Back in 2011, Woman’s Hour caused a ruckus with tracks like ‘Jenni’ and ‘Human’. But the Kendal/Manchester foursome, fronted by the dulcet tones of Fiona Burgess, soon scrapped their first incarnation, and went into solitary confinement to re-evaluate their existence and sonic identity.
They’ve been absent for a long time, but the comeback was worth the wait – ‘To The End’ is a sultry bout of indietronica with finger clicks and subterranean pizzicato strings, smothered in tantalising vocals from the female-r Burgess (Will Burgess, guitarist, is her brother). They had a decent chunk of time to soul-search, and they’ve returned with a fighting spirit and a defiant, zesty drive to achieve all that they can. They’re a muscular, formidable synth-force.
The group originally began by naming all of their tracks after programmes on Radio 4′s schedule (‘Jenni’ was named after Jenni Murray, presenter of Woman’s Hour, the radio show). Remnants of this practice still linger, obviously in their band name, and on the vinyl for ‘To The End’. The band are still enamoured with the medium – Will has a penchant for The Archers – and for them it provides a nostalgic sense of home. Alongside radio, they’re inspired by the finer details of life – snippets of seemingly banal routines or everyday interactions could end up blossoming into fully-fledged tracks. We catch up with the group in the aftermath of their reincarnation to discuss their period of reinvention, the radio and their sensual, minimalist tones.
Can you enlighten us a little on your backstory? Where are you from, who’s involved and how did the story begin?
Fiona, Nick and I are from Kendal. Josh is from Manchester. We began as a three piece just having some fun playing a couple of parties and really bad gigs, feeding off the scraps that came our way. Pretty early on Josh came along to some rehearsals to jam and work on the sound and it felt really good. Since then the band has just become gradually more important for all of us as a vehicle to try and do something beautiful that we believe in.
I assume you’ve got your name from the Radio 4 show – how come? What’s the link?
Fiona Burgess: When my brother Will and I first started writing music, we didn’t know what to call our songs so we used the titles of Radio 4 programmes as namesakes. So, when it came to our first gig with Nick and Josh, we had a set list of Radio 4 programmes but didn’t have a name and Woman’s Hour just felt very appropriate.
Do you enjoy listening to the radio?
Fiona: I grew up in a household with three brothers and we always had Radio 4 on in the background. It was something that provided a lot of conversation and debate, and also sparked a lot of arguments – particularly listening to Woman’s Hour! When I moved to London one of the only cures for homesickness was Radio 4. It still reminds me of my parents house. I still enjoying listening to the radio, and I occasionally tune-in to other stations…
Will: I love it too. I even like The Archers, although the affair between Lillian and Paul is getting a bit tiresome.
Is it an important medium to preserve, or should it be allowed to slowly disappear?
Fiona: No, it’s an institution!
Will: I don’t think talk radio will disappear. I can see how music radio could feel threatened by the Internet though.
Who, what and where inspires you?
Will: Literally anything. An idea, the sound of someone’s voice, the tone of an email…
Josh Hunnisett: Mainly everyday sounds and feelings.
What was the first album you bought?
Will: The Great Escape – Blur.
Josh: Stars by Simply Red.
What was the most recent?
Will: One of those Soul Jazz Deutsche Elektronische Musik compilations.
Josh: Bauhaus – In The Flat Field.