The River Cry is the solo project of former bass player of JJ72, Hilary Woods. In the ten years since she left the band she has been keeping herself busy with numerous artistic endeavours. But now music has once again become her main passion as she returned to the studio in late 2012. Her self titled debut album might be a million miles away from the sounds of her old band but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most stunning Irish albums we’ve heard this year. We caught up with Hilary to find out how it all came together.
► Starting all over again as a “new artist”, how different is it now compared to the early days of JJ72?
Hilary: In general, it feels very different.The journey in the making of this record started out from my sitting down at my piano to write songs some years back.. so from conception the writing and recording process has been of a totally different nature to that in the JJs. These songs are all my own ..so for me its been a more personal affair than life in the band.
► What is your fondest memory looking back on your days in JJ72?
My fondest memory of life in JJ72 is some of the early gigs we played in tiny toilets across Britain and Ireland..visceral gigs played in grotty grimy underground venues with electric atmospheres to audiences that were really appreciative and supportive of the band at grassroots.
We had a great crew who were really fun too.
► You’re now back as “The River Cry”. Have you always wanted to go out and try it on your own?
When I started writing songs my desire to make a record came to the fore and I couldn’t think of much else! But prior to that the idea was something I was drawn to, but not dead set upon.
► Was it a conscious decision to start as a solo project or did you consider forming a new band?
I did consider forming a band, but in the end I just went with my gut with this record and kept everything in-house.
❝I think the best songs for me often happen spontaneously❞
► Those who were fans of JJ72, it’s interesting that your new album is very different to your previous work with the band. How do you feel that you’ve developed your sound over the years?
My own sound developed quite unselfconsciously…like anyone, my tastes have evolved and changed with time. Although I tried damn hard to play other kinds of stuff, the same ol’ sound kept drawing me back…and in the end there was nothing much I could do about it except respond and go with it!
► Your album has a dream-pop like feel, similar to bands such as Beach House. Do you feel like that is fair comparison?
I didn’t foresee the comparisons that have been drawn, but they do make sense. I like and listen to ‘dream -pop’, a lot.
► What artists inspired the sound of your record?
I’d say Francois Hardy, Stina Nordenstam, Karen Dalton, Ry Cooder, Mazzy Star, Cat Power, Rimsky Korsakov, Bonnie Prince Billy, The Breeders and many more besides..
► Where did you record it?
I recorded it in a big old house on the southern most tip of Ireland.
► How much does your environment influence your music? The whole album feels as those you’re painting a grand picture of a landscape or another world.
The songs were written in the city where I felt in many ways claustrophobic, I didn’t have much space to do what I wanted creatively, and I think feeling that way in that urban setting made me want to write songs that had that sense of wide open space somewhere I could escape to and exhale. The place where the album was recorded too was quite remote, so time seemed to stretch there.. and I think the expanse of that environment somehow made its way on to the album. The songs are also little vignettes of the heart, recording the peaks and troughs of an inner landscape that is so often veiled in reality.
► What is the writing process like for you? Are you always writing new music or do you work best while on a focused recluse?
It varies greatly. I think the best songs for me often happen spontaneously, and in terms of how often I write -a lot depends on whether I can be present to my ideas as they arise. Real life tends to interrupt..a lot!
► What kind of themes do you feel are expressed in the album? Would you describe it as a record of reflection?
In many ways yes, but by and large thematically. I’d say the album is one of longing.
► One of the more unique tracks on your album is “Miaow”, where you sample the sound of a cat and mimic the sound yourself. It’s a very poignant moment in the record. What’s the story behind that song?
Miaow is a song about trying to rid oneself of a particular feeling from the past that keeps reappearing and threatening to hijack a present moment.. hence all the repetition. It was a poignant moment recording it because I was brought back to confront and articulate certain feelings by way of song.
► The record is quite minimalist. Do you often strip back some of your songs or do you prefer to give the instruments more space by bringing them to the forefront?
I very much wanted to create a spacious feel to the entire record but I write quite minimally too. In recording these songs I felt they wouldn’t be served by being beefed up sonically.. I did however experiment with throwing more sounds at the canvas, but they didn’t stick!
► Have you got any live dates lined up?
Not yet, but I shall keep you posted.