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Interview: Wiri Donna Chats About Debut EP 'Being Alone'

Interview: Wiri Donna Chats About Debut EP 'Being Alone'

Clark Mathews / C.C. / Photo credit: Kenzie Pigman / Friday 27th May, 2022 9:01AM

Swiftly a student radio favourite due to standout recent singles 'No Follow Through' and 'Dream Of Me', Te Whanganui-a-Tara's Wiri Donna aka Bianca Bailey has today launched her debut EP Being Alone. Roving UTR reporter, noted Wiri Donna fan and aspiring pizza critic Clark Mathews (DARTZ) cooked up a probing selection of questions for Bailey, who generously lifted the lid on her EP's creation, thoughts around the differences between rock and "mosh" music, plus more. Co-produced and recorded with James Goldsmith at The Surgery, hit play on Being Alone, don't miss Wiri Donna's nationwide release tour with live bandmates Harrison Scholes (Arjuna Oakes, F.A.I.R.Y), James MacEwan (Arjuna Oakes) and Elliott Dawson (DOONS) in July, and dive into the illuminating interview below...

Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour

Friday 10th June - San Fran, Te Whanganui a-Tara / Wellington
Friday 8th July - Last Place, Kirikiriroa / Hamilton
Saturday 9th July - Whammy Bar, Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland
Thursday 14th July - Space Academy, Ōtautahi / Christchurch
Friday 15th July - Dive, Ōtepoti / Dunedin
Saturday 16th July - Yonder, Tāhuna / Queenstown (free show)

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Clark Mathews: My favourite thing about these songs is that they challenge the expectations people might have of Wiri Donna as a “indie” music project, in so many ways. Is that something you set out to do during either the songwriting or recording process?

Wiri Donna: I think the only thing I really set out to do when I started writing this project was to show some sort of evolution from where it started. With the first double single I had just wanted to push something out as quickly as possible to make it feel like I had started something. With this EP we were able to spend so much time playing live shows before we started recording, it gave me time to figure out where I wanted it to go sound in a more considered way.

I love how free-flowing and self-inspired your songwriting feels — none of these songs come across as following a rigid verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, and there’s a lot of epic instrumental moments. How do you approach the ‘arranging’ part of the songwriting process, and do you have any influences when it comes to building a song / song arrangements?

I've always loved the storytelling element to songwriting, so for me the focus on the song is always on telling that story and I've always naturally leant away from traditional songwriting structures. I think that Lucy Dacus' 'Night Shift' and Phoebe Bridgers' 'I Know The End' are both really good examples of songs that take you on a journey.

How would you describe the “main character” of the Being Alone EP?

Someone who's aware of their destructive tendencies, chaotic, ambitious but burning out a whole lot faster than they realise.

The orchestral instrumentation on 'Last Call' feels like a very well earned pay-off after making it through so many lyrically intense songs. How did you come to the decision to put those instruments in?

It's something I'd always wanted in the back of my mind, when I first wrote 'Last Call' I had the intention to play it only in Wiri Donna's sort of folkier get up that I'd been doing a bit of at the time, but it was very quickly turned around to the sort of rock ballad with the band. I think the final decision came in the studio when I first listened back to the track and James (Goldsmith) mentioned wanting to bring in a cello, SOLD.

Could you please tell us a bit about the recording process for the EP? You hit the studio with Wellington heavyweight producer James Goldsmith — was everything recorded with him?

We did the bones over 2 days at Surgery with James and I then did some pick up sessions for guitar and vocals, and the strings in 'Last Call', there was a lockdown in between some of the sessions so it felt like it was moving a lot slower than I wanted, but looking back on it I think the time was a good thing. James (MacEwan) recorded all the BVs and additional percussion up in Auckland and Elliott even did some BVs on 'Last Call', so it kinda happened all over the place! But mostly with James.

What are your tips for creating a positive and comfortable studio environment?

James is excellent at throwing out "thoughts, feelings, emotions" after a take. Honestly it's just the little things you can do to remind everyone in the room that there's space for them to have their own feelings about stuff, make sure that the room is always open to the conversation. Also make sure that there is kai and coffee.

What’s the percussion noise at 0:07 seconds in 'Dream of Me'? It’s very cool.

James MacEwan has a dream little percussion rig going on that he uses for his gigs when he's playing trumpet, all I know is that it's something off that and I love it.

Speaking of 'Dream of Me', I heard a rumour that it had a relatively last minute name change? How did that happen, and what’s your relationship to that song like now after seeing its success with your fans and across NZ student radio?

Look, I'm not gonna say that I wanted to call it 'More Strawbs', I'm also not gonna say that I received a strongly worded piece of advice from my manager saying "please do not call that song 'More Strawbs'"... I think I'm a bit harsh on that track, it's definitely the easiest listening song on the EP. It's super light hearted and fun and has good summer vibes, i've just been so indoctrinated with rock music recently that I've just registered it as the pop track of the project.

What can we expect from your setlist on your upcoming tour? Are there any songs off the EP in particular that you’re looking forward to playing?

As much as I'm looking forward to playing the EP live, I'm looking forward to bringing out the heavy hitters of the next project, the Wiri Donna rock music era is only getting heavier from here on out.

Is it true that your San Fran show in 2 weeks will be your first show to a standing audience as Wiri Donna in over 6 months? I know that you describe your music as “rock music” — are you expecting people to mosh?

Gonna come back at you with a hot take, in my opinion there's a difference between rock music and mosh music, I'm hoping to take people on a journey, I'd love for there to be moments of the show where people can be still and quiet, be a couple awkward boogie moments, and just a dash of a mosh that'll have your knees bruised for the next 2 weeks. Regardless of whether you join the mosh or not it'll all end in tears anyway.

'Being Alone' is out now on major streaming services.


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Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Fri 10th Jun 8:30pm
San Fran, Wellington
Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Fri 8th Jul 8:00pm
last place, Hamilton
Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Sat 9th Jul 8:00pm
Whammy Bar, Auckland
Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Thu 14th Jul 8:00pm
Space Academy, Christchurch
Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Fri 15th Jul 8:00pm
Dive, Dunedin
Wiri Donna 'Being Alone' EP Release Tour
Sat 16th Jul 8:30pm
Yonder, Queenstown