Wallis Bird's latest album Architect is as profound lyrically as it is musically diverse; dealing with themes of being true to yourself, unrequited love and gender roles.
Bird from her now home in Germany and was in no way surprised to discover that she is every bit as fully of energy and personality that her live performances suggest. I posed the question that if Architect, as the name suggests was inspired by her having found a foundation and a place in the world as a result of her making the permanent move to Berlin?
“Yes, I definitely think so. I started visiting (Berlin) about ten or eleven years ago and when I went there the first time I just said to myself ‘Holy Shit’, it was like when something clicks with you. I found something that was very important to me and that was Berlin, everything just clicked for me and I immediately wrote a song. It’s not often that someone says to me “are you going for a pint?” and I say no…I’m not going anywhere, I have a few songs in my head now and that is what happened to me when I went to Berlin,” she explained.
My intrigue regarding the musical diversity of the album, considering it’s commencement with the clubby dance anthem Hardly Hardly and its subsequent easy evolution into the funk infused I Can be Your Man and the 70’s spiced Communion and concluding with the more mellow and reflective Hammering and River of Paper inspired the next question. If the album came to be after her moving to Berlin, was it a chronological expression of her experience of the city and of her settling there and absorbing the music and the culture in the transition.
“It is both of them, it’s definitely retrospective, looking back at what you have come from and what is the combination of that. I said I’m doing it, I’m leaving everything I have here and basically fucking off and I started writing songs for the album as soon as I decide to make the move. I thought why am I not happy? What makes me happy, who am I, you know, what is the blueprint of me?
“That is where the Architect idea came from, stuff that makes me incredibly energetic was the main priority for the record. She continued to explain that less phases her now and the more years that pass the more she knows what she doesn’t want to be doing.
I Can be Your Man from the album deals with gender roles and the song is inspired by Russia’s very outdated approach to homosexuality. Gay rights and gender issues are both very important issues to her, she explains.
“Oh yeah, God, yeah, incredibly so. If we are talking about humanity when it’s taken down to the bare bones of what is a man and what is a woman and our initial roles in it. If you start illegalising people or punishing people based on being too masculine or too feminine, you know these very simplified ideas of what a human is.
“If you can find a reason to hate or hurt somebody for those reasons alone, I think we are fucked. These are the fundamental things we have to look at. You have to understand that love is love and we can’t help how we feel. You don’t chose to be gay or straight, you don’t choose how your body leads your brain. If you let a person be who they are, they will find their way.”
I then asked about her high energy performances, which are well and widely documented. As Wallis is back on Irish shores yesterday in Cork Opera House, then on to Limerick, Galway and then to Dublin on November 22 to take to the stage of The Academy, I was curious as to what we should expect with regards to old and new material being performed.
“For this tour, we changed lot of what we are playing on stage and that there is a slow set in the middle, which you can expect but apart from that everything is just sweating and moving and very high energy. I just want people to fucking move!
“It is mostly from Architect record and we have incorporated it with the old work so that there is a flow between the old work and the new. I am really enjoying playing this set too and for a long fucking time I haven’t enjoyed touring as much as this tour so there is a very good energy on the road so far,” she continued.
We went on to discuss the music scene in Germany, as I had spent much time there and offered my personal observation that dance and electronic music was a massive movement in the country.
“Oh…it’s fucking huge” Wallis enthused adding “it is so tribal.
“Over the last couple of years it has been Bjork, Radiohead, Villagers, Junior, St.Vincent and a lot of local lesser known bands would be big influences on me. Have you heard this new band that won the Mercury (Awards) Young Fathers? They’re fucking dangerous! They are rudimental. They play with very negative tones and they push really hard so you feel like there is a huge positive charge there, really deep message there, really deep connotational notes.
“It’s awesome. It is really different, it just makes you think!” said Bird.
She is also intending to get home to her native Enniscorthy in Wexford, whenever she gets a chance, even if it is only for 24 hours, during this tour. Then she will spend the New Year at home with the parents before returning to Berlin on the second of January and for the subsequent six months.
“I am going to start a meditation course first because I need to fucking chill before I start lashing into shit that I don’t know what I’m talking about, you know. I have never done anything like that before and I always thought that I might drive myself a little crazy if I meditated, but now I think it’s time to pause and reflect,” she said.
However, with such a hectic schedule, moments to reflect might be few and far between.
Photo: Sean Rowe/Flickr