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Interview: Brooke Singer Discusses New French For Rabbits Album

Interview: Brooke Singer Discusses New French For Rabbits Album

Wednesday 22nd March, 2017 12:00PM

Released earlier this month, the sophomore full-length offering from French For Rabbits sees the dream-pop purveyors close one chapter and open another. Following on from their 2014 debut Spirits, new album The Weight Of Melted Snow was crafted over a two-year period, during which the band's core members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald decided to end their personal relationship - yet keep writing music together. The result is an intimate record, that is filled with stirring imagery and emotive lyrics while dealing with the pain of love and loss. As the group make tracks around the country to support the album's release, we reached out to Singer to find out a little bit more about the process of making the record in the wake of a break-up as well as expanding to a five-piece band...

From what I understand The Weight Of Melted Snow was written in two parts and at the centre of that is the break-up between you and John. How do those two parts reflect what was going on in your lives at the time?

Initially we intended to create an E.P. [The song] 'Feathers & Dreams' is a tangle of thoughts about birds dying in the fireplace and the Gaza conflict. I would often find birds trapped in the fireplace at my old flat, and would catch them and release them outside. I was always afraid they might fly down the chimney when I had a fire burning. 'Hollow Bodied Friends' is about apathy.

But the songs that were written in Dunedin, which is where John and I were based in 2015, did become much more intimate, more nostalgic and much less metaphorical.

I feel like the sadder I was, the more unadorned the words became.

When writing the lyrics, did you struggle with how much of your personal life to let through in words?

Sometimes. I want to take care not to hurt feelings, and I definitely do sometimes write songs that are just one longwinded metaphor because of it. But sometimes it feels overdone to do that. The only way it feels right to say the thing in plain, descriptive language. I think ‘One and Only’ is like that. It’s very real, but that can be poetic too.

Was it a difficult decision to stay together as French for Rabbits following the break-up? How did the dynamic change?

We created the band together, and having known each other for so long it is cool we can keep that telepathic musical connection. So I don’t think it was that difficult. Music is how I examine things – but perhaps John will go off to become a computer wizard at some point.

I think the band has become more collaborative since we’ve all moved back to Wellington. Ben Lemi produced the album and wrote the song ‘Birds Eye Point of View’ and we now have Tuesday eve practices that mostly involve eating pizza.

On that train of thought, since the last record you’ve well and truly expanded to a five-piece, how has this changed the way you write songs as a whole?

I still like to write songs alone, as I feel it requires a certain amount of introspection and focus. It’s a very personal thing – so I can’t imagine doing that around too many people. We’ve been working a lot more collectively on arrangements though which has meant we’re creating music that is more confident, sometimes grittier, or sometimes more ethereal and expansive.

Can you introduce us to the newest members of your band and tell us a little bit about how you all came together in this line-up?

It’s been myself and John from the beginning. We were joined by Ben Lemi (also of Trinity Roots) and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa for Spirits. Most recently Penelope Esplin has joined the gang. It’s nice to have another woman in the band – and she is kind of the cherry on top musically. I met her while living in Dunedin, and after she came on tour around Europe in 2015 with me, I asked if she’d join the band properly. She used to play in a great Dunedin band called Prophet Hens.

I heard that you had written a psych-trance song and took it to the band? What was their reaction?

My brother makes psychedelic trance under the name Spoonhead and I wrote the first part of ‘Close My Eyes' originally for him. It was going to be a club banger! But instead we’ve made a really, really quiet song about loneliness. The band are very good about accommodating my often vague ideas…

Have you ever considered working in soundtracking, is that something you’d be interested in? What are you looking to work towards for the future?

I would love to write for film, dance or even advertising. I studied Sonic Arts as part of my music degree so have always had an interest in sound design, textures and layering. Ben already works in the field, and as we produced the album together I’ve come to understand more about the technical side of production. I think there needs to be more women in this field, especially in New Zealand.

Do you see yourself potentially exploring new avenues as a solo artist eventually?

Perhaps. I’m always tinkering away on music on my computer. I’ve started a couple of side projects this past year which has been fun. A very vague musical project with Aidan from So So Modern, and a girl band called Dam Dans which has been super fun!

How did you do the recording for The Weight Of Melted Snow, and how was it different from working on Spirits?

We recorded and mixed it over the space of two years and in many ways we approached it in a similar way to Spirits as Ben Lemi produced both. We recorded most of the instruments at the Blue Barn and The Surgery in Wellington. But I like to record vocals on my own, normally late in the evening when the cicadas have stopped and everything is very quiet.

The cover art for the record is stunning, I can barely tell if it’s a photo or a painting. Can you tell us about it?

Yes! It was a film photograph taken by my friend Misma Andrews who is a long-time collaborator. She helped develop our music video for ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ which we haven’t yet released. On the set, which was at the beautiful Savoy building in Dunedin, my father who had (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to be in it was looking at me and I am in a glass-casket full of flowers. It's very much like a funeral but I am not really dead, obviously. I really love this photograph. He is wearing a coat my sister-in-law made for his birthday.

To finish off, can you please share your favourite song from The Weight of Melted Snow?

I think the song that will stick with me the most is ‘One and Only’. I like that at the time of writing, it was very honest and true. But I also think 'The Weight of Melted Snow' is a favourite too.

UnderTheRadar Proudly Presents...
French for Rabbits 'The Weight of Melted Snow' New Zealand Tour

Friday 31st March, Raumati Social Club, Raumati Social Club*
Saturday 1st April, San Fran, Wellington
Friday 7th April, REC, Auckland
Saturday 8th April, The Stand, Rotorua Race Course, Rotorua*
Sunday 9th April, Leigh Sawmill, Leigh

Tickets available HERE at UTR for all shows except those marked (*) visit for more information


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French for Rabbits
Fri 31st Mar 7:30pm
Raumati Social Club (RSC), Raumati
French for Rabbits - The Weight of Melted Snow Tour
Sat 1st Apr 8:30pm
San Fran, Wellington
French for Rabbits - The Weight of Melted Snow Tour
Fri 7th Apr 8:30pm
REC, Auckland
French for Rabbits - The Weight of Melted Snow Tour
Sun 9th Apr 5:00pm
Leigh Sawmill Cafe, Leigh