ROCKDELUX interview with Julia Frodahl
by Juan Manuel Freire
Julia Frodahl knows there is no beauty without mystery. Modest, with inspiring words and an otherworldly ability improper for a western society that presumes progress but sinks more and more each day into the muck of human failings. The artist settled in Brooklyn to be with the beauty in the place to pursue and catch her dreams. Her precious songs report on the depths of the unknown and offer something akin to enlightenment.
"When I work with music, I don’t know why I’m playing a given sequence of notes or constructing a particular musical environment. But it seems to all make sense at the end. It’s experimentation, then pursuing the parts that resonate, sculpting things into a shape or a sound that I like. And what I like of course will depend on how I’m feeling at that time… I feel that if there is anything that I am intentional offering to listeners, it’s the power of vulnerability.”
Before her music, words were banal. Poor and clever, trying to describe a music with a view to the heart, with the soul shattered, with the careful position in a passage. Hers is more mental than physical, more spiritual than visible, more airy than earthy. It is folk, but a folk deprived of sun, earth and air, folk from beyond the grave. It is ambient music, but incapable of being vacant. It’s film music, but not over the shoulder, but always we look to the eyes. Outside of time and space, it is intangible, impossible, a little precious, with no connection to the world or reference to the present day. Frodahl says " Genre-specific references of course have associations related to culture and era, which makes it difficult if you feel relatively separate from these things... But I think you’re right that there are hints of each of those genres in Edison Woods. Perhaps what makes Edison Woods sound the way it does is that it is played by a collection of people who are quite different from each other. Often a band is comprised of people who share very similar musical references, or come from similar towns perhaps. This is not the case with us. So what you get is this peculiar combination of sounds, the strange and tender parts of several genres coming together and doing so harmoniously. Even when it doesn’t."
Do you feel alone in the music world today?
"I feel a relation to a pair of sisters here in New York who call themselves Coco Rosie. I am most certain word will soon reach you about them… What they are doing is very creative, very much from their own inner world, assimilated, arranged and offered over. At their last show, when Bianca sang after inhaling from a helium balloon and Sierra slid into one of her arias, I about went to the moon. But to your question, I feel we have certain artistic ideals in common, and certain concerns… I don’t really know where in this scene we would place ourselves, really. We seem to cross over all over the place to exist on the outskirts of many.”
You work with producer Mark Van Hoen. The most melodic part of the record is strongly reminiscent of "Morning Light", which Van Hoen recorded with Locust. Are you connected to their work?
"The sounds of Locust are so mature and also very much like satin. I am a fan of Mark’s work as an artist as much as I am a fan of him as a producer and a person. He is wonderfully devoted to his work; he cares a lot about it and it certainly shows."
Your way of singing has been compared to the ones of Hope Sandoval and Margo Timmins. Are they voices that you admire?
"I see I really should get out more. I am familiar with Hope Sandoval. Her voice has wrapped me up nicely on many a melancholy day. The others I don’t know but will hope to hear them. My singing idols are not necessarily the one’s I might sound like. Tom Waits, for example. Beth Gibbons is another."
The title of the new record has a reference to a Buddhist precept. Do you consider yourself a religious person?
"No, I’m not a religious person. A spiritual person yes."
A masterwork of music out of time, wonderfully compassionate, and inspirationally capable of revitalizing not only the love for music but also for life. In the first album, you can detect a common origin and sensibility I think; but the dynamic and subject matter has evolved. It’s a bit like watching something break through its soft eggshell and emerge. The first album had the cracks, now you can see the feathers sticking through, etcetera...” In any case, with the new record there has fallen a feather – really from a bird.
The love with which Edison Woods prepares their music reaches also to artwork, a move that pays attention to the indescribable.
"In everything there is an opportunity to share something, to communicate something… I guess I feel that if one is going to offer the world something to see or hear, if one is going to ask for another person’s time in that way, then it ought to be done with thought and care. So every element we put forth is considered, whether it’s the music, or a photograph, or a pair of shoes worn on stage. A piece of fabric, a box… They all come together to offer a more complete sentiment to you. One that is not meant to be about us, but that is about being for you."
For Edison Woods, the moment of fruition is now. Although exquisite, the debut album of Edison Woods is 2002, released by the Canadian label Endearing, they could not foresee the huge lights the "Seven Principles of Leave No Trace" would reach.