Breaking Through | 5 Questions with Leah Senior
FFO: Weyes Blood, Julia Holter, Cate Le Bon
Drifting somewhere between the bucolic retro-isms of 60s Laurel Canyon-styled folk, and sun-drenched soft rock ever-present in the 70s, Leah Senior's influences largely draw from American music's countercultural heyday, despite her Australian roots.
Her lyricism, steeped in meta mystical-nostalgia depicts her admiration of a bygone era, where naivety and optimism once trumped disillusionment and hopelessness. She looks to the past to find answers to an uncertain future - "we're the ones who visit the graves of the rock stars", she sings on 'Graves', paying respect to musical deities who left us long ago seemingly with the world at their feet.
Even Senior's voice has a hazy wholesome feel that harks from a different era, an era that certainly feels more comforting that the times we find ourselves in currently.
The Passing Scene released earlier this year embraced more of a British-folk quirkiness a la Nick Drake, which quickly caught our attentions, so we caught up with Senior about her inspirations, writer's block, and how a chance meeting with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard paid dividends:
Who or what initially inspired you to write/make music?
I've always known since I was a small child that I have wanted to make things. There was a children's book where a girl's drawing blows out the window and ends up having a life of its own, inspiring a poet to write, a painter to paint and so on. I loved this book and felt it was how I wanted to be.
Hearing Joni Mitchell when I was a teenager inspired me to try songwriting.
How can you describe your creative process throughout writing/producing The Passing Scene?
This album was made after having to overcome a long period of writer's block. It is a result of discovering a more lighthearted approach to making music, experimenting more and trying to judge less (at least during the creative process). I recorded the album at home with Jesse Williams. The band songs we simply played together in the lounge room. I much prefer working in this relaxed manner as opposed to the idea of being on somebody else's time in a studio. I am very particular about the way I want things to sound and so it was good having total control in this realm.
How did your relationship with Flightless Records come to fruition, and did they help realise your vision?
I was out one night after playing a show, I was supposed to meet a friend at the pub. I called her when I couldn't find her and realised I had gone to the wrong place. I decided to try and make friends with a group of people I thought looked interesting and ended up going back with them to kick on at a house. Very late in the night I got out my guitar and played a rendition of 'Thirteen' by Big Star. The group I was hanging out with included King Gizzard members and Eric asked me to send him my original music, and decided to sign me.
Which track from the album has a particularly significant meaning?
Well I guess I try to write in a way that all my songs have meaning. Sometimes I forget that my lyrics can come across as kind of cryptic.
'Jesus Turned Into A Bird' is a song I wrote about feeling a deep loss of meaning within the modern world. I wrote it after being out really late one night feeling old and tired of the nonsense of late night parties and wanting to reconnect with the natural world. These themes show up in quite a few of the songs on this album.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Good advice is always hard to follow! Something I read quite recently that I quite like was a little poem written by a Zen buddhist monk called Ryokan. The poem ends with the statement "I have nothing to report my friends. If you want to the find meaning, stop chasing after so many things".
The Passing Scene is out now via Flightless Records.