There can’t be many more popular figures to have emerged from the recent psych revival than JANE WEAVER. Since the release of her 2014 LP The Silver Globe, Weaver has been hailed for bringing a light, airy touch to a genre that often gets clogged up by weighty bass blasts and overblown fuzz. It helps that she has been able to incorporate her love for analogue synths and obscure soundtracks within her strain of cosmic pop – but that would still all fall flat if it weren’t for the quality of her songwriting, which provides the structure for the spectral sonic patterns to hang on.
On new album Modern Kosmology, Weaver’s omnivorous musical endeavours have taken her to a higher plane, one which sees acid-folk sit alongside ambient drones to striking effect. Ahead of a busy summer for Weaver – which sees her play Liverpool threes time between July and September, as well as playing Bluedot festival in July – Matthew Hogarth caught up with her to find out how her modern masterpiece came together.
First and foremost, congratulations on Modern Kosmology‘s reception. How long did it take to write the album, and what inspired it?
I started writing it back when I was on tour with the last record, so about 18 months really. I wrote a big pool of songs but I didn’t decide which ones I wanted until a few weeks before I went in the studio. I ended up going in and out of the studio over a period of two weeks. I know a lot of bands do two weeks and there’s your album, but I find that really hard to do! So, it took some time but it feels worth it. The inspiration was to do something a little different from the last record. I wanted to do something a bit clearer production-wise, keeping it psychedelic but with a little less space echo.
What does Modern Kosmology actually mean?
At the beginning of the 1900s, people started incorporating scientific discovery into their artwork and I became fascinated with this. I started reading into cosmology, the history of the universe. At the time of writing there was a lot of upsetting things happening in our universe and I was trying to incorporate how this all made me feel into my work without being as direct as, say, Sleaford Mods. I’m more abstract. I thought I should call the record Modern Kosmology and that it would be the study of the history of our own universe: trying to put what you’re good at into making the world a better place to try and restore some order in the chaos. I suppose this record is my tongue-in-cheek take on the current climate.
How did you find the analogue recording process, in particular working with Can’s Malcolm Mooney?
I just go to my local studio, which happens to be mainly an analogue studio. The owner is a keen collector of synths and keyboards so there are lots of instruments just scattered around. It’s a bit like a museum. All of that was a big part of the process, to be able to experiment and use different bits of machinery. There are certain keyboards that I used on the last record that I don’t own, as they’re massively expensive, but they’re in the studio. I know my limitations and I know what I can do, so there are certain Korgs and Minimoogs that have crossed over to this record as well as some new 80s synths. I still use my Casio MT45 which is on everything I do. I’m not a snob about what I play: if I like the way it looks and sounds I’ll use it. I appreciate people who admire their synths, but I feel that the snobbery needs to stop.
Malcolm got involved towards the end of the record because I wanted him to do a bit of spoken word for the album. He is a friend of the family but I was still pretty nervous asking him. Just because they’re a friend doesn’t mean you can just expect them to say yes. But, luckily, I asked him pretty tentatively and he agreed.
There’s a fair amount of birdsong on the record. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Well, there are three interludes done by my husband, Andy Votel, and it was him who brought the birdsong onto the record. It was electronic elements combined with nature. Part of that was inspired by an artist called Hilma Af Klint who could be seen as one of the first ever abstract painters. She used to paint with automatic drawing and she would hold séances and paint during these séances. But she was also a trained landscape painter. So, I was trying to create scenery really.
How has your process changed between albums?
It’s a mixture really. Sometimes songs will just come to me like an orchestra but other times it’s just a skeleton. It can be difficult to put pen [to] paper. I usually demo on my keyboard at home before going into the studio, either with the full band or just me and the producer: it really does depend. I don’t normally do lyrics til the last minute. I went off to Anglesey to write, with a bag of notebooks and little tatty scraps of paper like a scruff! Anglesey has a pretty rich history of druids and pagans. I think it was one of the first places the Romans invaded. I used to go as a kid so I wanted to visit certain places from my childhood; I stayed in a hotel by myself in Trearddur Bay and it was nice and quiet. One place was a haunted house and I wanted to go and write in there, but, annoyingly, there was a film crew in there all week. But any island has a certain feel to it and Anglesey certainly has a cosmic, stone circle feel to it.
Alexis Petridis named you one of the best songwriters of the psych revival in his recent review of Modern Kosmology. What is it about the LP, and your last one The Silver Globe, that seems to have captured people’s hearts?
Having been a musician for so long, I got bored of guitars and needed to do something different on my own. But, having done a couple of solo projects without the band, I made an executive decision to start working with the band again for The Silver Globe. I wanted to incorporate the heavier electronic elements with a greater pop sensibility, and I guess that’s why people enjoy it. My kids like it, so that’s a good thing!
Finally, what can people expect from your live show who haven’t seen it before?
Well, it will be with the full band and I do act stuff out sometimes. I never watch any footage of myself live because I never want to know what I look like – I do lose myself a fair bit! This time round we’ve also got visuals from [Forest Swords and The Coral collaborator] Sam Wiehl as well, so it should be even more of a spectacle.
Jane Weaver plays LIMF Summer Jam on 23rd July, Skeleton Coast Festival on 5th August, and Liverpool Psych Fest on 22nd September. Modern Kosmology is out now on Fire Recordings.