How Aldous Harding channeled Tekken on her latest album
Aldous Harding is currently on the road with the Laneway Festival (you really, really should see her), just one of many, endless commitments that have kept her busy since releasing her widely acclaimed second album Party in May of last year.
“It’s lovely,” she said of the response to her latest work when speaking with Double J last year. “As long as you care and are excited, or believe that it’s its own thing without people’s recognition, you’re pretty safe.”
Of course there were moments of magic, but I don’t remember exactly how and when they happened necessarily.Aldous Harding — Double J, 2017
Harding worked with revered producer John Parrish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Perfume Genius) on Party, and his unique perspective undoubtedly helped bring the best out of the artist.
But Harding isn’t interested in making grand, profound declarations about their working relationship just for the sake of it.
“I feel like people would like an exciting spiritual story,” she offered. “But it was very much like ‘We’ve got 15 days to make an album. I don’t know you and you don’t me. All we have is these songs’ We were more concerned with what we had at the end.
“I was with him not long ago and I said, ‘John, I don’t really know what to say when I’m asked about the process, do you?’
"And he says, ‘Well I remember it being very straightforward and you were very professional’ and I said, ‘Good because I don’t want people to think that I’m dumbing it down or trying to close down with that process’.
“Of course there were moments of magic but I don’t remember exactly how and when they happened necessarily.”
The differences between her eponymous debut – a striking indie folk release in its own right – and Party are grand. It’s a little more playful, a little weirder, and perhaps a little more immediately engaging. It all started with the title track.
“‘Party’ was the first song that I wrote trying to kind of shake off this folk thing that I had begun with and trying to make something a little more approachable,” she said. “Not necessarily to appeal to other people but I wanted to do something a little less serious.
“Yes, it’s a serious song. It’s a sad song. But I was going for a feminine kind of plea disguised as a delicate pop song. Whether or not that’s what it is, I’m not sure. It’s a similar theme to 'Horizon' [another highlight from 'Party']. 'If you choose me, great. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter to me in the end'.”
One of the most arresting new sounds on Harding’s second record is that of a women’s chorus, whose group vocals are judiciously smattered across the album.
“They were a quarter of a woman’s choir from Bristol that John had recommended, probably one of the highlights for me,” Harding explained. “They all showed up in stretchy clothing. I didn’t realise it was such a physical thing for them. They were stretching about, a warmup. They take it very seriously.
“They’re walking out of the bathroom and walking past the kitchen and the conductor was getting them to do all these things. I just remember coming down the hallway and there was this white door at the end and they sounded like a nest of dormant bees.
“I don’t really know anything about singing other than what I do with it. And suddenly there’s all these incredible singers. I don’t quite remember how we got there.
“For ‘Imagining My Man’ I said to them I want you to imagine you’re a female fighter in a Tekken game. I had to do a couple of examples. It was all very weird, thinking about it and looking back.”
Stream Aldous Harding’s set for Live at the Wireless on Double J right here.