Next week sees the release of Run, the second EP from Scots-Sudanese singer Eliza Shaddad. Ahead of its release, she talks to Best Fit about the new record and unveils its final track "Make It Go Away".
We've already heard "Wars" and the title track "Run" from Shaddad's latest release and it's clear from these two songs that the relative calm of debut EP Waters has been replaced by a turbulent and electric turn of events. Where previously Shaddad provided some clarity and distance on the subject matter of her songs, we're pitched right into the middle of a story of a relationship on the rocks and a protagonist struggling to keep it together and keep their feelings in check.
We spoke to Shaddad ahead of the EP release, and you can read the interview below along with an exclusive play of the EP's final track "Make It Go Away".
Hey Eliza, how are you and what's been happening recently?
“Hey! Getting ready for tour, writing…I’m basically trying to get the album together, and just lots of fun stuff. I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the reaction to the new songs…it’s been a fuuun year so far!”
I have to say that over a few listens it becomes apparent that Run is quite the grim listen...
“Hahaha, yeah. I think I was kind of leading up to bursting point while writing it – that was the general feeling and I think it came out in the lyrics and the production.”
When we last spoke around the release of Waters, you told me that the EP was about being in the middle of something or getting over it - but with some distance. It doesn't feel like there's any distance this time, we're right there in it with you...
“In the thick of it! In the middle is exactly right, basically. It’s interesting how it comes across, and weird as well. You write the songs at a certain time and then it takes some time…you feel like writing something. Like, for example “Run” took a long time to kind of settle itself; so from starting writing it with whatever initial feelings, to hearing the final recorded version, to then other people hearing the final recorded version…that’s a long time. When it first went online, I was like ‘woah, that’s a strong thing to be putting out there!’ Especially given the time that’s passed!”
Given the time that's passed, is it easy to reconnect with the person that wrote those songs?
“Not hard to connect. I guess when I’m writing it that’s all I can talk about, that’s exactly what I need to express and it might not be what I need to express right now. So the urgency and the justification for expressing something so bluntly isn’t the same…you’re a little less anchored in the feeling at this stage than you would be if it was coming out around the same time [of writing]. But it’s always true, whether it’s six months down the line or eighteen months down the line.”
Did the songs have to sound like they do to match the lyrical content? It is a much more raucous record than Waters...
“I really wanted it to be like this, yeah. I’ve played them solo and they work but I think it’s way better to have everything pulling in the same direction. It gets the message across much clearer and in a stronger way. From the off, I wrote songs and demoed them immediately, adding big bits of drums and distorted guitar lines over the top. I knew that I wanted it. I’ve had eighteen months playing with a band, and I hadn’t had that experience when the first EP came out.”
Do all your experiences since the first EP help with realising this sound?
“Hugely! Things like touring with Strand of Oaks, it all fed in basically. Whenever I’m writing I call on all the resources I can, and suddenly I had all these new resources that fit what I was trying to do perfectly. It was a no-brainer.”
You recorded with Andrew and Chris Bond; can you tell me a bit more about them?
“They’ve worked together a lot, engineering and producing – on the Ben Howard stuff. This time around they were both free and said they’d work on the EP together. Chris has a really cool ear; we were using all sorts of equipment – we recorded a lot of vocals with an SM58 [a standard microphone] because that’s what I was used to, whereas you’d normally use a really expensive microphone! We messed around with a lot of things, like amps and stuff, but we ended up using the cheapest, simplest things because that got across the raw sound that we were looking for.”
While it's a fairly straight ahead record there are lots of little things that come to light after a few plays, like the brass sounds at the end of the extended outtro for "Run"...
“The more I do demos in garageband the more I realise what can be done with it. The more pedals I have, I’ll be like ‘oh I can add a solo in here!’ The studio has a lot of amazing gear, so synths came into it…Chris would play something and it would be like ‘Sick! Let’s add that!’ But it is actually mainly guitar, drums and voice. There’s synths on a couple of tracks, organ on a couple of tracks…and that’s about it!”
You're extremely frank and open lyrically on Run, is this something you plan on continuing for the album?
“I feel like I should reign it in a little! I’d quite like to be a little more…not guarded but a little less revealing. But I’m not good at being anything other than blunt. It’ll definitely remain that way in many respects. The newer stuff will be blunt, but it’ll be coming from a slightly different place so it might not be as revealing in terms of the sort of things I’m talking about…it’ll be just as honest but it if it’s not about things quite as personal then it might not be so blunt.”
You've taken the long road round to releasing an album, going with a couple of EPs first of all...do you think this gives you space to develop at your own pace?
“I think it’s quite cool; but I think most of us have still got our sights set on the album, and hope that people will listen to it! The EPs feel like small albums to me, I can’t imagine what a full album is going to feel like…I think about them in all the same way. It’s a whole story within four tracks. But it does feel a bit easier to handle in terms of sending it out to people or streaming it if it’s smaller bits to start with.”
So can you tell us a bit more about the final track "Make It Go Away"? It feels very stark, especially with that line "I've seen nothing but sheets of grey, sliding over us for days"...
“It’s an intense and very depressing song! The title is one of the most depressing that could exist...iIn spite of that, it’s my favourite track on the record and a very good one to end on.”
We don't get much light at the end of the tunnel, mind you...
“No, haha! Again, that makes sense in terms of the EP though. This amazing woman, Catherine Marks, mixed it and we were looking at it…the drums at the end…the snare is just the starkest, most alone, angry sounding thing! We asked ourselves, is it too much? No. it’s just the end. You’re fed up, and tired and that’s it – you’re not hiding any of it, and we left it like that.”
Photo courtesy of Melanie Tjoeng