stream Sweet Whirl’s new song “Sweetness” ++ read our Q&A with her
We recently named Sweet Whirl's single "Something I Do" one of our favorite songs of February, and now are very pleased to be premiering her next single, "Sweetness." Both songs will appear on the Melbourne artist's upcoming album How Much Works, due May 29 via Chapter Music (pre-order), and like "Something I Do," "Sweetness" sounds like an artist who's wise beyond her years.
Esther Edquist, the brains behind Sweet Whirl, isn't exactly a rookie -- she fronted the band Superstar in the early 2010s and used to play in Scott & Charlene's Wedding -- but she's still on the rise and these new songs sound bolder, louder, and more confident than anything she'd done previously. "Sweetness" reminds me a little of Cat Power or Regina Spektor in their prime, and if you like those artists I highly recommend giving this a listen. Esther says, "I wrote this song from the perspective of an ex-lover I've fallen out with, and them coming to terms with what they needed to say to win me back. Influenced by Merril Bainbridge and The Cure."
Stream the song below, and read on for a brief Q&A we did with Esther...
We're premiering album opener "Sweetness," what can you tell us about the story behind this one?
I bought this old Rhythm Ace FR-8L drum machine which has this setting called 'RockN' Roll2' and when I heard it it reminded me of lots of indie pop songs from the early-mid '90s that used sampled or programmed beats instead of kits, eg. Sophie B Hawkins' "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover," Neneh Cherry's "Woman" and "7 Seconds," and Merril Bainbridge's "Mouth," which uses beatboxing. So with this familiar drum sound, which sounded like a sample even though it was the real deal, I had this very safe, very manageable approach to the big idea of a "pop" song, and once I saw that "in," I had to try it out. So the song began as my attempt to write something "pop," in a very '90s sense, and playing around with some of the tropes of that form.
Some of your earlier Sweet Whirl music and your previous band Superstar was more on the ambient, atmospheric, and/or lo-fi side, but last year's Love Songs & Poetry EP was much clearer with your voice in the forefront and this new album continues that. What inspired the change in approach?
It's not so much a change in approach as a development in skill and confidence. As I became a more confident songwriter, I felt more comfortable bringing my voice forward, leading with melodies, instead of hiding in textures - likewise as I grew as a lyricist, I felt more comfortable having my words heard.
Who were some of your musical influences for this album?
There's a lot of references in this album. At one point of mix-delirium I was asking the mixer, Colin Leadbetter, to make my bass sound like the double bass in Julie London's "Cry Me A River"... or another day I spent a good ten minutes tracking down the exact drum machine sound I had in my head, which was in a song by Tuxedo Moon, or my insistence that another track be completely re-mixed to mirror the sonic layering of Billy Joel's "The River of Dreams," even though it had completely different instrumentation... it fixed the song though. Another time I was trying to make my Hammond organ sound like the terrifying organ in the Zombies' "Butcher's Tale"... only then to realise I was referencing "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" in the piano overdubs... I mean the list goes on, I could release annotated liner notes if anyone was interested. I will just add though - Harry Nilsson and Wilco helped me most in my times of despair.
Sweet Whirl is your solo project but in addition to Superstar you've also played in Scott & Charlene's Wedding. How does the experience of working as a band member vs having all the control as a solo artist compare for you?
Well with SACW I was filling out songs that were already complete, adding piano, while in Superstar we co-wrote everything in a very loose jam style. I still like collaborating with people, but having my own project where I get to call the shots has been a lot of work but also extremely rewarding. I'm tough on myself; it's often easier to please others than to please myself, and with no real pressure to deliver and commit on the final form of songs I was able to tweak songs right up until recording them in a studio. I guess i've been able to get much closer to articulating exactly what I want to hear in my songs, and get closer to revealing what's in my mind.
It's a rough time right now with basically all live shows cancelled. If and when touring finally resumes, who would be your dream tourmate?
Well I mean there's dreams and then there's dreams... like what's Sheryl Crow doing these days? But actually, I saw that Good Morning have had to cancel their tour of the States, and I did think that they'd be fun to tour with, such a lovely bunch of guys and very talented, very dedicated songwriters.