Lanterns on The Lake - Versions Of Us
Available 2nd June 2023.
The nine songs of Versions Of Us are existential meditations examining life’s possibilities; facing the hand we’ve been dealt and the question of whether we can change our individual and collective destinies. Singer and songwriter Hazel Wilde has no doubt that motherhood fundamentally shifted her perspective. “Writing songs requires a certain level of self-indulgence, and songwriters can be prone to dwelling on themselves,” she says. “Motherhood made me aware of having a different stake in the world. I’ve got to believe that there’s a better way and an alternative future to the one we’ve been hurtling towards. I’ve also got to believe that I could be better as a person, too.”
Mixed by the band’s guitarist Paul Gregory, in the bedroom of his home in North Shields, there is a sense of time and place that runs deep throughout this record.
Opener and lead single “The Likes of Us” documents the state of things (“Oblivion howls for these gutted streets / Boarded shops cower in defeat”) but sublimates observations into a mantra of resolve (“I won’t let this spark die in me”). It heralds Versions of Us as the band’s most cohesive and concise record yet, with its pervading sense of empowerment encapsulated in Wilde’s startling vocal performances. Her voice soars with previously unheard force on an album austere in its beauty, with its shifting sands of searing guitar, fluttering vintage synths and swarming melodic lines, topped with glistening strings from Angela Chan.
Given some of its themes, a biting irony is found in an entire previous version of the record being discarded. Mental health struggles and personal problems in the band had a big impact on how the initial version took shape. “Despite trying everything we could to make it work we reached the point where we just had to stop” Wilde explains. Drummer Ol Ketteringham parted ways with the band, something Wilde says was “heartbreakingly difficult as we were and still are extremely close”. The band scrapped nearly a year’s worth of work, regressing to song demos with just Wilde performing with a single instrument as they began again with Radiohead’s Philip Selway joining the album sessions on drums and percussion.
“Philip brought an energy to the songs that reignited our belief in them,” says Wilde. A bravura drumming performance informs the majestic future single “String Theory”, as Selway adds multiple rhythmic elements, driving in lock-step with the band on a song that finds solace in the multiverse theory. “Within a few weeks we had a whole other version of the album and things felt very different,” Wilde continues. “We had changed the destiny of the record.”
Despite the difficulties in its genesis, Versions of Us is the most empowering album yet from the band. In exploring whether we can change fate or are doomed to repeat the same mistakes in life, this powerful collection of songs ultimately alights on hope. As closer “Last Transmission” fractures and falls apart over its final two minutes – its wreckage gracefully burning up in the atmosphere – its narrator finds that, “in the last gasp of this old world / You know I think I found the beauty and the good”. It’s also never too late to change course.