[PREMIERE/Q&A] Witching Waves – Best Of Me

Ever since Witching Waves emerged back in 2014 with their debut album Fear Of Falling Down, they’ve felt like a band existing outside of the establishment. When the pop world is polished and preened, Witching Waves are raw and ragged, when the DIY-scene is playful and bombastic, Witching Waves are urgent and uncomplicated. Their music hits you straight in the gut, a primal desire to spill your thoughts and urges, direct, unerring and unapologetically honest.

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Best Of Me Artwork by Robert Bidder – https://www.instagram.com/robbidder/

The band are set to return at the start of next month with their third album, Persistence, their first for the excellent Specialist Subject Records. Today the band are sharing the second offering from the record, Best Of Me. The track showcases everything we’ve grown to love about Witching Waves; the visceral clatter of drums, the jagged slashes of guitar, the rapid tumbling bass-lines. As a listener you’re less taken and more dragged on their musical journey, pulled kicking and screaming, left disorientated and delighted. Throughout, guitarist Mark and drummer Emma trade lyrical barbs, “I can’t move on, I can’t go back, you’ve got the best of me”. There’s an uneasiness here, a sense of questionable levels of control, and battling to keep your own identity and autonomy. The track ends with what sounds like a blast of delightful brass or a distorted guitar, a thrilling full throttle close, as the track doesn’t much draw to a close, as crashes head first into an ending.

A masterclass in musical authenticity, Witching Waves sound like a band making music without any consideration other than their own vision. Persistence feels thrillingly alive, honest and is unquestionably Witching Waves’ finest record to date. Listen to Best Of Me below and read on for our interview with the band where we discuss tension, recording millions of demos and the thrills and insecurities of sharing your music with the world.

WITCHING WAVES 1 - Andrew Northrop
Photo by Andrew Northrop

FTR: For those who don’t know who are Witching Waves?

Mark (M): We are a 3 piece band that started in 2013, and have made three albums and done quite a few gigs. We’re Mark Jasper, Estella Adeyeri and Emma Wigham. A producer/mixer/guitarist, a Girls Rock London facilitator and musician, and a librarian/drummer.

Emma (EW): We are a band originally from London, and currently partly in Yorkshire.

FTR: Your third album Persistence is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?

M: It took a long time, we started writing it in 2016, scrapped most of it, then started again. We recorded it at Sound Savers, the studio I used to own and run in London in the end of 2017, then did vocals and mixing for most of 2018.

EW: We recorded it in our own studio in London, and it was a long time in the making, which was not the intention when we set out. It’s our most confident record and our aim was to put something out in the world that represented us a bit more honestly. We really wanted to recreate the energy that we have when we’re playing live.

Estella (EA): The majority of the album was recorded live at Sound Savers across one weekend, with the three of us playing together in one room. I think that was important for us as we wanted to capture the atmosphere of our live shows on the record, where the interaction between us is really important.

FTR: What did you do differently with this record compared to your first two?

M: This record was much more about capturing something live, we really rehearsed for it. We had the songs for ages and played them at gigs a lot before we recorded them. We wanted to be really prepared this time and let the songs change naturally. On the first two records, some of the songs were recorded days after writing them.

EW: For a start, I felt like I could play my parts! I was still new to drumming on the first two. I felt a lot more prepared and confident which gave me more freedom to be creative.

FTR: Mark, you’re obviously a producer in your own right, do you think it affected how you approached recording your own music?

M: Yeah I really do, the weird thing with this record is I did very little overdubs and changes. There’s like three songs which have an extra guitar. Everything was done in the room together, except for vocals. Without my own studio this record would never have happened. There were a lot of practices and a lot of working on mixes. One breakthrough was finishing the mixes with my business partner Alex Clegg, he helped me finally see the bigger picture. Mixing your own music is really hard!

EW: It’s both a blessing and a curse! Being in control of what we do is really important to us. Being able to take our time, not feeling like we’re under observation/scrutiny. But you’re so close to it, you don’t know when to trust your own ears, or to know when to step back.

FTR: We understand you recently relocated to Yorkshire, what brought that move about? Do you think it’ll make it harder or easier to make music?

M: Emma and I live in Yorkshire but we haven’t been here long enough to know! Emma isn’t working full time so she’s focusing on drumming much more. I think it might be easier, but having a bass player in London might make things harder! Also we don’t have a studio at the moment so that’s tough.

EW: Right now it feels harder because we had a working set up in order to make music and we’ve removed ourselves from that, we’ve also removed ourselves from our immediate support network in London, and in some ways the thing that spurred us on. Being in the routine, within this busy city, it’s like you’re in an anthill. We felt the need to take a step back and put ourselves in a different environment but, in all honestly, it has been hard and we’re still finding our way. We lived in London for such a long time, it’s not like we don’t feel like a London band anymore. So the future is open right now.

WITCHING WAVES 2 - Andrew Northrop
Photo by Andrew Northrop

FTR: Persistence feels like a very descriptive title, why was it the right title for the record?

M: It took a long time, and that’s it really. The record is sort of about struggle… but in a positive way, working in the face of that. Persistence is a good description of us as a band. Our favourite bands are people like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo… bands that have been around and put out a lot of music. Persistence was probably the 5th title, at one point it was called Jogging, Estella hated that. At another point it was called Economy then it took us ages to make the record so it couldn’t be called that!

EW: It just felt really right, once we thought of it we knew it was the right title. It’s our third album and we’ve been through a few ups and downs. It felt like we were really pushing ourselves in general, particularly in the last year of making it. It’s a reminder to just keep on keeping on.

FTR: Listening to the record, there seems to be a certain tension throughout, was it an uncomfortable record to make?

M: Hmm, it took a long time, have I mentioned that! The tension is a release for us, it’s a way of getting out all the stress and worries I think. It seems almost a cliche to call it cathartic. But when we have a good Witching Waves gig it’s almost like a rush and I always feel really happy afterwards. I think I’m a tense person, I have a busy mind in a bad way and that sort of comes out when I’m making music. I liked metal and hardcore when I was a kid because it felt like a release from the tension, I hated the machismo of it, but loved the almost physical release of playing fast and being in that moment where everything is really intense. I think Estella is quite a relaxing influence on the band but I think she was in to similar music to me growing up so we both have that understanding of it.

EW: Overall no, but I think I might have glossed over a few uncomfortable moments in my memory! I think Mark and I certainly wind each other up a little and making music can be quite stressful sometimes. Tensions have definitely been a big part of Witching Waves, in terms of sound, in terms of ideas behind the songs, and playing live. I’m not the most relaxed person in the world and Witching Waves can be a channel for that internal tension. Often the things we write about are tensions within relationships or societal tensions.

EA: I think that feeling of tension comes from some of the album’s subject matter – an obvious example would be ‘Money’, which focuses on that constant stress of trying to get by living in London, a city that is increasingly unaffordable for so many people. And ‘Eye 2 Eye’ is specifically about conflict, so I think it was important to have that feeling within the song. I admire the honesty within the lyricism from Emma and Mark, as a lot of the album focuses on discomfort and it’s hard to put those feelings out in the world. In regards to actually creating the album, I really enjoyed that process!

FTR: How does a Witching Waves track come about? What’s your songwriting process like?

M: Usually we just start playing, then Emma or I will try to sing something. The vocals usually decide where we’re going so it’s key for us to start them early. I’d say we scrap about 70 percent, maybe more, of everything we do. I have about a million demos on my phone, my laptop and the main recording computer. We use these demos to mine for something good and then we keep trying to build around it and maintain the integrity of the original idea. Then we show Estella the song, and she writes the bass, does the backing vocals and helps finalising the arrangement, that’s when the song feels like it’s done and ready to play.

EW: It’s really simple, we sit down start playing, see if we hit on something, work on it, listen to it at home and then see if there is anything worth going back to. I’m trying to be more forthcoming with lyrics earlier in the process. Now, as an extension of that we’re looking more at song structures and trying to not use the same patterns we’ve used in the past.

FTR: Why do you make music?

M: I make it because I have a lot of nervous energy all the time and it’s really good to distract from that. I’ve done it for 24 years, since I was a kid. I always feel nervous and sensitive about putting out records and sometimes wonder why I do it. I like other people’s bands and music a lot, and I have a lot of empathy for how people feel about it, that’s why I do the job I do because I really want to help them get their work out there. One of the brilliant bonuses of being in a band is getting to meet, communicate and play with so many interesting and different people and you all have this shared interest.

EW: I’ve always made music in one form or another since I was in primary school. I took lessons and it was a very structured approach but it was always the playing rather than the theory that got to me the most. And as I got older I was trying to find the right medium. It took me a while to find the drums, once I really got in to playing them, I felt I’d found the right instrument for me. I’m quite a shy person, playing music feels very key to my identity, as it’s the form of communication I’m most comfortable with.

WITCHING WAVES 3 - Andrew Northrop
Photo by Andrew Northrop

FTR: This record’s coming out on Specialist Subject, how did that come about?

M: Kay asked us after she saw us play a couple of times, we said we’d send them Persistence when it was done, and they were really quick and positive about it. We love them, it feels great to be on such a supportive label that works really hard for your music, and seems to enjoy it too. Just a dream really.

FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Is music a viable career?

M: I feel like music is already my career, I’ve made a living from recording, mixing and mastering for the last 8 years, and I’m really pleased, and feel very lucky to be doing it. I don’t know if you can make money being in a band anymore, and I don’t know if I want to really. I love working with Emma and Estella, making our songs, I love hanging out, and being on tour. So I just try and do that as much as possible. This record is just number 3 and we’ll be on to number 4 soon, we already kind of are.

EW: It’s hard to say, I think that you naturally want each album to do better than the last. But I try not to think too much about that side of it. I feel more confident in myself and in us. So therefore I feel less insecure about putting it out in to the world. Until we moved away from London I had always worked full time and just fit music in around work, when I wasn’t eating and sleeping. It was a source of frustration, I’d really love music to be my career but I don’t know whether that’s going to be the case. Currently I’m working mostly part time and spending a lot more of my time on music, and it feels good just to be able to take opportunities when they arise. I’ve started drumming on other people’s projects and I’m really up for doing more stuff like that.

EA: I think this album really pulls together the last 2 years(ish) of Witching Waves playing together in our current line-up, and the way our playing has evolved over time. Knowing how hard we’ve all worked on it, especially as Mark recorded and mixed it all, it feels very personal and precious. I think we’re all proud of how it’s turned out and now we’re just hoping that other people like it! We’ll be touring the record quite a bit too so we’re looking forward to that. I think we all appreciate the opportunities we have now to work within music, even if for Emma and I it’s not yet our main career. I think we both aspire to that though, so will see if it becomes a full time thing!

FTR: We really enjoyed your recent video, do you enjoy the non-musical aspects of being in a band?

M: Thanks, that’s really nice. I don’t necessary enjoy all the admin, the calendar, all the emails. And I hate how insecure I feel about our music being out in the world, and worrying whether people like it. I hate the bit of me that worries about the band’s status or whether we’re popular enough. It’s not cool to talk about those worries, or appear vulnerable in this world of social media. But I think everyone thinks about those things, and if they don’t they’re very lucky. One brilliant thing about this record has been being able to collaborate with artists we respect. Flo Brooks did the artwork, and Jack Barraclough did the video, those are both artists we love. We have some art by Rob Bidder coming out soon, who’s work I’m really, really in to. And we’re gong to hopefully have a video by Pastel Castle. For me it’s really exciting that Witching Waves can have this 3rd dimension and it can be this bigger thing.

EW: I’m terrible at any kind of admin/communication! Mark and Estella tend to do most of that. But I am trying to be more involved. I do enjoy touring, the videos we’ve made have been fun and, as Mark said, I love that we are getting to work with other people both in music and outside of it.

EA: I agree with Mark and Emma re disliking the admin side of things, but there’s definitely perks like getting to travel with your friends and catch glimpses of other music scenes on tour, and getting to be creative with people who are on the same wavelength as you.

FTR: What can people expect from the Witching Waves live show?

M: I think it’s fair to say energy is a big part! We really throw ourselves in to it. Also we don’t play for long. I want to start playing the songs people want to hear live, but it’s hard to know as most people haven’t heard the records… I want to start experimenting with the live shows a bit more.. messing with setlist and trying different things.

EW: We want to convey energy and honesty, our live shows have tended to be pretty economic, and that’s been pretty key to the band. But we’re really keen to start experimenting more with this set up. When I think about how my favourite bands make me feel when I see them live, that’s what I want to do.

FTR: Three records in, is it still as exciting as the first time?

M: Hmm, interesting question. Fear Of Falling Down was an experiment. I remember loving it, we made it before I had made a lot of albums with other bands too.. I think now I feel like we’re at our best so I like it more I think. The old records were great, but we didn’t feel very confident. Now we have this new found belief in what we do, and we don’t feel like we have such direct influences any more, we’re pushing in to uncharted waters, that is a terribly pretentious thing to say but there you go.

EW: It’s probably more exciting, the first time was just nerve wracking! Now that I’m better at playing my instrument and I’ve got a lot more experience I can enjoy it a lot more and I don’t feel so constrained by my limitations.

FTR: What’s next for Witching Waves?

M: As I said we’re working on the fourth record, I’ve been listening to demos today. And we’ve got loads of gigs lined up. I think we just want to play a lot. Also we have plans to extend and experiment with the lineup, maybe having another guitar or something. It’s quite exciting.

EW: We’ve had a bit of a break since moving, and waiting for Persistence to come out. Just excited about continuing to move forward. To be back on tour. We’re hopefully going to Europe in the summer, I’m really excited about that.

EA: I think touring is the main next step for us, visiting cities and countries that are new to us, and getting more ambitious with our live performances. We’re really looking forward to finally showing people the new record and this new phase of Witching Waves!

Persistence is out April 5th via Specialist Subject Records. Click HERE for more information on Witching Waves.

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