Helena Deland’s latest collection of folk rock and pop songs, From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. III & IV, continues the themes she began exploring on her first and second volumes: human connection, loyalty, camaraderie, and relationships complicated by denial, rejection, and anxiety. The Montreal songwriter wrote all four volumes at different times but recorded them last summer. Despite their themes, which are rooted in biography – she released the volumes in two pairs rather than as one album because the songs did not give her the impression of something coherent as a whole. Helena Deland plays her next show on August 17th in Saint Jerome, QC.
Northern Transmissions spoke with Helena Deland about her desire to connect with other people, closeness that’s just out of reach, using evocative images to convey her messages, and the significance of colour schemes in her album art.
Northern Transmissions: On “Rise,” you sing, “Tender, tender, love me tenderly. I want to read your mind.” The desire to connect with other people, to the point that you lose yourself in them, runs throughout your work. Does personal connection always have to be total for you?
Helena Deland: I think it’s very ideal. It never can be, but it’s definitely a source of [dis]satisfaction in a lot of my personal relationships, especially romantic ones. So yeah, it’s like longing for a closeness that’s always just out of reach.
NT: On the song, you also sing, “You leave people before they know you.” Do people often fall out of your life in some way before you can get to know them as well as you want to? I can imagine for some people that such a desire to connect in such a total way can scare people off.
HD: That particular line is more about someone who hasn’t fallen out of touch with but who is
very reserved, very protected.
NT: All the songs on Volumes I to IV seem to contain biographical elements. But knowing how much you enjoy imagining the lives of people from the past, I’m curious: Did you write any of these songs in an attempt to draw parallels between yourself and these past lives that you’re interested in?
HD: Eventually, I’d like to incorporate subjects that would be a bit more about other people, that aren’t as based on whatever situation I’m living. All the songs on this album are about conversations I’ve had or people I’ve been more close to.
NT: Speaking of inspirations on the album, I’m wondering, with the first two volumes, you were really selective about the cover art. What images did you choose for the two new volumes, and why did you choose them?
HD: A picture’s so precise that I get tired of very evocative imagery, and that’s why I asked Crystal [Zapata] to draw something that was more open.
NT: Images come with so much history and context.
HD: Yeah, and they’re so much more limited in where you place yourself in its context.
NT: Like, you already know that there are all these themes in the specific work, so maybe you look for those in places they might not be. And what do the colour schemes of Volume III – the purple on light gray – and Volume IV – sea greens and blues on lilac – represent? Because I know the colours had significance with the first two volumes.
HD: And they still really do. The first two ones were so clearly associated to daytime and then nocturnal, and these ones are more in between phases.
NT: Almost like a twilight stage, where it’s not quite one but not quite the other.
HD: Yeah, more like dusk and dawn than something very precise.
NT: And when the tone shifts on each pair of volumes, the turning point on both of them is the more electronic songs, “Claudion” and “Take It On.” Was that a conscious choice?
HD: It wasn’t, actually, no. I’m realizing that right now. I guess I separated them from each other because I didn’t want to make one of the volumes more electronic.
interview by Leslie Chu
17/08/2018 Festival Saint-Jerôme Folk, SAINT-JERÔME, QC
18/08/2018 Camp Wavelength, TORONTO, ON
19/08/2018 Festival des Montgolfières, ST-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU, QC
02/09/2018 Mile Ex End, MONTREAL QC
20/09/2018 Studio, DRUMMONDVILLE, QC
21/09/2018 Le Zaricot, SAINT-HYACINTHE, QC
22/09/2018 L’Oeil de la Tempête, TROIS-PISTOLES, QC
05/10/2018 La Petite Boite Noire, SHERBROOKE, QC
11/10/2018 Chasse-Galerie, LAVALTRIE, QC
13/10/2018 Petit Chicago, GATINEAU, QC
18/10/2018 [Halifax Pop Explosion] Seahorse Tavern, HALIFAX, NS
22/10/2018 Poetry Club, GLASGOW, UK
23/10/2018 The Castle, MANCHESTER, UK
24/10/2018 Sebright Arms, LONDON, UK
25/10/2018 [DDW] Wilhelmina, EINDHOVEN, NL
26/10/2018 London Calling, Paradiso, AMSTERDAM, NL
28/10/2018 Maze, BERLIN, DE
29/10/2018 Acephale, COLOGNE, DE
31/10/2018 Pitchfork Avant Garde, PARIS, FR
16/11/2018 Théâtre Fairmount, MONTREAL, QC
17/11/2018 Annexe 3, LAVAL, QC
23/11/2018 Église St-James, TROIS-RIVIÈRES, QC
24/11/2018 La Méduse, QUÉBEC, QC
29/11/2018 Monarch Tavern, TORONTO, ON