Penelope Isles discuss the inspirations behind new album ‘Which Way to Happy’
Penelope Isles just released their second album, Which Way to Happy, which is a big step up for the Brighton band. Jack and Lily Wolter take their already swooning sound and explode it further for a record that is both much bigger and more intimate, and is brimming with wonderful little touches in the arrangements amid tales of anxiety and hope. They worked with Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann on the mix, which gave the album extra oomph. You can read our review here and listen to the album below.
We asked Jack and Lily to tell us about some of the songs and artists that provided inspiration for Which Way To Happy, and they gave us a list of 10 songs by Father John Misty, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, and more. Check out their selections, complete with commentary, below.
PENELOPE ISLES - 10 SONGS THAT INFLUENCED 'WHICH WAY TO HAPPY?'
Grizzly Bear- "Fine For Now"
The guitar tuning for both "Sudoku" and "Terrified" is the same one that Grizzly Bear used on their song "Fine For Now." I was messing around playing along to it years ago and I fell in love with how it sounded. Grizzly Bears’s wobbly reverb delay guitar sound has always been a big inspiration for us when writing guitar parts and recording amps and pedals and what-not. I’ve written lots of songs in this tuning, and while I’m sure they didn’t invent it, it is to them that I owe a small nod of gratitude, so thank you Grizzly Bear. x
The Thrills - "The Irish Keep Gate Crashing" (orchestral version)
There is a secret track at the end of The Thrills second record. It’s an instrumental version of their song ‘The Irish Keep Gate Crashing’ and it’s totally and utterly beautiful. They opened our eyes to string arrangements and this was a song that made us always dream of having strings within our songs. We were really lucky to collaborate with Fiona Brice on a handful of songs on our album. "Pink Lemonade" wouldn’t be the same without the strings for us. Thank you Fiona x
Bon Iver - "Perth"
When recording "11 11," It was a real debate whether to add drums at the end or not. I love those sporadic snares and almost firework-like percussion sounds that Bon Iver used in his earlier recordings. We felt that the only way to introduce them was through a whole epic ‘here it comes’ drum feel. We doubled up a fair few takes to create a marching feel.
EERA - "Reflection of Youth"
Our friend Anna writes and releases music under the name of EERA and her debut record ‘Reflection of Youth’ is a beautiful collection of songs. The title track was a big influence on the chord arrangement for "11.11."
Flaming Lips - "Race for the Prize"
When "Have You Heard" was ready to record, we listened to the demo and really thought it would work having a big drum sound. We didn’t want to directly copy anything but tried to capture something similar in vibe to the compressed room sound that ‘Race For The Prize’ has. We tried crunching the kit up a lot more to bring out a lot of character in the beat. It was ultimately a rare and unique treat to work with the man himself Dave Fridmann on the mixing of our album. If anyone was going to understand some of our inspirations Dave was.
Deerhunter - "Cover Me"
Deerhunter were one of the main reasons our band was formed. They manage to nail the dynamic vs atmospheric whirlwind in rock music that continues to inspire us. One of our favourite DH moments is the way they begin their record Microcastle. This epic wall of sound in some ways inspired the intro to "Miss Moon." The ATP they curated in 2013 was also a huge influence on me, watching them play an album in full each night.
Father John Misty - "True Affection"
I have noticed a couple of bands mention this tune in interviews before. It seems that FJMisty chucking a drum machine half-way through his album evoked a lot of guitar bands to get their EDM on. Equally, when writing demos in my room I tend to use logic drum machine sounds from ‘the drawer’ so most of my songs do initially begin with that kind of bedroom energy before we take them to the studio.
Richard Swift - "Broken Finger Blues"
I love how simple but so well-recorded the drums on this record sound. Such a brilliant sounding tune that inspired some of the drum sounds on our new record.
Wilco - "Impossible Germany" chords
When we were touring America before the pandemic we were hammering "Impossible Germany" and a lot of Wilco. The guitar solos in the midst of this song is something we put on almost every time we are having a drink together. When we were stuck for what to do at the end of "Play It Cool," we thought we should at the very least try and channel our inner "Impossible Germany."
Ren Harvieu - "Teenage Mascara"
When we toured with Ren a few years back, her glamorous northern humour inspired me. She’s such a queen. I think I wanted to be like her just for 1 tune on the record. You have to work out which song that is!