With her second album, All Day Venus, out now, Adalita will be a keynote speaker at the WAM Conference, happening Thursday-Friday, November 7-8. BOB GORDON speaks with Adalita and her fellow keynoters, Catherine Haridy and Michael Chugg.
Adalita’s self-titled solo debut appeared in 2011 and while the singer/songwriter had already made her presence felt fronting Geelong rockers Magic Dirt the impacting yet sparse album, flavoured by the passing of bandmate, Dean Turner, revealed a new side to the artist.
Her recently released second LP, All Day Venus, picks up from where the debut left off. And while it’s two years since the last release, creative work began not longer after it was newly pressed.
“It felt very natural to keep writing,” Adalita says. “There wasn’t really that much of a gap between the last one finishing and starting the new songs. It felt like a continuation of the songwriting process. I was really in my own bubble writing rather than thinking about anything else. “Then, when I emerged from the songwriting, I was in a whole new feeling and a whole new time where I was pretty much on my own trying to get the band together, trying to pick the songs for the record, trying to find the studio and the producer. So there was all this kind of practical side of the record that I had to conduct and organise, which was really tough for me because I’d never had to do it before.
“I was just taking chances with people I was hiring and people I was auditioning; I was fumbling around, really, in the dark, but I think I sort of knew what I was doing. And when I got to the end of it I feel I pretty much made all the right decisions. The album is what it is and I think I did my best. I’m really happy with the results.”
All Day Venus retains the intimate sounding approach of the debut, what Adalita refers to as a “minimalist aesthetic.” The music sounds like it’s in the room with you, rather than merely coming out of a speaker that’s in a room with you. The space is often like another character in a song.
“It is more of an invitation rather than something that you’re supposed to listen to,” Adalita notes. “It’s a world that I hope the listener goes into; it’s creating that magic and you have to find your own recipe for that as an artist. I just kind of go on the fly and just listen to my inner voice and gut and at least don’t think about anything too much. I just write… and write things that make me feel good and happy or right at the time. Whatever it is I’m trying to say.
“So I wanted to retain the spaciousness and the mood. That dark aspect; I’ve always written dark material and that definitely comes through on this album. It’s just like the first record but souped up with a band and keeping it lean. Space. I like a lot of space, because when something does actually come in – a new guitar or vocal part – it’s really heavy and you notice the change because it has been flat-lining for a while. But it’s for a reason, you can really get the impact of whatever the element is that comes in. I like to hypnotise with songs. I like them to be hypnotic. It’s like a spell.”
Adalita states that she always writes specifically for albums (“I don’t write outside of that space. I wonder if I should…”). From this LP, Too Far Gone was written a few years ago but most were more recent, leading Adalita into know what she was on to and what she was in for.
“Yeah I’ll pretty much know the songs that’ll make it and the ones that are important, or the lynchpins of the record,” she says. “I was writing for a while before I hit songs like Trust Is Rust, Warm Like You and Homesick, which came in a bunch and that was the first time I felt really good about the songs and that they were strong.
“Trust Is Rust was probably the one where I thought, ‘this is the single’, and everyone really responded to it. It was an immediate sigh of relief, I guess, all ‘round from myself, the label and my various close friends. It was quite an undeniable, instant moment. That one led the way, I guess.”
Adalita’s new music can get heavy but in a different way to Magic Dirt. She’s been playing solo gigs of late as well as band shows with minimal backing of second guitar, bass and drums. It’s an approach that is evolving her own guitar playing.
“Well I’m a rhythm guitarist,” she says. “I really enjoy being a rhythm guitarist and I think that’s probably my forte so I guess the songs, thinking about them now, they very much have that one line going through them, or are very rhythmic. I don’t do a lot of lead breaks or stuff like that. I’ve noticed a lot of my songs are like that; they’re on a loop, which I enjoy.
“I really love working with rhythm. With extra guitar parts I love melodic things and I think I want to explore that a bit more, but I’m not really fanatical about putting on too many decorative layers.”
Vocally, Adalita continues to evolve as well. When Magic Dirt released the single, Dirty Jeans, in 2000, it hallmarked – at the time – a more melodic vocal from Adalita, in the vein of Deborah Harry. Emerging as a solo artist has also taken her singing voice to new places.
“It’s definitely changed,” she notes. “I’ve tried, consciously, to sing a bit softer. I’m really trying to open out my throat centre. I’m really trying to free it up because singing solo, when your voice is so exposed, I tend to retreat into my throat a bit and hold back. I don’t want to do that; I want to let it run free and be as open and resonating as possible. It’s a confidence thing; it’s not that I can’t do it, I know I can do it. It’s not being afraid to, because it’s a very vulnerable thing, singing. It’s very personal. Your voice, when you have to be that open with it and somewhat use your emotions, which I think it’s connected to… you have to really be free and let it really come out.
“So I’m definitely using my voice a bit differently. There’s definitely a lot of courage needed in the solo thing. You can’t really fake it, playing solo, and you’d find out pretty quickly if it wasn’t your thing. It’s a hard gig.”
Bob Gordon will moderate the Opening Keynote – In Conversation with Adalita & Catherine Haridy, at the State Library of Western Australia Theatre on Thursday, November 7, from 10-11am.
Get your tickets here.