In The Middle with Woman’s Hour

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Woman’s Hour are relentless. On their week off, they are straight back in the studio. I catch lead singer, Fiona Burgess, just after lunch and she’s still getting used to the luxuries of being back in Kendal. Because for Woman’s Hour, change seems to be the only constant.

Despite their polished sound and signature monochromatic videos, Woman’s Hour produce the kind of music that eludes categorization. Fiona puts this down to the fact that each member of the band brings with them a hugely varied taste in music. When making a mixtape, only one or two band members will work on curating it – a comprehensive Woman’s Hour mixtape would last for days.

With so many influences and ideas floating around, I ask who has the final say. “No one really, there’s no overriding power… There’s nothing wrong with having a direction, but for us, it’s important to feel like we have the freedom to experiment”, Fiona explains, “we don’t want to get stuck making a certain type of music.”

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Festivals provide the ideal space in which to experiment “there’s a lot less pressure on you than when you’re on a headline tour, and it gives you the freedom to be a lot more creative on stage”.  Knowing that they wanted to incorporate a live drummer later on their tour, Woman’s Hour started to integrate him at festivals – “while we love our drum machine, nothing quite compares to having a live drummer”. As for making him a permanent fixture, Fiona says that the band are “not closed to any suggestions, having a drummer on tour has definitely altered the dynamic of our performances… part of making exciting material is changing things up and playing around with new ideas”.

However, there is also another, less glamorous side to this process. Fiona recalls writing Conversations. “It was pretty gruelling at times. We all had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to make it work. We were lucky enough to find somewhere to rehearse for free but it was this fucking freezing cold warehouse and we were wearing ten or so layers just to keep warm…It was a turning point for us really, because we all sat down and agreed to commit to this album; that was the moment we became serious as a band. It was about the same time that we met our manager – to have that kind of support and encouragement from someone outside the band was really huge for us”.

Fast-forward six months and Woman’s Hour have quickly risen from a support act to headliners in their own right. And despite their success, Woman’s Hour are adamant on meeting their fans and personally signing their purchases. “Our fans are the reason we get to spend however many weeks touring and playing these shows. They’re the reason we get to write and record and make the kind of music we want…ultimately, talking to your fans is about being human”

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To improve and develop as a band, feedback is important for Woman’s Hour, “meeting fans is the only way you’ll be able to properly gage a reception. Whilst it’s possible to kind of gage an atmosphere on stage, it’s not until you talk to the fans that you know exactly how it’s been received”.

For Woman’s Hour, music is fluid, interactive. The streams of remixes reposted on their Soundcloud reflect their appreciation of “artists you love and admire messing around with and reinterpreting your song”. “My dream collaboration?” Fiona muses, “I’d really like to do something with War On Drugs or Caribou… that’d be the dream”.

Having previously toured with the likes of Anna Calvi and Metronomy, I asked if they’d imparted any pearls of wisdom. “Yeah definitely, every band have their own quirks. Calvi is a phenomenal musician, she’s highly disciplined – once, she was up until 3 in the morning working on something. Really inspirational. Metronomy were a lot more laid-back but they had this infectious energy and the effort they put into the way they look on stage, the way they dress, the way they move is incredible.”

It’s clear that Metronomy’s meticulous composition and Calvi’s dedication have shaped how Woman’s Hour approach their music. Everything Woman’s Hour do is a formative experience, their musical journey is one from which they learn and adapt – there are no boundaries when you have no rules. Their writing periods come in “intense bursts”, every member brings what they’ve been working on individually to try out “you’ve got to have starting points really and just go from there”. This unregulated yet intensive style of music making is clearly one that works for Woman’s Hour and is sure to yield plenty of interesting material in years to come.

Emily Watts

photos: Oliver Chanarin, Carolina Faruolo, littleindieblogs.blogspot.co.uk

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