first completely took our breath away playing for us live at The Finsbury a few years back, Norwich duo Sink Ya Teeth brought some groove-laden joy to this nightmare year with their second album, appropriately titled Two. Having been booked to play our very first Get In Her Ears festival that would have taken place this summer, being able to listen to all the unique dance-punk soundscapes throughout this album offered a bit of consolation. Blowing us away with the soaring, sparkling majesty of each track, they continue to mark themselves out as truly innovative in their craft. From the synth driven glitchy hooks of ‘Somewhere Else’ to the immense funk-fuelled groove of ‘The Hot House’, everything the duo create oozes an infectious shimmering energy, showcasing Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford as the ultimate dream team in both songwriting and performing.
Listen to Two via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Honorable mentions:
A.A. Williams Forever Blue
Ailbhe ReddyPersonal History
ByenaryByenary
The Crystal FursBeautiful and True
Diet CigDo You Wonder About Me?
Dream NailsDream Nails
Lido PimientaMiss Colombia
MOURN – Self Worth
Nadine ShahKitchen Sink
No HomeFucking Hell
Phoebe BridgersPunisher
REWSWarriors
WaxahatcheeSaint Cloud
The Fight Is Not Over (Live album feat. Problem Patterns, Sister Ghost, Strange New Places, Gender Chores)

LISTEN: A. A. Williams – ‘Lovesong’ (The Cure cover)

A tentative, beautifully stripped back version of an 80s alternative classic, London-based artist A.A. Williams has shared her cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’. It’s another exquisite offering from the songwriter’s ‘Songs From Isolation’ series, which she’ll be releasing as a 9 track LP via Bella Union on 12th February 2021.

Williams spoke to us about her ‘Songs From Isolation’ series earlier this year ahead of the release of her debut album, Forever Blue (read the full interview here). Having received such high praise for both recording projects, she’s now taking the covers that fans originally suggested to her and releasing her home recordings on vinyl. The Songs From Isolation album will feature Williams’ covers of tracks by The Cure, Pixies, Deftones, Nick Cave, Gordon Lightfoot, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and more.

“’Lovesong’ was one of the first songs suggested by fans for the Songs From Isolation series, and was one of my favourites to rework,” Williams explains about her new release. “The original conjures up such nostalgic feelings, I really wanted to honour as many of elements of it as possible. The lyrics are so beautiful and tender and I wanted to shine a light on them in this version, so I’ve tried to create a delicate backdrop for them out of the melodic elements of The Cure’s original.”

Listen to ‘Lovesong’ below and follow A.A. Williams on bandcamp, Spotify & Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: A. A. Williams

Due to an admin error, I’m running twenty minutes late when I get through to A. A. Williams to chat about her new album, Forever Blue, on Skype. I apologise and self-flagellate saying I hate to keep people waiting, but she’s genuinely not bothered by the tardiness but much like me, she also can’t deal with being late herself. I feel instantly at ease.

“Is it alright to do this off camera?” she asks. “I did an online interview the other day where I spent about 15 minutes watching this lovely Dutch man waiting for me to un-mute my microphone, because I couldn’t do it for love nor money at the time. I just watched his face for 15 minutes thinking ‘this guy must hate me'”. It’s reassuring to hear someone else is fatigued by the “new normal” of interviewing via video conferencing software. “I’d rather just go for a cup of tea to be honest.” I nod enthusiastically even though she can’t see me. I laugh and say I feel like a budgie pecking at its own reflection in a toy mirror when I’m sat on a video call, so I’m happy to chat off camera.

For those who don’t know, A. A. Williams is a classically trained, multi-talented musician whose blending of post-rock and post-classical elements makes for exquisitely raw listening. She released her self-titled EP in 2019 via Holy Roar and is set to release her debut album, Forever Blue via Bella Union on 3rd July. Before the UK went in to lockdown in March, she gave her debut performance at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room. “We were like Indiana Jones sliding under the door coming down, we only just got that gig done” she jokes. “It felt like an unwritten cut off point. It seemed to be a lot of people’s last show and I’m glad I got that in before it all went a bit wrong.”

Williams recalls feeling “nervous as hell” on the night, despite the show nearly selling out. “I’m not that great at remembering gigs to be honest, I remember going on stage and going off stage. The stuff that happens in the middle is a slightly out of body situation. But having the cellists with me for the whole show was beautiful. It was a dream come true, if I could do that for every gig, I would.”

We talk about how a venue like Southbank Centre is built for classical music and a perfect way to experience her sublimely dark sounds. “It’s a bit of a luxury to play somewhere like that to be honest. People spend millions of pounds acoustically designing these rooms, so they’re fabulous. They’re a joy to watch music in to. You can take your drink, sit down, relax. It’s a nice change from squished sweaty venues. A little bit of the high life.”

Unfortunately, for both musicians and their fans this “high life” has been abruptly put on hold due to the current pandemic. Southbank Centre’s doors are shut, as are the squished smaller venues across the UK during lockdown. To keep herself busy during this gig-less period, Williams has worked on her “Songs From Isolation” series. She shared monochrome videos of her covering tracks by Radiohead, Deftones, Nick Cave, and Nine Inch Nails.

“I put up a message on my Instagram saying I would like to do some piano-based songs to try and use my time and be productive” she explains. “I thought people would be like ‘Hey, can you play ‘Belong’?’ but instead they were like ‘Hey, can you play Nick Cave?’ It wasn’t what I had planned, but it was actually a really nice surprise. Lots of people suggested the same artists, so it was a nice challenge to try and choose a song that would be right for my voice, and that I felt I could do some justice to. I didn’t want to choose something super obscure.”

I ask about her process for deconstructing each song and wedge in that my personal favourite is her cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’, which she says took her the longest to work out. “First, I’ll figure out the chords, lyrics, and structure on the original. Then I figure out if I need to change the key to accommodate my voice, which I didn’t need to do on NIN, which was great! I listen out for any motifs rhythmically or melodically. With these covers, I didn’t want to risk it ending up like karaoke. I was trying to keep as far enough away from the original so that we wouldn’t end up in that place. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it takes forever, but I think it’s worth it either way.”

I ask if Trent Reznor reached out to her after she shared the cover, even though he maintains a relatively elusive presence online (and is obviously incredibly busy). “No, but I wish he had! I mean, there’s only so many times you can tweet ‘@trentreznor here’s my cover’, you know? I like to think that maybe he stumbled across it. I figured if he hated it, maybe he’d have got in touch? So it’s good that he didn’t I suppose.”

Williams’ appreciation of Reznor’s silence interests me. It suggests a natural patience and intuition for things. Her music is a beautiful balance between loud and quiet, heavy and soft, captivating and alarming. Her sensitivity to volume is what makes the drop-ins on tracks like ‘Melt’ feel so powerful. She recorded most of Forever Blue from her home studio in her North London flat, something which again requires patience and intuition.

“What’s nice is that you can do it any time you want. During the summertime I wake up early because the sun comes into the flat, and I pop in to the other room and start noodling away on demos at 5am, much to the disdain of my neighbours. I’ll record it – albeit not very well – and use that as a base to start to layer a few things in and get some ideas for some secondary melodic parts. In the process of doing that, I end up recording things that often end up being on the album. So, even though they’re part of the demo process, through the process of exploring what works for a song, some of those demo parts end up staying, which is nice.”

This freedom extends into Williams’ recording of vocals too. “I find recording vocals probably the most high pressure. Sometimes, if you’re recording them in a studio and you’ve got lots of people around you, and you’ve got to get however many songs recorded in a day, it’s nicer to be able to take your time at home. I can take as long over that as I want. Having said that, I do live with the bleed of delivery drivers, motorbikes, screaming kids and all sorts of other average London sounds. There’s a hospital just down my street, so there’s probably an ambulance recorded somewhere on the album, along with my dog who has a habit of barking during vocal takes. Have you ever heard a dog bark down your headphones? Oh my god, it is painful. It’s so loud with all the delay and the reverb – if he heard it he’d probably think it was the best thing ever.”

I can’t resist asking what kind of dog she owns.

“He’s a long-haired dachshund. He’s just had his hair cut, he’s very happy with himself. He’s the only person I know in lockdown who’s managed to get a haircut.” As a fellow dachshund owner, it takes all my will power not to turn the interview into an extended piece on why dachshunds are the greatest dogs in the world.

“But yeah, there’s a lot of pros about working from home, but the negatives are always going to be that you’re going to have sound bleeding and you’ll have to spend more time on eliminating that.”

I ask Williams if she has a favourite track on Forever Blue. “That’s hard! That’s not fair, that’s like asking which is your favourite child” she laughs. “I’m not sure. I think in a way, one of my favourites is ‘I’m Fine’ which is the last song. I don’t really know why, it found this accidental place at the end of the album. You land in a hopeful place, it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s a small simple song, but I find songs like that quite cathartic to listen to.

Having said that, I find songs like ‘Love and Pain’ and ‘Melt’ very enjoyable to listen to, partly because I associate them as songs to perform live. The joy of just making lots of noise, let’s be honest, is just great. There is something very cathartic about sticking all the pedals on and making a racket, it’s a very therapeutic experience. I love playing ‘Melt’ live. When we were playing earlier in the year, we’d play it in the middle of the set, and finish with ‘Control’ because I figured if the crowd were going to know any of my songs, it’d probably be that one. But now because of the album, I have the excuse to finish with ‘Melt’ and have all the crazy drums at the end. I’m very excited about eventually being able to get out and play it again. Show it off a bit.”

I ask Williams to reflect on a sentiment she expressed in an interview with Metal Hammer in 2019. She’s quoted as saying “you have to take risks if you want people to take it seriously and be interested” when talking about her EP. I ask about what “risks” she took on Forever Blue.

“There are always going to be people who are doubtful of their output, and people who are going to be confident, and I am the typically doubtful kind. This stuff being out in the world is kind of a risk, to a point. I can’t imagine anyone would make an album and not care if anyone liked it. They want people to embrace it and find a place for it in their own listening.

Including guest vocalists on this album has been an element of risk I suppose. I want people to think it’s an added texture that I couldn’t provide myself.” Forever Blue features guest vocals from Johannes Persson (Cult Of Luna) on ‘Fearless’, Fredrik Kihlberg (Cult Of Luna) on ‘Glimmer’ and Tom Fleming (ex-Wild Beasts) on ‘Dirt’. “As long as you just trust your gut, hopefully that will pay off. I think that’s the only way to do it” Williams explains. “Otherwise I’d never do anything. I’d be worried too much, and I’d just stay at home, staring out the window, being scared of things.”

This fearlessness is something that extends in to Williams’ music and lyricism. Her ambiguous words and fluctuating volume levels are what make Forever Blue such a captivating listen. “Let’s be honest, sometimes volume is great, but you do need a break”, she explains. “In terms of the lyrics, I think my base level of misery is lower than your average person, so I don’t look at those lyrics and go ‘wow, that person’s miserable’, but I can see how some people might. I think everyone’s on a scale with this stuff, but ultimately, it’s just the human condition. Finding someone who’s permanently happy – apart from my dog – is not possible.

People will read into the lyrics in different ways, and that’s what I want them to do. I remember when I first played my Mum my EP, she said, ‘are you worried about coming across as vulnerable?’ and I wasn’t really. I don’t mind being open and honest. These songs are how I feel, and that’s fine. I can’t write from someone else’s perspective. Hopefully people can kind of make it their own a little bit. It becomes a little bit more personal.”

Another interesting fact about Williams in the Metal Hammer interview is that she found a guitar on the street one day with a note saying, “please take me, just needs work”. After a friend performed guitar surgery on the abandoned squire telecaster, Williams – who’s originally a trained cellist – began teaching herself to play it by “mucking around” writing songs. I ask if she has any advice for any musicians who are thinking of learning a new instrument, or anyone who’s learning to play for the first time.

“Even if you’re starting something completely from scratch, it’s so worth it. It’s easy to be frustrated if it doesn’t sound incredible immediately. The amount of times I’ve picked up something and gone ‘I’m gonna learn to do this! Oh look, I’m awful, goodbye…’ Learning instruments takes years, and years and years, but some instruments are much more approachable than others. Guitar, piano, even if you buy a new Mac laptop, it comes with garage band. You can immediately start making little loops and beats, you don’t have to have a clue what’s going on. It’s all there. Just start mucking around with it, just to get your head around the basic elements of what makes a song. You don’t have to be a whizz instrumentalist. You’re not going to get good at it over night, but if you’re doing it for you, that’s cool. If you want to write songs and you’ve got something to say, just do it. Who cares if the chords sound a bit weird? It’s just practice and becoming confident, and thinking that it matters to you.”

Williams’ passion for artistic expression extends beyond music too. “All art is worth it. Whether you doodle, write poems, make little videos – whatever it is – it doesn’t matter. It’s so important to try to give yourself time to do this. Even if it’s just for fun, and you don’t plan on ever showing it to anyone. It’s a really great experience to just sit down, just you and your brain and a piece of art that you’re making. I have no idea what I’d do if I wasn’t a musician. I’m so glad that I operate in an artistic field. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

I ask Williams what music (aside from her own) she’s been listening to during the lockdown period. She listens to Perturbator when trying to motivate herself to “get on with things”, but her enthusiasm for Run The Jewels’ new album RTJ4 is palpable. “I’ve been known to rap along to Run The Jewels on the bus, out loud, on my own. I think RTJ2 is my favourite album of theirs, but with RTJ4 I feel engaged and emotional about what they’re saying. It’s weird when music hits you that hard sometimes when you’re not expecting it. I have to say, on the first listen, I had a little cry. It’s so powerful.”

RTJ4 was released shortly after the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who died after a white police officer used excessive force to restrain him during an arrest. The footage of the officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the line “I can’t breathe” sparked worldwide protests by Black Lives Matter activists and their allies, calling for an end to police brutality against black people.

“It’s amazing the number of tweets I’ve seen about the song ‘Walking In The Snow’ which has the line ‘I can’t breathe’ in” says Williams. “People were asking if they’d recently gone back in to the studio to record this track because of what happened to George Floyd, and the band were like ‘No, this was recorded in November 2019’, so the fact that this is still happening is insane. The track with Mavis Staples on is also absolutely beautiful.”

2020 has certainly been a tumultuous and frightening year so far, but it seems that Williams is engaged with everything that’s happening, and grateful to have music as her outlet. Forever Blue feels like a state of mind right now, and her careful treatment of the noisy and the quiet on her debut album is ultimately a soothing experience.

I guess it also helps that she has a cute dachshund to distract her too, something which I bring up again. “He has his own Instagram. It’s @geezerthepup. He’s named after Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath, obviously. You can find him on there being cute and fabulous. I don’t do his Instagram, my husband does it. It’s just a bit of fun.” That’s certainly something we could all do with a bit more of these days.

You can pre-order A. A. Williams’ album Forever Blue here.