Woman’s Hour vocalist Fiona Burgess Talked with Northern Transmissions about a number of interesting topics, including covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”. Their album Conversations is now out on Secretly Canadian.
Northern Transmissions: The band’s name is actually inspired by a show on BBC 4. What is it about the program that inspired you to name the band after it?
Fiona Burgess: When my brother and I were growing up, Radio 4 was always playing in the house. It’s a public radio station in the UK which focuses on current affairs and politics, as well as radio dramas and other talk radio shows. It was always playing in the kitchen, mainly. So it was something that was very familiar to us. When we moved to London and started the band, Will began to title all of our demos after Radio 4 shows as a way of cataloguing what we were recording. There was no actual thought process behind it and it certainly had nothing to do with the music we were making, it was just referential. So when it came to our first gig, we didn’t have a name but we had a set list named after Radio 4 shows. Our friend suggested we call ourselves Woman’s Hour, after the show of the same name. Without much thought, we all agreed.
NT: You have worked with some pretty talented visual artists on some of the band’s visuals. How important are these aspects to the group?
FB: We have collaborated with Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin who have shown work at Tate Modern and MOMA in New York. Being able to collaborate with visual artists has been hugely important for us. It’s enabled us to create work that we feel reflects something of our music and of ourselves.
NT: There aren’t that many art/music crossover bands these days. Do you feel like the band is coming from a different place than most other modern artists?
FB: We definitely feel that we want to take advantage of opportunities available to us by doing things differently, and I suppose we realized early on that to be involved in the visual aspect of our work wasn’t expected of us. All we needed to do was make music and other people would do the rest. But we definitely want to resist doing that, it just wouldn’t feel right.
NT: What was the inspiration behind the Bruce Springsteen track “Dancing in the Dark”?
FB: It’s a song we all love, and we wanted to add something new to our live set in a short amount of time, so we decided to try a cover. We’d never done a cover before so it was quite fun and surreal at the same time. The lyrics are actually very haunting and there’s a desperation that we hadn’t noticed when we listened to the original, so we wanted to try to highlight this in our version.
NT: You had some success early on with the 7′ “Jenni/Human’ but the band wasn’t excited. Was this due to pressure you put on yourselves to write more music?
FB: No not at all. It was just that by the time the song was released, our music had already changed so much. We originally recorded those songs as demos and they weren’t intended to be released. We’d never released anything before so we didn’t know what to expect, and so we all felt quite vulnerable. It wasn’t a reflection of the music we had begun making and it felt like a step backwards, so we decided to take our music offline and stop playing shows and to spend some time developing a collection of songs that we were really proud of.
NT: Do you consider yourselves perfectionists?
FB: To a certain extent, yes. But not to the point that we’ll never let go of anything. There’s a freedom in allowing yourself to stop working on something. So in the studio we could all have continued to make changes to songs, but in the end nothing is ever perfect, so you just have to let go and move on to the next thing.
NT:Music really is a wider and more artistic proposition to the group. It’s not just about writing a song with a hook. How does the writing process come together?
FB: There’s no set formula to how we write songs, but often it begins with someone bringing something to the group, like a guitar riff or a melody, and we’ll build a song from there.
NT: Which five albums are inspiring the group these days?
Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Lewis – L’amour
Remember Remember – Forgetting the Present
Nils Frahm – Spaces