Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Fireworks Night and review of new album One Winter, One Spring

Fireworks Night by James Shedden
Fireworks Night by James Shedden.

Straight from the opening clatter of Settle Down its clear that the new album from Fireworks Night (championed in Amelia’s Magazine many a moon ago) is something quite special. A violin curls hypnotically around the driving beat as the lyrics relish the ‘untold pleasures of human interaction‘ in grand orchestral style. (Why not teach yourself to play like this? Find excellent beginner violin lessons with private teachers here.) Across the Sea is a partly delicate, partly bitter tale that yearns for something more far away across time and space, whilst the grind of strings dominates in Broken Bottles. Even as the vocals come to the fore, as in That Easy Way (where the falsetto has more than a touch of Antony Hegarty) there is always a defiant beat to drive the melody along. One Winter, One Spring is a rollicking slice of what I have decided to term chamber folk: a beguiling mix of folk inspired narrative and chamber pop largesse (I say that in a good way) On the day of the album release I caught up with founding member James Lesslie.

Fireworks Night by Alex Green aka MSTR GRINGO
Fireworks Night by Alex Green aka MSTR GRINGO.

What have you been up to since we last spoke in 2007? Has it been an eventful few years? What has changed and what has remained the same?
It has been a very eventful four years, even if the time between the two albums might suggest otherwise. When last we spoke the band was more a collective – which is perhaps a fancy way of saying I hadn’t worked out how to organise things properly. In the second half of 2007 Rhiannon and Neil, then Ed, joined playing violin, viola and drums respectively. In the autumn of that year we toured with another band that Ed and I were in called The Mules (also featured in Amelia’s Magazine, fact fans) and that cemented the line-up. It’s been the six of us ever since with the other half being made up of myself, Tim on piano and Nick on guitar and too many other instruments to mention. Through 2007 and 2008 we were lucky enough to play with some bands who I very much admire such as Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and David Thomas Broughton. We also recorded and released an E.P in 2008 and began work on the album in 2009. We recorded it ourselves and that and other boring practical issues led to the rather long time it’s taken for us to release it.

Fireworks Night One Winter One Spring Cover
New album One Winter, One Spring is released on Monday 7th November, did you deliberately time it for this time of year?
We had initially hoped it would come out in the summer so it was not entirely deliberate. When things got delayed it was suggested and seemed an apt, if a little hokey, combination.

Fireworks Night in the street
What prompted your name, was it a particularly love of Bonfire Night?
It was the result of a rather poor joke that I can no longer remember. It has since turned out that my mum loves fireworks – she bounds to the window any time they appear near the house – and has decided we’re named on account of this, a story I don’t want to spoil.

Fireworks Night by Victoria Haynes.

Your music is described as a cross between folk and chamber pop, has it always been thus, and what influences have helped to shape your unique sound?
I think so, though the chamber pop factor has seemingly increased over the last few years. I think our sound is the product of the multitude of musical interests that the six of us have. I hope I am right when I say that Nick is keen on people such as William Basinski and Arvo Part, Rhiannon enjoys Bellowhead, Ed likes ABC, Neil Wild Beasts and Tim has all of the Tom Waits albums – they all end up in there in some shape or form. You might have to listen closely but they’re there.

Fireworks Night
What inspires your lyrics and who writes them? I hear that family, home and the sea are strong themes, why is this?
I write the lyrics to the songs. It is difficult to say what specifically inspires them but generally it might be the pleasure of attempting to express an emotion, a story, or a visual image that the music might have suggested with language. I was a few songs into writing the album when I noticed that the themes you mention seemed to be recurring in the lyrics so I thought I would try and develop them. The reason for their initial appearance may be where I grew up which was near the ocean. The attention to family and home probably connects to that as well as the fact that we are all around the end of our twenties and perhaps thinking about such things. Our parties these days have more food and less own-brand spirits with white labels that bark their contents, GIN, VODKA, WHISKY. Ouch.

fireworks night by zyzanna
Across the Sea by Zyzanna.

Have you made any videos to accompany this album and if so where can I see them and what are they about?
There are some videos on their way we hope. There’s one for Settle Down that’s being made by a man named Nate Camponi who I have never met but is very good with a camera. It is very near completion and should be visible in the next week or two. There are subsequent plans for doing ones for Across the Sea and One Winter, One Spring, the former hopefully will be done in mid-December and the latter mid-January. Ideas so far have included the use of old super-8 footage and film-noir using Lego. We shall see what emerges and let you know when it does.

Settle Down

What are your plans for the future and can we see you playing live anywhere soon?
We will be celebrating the album’s release with a show at The Wheelbarrow with the Bleeding Heart Narrative in London on 17th November and I think we’re also playing at the New Cross Inn on 14th December. We all have jobs and other things that make playing shows a less regular event then they used to be. We currently aim for one per month which seems to be working out. We will see how things go with this album before plotting our next project. I already have songs ready to go so we shall see what happens. I’d really like to get everyone together and have dinner at some point in the near future as well.

Here’s to a heartwarming Fireworks Night dinner sometime soon. One Winter, One Spring is out today on Organ Grinder Records. Make sure you grab a copy and spread the word because Fireworks Night is too good to be a part time project!

Fireworks Night by SarahJayneDraws aka Sarah Jayne Morris
Fireworks Night by SarahJayneDraws aka Sarah Jayne Morris.

Categories ,ABC, ,Across the Sea, ,album, ,Alex Green, ,Antony Hegarty, ,Arvo Part, ,Bellowhead, ,Bleeding Heart Narrative, ,Broken Bottles, ,Chamber Folk, ,Chamber Pop, ,David Thomas Broughton, ,Fireworks Night, ,Frog Eyes, ,James Lesslie, ,James Shedden, ,MSTR GRINGO, ,Nate Camponi, ,New Cross Inn, ,One Winter One Spring, ,Organ Grinder Records, ,review, ,Sarah Jayne Morris, ,Settle Down, ,Stravinsky, ,Sunset Rubdown, ,That Easy Way, ,The Firebird, ,The Mules, ,The Wheelbarrow, ,Tom Waits, ,Victoria Haynes, ,Wild Beasts, ,William Basinski, ,Zyzanna

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Amelia’s Magazine | Johanna Glaza: Letter to New York – Review and Interview

Johanna Glaza by Daisy Steele
Johanna Glaza by Daisy Steele.

Letter to New York is a stunning showcase for multi-instrumentalist Johanna Glaza, channeling the vocal gymnastics of Kate Bush and the idiosyncratic song structures of Philip Glass. Here she tells us more about her songwriting influences and process.

Johanna Glaza portrait
Which musicians have inspired you most, and why?
My bible is Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony N3. I heard it for the first time a few years ago and it had such a profound influence on me,as if it cut me into tiniest bits and pieces in order to make something completely new. At the time of recording my first EP I was listening to Philip Glass. When I heard him I thought- oh my god, this guy ripped off my future ideas I would have had by the age of 60 or so ;). Letter to New York came from endless plays of Ravel’s Sheherazade. Listening to it, I imagined not a boring opera diva but some mysterious creature living in a completely unreal world, singing with such unhuman longing. It sounded so unfamiliar I wanted to take this vibe to the contemporary scene. Recently I have discovered Arvo Part, so I guess the next record will have his imprint.

Johanna Glaza by AmeliaGrace
Johanna Glaza by Amelia Grace.

How many instruments do you play and what is your current favourite?
I taught myself to play piano, keys and ukulele. I even attempted a bit of glockenspiel on my recent record. Each time I try out a new instrument I feel like a kid, it gives me freedom of being not perfect. Different songs inspire different instruments. Piano for me is a very independent instrument with a very strong voice of its own, sometimes it feels like a battle of egos when I try to sing to it. So I choose ukulele for more intimate songs. I love how it sounds like a little harp at times. But my top favourite instrument will always be my voice. There’s just so much you can do with your voice. On one of my tracks I used it as a percussive instrument. On others it served me as a ghostly choir. There’s no distance between you and the instrument, you are the instrument yourself when you sing.

Johanna Glaza the tree
What prompted your intriguing song structures, and how are they created?
Well, I sort of always struggled with writing songs of conventional structures. The ironic thing is the harder I tried to make them conventional, the more I’ve been scolded by my first listeners for their complicity. So one day I gave up and decided to try whatever comes instinctively to me, even if I can’t understand it myself. When I wrote Letter to New York I wanted to stay faithful to the linear structure of the letter, because the letter itself can’t be repetitive. So I wrote the words first, and then sat down and sang them to a simple piano riff, and kept all the bits and pieces that came then. I was so surprised when my brother, who is my harshest critic, rejoiced that finally this song’s structure has made sense to him. I was like, you kidding me, it makes hardly any sense to me now!

JohannaGlaza_LetterToNewYork cover
Why did you want to write a Letter to New York?
To be honest I can’t remember how it came to be. I guess just like with all messages or letters sometimes we have this urge to speak to the person, we grab a phone or a pen so spontaneously. Only in my case it was the place itself I wanted to connect with. I missed New York. My first solo shows took place in that City, it gave me courage to do what I do now. Sometimes I felt so isolated in the basement studio when working on the record, I had to remind myself about the place that inspired me the most, my glass kingdom.

What is your favourite bit of the big Apple?
L trains on the subway. My friend called it the beautiful people line. So true! I met so many beautiful people on L trains and heard some of the most unusual music from busking musicians. Forget about the old tired covers you hear in London. People play mainly their own tunes there, and with an open layout of two way platforms it’s a perfect spot to gather a crowd. I can’t tell you how many times I missed my train to be able hear one more song. And I was never the only one do so.

How did you make the video for Letter to New York? any challenges or best bits?
I’ve chosen to shoot the video in a very wild, uninhibited place in Lithuania called The Dead Dunes. It is a very special place on the coast. No one is allowed to walk there, but a few years ago a local woman showed me the secret path to the dunes. Anyone could be transfixed by the complete solitude there. I imagined this is a place where the main 3 characters of the song – Black Crow, Koyote and the mysterious Wind – could meet. But a week before the filming there was a huge fire in the nearby forest. It’s a miracle we managed to get there at all, and when we did it was an alien world, all black dust. We felt there had to be another scene of the rebirth in the sea. I was with a dream team of crazy inspired people, you see. It was +2C outside, everyone was wearing winter jackets and I went into the sea to be reborn. I would do it again if you ask.

Letter to New York by Johanna Glaza is out now and can be bought here. Catch Johanna Glaza play live in London for free on 11th September at The Finsbury.

Categories ,Amelia Grace, ,Arvo Part, ,Black Crow, ,Daisy Steele, ,ep, ,Henryk Gorecki, ,Johanna Glaza, ,Kate Bush, ,Koyote, ,L trains, ,Letter to New York, ,new york, ,Philip Glass, ,Ravel, ,review, ,Sheherazade, ,Symphony N3, ,The Dead Dunes, ,The Finsbury, ,wind

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