Wallis Bird shares a refreshing sense of intelligence with the off-hand intricacies of her latest track, Aquarius. The third single taken from her seventh studio album, HANDS, which is out now. A song about identity, constantly moving and questioning the authority of control, ‘Aquarius’ paints a bigger picture with its witty intellect and openness of political statement.
Aquarius propels us into Wallis’ seventh studio album to date! HANDS – also known as NINE AND A HALF SONGS FOR NINE AND A HALF FINGERS – is a turning of the spotlight onto herself, raising issues that are sometimes far harder to face. Confronting themes of trust, alcohol abuse, stagnation, self-censorship and self-improvement. Each of them, however, is delivered by a voice uncommonly blessed with joy, ingenuity and empathy. Wallis answers more questions about the single for Hi Fi Way.
How was the build up been to the new single Aquarius?
The build up was full of joy because we knew exactly who we would reach out to, we were excited how it would be received and felt confident in our own work so were very relaxed. I spent the week beforehand making the video with my friend, i went through a few different treatments and in the end decided to make it very simple and powerful with my performance artist friend ‘Growler’. If you haven’t seen the video I suggest having a look. She’s an 81 year old vulva from inner city Dublin – quite the thing to behold!
What is the story behind the single?
It’s about marking the time of 2019 – 2021 and where we are in terms of Women’s healthcare, access to abortion, the right to choose your choice, female empowerment, feminism and my Mother giving birth to me. Just some light subjects.
What has the fan response been like so far?
Resoundingly great. Guy Garvey from Elbow recently played it on his show calling it “effortlessly cool” so I was thrilled about that! In many ways because this subject matter has been approached in a gentle manner so people are thankful that they’re hearing about it in regular radio times, it’s a juxtaposition to regular pop radio lyrics! And also because of the slightly macho driving nature of the song, I’ve gotten a great reaction from men, encouraging. It really shows that roles and clichés are changing rapidly.
Does the process of writing songs get easier and quicker with each album?
Yes I craft all the time so I have an ample toolbox to use and mix it up. It’s all practise to reach the meaning quicker, and propel to depths without fear. A lot of writing can be holding yourself back by laziness or self doubt, my toolbox is overflowing so I never get in a funk but I don’t scold myself if I wrote something subjectively shite – at least I’m writing. I keep the engine oiled.
How would you compare it sonically to some of your other music?
It is very different, far more poppy, far more nostalgic and polished. It’s wider, there’s less guitar, full band aesthetic and synth driven arrangements. It’s also shorter and more concentrated than my previous works because of the new style of production. It brought out a differently focused side of me which felt natural and energetic.
Did you have a vision in mind when recording the album?
Always. This vision was to write an album that would take me live on stage with a fully female band, sweating and showing off for 2hours every night to an equally dancing, sweating, singing and smiling audience!
Who are some of your musical heroes and inspirations?
0-5 my musical family.
5-10 Tina turner / Aretha Franklin / James Brown
10-19 Tori Amos / Ani DiFranco / Fiona Apple / Björk / Radiohead
19-now Sun Ra Arkestra / Villagers / Anaïs Mitchell / Prodigy
Are you pumped to be able to make up for lost time after the last couple of years?
I’m dying to explode on stage!!!
Are there plans to tour the album around Australia?
Yeah! We had a tour in the pipeline before the pandemic so we’re back into organising that for 2023… which will come around very fast indeed!
What’s something about Wallis Bird that most fans wouldn’t know?
That I am fashioning a career in interviewing. I want to move into that for audio and TV. Also I want to develop a music school for kids. That’s a plan for the next four years.
Interview By Rob Lyon