Interview: Woman’s Hour

Ahead of the band’s gig at Picture House Social tonight (18 March), Exposed caught up with three-piece London band Woman’s Hour for a natter about growing up in Kendal, splitting up and living in the present.

Having grown up in Kendal, how far would you say that this influenced your sound/ lyrics?
Growing up in a small market town has had a huge influence on us as people, that’s for sure. It’s hard to detach myself from my surroundings and look objectively at why we’re more drawn to certain sounds and styles than others. But with this record there was a strong sense of wanting to remove ourselves from London and re-connect with the rural landscape we grew up with. Our relationship with London and Cumbria is one of love and hate. This record is very much a love letter to both landscapes as much as it is a warning sign.

Your debut album, Conversations, was released back in 2014 and was met with high regard. Is the calm, dreamy sound of this album an accurate reflection of your nature as a band?
Well I think a lot has changed in the last five years. We are touring the UK at a time when there is a deep sense of uncertainty, apathy and hostility amongst people living here. Things feels chaotic and messy, and our latest album ‘Ephyra’ is definitely a reflection of how we’ve reacted to all these changes. We are a band in flux, evolving and responding to what’s happening to us personally and politically. So no, Conversations is not a reflection of us as a band right now, it’s a reflection of who we were then. That feels like a different world we were existing in.

As two siblings and a school friend, is it difficult to work with people you are so close to?
Being in any kind of long-term creative collaboration has its ups and downs. It’s a marriage between you all, and over time it’s easy to become resentful of everything you’ve sacrificed for the collective group. That said, it’s also unlike any other friendship I’ve ever experienced because you also share so many incredible experiences together. We’re toured the world together, seen each other at our highest highs and lowest lows, we’ve even shared toothbrushes! It’s very intense and so naturally it can become claustrophobic, so it’s important to respect each other’s personal space.

Why did you split up after the first album?
After we finished touring our first record we drove up to the Lake District and hired a rehearsal room on a remote farm and spent weeks on end just writing songs and discussing what we wanted our next record to sound like. It was a really exhilarating process and we really connected as a band. There was a lot of positive energy between us whilst we were making this record, and I think a lot of that energy is reflected on Ephyra. When we moved back down to London we were recording everything in Will’s apartment and I think this contributed to a sense of claustrophobia. I actually think the physical space we were in had a big effect on how we were connecting with the music and each other, and I actually think you can hear this kind of tug of war in the songs. We were struggling with living in London and feeling trapped in this band dynamic that felt increasingly hostile. I don’t think we’re unusual in this regard, I think a lot of what we experienced is common ground for many musicians. We just decided that we would be honest about the process. We have always been a band in flux, but what partnership isn’t?

After a five year break, your second album, Ephyra, has just landed in early 2019. What drove you to get back together? Was the reunion driven by one person or was it a mutual decision?
For me, I never really accepted that this album wouldn’t be released. I just couldn’t bare the thought of it sitting on someone’s hard drive. It needed to be released but it was also clear that our mental health needed to take priority, so it was important that we all took a step back and allowed our personal wellbeing to be our main focus. We had given so much of ourselves to making this record, it nearly broke us. But once we all had some time to heal and reflect, it became clear that we needed to feel a sense of completion. A sense of resolution. And I think that was a very important part of the process, it took the pressure off and became something to celebrate rather than to blame.

“We have always been a band in flux, but what partnership isn’t?”

How long had you been writing Ephyra before you decided to break up?
We spent about two years writing this album, between Kendal and London.

How did you find working together again after such a long time? Were there any underlying tensions?
At first it was strange because we hadn’t spent much time together, so it took a bit of getting used to. But pretty quickly I think we all felt collectively that it was the right decision to release this music. It’s been a humbling process, and ultimately one that has brought us closer together.

Did the music help you to collectively work through your problems?
Music has always been a way for me to process things. If I’m feeling angry or inspired by something I can get it all out of my system by writing about it, which can be incredibly therapeutic. I think we all use music to process things, and this album is definitely a result of us all working things out and not being afraid to say what we think or how we feel.

After such a long break, you all must have developed on a personal level. How would you say your sound has evolved?
Our sound has definitely matured. With this record we were keen to really push ourselves and not feel constrained to fit into a certain category. We’re all into really diverse music, so we wanted all those different influences to influence the record. It was a really creative and inspiring process.

Are there any unifying themes in the new album/ between the two albums
While Conversations was a more inward looking record, I would say Ephyra is more of an outward looking record.

Your first album was released on Secretly Canadian. Have they also released your second album, or have you moved on?
When we broke up we decided to leave our record label, management, everything. We needed to have complete closure at that time. And so when we decided to release the album, it made sense to do it ourselves. It’s actually been a really beautiful and organic process. We didn’t have goals to meet or people to impress, things just happened naturally through people approaching us and starting conversations with us. It feels really empowering to be totally in control of what we’re doing now.

You said back in 2013 that your music was about presenting yourselves as fragile, vulnerable and imperfect beings. How far does Ephyra embody this notion?
Those themes are pretty universal so I’d say they’re still in there, but this album also has loud, aggressive moments which punctuate the record. I wouldn’t describe Ephyra as a shy record.

Are you excited and re-enthused to be back in the music industry, or has producing Ephyra confirmed your doubts about it?
The music industry is a confounding place. It’s nice to be part of it, but it’s important not to rely on it too heavily.

Is this really the end of the road? And if so, how do you feel about that?
Ephyra is our final album together as Woman’s Hour. Who knows what’s next!

What lessons do you feel you’ve learned from the entire process?
To live in the present!

Woman’s Hour play Picture House Social tonight (18 March). Grab your tickets here

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