Back in 2015, everything was going very well for the London-based dream-pop band, Chrousgirl. Formed in 2014 by songwriter, Silvi Wersing with the noble aim of showing, “introverts could and should front their own shows, stepping out of the shadows of being the “chorus girl” to other people’s dreams”, the band had just released their debut album on Fortuna Pop, charmed the 6Music playlisters with their single Oh, To Be A Defector and were starting work on the songs that would make up their second record. That’s when things started to go somewhat awry.
Described by the band as, “an extraordinary string of bad luck”, things started to go wrong on an almost daily basis; their record label folded, there were personal issues, Brexit happened, a big deal to the German members of the band who had created lives for themselves in London. As Silvi explains, “there was barely a month without bad news on a personal and wider level, and at the end of that year, my anxiety started to spike badly. The album became a very important anchor. Every note and lyric were raked over and looked at twice; we were hacking and honing away at the songs for months, trying to craft some sort of sculpture of our state of mind.”
In all that difficulty there were almost certainly times when the second record seemed like it might never even see the light of day, then Reckless Yes heard the record, and instantly wanted to sign the band. The album, Shimmer And Spin, will be released this Friday, and today ahead of the release you can stream the entire record here.
Shimmer And Spin is a record where you can almost hear all the anxiety and difficulty that went into it. While some records feel thrown together, here you can hear all the care and thought that has gone into every track, almost into every note. If their debut album was an exciting blast of energy and intrigue, on Shimmer and Spin, Chorusgirl deliver on all that potential. There’s a greater depth to the tracks; they take the listener on a journey of tension and release, drawing you in with a catchy riff or an unforgettable rhythm, then lurching off into something darker, denser more lusciously alluring.
Perhaps the improvement comes from a more collaborative approach. The rhythm section, drummer Michael Boyle and bassist Udo Westhoff, are fantastic throughout; complex rhythms and intricate bass-lines add rich musical intrigue where required and the next moment slide into perfectly driving rhythms. The sound is further rounded out by the addition of Faith Taylor, known largely from Suggested Friends. Faith’s lead-guitar plays off beautifully with Silvi’s rhythmic playing, while the backing vocals add texture. Faith even contributes two songs of her own, presented together as something of an aside. Demon Baby wouldn’t sound at all out of place as a Suggested Friends track and is most noteworthy for probably the first use of, “regional museum”, in a pop song. Our favourite of the two, Love Is Like manages to add a burst of freshness, while still feeling like a Chorusgirl track, all reverberating guitar chords and driving bass-lines: a subtle, forward thinking triumph.
Make no mistake though, Silvi remains at the heart of everything the band do, her voice sounds more confident, bolder than ever before, and her lyricism clearer, more accessible. Recent single, In Dreams, part of the albums brilliant opening trio of songs, is an anthem for anyone growing up in a small town, not fitting in and dreaming of the shimmering lights of the big city and the chance to be part of something bigger, “will you ever realise that life is not what happens when you’re lying in your bed at night waiting for your dreams to start”. Elsewhere on Stuck, probably the best song they’ve ever written, there’s a hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck moment, when Silvi’s normally relaxed vocal becomes an urgent howl, “Your brain is fixed, your brain is stuck, stuck in my mind, stuck for all time”. The whole record builds to the almost triumphant finale, Stitches, there’s a touch of Wild Beast to the lurching bass-line, as Silvi bids us, or perhaps her darker days, a final farewell: “All the things my friend, must come to their rightful end”.
Shimmer And Spin may come from a difficult place in the life of Chorusgirl, yet it explores the darkness and finds the beauty within it, as it threatens to fall into the depth of despair, it finds a glimmer of hope. It shimmers and spins and shines more than we could possibly have hoped it would. You can listen to the record in full below, and read on for our Q&A with Silvi Wersing.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Chorusgirl?
Chorusgirl make noisy indiepop, blending the sounds of surf, girl groups, melodies, 80s bands like the Cure, Bangles, Cocteau Twins, jangle and noise into a heady swirl. Based in London, half German half British. Udo, Mike, Faith and Silvi. Previously signed to Fortuna Pop, now with Reckless Yes.
FTR: We’re sharing your new album, Shimmer & Spin, what can you tell us about the recording process?
The album was recorded over a period of a year 2016/2017, coinciding with a relentless period of bad karma. It started out with one thing and ended up as a string of bad luck and happenings, battling anxiety, spinning, trying to hold on.
Like the first album, a sizable chunk was recorded and worked over at home and some was recorded with our friend Jan Niklas Jansen at Bear Cave Studio in Cologne. It’s always a pleasure working with him, he gets fully and intuitively what the band is about. I thoroughly recommend working with him; he’s the best.
FTR: What did you differently in comparison to your debut album?
We focussed more on the vocals, giving them more space, and dialled the reverb back a bit. We also found time to include some proper guitar noise and feedback in the studio, which is always great fun. Otherwise, it does have the same attention to detail as the first record; the same number of tracks on each song.
FTR: The album’s coming out on Reckless Yes, how did that come about?
I knew of Reckless Yes as they used to promote shows in Derby and I knew Sarah because she wrote one of my favourite reviews of the debut. Then I came across them again when I saw Liines play in London. I really like Liines and checked out what Reckless Yes were up to. And we really found each other. The label feels like a family, exactly the thing we were after after Fortuna Pop ending. Pete and Sarah are very supportive and enthusiastic, and are giving our music a beautiful home as part of a great roster.
FTR: There’s a couple of tracks on this record that weren’t written by Silvi, was it hard to let go of that creative control?
Faith is an incredibly versatile, interesting and talented songwriter and she knows how to write for different projects. In her mind, she always already knows when a song is for Chorusgirl. And they so neatly fit in, and at the same time expand what we’re doing. So it felt like a really natural and beautiful fit right from the start.
FTR: It sounds like this record comes from a place of a lot of personal difficulties, how do you think that affected the record? Would it be as good a record without the struggles?
Personally, I could have really done without those struggles; they felt absolutely relentless over the course of a year. Struggles are not a good source of creativity for me; they run the risk of shutting down that delicate balance of creativity in my life. If things had turned out differently in that year, we would have definitely still made a record, probably a different one, but still a good record I’m sure. There’s more room for insights and exploration if you don’t have to stare into the abyss every day.
FTR: Listening to Shimmer & Spin, it’s obvious it’s a record that’s not as bright as it might appear, was it a conscious decision to make the music contrast the lyrics?
No, it’s not really a conscious decision; I think that contrast is an inherent part of Chorusgirl. We love great melodies and that is what we always strive for when writing songs, memorable melodies and hooks. And the music always comes first with Chorusgirl. For the songs I write, I add lyrics after I’ve finished writing the music. And then I would never write happy lyrics to go with it. That just wouldn’t feel true, and I wouldn’t know how to. Sometimes the undercurrent of the lyrics is darker than other times, especially with this record, but there will always be an undercurrent.
FTR: Where does the album’s title come from?
It’s essentially how we see the band’s sound. When I started the initial project in 2013, I somehow had the picture of a perpetual fairground ride in my head. The previous working title for the album was ‘Heart of Glue’ for a long time, obviously riffing off Blondie but in a more heavy way. I got bored with that image and thought it’d be too obvious, so we went for ‘Shimmer and Spin’ as a more apt statement instead.
FTR: After the success of your first album, does this album come with different expectations?
We’ve been quite overwhelmed with the positive response so far. You’re holed away for 2-3 years making this thing and some of those times really isolated, and then you pour your experiences into that record, chisel away at it, emerge again and put it out there for others to evaluate and connect with. And that’s nerve racking, because you feel like you’ve really put yourself on the line too much, exposed yourself. I’m extremely relieved that people really do seem to get it, are intrigued and eager to listen to it, and that is really all I want, connection.
FTR: Musically, it sounds like a bolder, more confident record, do you feel more confident in your songwriting?
Thank you, Yes, on listening back, some of the first record now feels very tentative. And a bit washed out in the production. The vocals have become more confident, and the lyrics needed more room, and hence we put the vocals front and center.
FTR: We saw you made mention working on the album was an anchor in difficult times, was it difficult to move on once it was completed?
Not at all; it took a year between the record being finished and its release, and we just wanted to get it out there. Personally, I can’t wait to work on new stuff. We always have new ideas and the only thing that stops me from continuously writing is that I have a full time day job which I love and the fact that I look after my father a lot. I’d be working on songs all the time if I had all the time in the world.
FTR: While many of the tracks on the album are obviously personal, there also seems to be a political edge to some tracks, in particular. Did you feel it was important to comment on the current political climate?
In hindsight that was maybe less of a conscious decision. We all know that the personal is always political and vice versa. Some of the shitty things that happened to us were the direct or indirect result of political decisons and the system we live in, lack of housing protection in the UK, Brexit, and living under a Tory government and austerity for a decade, and they all contributed to a feeling of having no agency, to have things happen to you that you have little control over. That naturally precipitated into some of the songs.
FTR: What’s next for Chorusgirl?
We’re about to head out on a UK tour (Nov 16th to 23rd) and will play some London shows too (Nov 27th & Jan 11th). At the start of February (Feb 6th to 10th), we’ll head out to Germany. Then for the rest of 2019, we’ll hopefully get the next album done.
Shimmer & Spin is out November 16th via Reckless Yes. Click HERE for more information on Chorusgirl.