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Repulsive Woman Shares Album, Tour Dates + Interview

Repulsive Woman Shares Album, Tour Dates + Interview

Interview by Brooke Singer / Monday 24th June, 2019 1:19PM

Ōtepoti songwriter and One Direction connoisseur Repulsive Woman aka Millie Lovelock (Astro Children) has shared her keenly-anticipated solo album Relief. The debut is eight tracks of hair-raising vocals and high tension, minimalistic instrumentation, with stunning vocals honing in on ideas of vulnerability and self-perception. Relief was put together in Dunedin last year with Olive Butler (Laney Blue) and engineer Adelaide Dunn (Milpool), with mastering by Steven Marr. Repulsive Woman will be take their shiny new songs on an album release tour this Winter, with spellbinding shows lined up for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Pōneke folk-pop talent Claudia Jardine will play support in the wake of her own debut, the North EP. French For RabbitsBrooke Singer gave Lovelock a bell the other day to dig deeper into Relief, women in music, and academia…

Repulsive Woman Album Release w/ Claudia Jardine
Saturday 6th July - The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Friday 19th July - The Thirds Eye, Wellington
Saturday 27th July - Captain Cook, Dunedin

Tickets available HERE via UTR

You’re releasing your first solo record as Repulsive Woman called Relief – tell me about how this new project started?

The project started in 2015, the end of 2015, when I had some time off after I finished my honours degree and I’d written my dissertation on a novel by a woman named Djuna Barnes called 'Nightwood' and she also wrote a collection of poems called 'The book of Repulsive Women'. I love her writing, I think she’s an incredibly complicated and interesting writer and person and I was obviously thinking about her a lot and I was also starting to think about my masters project which was on One Direction.

Quite a change of direction yourself.

Yeah, I just had some time off  and thought "I'm going to try and record some One Direction covers in my bedroom, super lofi" and I did that and at first I thought they were just going to be something private, just for me, just as an exercise in making demos at home and I dunno, just a way to fill my time and then I thought "actually no, maybe I'm going to share these" and so I made a Bandcamp, as all great projects begin, with the name Repulsive Woman and at first it was just the One Direction covers, I did three. I was going to do an EP but I kind of ran out of steam, or time, because I was doing my masters thesis after that. I ended up writing some songs and I thought "these aren't Astro Children songs" so that's how Repulsive Woman came to be.

That’s so interesting, I didn't realise you’d started by doing One Direction covers. I love that that's kind of the beginning of your masters, how you started that.

Yeah, just getting into the swing of pop music being my whole life.

I met you at SongHubs Sphere, an all female and non-binary writing camp in Auckland, and before that I only knew of you from Astro Children. I remember seeing you play in Dunedin and it was really loud and intense in a really good way and when we met and we were put together to write I was like "how is this going to work?" but when I went to see you play for the first time recently, for your single release for 'Rough Around The Edges', I discovered that your new project is actually very beautiful and vulnerable so I was like "oh, now I understand how we can write together". I just wondered about that, how you've got these two very different sides to your music?

Umm, it’s not really that they come from different places as such. I think that I started being in Astro Children, and since I was 17 I felt like I had to prove myself and be as loud and as confrontational as I could possibly be. Over time I've become more comfortable with just writing the songs I want to write. I mean, I want to write the songs that I write in Astro Children but I also want to write nice, gentle music as well.

With this new album, is there an overarching theme that you're exploring with the lyrical content? I know that you described it as an exploration into the perception of self in modern society. Can you tell me about those things that you’re exploring?

I didn't really go into the album with this theme in mind. I didn't even particularly intend to write an album, it just sort of happened (laughs). I think when you're working on songs over a period of time… I mean I tend to personally find myself falling into a pattern of theme. I’m sure a lot of songwriters find the same thing. There are certain aspects of your life that interest you and you keep returning to them, I guess to try to work them out, I don’t know. But it’s definitely a lot about the self.

I think when I'm writing for Astro Children, I spend a lot of time thinking about how other people are seeing me and experiencing me but the Repulsive Woman album feels a lot more insular than that. It’s less about other people's gaze and more about my own. In a way the title track has a lyric about watching myself in the mirror and it kind of keeps returning to this process of watching myself which has been quite a nice, freeing way to write. It sounds a bit strange to think about watching myself, but it feels a lot less alarming than thinking about how other people are watching me. So I feel very content with the album and I feel like some of it’s quite positive and some of its quite sad but I feel very comfortable thinking about it. It feels very honest and it feels quite gentle, not in just a way that it sounds but in the way that it deals with my personhood I suppose.

I think it's quite exciting at the moment because it feels like there's a rise of community for female musicians in New Zealand, with Girls Rock Camp and things like that and I wondered, did you choose specifically to work with women or what that an accidental occurrence and what has that experience been like so far?

It was a conscious choice to work with a woman producer on the album. I’d been thinking about how it was so wild that I'd been making music and albums for nearly a decade and I’d never worked with a woman producer before and that it was difficult for me to find someone based in Dunedin to work on an album with me. I knew Adelaide through other friends, she was an acquaintance of mine and she was working on her honours degree in sound engineering so I sent her a message on Instagram and asked if she had any time to do some recordings with me. At that point I wasn't sure if I was going to do an album or maybe just an EP or a couple of songs, and she said "I don't have the facilities to do it right now but if you wanna wait of couple of months we can work on something as my honours project for my degree".

So we got to use the Albany Street studio which was fantastic. It was so lucky and so kind of her to offer to use me as her honours project, it was really great, we ended up doing one day a week in the studio for about 8 months I think, which was a really lovely experience and I think working with her was quite different from other recording experiences that I've had in the past, not necessarily because she's a woman but just because of the way she works. She works in very different ways to the people that have recorded Astro Children, which I guess makes a lot of sense. Astro Children’s a punk band so... a very different studio experience and I’ve been really lucky in that everyone I’ve ever recorded with has been a super lovely, understanding gentle person so it’s not like I was going into it having had this nightmarish recording experience. We recorded with Jonathan Pearce who is one of the nicest people on Earth, but it is different working with other women I think, it's just the way that you communicate that feels a bit different and a bit special and I'm sure we both found that at SongHubs as well. The atmosphere is maybe a little bit different, and that innate understanding that you have with other women which is harder to find with men.

But in terms of the live band, it wasn't a super conscious decision to have an all-women line up. It makes sense with the name of the project for us all to be women but they're all friends of mine and musicians that I really admire so it made sense to me ask them to play with me. Olive played with me on the album so she was obviously going to be first choice for violin and I’ve known Julie for a very long time, the bass player, and she's fantastic and very involved with the music scene and very talented. Yeah it was more a question of who I wanted personally to play music with, rather than "what women can I get to join my band?".

Your music it seems to me, especially with this solo project, has been intertwined with your academic work. I read recently that you were awarded a presidential doctoral scholarship at the University of Manchester. Is that correct?

Yep, uh-huh.

Thats amazing! So do you see your music and your academic work continuing to be intertwined when you go there? Do you think you’ll be taking Repulsive Woman across to England?

Definitely. I don't think that either pursuit is something I'm going to stop doing. I've spent a lot of time studying and I've also spent a lot of time making music and I've been doing those things at the same time so it would be strange if they weren't quite intimately connected. Particularly with my postgraduate study, when you spend a whole year working on a master's thesis about One Direction, it leaks into all the other parts of your life whether you want it to or not, and the same for writing a thesis on a novel, you become very involved in the subject. I can't help but have it influence my songwriting and like that, I don’t think it’s impossible for me to do both. I'm very excited to see how I make music living in England, and Manchester particularly is a place where many bands that I love have come from.

Repulsive Woman's debut album 'Relief' is out now.


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