Self-Portrait: Fears

Fears’ debut album Oíche has been a long time coming. Formed over the course of five years by the Irish artist, the deeply personal record intertwines the folk traditions of her home country with a gloomier, cold wave sound and sparse production.

Oíche means night in Gaelic, and Fears seems at home in the shadows, never shying away from dark subject matter. Self-produced and released on her own label TULLE, most of the album was made in her bedroom, or in the hospital she was admitted to for mental health treatment. Across Oíche, it’s this formative experience that she reflects on with a heart-wrenching honesty.

Alongside an interview about how she got into music and the inspirations behind her work, her Self-Portrait mix meshes tracks from the album with earlier demos and remixes from friends. Some parts of it are re-recorded live, especially for STW. 

Fears debut album Oíche is out now via TULLE.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

Probably listening to ‘Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’ by Gloria Estefan in my mam’s yellow Toyota Starlet. She was really into that song, and by proxy, we were all really into that song. 

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

I didn’t really have much of a musical upbringing to be honest. My parents liked music but didn’t play. My granda used to sing in his church choir, which he was really passionate about, and some cousins played some instruments, but I’m the only one in my extended family to actually pursue music. I used to watch Top Of The Pops a lot as a child and that’s when I decided I wanted to learn the drums. I had my first lesson on my 9th birthday.

What led you into music production?

As a teenager I spent the majority of the time when I wasn’t in school, in my bedroom. When I was in my late teens, I started to open my eyes to the idea that maybe I could do music other than playing the drums. As much as I love drumming, I wanted to start song writing. I had had some guitar lessons a few years prior but wasn’t feeling very confident with it.

I got a laptop that I could record music on when I was 18 and it pretty much changed everything for me. To be able to experiment for hours on end alone in my room, not having to worry about anyone else hearing it, gave me space to experiment and build up my confidence. To this day I use a version of GarageBand from 2012 to record and produce my music. I studied sound engineering and learned ProTools and Logic etc, but I realised that my favourite way of working is with the limitations that basic GarageBand offers me.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

A huge inspiration for me was SBTRKT. As a drummer, he really opened my eyes to how I could use my background in drumming to my advantage as a producer and songwriter. 

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

I don’t really go into a studio, haha. I record almost everything in my bedroom in these bursts. It’s very rare for me to have a full day dedicated to recording where I’ll end up with something I actually like. For me, it happens while I’m living life. There have been numerous times where I’ve been in the shower and have to get out and sing into my phone, then get back in to wash the conditioner out of my hair. When I lived in Ireland and had a car, I used to get a lot of ideas while driving. I’d have to pull over, record whatever melody or beat idea awfully on my phone, and then continue on my journey. 

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

I’ve tried to approach song writing and production like this before, but it always ends up leaving me feeling bad about myself if I can’t get it to that destination. I usually know what mood I want the song to be, because odds are I’m already feeling that mood when I start writing. But sometimes you surprise yourself. You write something and think “wow I had no idea I was still really angry about that”. 

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

This actually completely depends on the song. I like having different elements of tracks sound sonically different, put together kind of like a scrap book. That means that sometimes the vocals that end up on the finished track could have been recorded on my MacBook microphone, because I would have tried to re-record them properly, but the feeling isn’t there. Other times I’ll sit there EQing a synth for two months. 

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

I usually want there to be a balance of electronic and acoustic elements in a track. Generally speaking, I start with the beat. I’m gonna say 90% of the time the vocal melody and lyrics come last. I think I find it easier to express my feelings through the musicality of a song, and then get around to putting it into actual words. 

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

All of my music is original. I think some of it ends up sounding like samples because of my recording technique, where I’ll have used different microphones or different locations so it feels like a jigsaw, but all the music created is mine. 

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Fears track?

My laptop and Garageband 6.0.5. Maybe my phone too. 

This mix is comprised of 100% original Fears material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

This mix is a combination of tracks from my debut album Oíche, and a bunch of demos. There’s also a remix in there by my friend Stephen Henry in Belfast. Some of them are performed live, some are pre-recorded. I wanted to keep it feeling quite natural. 

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

I have the final video and single from the album coming out in late August, and I’ll be putting out a version of one of the demos in the mix in October, with my late friend Sophie Williams playing cello on it, which I feel very lucky to have. 

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

Comments are closed.