Today’s track of the day comes from Natalie Bouloudis with ‘Burning Pier’.
Taking influence from the likes of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Kate Bush, Bouloudis is a narrative songwriter who tells stories through her music; her instinct and imagination fuelling her unique and compelling artistic vision. With lyrics that tend to verge between fiction and reality, there is a dark romanticism surrounding her compositions; her distinctively soulful vocals lending a visceral quality to her folky arrangements.
‘Burning Pier’ is the lead single from her debut EP ‘Dead Sea Scripts’ and it’s a mesmerising introduction to the singer. Derived from a short story she once wrote, the track is full of smouldering atmospherics that is befitting of its title, allowing her smoky vocals to shine. GIGsoup caught up with Boloudis to hear about the track and her influences.
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Can you tell us a bit about ‘Burning Pier’ and the meaning behind it?
‘Burning Pier’ is the first track from my debut EP ‘ Dead Sea Scripts’ which will be released in the New Year. The song grew out of an apocalyptic short story I once wrote inspired by some of my favourite nautical references and figments from the Sussex coastline near where I grew up. The song uses the event of smouldering wood sinking into the ocean as a metaphor for that light-bulb moment when shock and disaster strike so we see everything differently – both the past and the future.
Can you describe the relationship between fiction and reality in your music?
For me song-writing is all about telling stories and creating an atmosphere. There’s definitely a friction in my music between the imagined and other moments of stripped real-life experiences. Part of narrative always involves putting yourself in there, sometimes you want to be more like Bowie and sometimes you want to be more like Ziggy Stardust.
There’s a strong narrative behind it…. What influences your way of writing?
I think I suddenly feel this moment of inspiration and it’s a rush to capture that. It’s like that feeling when you just woke up from a dream and you need to write it down before you forget it entirely. Burning Pier was first thinking about the atmosphere of my story and then it surfaced as these two riffs you hear between the violin and guitar in the chorus, I still have a recording of me singing both parts on my phone whilst trying to be subtle on a bus. It was amazing when the conversation between the two instruments came together
What other narrative storytellers would you cite as influences?
I’ve always appreciated those artists who somehow manage to be poets and accomplished musicians at the same time, people like Fiona Apple, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, and of course the late great Leonard Cohen. Equally, literature has been important in my song-writing too. When I was younger I loved Hans Christian Anderson as well as the idea of mythological creatures, I am naturally drawn to surreal and ethereal things, gothic literature, and apocalyptic themes. There’s also a part of me which would like to incorporate all the elements of a film-noir too.
It sounds very accomplished for a debut single. Do you go into the studio with a strong idea of how you want your songs to sound or is there a degree of experimentation?
Wow, thanks! The song was recorded live at Wax Studio in London and with that sort of recording you do have to practice to master the arrangement beforehand but also acknowledge that it’s never going to be exactly the same every time. Burning Pier is just all of us in one room, with the thunderclap moment of a good take and it was really important for me to distil the elements you get from live performance. We only added Hannah’s (who drums on the track) shimmering Rhodes piano overdubs. Also the use of the Echoplex effect really catches that almost ‘Riders On The Storm’ feeling of eternal foggy waters at the end.
When did you start writing and performing?
I’ve been scribbling lyrics and playing around with tunes for as long as I can remember but I didn’t launch myself as a singer-songwriter until about three years ago. I initial played acoustic guitar under the moniker Aurora Harbinger and used to make lo-fi home recordings on a laptop in my kitchen. I quickly found myself playing all around London and before I knew it I had a band and it just felt like it was time to record a proper EP.
If you could write a song for one artist who would it be?
I think it would be really cool to work with David Lynch, he’s the king of eerie drama and red curtained smoky stages after all.
Describe 2016 in three words?