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Julia Deans Unveils Album 'We Light Fire' + Interview

Julia Deans Unveils Album 'We Light Fire' + Interview

Interview by Chris Cudby / Friday 11th May, 2018 12:10PM

Auckland-based songwriter Julia Deans (Fur Patrol) has unveiled her long-awaited solo album We Light Fire, after a captivating run of singles. Seven years in the making, the collection follows the artist's acclaimed debut album Modern Fables with an eclectic journey through lushly orchestrated sunny pop, spare introspective balladry and more - exploring themes of "being human, and the things that we have in common... the desires and emotions that connect us even when we think we’re divided or different or alone."

There were no nap breaks between records. Julia Deans had her finger in the pie of a number of significant creative projects during that period, joining Jon Toogood and Shayne Carter in The Adults, participating in a tribute show in remembrance of David Bowie, performing a run of festival shows in tribute to Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel, playing a role in stage show Jesus Christ Superstar and more - and will be touring throughout Aotearoa alongside Marlon Williams this month. Wrap your ears around her long-awaited sophomore collection, and read on for our candid chat with Julia Deans...

This is your first solo album in seven years - that sounds like a lot of downtime between albums but obviously you’ve been very busy with musical projects the whole time right?

Yeah, I have. And life. Sometimes you can't necessarily focus 100% on the things you want to focus on 'cause... "oh a squirrel!" Hahaha. Yeah, my brain is a bit like that sometimes. But getting involved in all those different projects was awesome. It definitely takes some energy away from the album project... I learned a whole lot of stuff that I wouldn't have otherwise.

Through pursuing artistic projects outside of the boundaries of what you’d normally be doing?

I definitely took a turn off my well trodden path so to speak. Especially with the forays into more theatrical type projects which was great. I really enjoyed that aspect of things. And be directed! Can I just say, being told what to do when you've spent most of your life calling the shots is actually really comforting.

Congratulations on getting the album out the gate... when I first heard ‘The Panic’ it made me think of early 80s electronic music like Gary Numan. There were moments that reminded me of the B52s and Kate Bush, and you’ve also got these stark moments like the title track, which leads into 'Burning Cars'. Do you feel like your exploring a range of musical styles with the new album?

I write whatever comes out. I feel like when you write a song you’re divining material from out of the ether and you just have to treat each song as it needs to be treated and then at the end tie it all together. At one point I was a little bit concerned that the songs weren’t going to fit together but they did. I dunno, I just like to explore soundscapes and space as well as cluttering things up. I wrote a lot using old synth sounds which was a completely new thing for me as I’ve always written with a guitar predominantly.

Did you feel like that provided a different or fresh starting point?

Yeah, it just opens up new doors, new sounds and new thoughts in your brain. New neural pathways, put it that way.

Do you feel like every song tells its own individual story, rather than operating within an umbrella theme for the album as a whole? Or is it like a balance?

I’m pretty comfortable, I think it is a balance. Each song definitely does have its own story but I think there’s an overarching theme / concept, whatever you want to call it. It’s definitely more looking more toward the world around me and just talking about connects us a humans as people, both in a small community like our family and also as a larger community globally and as a species I guess. I think there’s a need for... we need to stop and listen to each other and also be willing to accept some of our own actions are not that great and I need to just try a little bit harder. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I think that being willing to look at what you do on a daily basis and how you treat other people and how they react to that.

The album was recorded in your home studio in Northcote with your partner David Wernham. How was that process? Was the studio built in order for you to record that album?

We moved to New Zealand from Melbourne at the end of 2010 and we spent ages looking for a place that we would be able to set up a room in which we could make some noise and lock ourselves away. It’s a real treat to have a dedicated space. In Melbourne a lot of the work on my first album was done in what was effectively a bedroom or a front room in a house which was on a second story above about eight lanes of traffic. There were people everywhere, we lived with four other people as well, so just to have somewhere quiet, and you can invite other people around to play music with as well.

How do you feel that your songwriting has developed since Modern Fables?

Aww, that’s a good question. I just got better hahah! I thought Modern Fables was pretty good but every time you sit down and write another song you just develop it as better and hope that you don’t get worse. I think that doing the work with learning all those songs by Jacques Brel was definitely timely in terms of encouraging me to not be afraid to tackle some of the harder subjects, and saying the shit in my head out loud as opposed to being a bit more cryptic about it, which is what I’ve definitely done in the past.

You’ve been involved with an impressive range of projects over the last wee while. Is the full focus for the immediate future on the new album or do you have some more projects up your sleeve?

No definitely for the next little while just focus on the album and I also want to get started on diving deep on writing a new collection of songs. I’ve got a couple under my belt already but it’s sort of on hold... promoting the album and touring and stuff takes a lot of energy. They’re just sitting there waiting to be worked on properly.

I’m curious about how the David Bowie tribute show last year went? That seems like a mammoth project in itself.

Oh my god, it was soooo much fun! It was one of those moments standing on stage and just going “oh my god, I’m singing David Bowie with a fucking orchestra!” It was great. I’ve been a massive Bowie fan for years so when John (Toogood) rang me and went “do you wanna do this?” I was just like “are you fucking kidding me? Yeah, of course!” Both the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra are amazing orchestras to work with. They just really get into it, the whole crossing musical boundaries form classical into rock and roll.

What’ve you got planned for the coming year?

Well I’m doing this Marlon Williams tour starting on the 19th of May and I’ll be doing my own tour with a full band later in the year which I’m very excited about. The ideas and the plots are still hatching and scheming.


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