Following her whirlwind entrance into 2021 with the dark and dreamy Hell Hath No Fury Like, Melbourne muse Witching Hour – the moniker of local creative Claire Quartz – returns with the announcement of her forthcoming debut EP, Book Of Shadows, out Friday 30 July.
Accompanying the announcement comes her new single Queen Of Wands, a punchy, punk-infused power-pop anthem written as an empowering ode to self-love and relishing in one’s own company. Queen Of Wands explores a new side of Witching Hour’s previously dark, synth-laden discography, leaning into a sound reminiscent of international icons Paramore and Olivia Rodrigo, and closer to home, the likes of Cry Club and Tired Lion.
Tinges of darkness creep into the track through its relentlessly energetic verse, all the while building into an infectious and cheerful chorus which serves as the perfect soundtrack to any bedroom mirror sing-a-long. Claire answers a few questions for Hi Fi Way about the EP.
What was the feeling like when you finished your EP Book Of Shadows?
Lots of relief and excitement! It was mostly surreal though, as I’d been so zoomed in, working on getting it all done, polishing off the songs, getting all the branding right, working on all the admin behind the scenes, that when it was all finally done and I sat down and listened to it start to finish, in order, with the finished cover art, it made me zoom back out to the bigger picture again and I was like, “woah, I made this?? Where did this come from?? Hey this is pretty cool!”
Looking back, could you believe how much blood, sweat and tears goes in to it?
It’s simultaneously about what I expected, and yet also mind blowing just how much work goes into a release of any size, especially when you’re self-managed and self-funded. I think before you make something of your own, when you’re purely a listener, it’s almost impossible to accurately imagine the hours, days, weeks, months, and all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every single little song that you scroll through on Spotify. A whole entire human existence is behind those tracks. We really do pour our hearts and souls into our work!
Listening to the finished version is it hard to let it go without critiquing your own work?
Always! I’m a mega perfectionist, and very obsessive about details, so I’ve definitely had to teach myself how to get to the point where I can look away from any inevitable imperfections when putting work out into the world, because if I don’t things will never get finished and I’ll never release anything!
Have you been pleased with how the single Queen Of Wands has been embraced?
I’ve been soo happy with the response! The style of this song is a bit of a stand-out on the EP, it’s a bit different to everything else, but this is the style that I grew up on, love listening to the most, and love writing and performing the most. So it makes a sweet kind of sense that this is the track that has received the best response so far, as it is the one that came most naturally to me! There will be a lot more music with this kind of energy and style in future releases, which I’m really excited about.
What is the story behind the single?
Queen Of Wands is about the magic that results from finally choosing yourself. I wrote the song after experiencing a string of damaging relationships, at a time when I was living alone in a super cute apartment with my cat, and I had at long last let go of the rush I felt to find the right person to be with, and my tendency to contort the wrong people into that role. After finally letting that go, I sat with the fear and uncertainty that came with releasing control over that outcome, and once I confronted it all, I felt myself come back to life. I felt like my truest self again, after years of being shrunk down in bad relationships. It was a kind of “eureka!” moment, and I felt that the energy I was living out was reminiscent of the Queen of Wands tarot archetype.
How would you describe your style?
I describe my style as magical emopop. It’s a candy goth fusion of electropop and pop punk – sweet but always a little sinister. I call myself a bubblegum witch!
Who has been the biggest influence on your music?
Paramore and Hayley Williams, hands down. I have a whole host of diverse influences (e.g. Billie Eilish, Princess Nokia, Weyes Blood, Turnover, Grimes, Poppy, Angel Olsen, Beach House), but Paramore is my ultimate influence. I fell in love with them when I was 12, and they’ve been my number one inspo ever since. Discovering that band was what lit the fire deep in my belly, and turned my childhood dream of being a musician into an actionable goal that I’ve been deeply committed to ever since.
Did COVID slow things down for you at all?
Definitely! I was actually planning to have my EP finished and out in the world mid-2020, but of course COVID slowed that train right down. My producers and I tried to keep things rolling during lockdowns by working on songs via correspondence, and we did have a bit of success with a track or two, but it just wasn’t the same working that way. It wasn’t until the big lockdown in Melbourne ended in late 2020 that we could meet up again for the first time since February and resume work on all the tracks, and then when we had some snap lockdowns again earlier this year it was looking like it was going to be nearly impossible to meet the current release date again, but we got there!
Apart from the logistical obstacles that COVID created, and the fact that I couldn’t make my live debut and start playing shows as Witching Hour for a good year and a half, the biggest effect it had on me was on my personal drive and inspiration. During the first lockdown I used every bit of willpower I had to keep to a regular writing schedule and keep the ball rolling, and went ahead with the single release campaign for my track Colourblind that I’d already lined up, but in the second half of the year I just ran out of steam, and couldn’t bring myself to engage with music at all. I felt like I’d been weighed down by a tonne of bricks, and it was really discouraging to be an emerging artist in a time when the whole industry had come to a standstill.
Any there any plans to tour the EP?
Hopefully! It’s all dependent on COVID at the moment. I’m going to be doing some smaller launch events and possibly a livestream show, but touring the EP is something that will have to wait until a little bit after release, once the COVID situation stabilises again. It’s a very unsteady time to be playing live that’s for sure!
What’s next for Witching Hour?
As soon as the release campaign for Book Of Shadows wraps up I’ll be heading straight to the studio to begin working on my debut album! I’m so excited to get started on some fresh ideas and shiny new concepts. It’s going to be super duper special, so stay tuned!
Interview By Rob Lyon