Half Waif tells us about the influences of his new LP ‘Mythopoetics’
Demi Waifthe new album of, Mythopoetic, released today via ANTI-. Nandi Rose called it “the record I’ve been trying to make for 10 years”, and in our review we wrote:
Half Waif (aka Nandi Rose) had originally planned to release in the studio for a stripped-down solo piano album, but once there, she and producer Zubin Hensler ended up pursuing the maximalist pop art direction of last year. The Guardian. It’s full of synths and studio tips as an instrument, but under all the futuristic arrangements you can hear the remnants of Nandi’s original plan for the album. The piano is widely used, and these sound a lot like songwriter songs that would perform in a solo acoustic setting; all the added elements make them even more impressive. Some songs still sound like dark ballads (“Fabric”, “Sourdough”), while others are glitchy and punchy (“Take Away the Ache”, “Fortress”), and “Party’s Over” is one of the Half Waif’s most purely pop moments. again. It has an immediacy that most other songs only evoke, but that doesn’t eclipse them. “Party’s Over” is a great way to attract people, but once you’re here there is so much to explore in the immersive world of Mythopoetic.
Nandi told us about the album’s influences, which include concert halls, instruments, books, musical artists, and more. Read his list and comments, and distribute Mythopoetic, below.
Half Waif is touring North America in support of Mythopoetic in November, including a New York date at the Bowery Ballroom on November 15 and an LA date at The Echo on November 2. See all dates here.
DEMI-WAIF’S MYTHOPETIC INFLUENCES
1. In December 2019, Zubin and I were fortunate enough to have a registration residency at Dough arts at Gainesville FL. This experience really started this whole record. It’s a beautiful studio, and beyond that it’s a strong community – a group of artists who have built something super special and opened their doors to let others experience the magic. The vibe that was presented to us was one of full support and relaxed kindness, and I am so grateful to the folks at Pulp who created the most welcoming space to imagine the first seeds of mythopoetics. I don’t think this album would have seen the light of day without the catalyst for this residency and the warmth that awaited us.
2. Beyond the walls of Pulp, Gainesville itself was an incredibly inspiring place for us. We drove around town with the roof down in our rented VW Bug convertible and made numerous trips to Sweetwater Nature Reserve, where we got up close and personal with alligators, cranes, herons and tons of other species of birds. I had just gotten into birding on my honeymoon a few months ago, so it was a pretty spectacular way to spend the morning before going into the studio.
3. The Indigo Bunting and the life of Edna Saint-Vincent Millay. I read this book, by Vincent sheean, in August 2020. It was a gift from the mother of my best friend, who knows how much I love birds and poetry and is herself an ornithologist and poet. It couldn’t have been a more prescient gift. As I read this book on the dock at my family’s cabin in Maine, I was amazed at the number of connections I had with Edna St. Vincent Millay – beyond birdwatching and nature. poetry, she lived next door to me in Columbia County, NY, and been in Maine like I have done my whole life. Her favorite bird was the indigo sparrow, which is also one of my favorites. At the time, I was looking for a title for the album, and I felt deep inside that I would find it in this book. Sure enough, the author described Edna as having a “mythopoetic presence” and I immediately knew I wanted to call the album Mythopoetic. A dense and academic title which, once unstuck, reveals the tender windings of myth and poetry.
4. The owl is a beautiful little place in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens area of Brooklyn. Zubin invited me to play a show there in March 2019, a solo piano placed on a real piano. It’s not something I get to do very often, and I think Zubin invited me for that exact reason – the last time we did a gig together in this kind of arrangement, that was in 2014, at the New Amsterdam Records warehouse in Red Hook. , where we played a set with piano, vocals and effects trumpet. It was a really special atmosphere and space, and that sound has always kind of hovered at the back of our musical relationship. Getting together again in this way at The Owl reminded us both of that special sonic connection, and with that fresh in our minds, we went to Pulp to make a piano record that focused more on live performance. Things finally took a turn when we drove to the airport at the end of the residence and played the songs in our convertible thinking, “Oh my God, every song is so sleepy and slow!” Even our most catchy song fell flat during this listen. That’s when we really changed our mindset and widened the edges of the album to bring more pop influence. But the mainstays of that original piano album remain, with tracks 1, 6 and 12 carrying the sonic memory of that show to The Owl.
5. The bugle is for Zubin what the piano is for me: a first instrument from which we moved away and towards which we consciously returned for this album. It was important for both of us to find a new voice and a new context in which to use our instruments. The song “Powder” is a good representation of this and in many ways resembles the soul of the record. On this track, Zubin’s horn stands out as a full-fledged voice, almost as if it is responding to the vocal line. And the horn, like singing, requires so much physics, channeling the breath through the body. I was really inspired by all the many textures he was able to get from his instrument.
6. After Pulp, we continued to work on the record in Zubin’s studio in Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Our sessions were fueled by amazing Mexican food purchased from a take out display case right next to the metro. Flushing up the songs in that setting seemed like the next chapter in the record’s life – like Gainesville was college years and Sunset Park was his early 20’s time to end up in the big city. Here we upped the intensity, bringing in more electronic sounds suited to New York’s industrial soundscape.
7. When it came time for me to write more upbeat pop songs for the album, I was listening to a lot of Christine and the queens, especially the album Chris. This album is hit after hit. Writing and producing pop songs is so good, but it’s also her vocal delivery that really hit me. It’s full of strength and boastfulness, but also capable of communicating something deeper and more raw. And these vocal arrangements!
8. FKA Twigs, Madeleine is the other album that I consciously thought of as a source of inspiration at the time of recording Mythopoetic. Madeleine does so much of what I want to do, mixing wild experimental production with piano ballads and emotional vocal delivery. Hearing this, I felt encouraged that we could make a record like this. Twigs has constantly broadened the meaning of what is possible on an album, especially a pop album. Yes, a pop album can have a solo piano. Yes, a pop album can have deep rhythms that are not always dancing. His music and his art are so inspiring on so many levels.
9. I am a deep Tolkien fan. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths and world building, and The Lord of the Rings in particular has been a kind of spiritual compass for me since childhood. With Mythopoetic, I wanted to tap into that world-building spirit and create my own version of an epic, amplifying the little details of my life and family stories into something much bigger. When it came time to do the visuals for the album, I turned to Tolkien again, referring to King Theoden in the music video for “Swimmer” and the image of an elf princess in “Orange Blossoms” . I think there was a time in my life when I was embarrassed by how much I love this fantasy world, but now I embrace it fully. My friends even threw me a the Lord of the Rings-themed bachelorette party. An important revelation and a reminder for me while working on this record is that caring is cool. And it’s important to honor the things that nourish you.
10. I thought a lot about traces and the things that remain when the main presence of something is gone. It’s like when you close your eyes and you can still see the image you were looking at. This idea is everywhere on the record, spectrally and narratively. It’s an absence that is nonetheless lively – like the wasteland where my childhood home once stood, throbbing with the memory of staring at the meteor (referenced in “Powder”). And the slight taste of solitude in a crust of bread (in “Levain”). And the ghost of an orange blossom signaling the presence of someone who is no longer there (in “Orange Blossoms”). The sound analogue of this concept is a texture that we used a lot during the recording and which we called “piano dust”: quieter, more impressionistic textures taken from the piano, like when we walked inside. piano and create ambient strummings by rubbing the strings. It’s like fairy dust sprinkled on the tracks, something you might not even hear, but feel the absence of when it’s gone.