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Interview: Aldous Harding Talks About Her New Album 'Designer'

Interview: Aldous Harding Talks About Her New Album 'Designer'

Annabel Kean / Wednesday 24th April, 2019 11:24AM

Aldous Harding has been having a quiet one the last 10 or so months, but with her third studio album Designer due out this Friday 26th April [update: it's out now], that’s all about to change. Even before it’s release, we’ve been treated to two unforgettable singles from the record, and if the sound and visuals from 'The Barrel' and 'Fixture Picture' are anything to go by, Designer will be equal-parts deeply serious and joyously silly. Or, as Harding noted, "it’s meant to do whatever it does, and it will be different for everybody". The day before the Taite Music Prize-winning artist's recent show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn (where she covered Gerry Rafferty's 'Right Down The Line'), Annabel Kean gave Aldous Harding a call for a short chat about the ideas orbiting her hugely-anticipated album Designer

Where are you at the moment?

I’m in New York.

Are you there just for music and work stuff, or are you having some downtime?

I’ve got my first show in over 11 months tomorrow. Which feels like a weird – like a hard city to start with but here we are. We’ll see. I’m just doing this promo with you guys now, and then tomorrow we ride I suppose.

I remember meeting you about 5 years ago in Lyttelton, and you told me you’d just been watching disturbing and gory videos online to get in the head space for song writing. Do you still do that?

No, I don’t have to. I don’t really have to do much. That’s an interesting approach, I don’t remember doing that. I can kind of, I don’t know, I can tap in fine now without too much outside horror. I’m the only the only person in the world that scares me. Not that it’s about being scared, but it’s about feeling things and being able to best describe what you’re feeling or what you’re seeing. That’s all I try to do really.

Tell me about the video for 'The Barrel'. Are you supposed to be a foetus in a womb?

No. No, not at all, not even a little bit.

Oh wow, I misread that.

I did see a lot of that waffle online, and it's really just meant to be like… the idea of moving through fabric and it opening up into a room was something I remember from around the time my parents were divorced, going to a fair. Like, a kind of fun fair thing and there was a fairy tent and you paid money and then you kind of, in much the same way, moved through this sort of hallway shrouded in fabric and it opened up into a room with a woman sitting there, and she told us this fairy story. That’s all that was. And the hat and the outfit, I just wanted to wear something interesting in that space. It’s not my penis, or your penis, it’s just a hat. It’s just a hat that’s a little taller than a lot of other hats.

It is a beautiful hat.

I think it’s beautiful! I thought it was beautiful. I saw an image on Instagram and I thought ‘That’s a beautiful thing to wear’, I’ll wear that or something like that and I showed Steven Park and he made it. I made the mask, and the underwear was mine. It wasn’t meant – there’s no deep…

It's not a metaphor?

No, there's no spell inside the spell. It’s just… a vibe.

Is it supposed to be funny? ‘Cause when you’re dancing in your underwear, that’s pretty funny.

Yeah, of course it’s supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be light, you know, it’s supposed to be joyful. There’s this gaze and there’s this really repressed movement and then I just sort of blow it all away at the end. It’s meant to do whatever it does, I suppose. It will be different for everybody, but you can’t really change that and I don’t really want to change that, but if people are bringing abortion and cocks and things into it I’ll say, ‘No, it’s certainly not that’.

You’re killing it at the moment. Why do you think that is? Why are so many people connecting with your music?

Because my intentions are good. My intentions are good and I am human. I don’t think harder or better than anybody else. I’m trying really hard, you know? I’m not afraid to admit that. I feel like, with my performance and all that, I’m trying really hard to make something interesting and make something beautiful, because I think there’s something great about someone who is actually quite unremarkable making things like this, and that’s a victory for everybody I think. People probably recognise that effort when they like the poetry, or they feel a lyric, they understand that I’ve tried hard to really show what I mean. I’m not afraid to look silly and I’m not afraid to get it wrong… and that’s where the good intentions comes in because I know I’m not always going to get it right, and I do it anyway.  I don’t really know what other people are doing. I try to go, ‘Ok, what do I want to see? What do I think is impressive?’. I like diversity and I like someone who’s not afraid to say they’ve tried.

In a time where what people think and a generation of everything having purpose, and having to have your story straight, maybe it’s refreshing for someone to say ‘Well, I don’t really have one, but here’s something’. I don’t know Annabel, I’ve never listened to my music. I mean, I’ve listened to it, but I’ve never listened to it the way it’s designed to be listened to by another person. I will never have that.

You can’t listen to it for the first time.

Exactly, I will never have that experience because I hear it in such a different way. You’d be better suited to tell me why it is or isn’t popular.

Do you like where you are right now as a musician? Or is there something you want to be doing differently?

I’d like to do as little or as much as I’m either offered or find myself wanting to do. I can’t really answer that, because I don’t know where I’m going to be in a few days.

You chatted to Mark Riley for BBC Radio 6, and he asked if you lived in Wales and you said you 'supposed' you did. So do you live in Wales? Does living there suit you?

It’s okay. The things that makes home ‘home’ - our memories and things that create your world… there are things that have happened in Wales or things that I associate with Wales that sometimes make it, I don’t know… it’s not ‘home’. It’s not ‘home’, but I have sort of proved that I can exist anywhere. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for me, but I don’t think that being comfortable is necessarily the point. But I don’t know that it’s not the point. I dunno.

So you’re just giving Wales a go?

I’m just giving it a red hot go Annabel.

Aldous Harding's third studio album 'Designer' is out online and on vinyl this Friday 26th April via Flying Nun Records (NZ) and 4AD (rest of the world).


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