I had a sit down with the talented, lovely and introspective Simone White during the Indiestad festival last week here in Amsterdam town. Her new album Silver Silver can be described as dark, touching but also haunting. Before we begin, however, a video which fires up those memory synapses…
So Simone’s story starts with her first careful steps on stage in the year 2000…right?
Well, that was when I started performing on stage in New York and I released my first record in 2003. ¬†I didn’t count that one because I wasn’t that happy how that turned out. It was all on me so I redid most of the songs on that record. The one I do count is the album I Am The Man which¬†I released in 2007¬†and just 2 years later Yakiimo was released.
Do you miss those earlier days?
Noooo, hell no! U-uh, I wasn’t any good, just nervous and very hard on myself. I just want to get better at it; practice, practice, practice. My first hurdle during a performancewas just picking up a glass without shaking! It was not even the nerves because when something of mine sounds good, a thing inside my being starts trembling and shaking out of excitement. Then I get worried because people might think I am scared. But I am much more calmer when I am on stage on these days, fortunately. Why? Do musicians have a romantic view of their earlier days…?
Well, I ask because a lot of musicians feel more connected to the crowd then later on when the audience become more fleeting during tours or playing bigger venues.
In a certain way, I do look back more fondly on the time when I was in New York; the people I was hanging out with, the parties, the poets and artists. It was New York in a different time period and I loved that.
A cliche question but what were the inspirations for the album? It is very visual, I feel.
There’s a lot death on the album; my aunt and my boyfriend’s sister died. There is also lyrics about a friend who wanted to commit suicide but there is also love on the record; I broke up with my boyfriend later on and fell in love again afterwards. The song¬†What the devil brings¬†comes from something pure, ¬†passionate and arousing. Never be that tough also has the same source.
One of the last songs¬†Bonny Brea however, has a recording of an ice cream truck. When I first moved to New York, I heard these strange flutes. It was always far away. When I found it, it all fell into place. My producer recorded it, then we slowed it down three different ways but added it in the same timeframe. I think I wanted to say something about the awareness of different realities that could take place at the same time, as the deeper meaning of that song. All inspired by an icecream truck.
Your aunt wrote the last song right? Do you think there is some genetics involved?
It’s funny, everyone is always very excited about my family being full of musicians and artists but I didn’t experience it that way; I grew up in this¬†vacu√ľm. I love the idea of genetics being something that is passed on though.
Talking about family; I love the cover of your album, it’s like an oil painting…
Yeah, that’s the photo my father took on Hawaii. That’s me on the sand when I was 3 years old. To the right is my mother and in the middle our good family friend Lopetti¬†from Tonga. It was taken at night, in total darkness with a 3 minute exposure. I guess it was light of the moon and stars creating the ambient light. I really like it because it so strange; it’s like a dream and that’s why I think it fits the album so wonderfully.
Do you like being involved with the visuals?
Oh yeah, I used to be a photographer and I also made films. So I love to be involved with edit and the final process. What I also found curious is that I used to work on video sets as a photographer; I saw all these bands come by who really detested doing film or photoshoot. They were not interested in the video of any imagery.
However, I think music and imagery fit together¬†seamlessly¬†and I also love these general creative constructions. I think video and visuals have even become more important since the rise of youtube, you can’t even say if MTV does videoclips anymore. Music has always been tied to visuals; like theater, opera and of course, in film music plays such a major part. Also videos are just fun to do!
I usually don’t ask about producers. The audience’s interest usually goes out to the artists themselves but they play a very important for the final sound of the album. So why did you decide to work with Samuel Bing creatively?
I loved the recording process I did together with him and his partner Julian Watts. It was just so much fun; everytime I would leave the studio I was amazed how much fun I had and how easy it felt. I just knew I wanted that feeling again. Their music they produced was usually very different then mine, but I knew Samuel had a very wide spectrum of skills. Also I didn’t want to make another Nashville record and I wanted stay closer to home where I felt comfortable.
The interesting thing is, we were planning to create the album in a month but in the end it took nearly a year; all the experiences and inspirations I had, which I mentioned earlier, ¬†just needed time to grow into those songs.
Again, I love the dark ambient mood you have set…
I like dark sounds as well. One of the reasons that I never done this before because I was always writing with an acoustic guitar, I am not a very technical person. So if you start writing on acoustic guitar, what are you going to do? Well, you just have this one instrument, so you end up with folk music you know?
I went into that direction, so I was inside the constraints of this instrument but once I had access to producers and all the stuff they had… I like throbbing gristle! I like dark shit! I am not only the beep beep girl. I wanted to have more creative flexibility, so it was great. ¬†Also I love that I am just singing without an instrument but I¬†want to make music without words really, I don’t like to listen to music with words. They just go round and round in my head. I just want to have… space.
We’re very happy Simone got her wish. Here’s a clip showing the end result of her journey into this space…
(Interview made possible by Konkurrent)¬†