A creator of heavy, beguiling soundscapes; London-based musician A.A. Williams has been compared to the likes of Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but she’s captivating in her own right. Her 2019 self-titled debut EP caught the attention of critics and fans, and now she’s set to return to the prestigious Roadburn Festival in April this year, as well performing a headline show at London’s Southbank Centre in March. We caught up with Williams to ask her about her EP, her collaboration with Japanese instrumental giants MONO, and her anticipations for her London gig…
It’s been just over a year since you released your debut EP (Congratulations!) What are you most proud of about this record? And do you have a favourite track?
Thank you! I’m so pleased that the songs resonate with people. Hearing so many positive words from people at shows makes me very proud of what these tracks have become. I don’t have a favourite song. They are each important to me in their own right.
You beautifully cover Dolly Parton’s track ‘Jolene’ on the EP. If you had to pick someone to cover one of your tracks, who would you pick?
I think Johnny Cash would have done a beautiful version of ‘Control’.
The EP also features three “stripped down” live rehearsal recordings. What process do you go through when deciding which songs you’re going to strip back? What elements of a live recording do you enjoy the most?
Generally, each song can be stripped down, because each song begins in that form, as a voice and with either guitar or piano. The hardest thing is to decide how to treat the instrumental sections, sometimes I’ll sing a guitar line or incorporate a few melodies into one piano part, but generally the main focus is to ensure that the arrangement has enough space and doesn’t sound too mechanical. I love all elements of recording, I’d spend every day in a studio if I could. The best thing is to press record when you’re running a song, just in case, even if you don’t feel fully prepared! You never know what magic will happen.
You’ve just released a split EP with MONO. We know you toured with them last year, but talk us through how this collaboration came about, and what the reaction to the record has been like so far.
Taka heard my EP and got in touch to see if working together would be something I’d be interested in. I’d met the band briefly at Roadburn 2019 (I was performing with them during their headline show. They performed ‘Hymn To The Immortal Wind’ with a string quartet, of which I was a part), I couldn’t wait to take on the opportunity! We emailed some ideas between us and gradually found the time to record in July last year. I’ve been so pleased with the reaction. It’s great to see that fans of instrumental music are open to the inclusion of vocals and a slightly different approach.
You’ll be making your Southbank Centre debut when you headline The Purcell Room on March 12th (tickets available here). What are your anticipations for this gig?
I’m so excited for this performance. I’ll be extending the full-band line up to include a string quartet and adding some guest vocalists too. Up to this point, all of my shows have been supports or festivals, so it’ll be a joy to be able to spend more time on stage and create a fuller show.
Do you have plans to release new music this year?
I’m always writing, so fingers crossed!
Who, or what inspires you to create your music?
I find writing a very therapeutic process, so I’ll often begin working on a song because purely because I find it enjoyable. I don’t deliberately write inspired by anything or anyone, though ultimately we are each a sum of everything we’ve ever heard, seen and felt.
You’re returning to Arctangent festival this year in August. Is there anyone on the line-up you’re looking forward to seeing?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Maybeshewill and Amenra, and I’d like to catch Swans and Svalbard too! The weather was so awful last year that I didn’t really get to see many other artists, so hopefully I can remedy that this time around.
As we’re a new music blog, we always ask the artists we interview to name a new band or artist they’ve been listening to. Who would you like to recommend?
Gaupa’s 2018 self-titled EP is so good! It’s as if Björk had formed a psych-stoner band. Also, I know they’re not new, but I was recently introduced to Khemmis. I’ve really been enjoying their album, Absolution.