As she prepares to deliver her debut album, Muso’s Greg Phillips spoke to Owl Eyes about the whole damn journey which resulted in Nightswim.
Nightswim, the debut album for Owl Eyes, aka 22 year old songstress Brooke Addamo, is the sound of a quietly confident artist with a vision. It’s a vast electronic landscape featuring Addamo’s inner most sonic notions and emotions. It’s the consequence of having laboured over and learnt from three critically acclaimed EPs prior. It’s also the result of a fertile music collaboration between her regular songwriting partner Jan Skubiszewski, Perth based producer Shazam and production main man, Styalz Fuego, known for his work with hip hop artists such as 360.
When Muso caught up with Owl Eyes at the Base Studio in South Melbourne where she’d been recording for the last few months, she was on the verge of letting her baby go, giving the OK to send it to mastering. Much had changed since we’d first heard demo versions a couple weeks beforehand. Styalz and co had weaved their magic over a couple of tracks and transformed them into the songs they needed to be to fit the aural identity of Nightswim. Brooke is thankful that her label brought Styalz to her attention. “I’d done a few sessions with other producers just to get a feel for things but Styalz and I clicked automatically,” she recalls. “We liked the same kind of music although he comes from a hip hop background. He also comes from a dance background, but it kinda works. We just thought in a similar way and it is very rare to have that connection in the studio. We’d basically finished the album and then brought in Shazam (Cameron Parkin) from Perth to embellish a few things. I think Styalz really gets it and I like to work with people that understand me and are delicate in the way that they work with my music and they have to have an understanding of my influences. Styalz also opened my mind up a lot more to dance and electronic music. I was already down that path but he brought it on even more.”
Despite the use of multi-layered tracks on each song, somehow Styalz has been able to produce a real clarity to the album, whereby every part serves a purpose with no hint of superfluous sounds. Owl Eyes agrees. “You want it to sound like one continuous beautiful thing but still have that contrast,” she says. “Last week, when I was thinking about the sequence, I did take one track out. It didn’t really fit. I mean you can use it for something else but I feel like an album is different from an EP. With the EP, I was just putting some songs out, testing the waters, experimenting. I wanted the album to be a bit more solid than that and feel like a puzzle. There was a lot of chopping and changing.”
While long time Owl Eyes fans will be familiar with the breezy indie electro-pop side of her music, on Nightswim, there’s not only a darker undercurrent but also a significant danceable beat at the base of many of these tunes. “I really wanted the driving kick and bass and 808s,” Brooke says. “Even the darker songs, I wanted a groove in there. I think a lot of the music I have been listening to lately, it’s the groove that makes you feel something. “Another pre-album promise to herself was that it needed to be electronic rather than organic. “I was really mindful of that. I wanted to make a synth record. I wanted to have a lot of Moog bass and just a million synth lines.”
Shazam was a handy man to have onboard too, particularly when it came to the first single Closure, a song Brooke had become quite bored with. “That song has been re-written in my mind a hundred times. We nearly threw that song out because I just hated it and didn’t want to work on it anymore. Shazam said give it to me and I’ll try a few things. We didn’t listen to it for a long time, I just didn’t want to. Then when I did listen again with all the changes, it was refreshed and had a new life to it. I just love the 80s throw back thing. Time can change your mind. Shazam came on-board for a few of the songs. We were starting songs all the time and having trouble finishing them sometimes, so it’s good to have another perspective. I have never actually met Shazam, just spoke on the phone. He’s kind of a younger Styalz. At the start it was just asking him what he thought of this or that and then we asked him to collaborate. He also collaborated with me on an intro piece which I really wanted to open the album and the shows and I wanted it all to connect from the studio to the live show.”
Although Brooke is immensely proud of the yet-to-be released Nightswim, she’s already keen to get out, tour the album and then work on a follow up to put into practice things she learned from this studio experience. “I think you need to mentally prepare before you come into the studio,” she says. “It’s kind of a daunting experience. I was really daunted at the start about writing an album. It was such a big hurdle for me. I had fears and anxieties about it but I think next time, I’ll be more prepared and more positive. It’s just another piece of music, another project to work on. I won’t be so anxious to start. I want to start now, I already have ideas. But I feel this is a really solid album. I’ve had doubts all along but I am really proud of my songwriting and my songwriting has grown. I’m just excited to get it out now. I want to see if people still remember me, go to different states, taking the studio versions and putting them into a live situation.”
Nightswim is released April 19th, 2013. www.owleyes.com.au