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Rachel Sermanni Interview August 2012

Lisa Ward


After extensive tours with Fink, Rachel Sermanni has been a regular name on many of the festival bills this year. With stops at Reading & Leeds over the bank holiday weekend it seems as though people might finally be taking note of the Scottish singer-songwriter’s more obscure take on the world. When questioned about the reactions, she’s brief, simply stating she’s “Pleased indeed.” It seems then, despite a mass of online support (no doubt fuelled by her penchant for filling her Facebook page with sketches which seem to reflect the sometimes darker workings of her mind) that she’s not yet realised that up and down the country she’s winning fans over with her intricate sound.

With the new album due out immanently, it’s clear she’s excited about the final product. “It’s called Under Mountains and out on the 17th of September. It’s a very exciting time. I hope people expect not anything then they can hear it without preconceptions. But, having listened to it myself, it’s a little heavier than I thought it’d be (when I say this, I mean subject wise). I’m sort of glad. And there are some GREAT sounds. Real wrenches and some lovely melodic and harmonic bits…”

Still, it’s not without hesitation and though she may have begun to draw in the fan base there’s clearly reservation at the possible reaction to the album. “There are sweet moments and lots of shadow too, leaning towards a melancholy disposition… I think I do that a bit so it makes sense that the songs do that too… they are, ultimately, a reflection. What’s cool is that the album is, very soon, going to become reflections for other people too, not just internal….AGH.”

Some of those fans (like me) are likely to look at the track listing and panic, as Pirate Song seems to have failed to make the final cut. When I voice my disappointment about this Rachel explains, “ah. Well, firstly, I’m really glad you like it. Secondly, IT IS on the album. We just thought we’d give it a more posh name: Sea oh See. I hope you’re pleased about this. Thank you for asking. Thank you for noticing.” 

This leads me to question what it’s like being a musician and having to respond to countless media requests, and whether Rachel would rather she could just make music. “In all honesty I would like more time to make music. But I understand this must be done” she explains, “[but] I do like to talk about the creations, as long as the questions are nice and thought through. It is a difficult balance to get, though. For now, writing and practicing is pushed back. But absorption of stuff continues no matter what is going on so it’ll be fine.” It seems then, that Rachel is not taking a back seat, writing still very much in her mind, even if time is limited.

Still, with a headline tour just around the corner it’s not just writing that she’s pondering, and it’s here that her continued creativity is highlighted again, saying “I have hopes and plans to personalize the gigs and make them feel intimate and special to all involved. Rake the soil around which the songs can bed themselves… It’s quite astonishing to think that people all over Europe will be coming to hear me in some small corner of a city. I’m honoured.” 

Nevertheless, the venues are disparate and I’m keen to get her thoughts. “Things like the O2 in Oxford aren’t your ideal place for the sort of gig that I’ll be doing so it’ll be down to the atmosphere the humans create for those places. But a challenge is fun, and people of Oxford are very nice” she tells me. But it’s not all set to be an uphill struggle, as she’s also booked for more acoustic friendly venues.“I’m really looking forward to the church in Cambridge. I had a great gig there with Fink one time. IT felt amazing. Whelans in Dublin is always good. Paradiso in Amsterdam sort of goes with out really needing saying…I like it there, a lot. I’ve not played in a lot of the places so it’ll be interesting.” She tells me before ending by saying “perhaps I should keep a book for each venue like a bird watcher reports his sightings…”  and knowing Rachel, she will, complete with sketches.