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Wallis Bird Interview June 2012

Jo & Lisa


Back in her native Ireland, Westport marks the end of several months on the road for Wallis Bird, having toured Ireland, England and continental Europe with her new self titled album.

Fresh off the stage, we meet up in the library of Westport house, an open fire drying off her flip-flopped feet, where she tell us, “I’m really buzzing after that. In the middle I was lucky enough to do a really slow storytelling song called In Dictum and not a single person was talking, that’s rare at a festival you know? I was in this lovely courtyard and I was in between sets of bands so I had quite a lot of scope for being quiet and the rain stopped! I’m very happy with the set, and even if the rain was there I think the people here are in very good mood, they’re well used to the rain and they’re well up for this line up as well.”

As conversation drifts to how audience vary, she’s quick to point out “when you’re playing, there’s this hypnotic moment that happens, I know for me and a lots of my friends who play music too you just kind of switch off.” But continues to note that “every every audience is different and every town is different, you can never anticipate what anyone’s gonna be like and if someone tells you ‘oh, this certain town, they’re normally quite cold and it takes them ages to warm up’, that’s all bullshit to me because I’ve never found an audience like that. If you don’t work with them, then you’re screwed anyway.”

When pushed, she does concede there are some differences, “it’s a very simple thing, it’s how you get fed. Sometimes you have to pay for your own drinks, and in Ireland and England sometimes you have to pay for your own water and there’s a lot of ash tray licking that I have to go through. You’re treated like a king and a queen in continetial Europe and you’re treated as just any old musician elsewhere, it doesn’t matter who you are, unless you’re like hugely famous, that’s the only difference I see, but I take it with a pinch of salt.”

A seasoned musician, Wallis plays shows both solo and with her band, and whilst at Westport it’s just her it seems she doesn’t have a prefence for either. “When you’re playing on your own, you have yourself and your own little brain to banter with the audience or banter with your instrument or yourself and see what you can do and throw yourself around and entertain yourself, because you can’t turn around to your band mates and be like ‘hey let’s have a drum solo, I’m gonna beat the shit out of your instrument now!’ I love the both of them, the music starts off with me and I orchestrate everything in my head and write the music, if you can reproduce that on stage it’s always a good craic especially when people are into it. It’s a bit easier with a band, you can relax a bit more and take some time.” 

With the self titled album and The Mistakes Are Intentional both covering the same songs, the former with a full band, and the latter as a stripped back acoustic offering, we were keen to find out the differences in the recording process. Wallis explains “if you’re recording an album solo then obviously you take a few drinks and smoke a few spliffs and then you just sit down and play and you do what you want and that’s you’re brain splurted onto tape.”

The songs on The Mistakes Are Intentional have a cohesive sound, a more stripped back acoustic offering, whilst Wallis Bird is more varied. The reason? “I love too many styles of music, I like to play around with sound, I don’t like to repeat myself, I have a sound and that’s multifaceted and if people are in to having their ears reconnected to a different sound per song then that’s great. It’s not like every song is metal to jazz or something, it’s just multifaceted, it’s just a different feeling. I did the acoustic album and the full studio album in parallel to each other, it was good fun, when you write something it’s good to see both sides, or as many facites of one song as you can. It’s something to do, I’m not a stagnant kind of person, it’s good to be doing something.”

She goes on to explain why she recorded both. “The purpose of doing The Mistakes Are Intentional was because I had quite a few months between finishing the album and mastering the album, until when it was released, about 6 to 8 months and that kind of got on my goat a little bit. I didn’t really want to wait that long and I wanted to bring out something for people who are quite responsive fans. The stronger fans were waiting for something and I wanted to have a bit of fun, sit in my bedroom and make a big project and do something that was very personal and super tactile related to the music – get people used to the songs, get people used to my humour, get people used to something that’s a bit more than just a plastic CD in your hand.”

“We hand stitched 1500 wallets and hand printed everything. It was all to make it a bit more personal. It went through 6 hands altogether and it was from material from my baby bedsheets and material from curtains from my parents house so it was all very personal. Every single one of them is different and every single one is hand stitched, hand stamped, hand printed, hand folded and the CD is put in by hand. Nothing is manufactured and that’s the point of them and it was no small feat, there was a lot of sweat but that was the point.”

So what’s next? “I like a bit of quirk, there’s so much that’s just reproduction and reproduction. We’re releasing independently across continental Europe and we had manfactured press of 10,000 albums. If you ever seen 10,000 in one room it’s quite a lot and you can see how they’re cut. As unhappy as I was to have this hardback casing that we have, we spent a lot of time on the artwork.  It’s stil not the same as holding something in your hand, so what I’m gonna do next is create a little poetry book and stitch that together.

“I’ve got a lot of little ideas, I’ve got an online song coming up which is 3 minutes of a piece of anything, it could be me breathing, it could be me going ‘grrr’ for about 10 minutes and then we send that to about 30 people via email. Everyone plays it through their telephone, so that’s my next project, to have a little telephone song. It’s gonna be a good craic, I just have to record 30 tracks.”

At that moment, we’re asked to wrap things up, and true to character Wallis smiles with a gleem of mischief in her eye and raises her voice. “Get the fuck out of here, get the fuck out of me library” she yells, gesticulating with a can of Heineken.

Wallis Bird plays a handful of dates across Europe this summer, before returning to Ireland in October. For more information and tickets visit www.wallisbird.com

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