Tremor festival is about to shake S. Miguel Island and the whole historic center of Ponta Delgada, the biggest town of Azores. From 15th to 19th March, the concerts will be taking place at multiple venues varying from a theater to a clothing store. The festival is organized by Lovers & Lollypops, Yuzin S.Miguel and the independent curator António Pedro Lopes.
Julianna Barwick is one of the most interesting acts to perform there, alongside with Bitchin' Bajas + Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham), ZA! and Dan Deacon, amongst others. The Azores Islands are the perfect background for Barwick's ethereal soundscapes and her celestial voice – it's not by chance that she has been compared with Grouper, at least as her “white witch” version.
Therefore, we have interviewed Julianna before the announcement of her new album Will which is coming out May 6th via Dead Oceans. The first single, "Nebula", was already released and you can listen to it bellow.
We haven't heard from you since the release of Nepenthe and your latest EP Rosabi. Are you working on something new to be released in 2016?
I have a new record called Will that's coming out on may 6th via Dead Oceans. I worked on it in a bunch of different of locations, so the sound of it really varies from song to song. I experimented with synths while recording at Moog last summer, for instance, which is something I always wanted to experiment with.
The recording and making of Nepenthe took place in Iceland, and I think that came out as being really tangible in the album. Where would you like to go to record a new album in the future?
I would love to record my next album in a beachy locale. The ocean is my favorite place to be, and diving in waves is my favorite thing to do. I think I could come up with some really good stuff in a place I love so much.
Since most of your vocals are mostly just sounds, how do you come up with their titles?
After the song is complete, I listen to it and pay attention to what it makes me think about. A word or a phrase will pop into my head and 99% of the time, that's the title that sticks.
When you're recording how much of it is planned and how much of it is improvised?
Everything I make is rooted 100% in improvisation. I sit at a piano, or a synth, or a loop station, and make stuff up. Sometimes recording it and working it out from there. I don't really know how to 'write’ music. I could, but it's not what comes naturally to me and makes me the happiest.
And live? Do you plan everything or do you do things by impulse?
I recreate my songs live now, so I do have a plan and it's often practiced many times. In the early days Ii would do a lot of improvisation but I don't really do that anymore.
What albums have influenced you to choose this/your type of music? – ambient, I would say, even though I don't want to restrict your music to a genre or a stereotype.
I would say soundtracks and choral music, mainly. I grew up singing in choirs and love that sound. Human voices layered on top of layers and harmonies. I saw “Empire of the Sun" in 1987 as a kid, and there were songs by a boys' choir in it. John Williams' score had a lasting effect on me.
When and how did you decide to make music? Do you come from a family of musicians?
I've been singing and making up songs my whole life. My Mom has an amazing voice and is always humming or singing, which I definitely do also. So I would say my Mom and growing up in choirs informed almost everything I make...or have ever made.
What instrument did your first learned to play? And what came first, vocals or instrument?
I played clarinet in school during the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. We always had an upright piano in the house, so I played that pretty much every day of my life. Someone gave me a guitar in high school and I tinkered around with that also.
I've read like a thousand times that you like Drake – so do I! - so, do you imagine yourself exploring other types of music at some point of your career?
I love all kinds of music. It's true, I have a bit of a pop obsession. I'm not sure what roads I'll end up taking musically, but I'm pretty sure I won't be rapping or crooning about dudes or anything anytime soon!
What are your inspirations besides the musical ones? (Movies, directors, books, photographers, other artists, places, etc.)
I love Stanley Kubrick, Sofia Coppola, and Michel Gondry. Films like “Empire of the Sun", “Eternal Sunshine", “Lost in Translation". The Fountainhead, Catcher in the Rye. Francesca Woodman, Cy Twombly. Lisbon, Paris, Iceland, The beach. They all inspire me.
I've read in an interview that your sister wanted you to try out American Idol. What song would you’ve sung if you had participated?
"Vision of Love" by Mariah [Carey].
Recently you retweeted this: “Julianna Barwick is like the Jesus friendly version of Grouper”. I laughed really loud but what is your interpretation of the tweet? Are comparisons with Grouper recurrent?
I thought it was funny because Liz and I get compared sometimes and it's usually pretty amusing. Years ago, I read that she was the 'black witch of ambient music" while I was 'the white witch”...which I loved. Grouper is one of my favorite artists of all time and I love her music very much.
You're coming to Azores to play on Tremor Festival, have you been there yet? What to you think about the rest of the line-up (Black Mountain, Dan Deacon, SUUNS, Bonnie Prince Billy, etc.)?
I’ve played Lisbon many times. Coimbra and Guimarães, but never Azores! I'm excited beyond belief. The lineup is amazing. I can't wait to see everyone play in such a beautiful place.
"Nebula" is the first single of the upcoming album Will, out May 6th.