Becky Becky by Gareth A Hopkins.
I often listen to the music that I am sent when I am driving, and only a very few albums make a big impression: ones that I return to again and again. Good Morning, Midnight by Becky Becky is one such record, combining the extraordinary narrative of an ageing party girl out on the lash with hugely danceable beats, the ennui of our protagonist’s tale somehow brought alive in a wonderfully life affirming manner. If you love early era The Knife (and I do) then you will revel in Good Morning, Midnight. I spoke with Gemma Williams (formerly of Woodpecker Wooliams) and her ex-boyfriend Peter J D Mason, about making music after a relationship ends, and the power of doing it for yourself.
What were your main influences when this album was in gestation?
The main influence of this album was always the work of Jean Rhys, specifically the novels and short stories she completed in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The songs first took shape on scraps of dog-eared paper in a tiny studio flat in Prague, with no access to any computers for recording or instruments for figuring out some music. At first all we had was copies of Jean Rhys’ novels and words on paper – nothing musical at all. The music came later, ideas were formed on an old guitar with only two strings originally belonging to the deceased mother of one of us. When it came to finally recording the songs proper, we sold some old vinyl and bought a synthesiser, and a lot of the ideas came from tinkering with that. Musically, we listened to a lot of ‘80s synth-pop like Bronski Beat and Soft Cell, and we also drew a lot from The Knife, Hot Chip and Legowelt.
What did you mean by Good Morning, Midnight?
The title of our album comes from the title of a book by Jean Rhys, which we drew most of our inspiration from. We toyed with the idea of using another title, but it seemed to fit the album we’d made perfectly. Jean Rhys herself took the title from an Emily Dickinson poem. In the poem, Dickenson talks of being rejected by ‘day’ and turning towards ‘night’. Obviously, this has been interpreted into ideas of leaving ‘the light’ and being drawn into ‘darkness’, life and death, etc. It fits the protagonist of our album. She’s losing her place in society, becoming an invisible person – a woman, ageing and single – she’s being rejected by society and turning towards darkness. That’s the tale of the album in once sentence. Hence, Good Morning, Midnight.
The album features the tales of a ‘lonely, ageing female‘ – what inspired such a choice?
Our protagonist is a single, ageing woman who is also a drunk. This is almost a sin in western society. People don’t care for or about these kinds of people. If you’re too old to be the object of someone’s lust and not a mother, what are you? Nothing. These people don’t exist as far as most media is concerned. Yet these women do exist. We didn’t make an album about a young, carefree, partying clubbing woman – songs about these people abound, especially in electronic music. We wanted an interesting story, an interesting character, someone more real to be at the forefront of our music.
Becky Becky by Cristina BanBan. ‘I tried to reflect the image of a powerful, glamorous and very feminine woman as it was the feeling I had after listening to Good Morning, Midnight. I wanted to capture the sexy and stylish beats of the new album through a strong contrast between bright colours. I think it comes from a huge influence of the cover albums from club scene in the 80s’.
Do you know of anyone who fits this bill in real life? And if so, what advice do you have for them?
As we said, there are plenty of women out there who could be our protagonist. For us to give advice to them would be a bit presumptuous on our part, though. This album is a snapshot, a description of one woman’s experience. It’s a piece of narrative. We have no advice for anyone.
Fire & Wings: This song details the end of an alcohol-fuelled evening in a European city, wherein the narrator drunkenly vows to ‘drink [herself] to death‘, laments love lost, encounters a sinister older gentleman with designs on her; all culminating in a joyous paean to that particular feeling that, ‘comes in a glass… fire and wings.’
How did you put together the video for recent single Fire & Wings? Can you tell us a bit about the making of…
We are essentially a zero-budget group. The album was written when one of us was pretty much homeless, sleeping on sofas in Europe. So when it came to making our first video for the album, we didn’t have access to a load of cash. We do have some friends, however. Richard Sanz had put together an animation for us to use as a projection some time prior, with no specific music in mind. With a bit of editing we found it fit to Fire & Wings perfectly. As it was originally designed as projection, we decided to mix it with some live shot-footage, albeit heavily effected. We’re great fans of ‘one-shot’ videos – where it’s just one camera with one shot for the whole thing. With a music video, often you want the music to speak for itself – the visuals are an assist to that. Take a look at Once In A Lifetime from Talking Heads’ live DVD Stop Making Sense. Despite having access to god-knows how many camera angles, for the first four or so minutes, the shot is just one, a close up of David Byrne. That’s all you need. A friend of ours has created a piece of software called Lightsynth that we’ve also used for animated visuals – so far, only live, but we may use it in a video too, and another group of friends is putting together a kind of cubism-based video for House of the Black Madonna. These will be released over the next couple of months.
Becky Becky by Simon McLaren.
A DIY aesthetic and process is clearly important to you – how has this manifested in the release of your album?
Everything about this album we have done ourselves. We recorded and mixed the album ourselves, created our own label to distribute it, booked our own gigs. Everything we’ve shouldered ourselves which has been quite stressful, yet gave us the control we wanted.
Have you any plans to tour in 2014, and if so where can we see you live?
We find playing live quite difficult, for various reasons and we are still developing how we present ourselves and our music in a live environment. We very much believe in putting on a ‘show’ rather than a gig – we use a combination of mixed-media and extra performers to try and create something that’s more theatrical than a standard concert. However, so far, it’s still a work-in-progress that develops with every performance. We’re playing Supernormal festival in Oxfordshire in August, and then we aim to conduct a European tour in the autumn, primarily Spain, Germany and Italy.
House Of The Black Madonna.
You first got together in 2011 and became a couple. When your relationship fell apart, you continued to make the album – what have been the best bits and pitfalls of this creative process?
The pitfalls have mainly been learning how to work with one another. The first time we got in a room together to record after our break-up was quite difficult, as there was still a lot of tension in the air. This also transferred to rehearsing for live concerts, too. Recording and rehearsing can be quite stressful, and with the history between us, it can feel very personal. The best bits have been that we have actually created something very positive out of our acrimonious split. We have built something together that has kept us in each other’s lives. It was a real struggle to achieve, but we made something we’re really proud of. And we’re not just talking about the album. We have also created a strong friendship, and we are now very close. Without making this record, it’s hard to say if we’d even still be speaking to each other.
Would you and will you do it again?
Would we do it again? Definitely. Will we do it again? That’s a harder question to answer. We can’t really promise anything. After the album was first finished, it felt like that might be it. That might be all we’re capable of doing together. However, now we’re on a bit more of an even-footing, there may be more to come from us yet.
- Best Alternative Christmas Songs of 2015
- MT Warning on the making of Midnight Dawn with Taylor Steele
- A letter to Kings of Leon
- Good Shoes – No Hope, No Future – Album Review
- Montreal Festimania 2011: Festival Mode et Design Review – Jean Paul Gaultier Bourgeoises Sans Age