“I was pregnant with Ivy while recording a lot of the vocals and stuff like that. So the focus on the future of this kind of crazy world we’re living in definitely had a bearing on the interests I was honing in on.”
Recently nominated for a WAM Award in the ‘Best Female Vocalist’ category, Felicity Groom releases her second album, Hungry Sky, this Friday, October 17, with a launch also just announced for Friday, December 5, at the Rosemount Hotel. BOB GORDON reports.
Life’s walked on a few steps since Felicity Groom released her first album, Gossamer, back in 2011.
And they’ve all been creative, from a foray into beats and electronica in Rokwell & Groom (with Perth hip hop artist, Diger Rokwell) to the birth of a baby girl, Ivy, with her life and musical partner, Andrew Ryan.
And with the release this week of Groom’s second album, Hungry Sky, all these steps lead to the same place. The current single, Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller is the eldest of the songs on the LP, but carried the seeds of what the album would become.
“There was a pretty strong idea,” Groom says of her intentions upon commencement of the album. “Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller was something that pretty much indicated a direction that I was interested in. Andrew tends to have an influential role, particularly in beats, over this album. And I was kind of keen to drive it down the more beat-oriented areas.
“So together and alone we were working on songs with that in mind. They were mainly based on the computer, because I’m more fond of working that way now, with midi, on the more beat-oriented stuff.”
Clearly the Rokwell & Groom experience was an influence, but more simultaneous and serendipitous, than game-changing.
“Well it was and it wasn’t,” Groom considers. “On Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller there definitely is. There were areas that I already wanted to explore, that’s why when the collaboration was suggested by Cut & Paste, I was excited because that was really the area I was interested in. But at the same time I s’pose we were already on that journey as well.”
There’s nothing bolted down about the music on Hungry Sky, other than it was recorded for the most part in Groom and Ryan’s lounge room. As a result while there’s a core band on the LP, there are guests who played a part – musical or supportive – in the proceedings, much like friends who would gather in a lounge room in the first place. Some of those friends just happen to be members of Tame Impala.
“That was a really cool aspect and a very different one to the last album,” Groom notes. “Gossamer was done in two parts; I did the band recording then I did the bit that I called the ‘solo album’, essentially. One was the traditional Black, Black Smoke band with Dave Parkin (producer) and the other was with Sam Ford (producer) and it was slightly more like this one in terms of inviting anyone when I wanted to.
“This album began that way, because we were just in the lounge room recording, Kevin Parker came over and helped do the first few and Jay Watson was in town and he came and played a bit of guitar and basically whoever was around would just pop in and hang out (laughs). “We’d played the tunes we’d done in the day to them, so there was various people having an influence or being a part of it regardless of whether they were playing or not. It was a really good way of doing it, because ultimately it helped maintain more control, for me, of what was going on in the songs, which I really enjoyed because every song has an infinite amount of ways that it can be.
“In this case it was nice to curate the whole thing, rather than the band sense where parts are made up individually and you record them like that. This was very much… yeah, the best way to describe this is as being a curator of the whole thing.”
As for what Groom feels the need to write about, she says that the songs on Hungry Sky are somewhat science and future-based.
“I watch a lot of Ted Talks and Monday night Q+A and getting interested in the world and the future,” she says. “I’m always thinking about how people will drive around in 2050 and what strange things they’ll do on Mars and all those kind of things.”
Of course, in spite of making such beautiful music together, Groom and Ryan’s most amazing creation is one year-old Ivy, who chats and giggles throughout this conversation. The effect of having a child upon an artist is a profound one. One wonders how it has changed Groom as a creative person?
“I think that will definitely be more prevalent in album number three,” Groom ponders, “but it’s definitely in this one, in the lyrical content. I was pregnant with Ivy while recording a lot of the vocals and stuff like that. So the focus on the future of this kind of crazy world we’re living in definitely had a bearing on the interests I was honing in on.”
What’s interesting also is how, through pregnancy and post-childbirth, the physicality of singing changes…
“Absolutely,” Groom affirms, “it was quite difficult because she was two-weeks-and-five-days overdue and I was singing a lot of the Rokwell & Groom stuff onstage and fitting in recording whenever I could, so I remember the room for lung capacity or anything was tight in there. So it was a bit of a challenge (laughs). It definitely took longer.
“Even now, after giving birth, there’s all those muscles that take a long time to engage back in and you really use those muscles to belt it out. I was always curious about that, and I asked Vikki (Thorn) from The Waifs about it and she said that she found it a lot easier to sing after giving birth. So that was really interesting; I kind of wondered whether after the baby had gone there was all this space in there what with the diaphragm working overtime and all that stuff going on inside.”
Groom is understandably enamoured with her little one (“She’s lovely. She’s amazing!”) who – unsurprisingly – responds enthusiastically to music.
“She does!” Groom exclaims. “She plays the drums. If somebody’s playing drums or something in the front room she’s right in there. She responds really well to those songs as well, because as I say, I was pregnant recording them, so she knows them intrinsically.”
In listening to Hungry Sky, the album’s ethereal nature is rendered warm by a diversity of various ethnic-based sounds. None of them dominate, however, giving the album a sense of… elsewhereness.
“I love travelling,” Groom says. “It’s one of my biggest loves; I find that I think better when I’m in a new place. The way you connect to the environment is in a more alert way when it’s a completely new one.”