music | 14 january 2018
Solo experimental pop artist Indi, also known as Indira Force has recently lifted the lid on her debut album, Precipice. Gussie Larkin chats to indi about the past year & what's on the horizon for 2018.
interview: gussie larkin
photographs: russell kleyn
Indi first attracted attention for her distinctive vocals in psychedelic electronic band Doprah, who released their debut album under Flying Nun back in 2016. When Doprah called it a day, Indi was free to pursue her solo project as well as a collaboration with violinist Anita Clarke in the form of ambient duo New Dawn. Indi’s compositions have a strong classical influence, with rich string textures and complex vocal harmonies. Precipice explores the delicate balance between those organic sounds and the disjointed electronic textures that accompany them. Indi showed photographer Russell Kleyn around the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch.
Hey Indi - thanks for talking to us here at Lo & Behold. I trust you’ve been taking some well deserved rest after a pretty busy year. The singles and music videos you released in 2017 received praise from Nick Bollinger and reputable blogs such as The Line of Best Fit and Happy. Then in September you blessed us with your stunning first full length album, Precipice. In light of all that how are you feeling?
Thanks! 2017 was exhausting and it hasn't really stopped to be honest haha.. but I know that it's just the beginning of a lot more work to come. Precipice wouldn't have happened without the willingness and help of some really talented friends, so that left me feeling fortunate to be surrounded by people like that. At the same time, doing something so independently (without a label, budget or PR, etc) had its drawbacks especially when it came to the press stuff - I was lucky to get the attention of those critics and it helped get word out, but you need so much more publicity these days to break through the murky waters of the internet; that was the most tiring aspect of the process.
"The sonic choices all serve the purpose of enlarging the emotions to the brink of intensity, and to create surreal places."
Could you tell us about your new album, Precipice? What motivated you to create a solo album?
I had been writing under my own name before I even joined Doprah, so it felt very natural that I should start cultivating my own body of work at some point. For those who haven't heard it, Precipice is an orchestral and electronic-based album that I wrote over about 2 years. The sonic choices all serve the purpose of enlarging the emotions to the brink of intensity, and to create surreal places. I only realized themes existed there after hearing the album through: the natural world, innocence, mysticism and femininity too i guess, but people should be able to glean whatever meaning from it that feels right. I think artists in general are compelled to communicate internal emotion as well as commentary on the sociological landscape - and that compulsion never seems to go away.
"I think artists in general are compelled to communicate internal emotion as well as commentary on the sociological landscape - and that compulsion never seems to go away."
As well as writing, performing and producing the material for this album you also brought in many other contributors - there were string players, trombonists and an additional mixing engineer just to name a few - that seems like a lot of responsibility! Can you describe the undertaking of this album for us?
I didn't think it was possible without a huge budget, so I kept applying for different funding grants but nothing happened there. For a while I considered just using sample based string libraries, but it sounded like shit. The people who ended up coming on board were immensely talented and clearly doing it for the love.
The first person I recruited was audio engineer Matt Gunn - we live together in Christchurch and share a studio together and he is always the first person I show my work to. He has impeccable taste and loves to do weird edgy stuff.
Anita Clark (aka Motte) is an incredible violinist and has the most beautiful musical instincts. She played on the title track 'Precipice', which was also the first song I wrote in the album, and it was just hours and hours of us recording her playing so many layers - I think like 6 layers per note or something crazy. It is all her on the violin, every note in that one.
Last was Alex Eichelbaum, an arranger and conductor I had been to school with three years ago, who I was not sure would even remember me when I reached out. He was so great to work with, he literally listened through all of my mocked up sample string arrangements and turned them into notation. And then he organized all the orchestral recording sessions, most of which were recorded at Auckland University with a lot of the musicians being students. My favourite recording we did though was probably the saxophonist session, when Alex and three other players came to our studio in Christchurch and did the most cathartic improv i've ever heard - that stuff ended up in the very experimental track 'pith'.
What did you learn about production over this process?
Never try to fix anything in post, if there isn't a good take re-record. Spend more money at the start to save money later down the track. Don't lose sight of the initial idea. People are kinder and more generous than we give them credit for. Everything will take twice as long as you think.
"The most important thing for me is that the songs fulfill their full potential, so the production choices have to serve what the track wants."
Was it important that you have creative control over the sound of the record or was there some room for collaboration?
Of course the sonic aspects are hugely important. I can't imagine just letting go of a song at the mixing stage because that part is really essential in figuring out the main tone of the project. I write immediately into the DAW, so I'm already thinking about sound and adding temporary plug-ins, as well as automating things during that stage. Production and composition are synonymous with one another in my mind, at least one cannot exist without the other in this style of music. Matt is pretty good at reading my mind, which helps - like, I would start to say something and he would already be going to change it. The most important thing for me is that the songs fulfill their full potential, so the production choices have to serve what the track wants. That said, I also like to ensure every possible option has been tried before settling on the final sound.
Christchurch has been your home for a few years now, but I understand you’ve spent some time living in Titirangi too. Do you feel that there’s a connection between where you’re living and your creative output and process?
I grew up in Titirangi, so was living there for about 16 years. When you are younger your brain seems to be a sponge that just absorbs everything, so for me growing up basically in a rain forest was essential to the way I write. I like that theory of how the sound of music in every area of the world corresponds with its environment, so I like to think my music sounds as if it was made in a rainforest. Christchurch City is completely the opposite to that world - industrial and rubble-filled and expansive. Maybe that has started to come into the music too a little bit, I don't know.
"I like that theory of how the sound of music in every area of the world corresponds with its environment, so I like to think my music sounds as if it was made in a rainforest. "
I’ve heard murmurs that you’re heading to Berlin this year - do you have plans for a European tour? What other plans do you have for this project?
Matt and I are heading over on the 14th of March! We are playing our first show in Amsterdam, touring for a few months and then settling in Berlin most likely. We have a lot of friends there and are excited to work with other creatives in the scene, but also nervous about moving. I'm talking to some labels at the moment about physicals for the album, which will be re-released internationally this year including in Japan, where I'm also doing a tour in November under 2670 Records. There is another music video that I am making for Demeter/Cair Paravel, and some très cool electronic artists have also gotten involved in a remix EP of songs from the album including Paperghost, Instant Fantasy, French Concession and Fis. I'm already writing new stuff that is incorporated in the live show and have also been working on film scoring (which is such a dream to do).
Gussie Larkin: @gussielarkin
Russell Kleyn: @russkleyn
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