Kerry Andrew has been performing as You Are Wolf since 2011, exploring English and American folk and original leftfield pop with touches of electronica, spoken word and wild vocal techniques. On Saturday 30 September 2017, she joins experimental Swiss percussionist Serge Vuille and composer Jack Sheen for 2017's first BBC Radio 3 Open Ear concert, an evening of cutting-edge contemporary music at LSO St Luke's. Ahead of her performance, Kerry gave us some insight into the driving forces behind her forthcoming album, and what we can expect from You Are Wolf on 30 September.
I like a theme. My debut album as You Are Wolf explored British birds and folklore, and the theme seemed to seep into a good chunk of my creative output. My commissions as a classical/new music composer were rather birdy for a while, and my first novel, out in January expands still further on one of those avian ballads on my first album. But even the best of themes needs refreshing every once in a while, and I moved on to water, among other things, as a creative inspiration after developing a deep love of outdoor swimming, whether that be round-the-year swimming at Brockwell Lido in South London, or merrily plunging into a river, lake or tidal pool. I was commissioned to write a ‘wild swimming’ opera for the Tête à Tête Festival in 2013, and Dart’s Love won a British Composer Award (hooray!).The flow doesn’t seem to be stopping, and my second novel-in-progress features a wild swimmer as its protagonist. I loved using a theme for my first You Are Wolf album as a way of gathering together a mixture of traditional and original songs, spoken word and a few field recordings, and wanted to do the same for the next one. Ergo, water it was!
I decided to go, more specifically, with freshwater. It’s very easy to find songs about the sea on our island, but I thought it would be fun to seek out songs and stories immersed in the rivers, lakes, lochs and streams of our landscape. It was trickier than I thought at times, especially because I had decided to avoid lots of songs which included women being drowned or downtrodden… I’ve ended up with a motley collection which includes traditional English and Scottish songs about water sprites and weeping ladies (OK there ARE one or two!), waterfall banshees and canny lasses. Original songs feature the vengeful rivers and dragonflies (thought to be naiads) of traditional folklore and I have also written a song inspired by ‘water defenders’, chiefly the Dakota Pipeline protestors. I set an Anglo-Saxon charm, one of our oldest texts, using both the original Anglo Saxon and my own loose adaptation. I gathered field recordings of water from Ireland and have also been using some collected by the three primary school age girls on Fair Isle, where I worked last summer.
The project and album has recently acquired a new name, one which I discovered in Robert MacFarlane's brilliant collection of the language of landscape, 'Landmarks'. ’Keld' is an old northern English word meaning the slow, deep, still part of a river. I can imagine some of these traditional songs just there in those calm depths, ready to be heard if anyone wants to sing them.
For this project, I’ve expanded the band to include multi-instrumentalist Sam Hall and percussionist Peter Ashwell. We took ourselves off to West Sussex to write/arrange the first five songs and the rest developed slowly when we could grab some time together. So, the songs are very much a collaborative effort!
Right now the album is in the mixing stage, with very creative production being done by brilliant producer, vocalist, songwriter and all-round guru MaJiker. Lisa Knapp’s provided a guest vocal and my favourite poet and now editor, Robin Robertson, is reading Gerard Manley Hopkins on it. The album’s hopefully coming out in early spring next year, and before that we’re playing the set at LSO St Luke’s on 30 September and touring it in October on one of Sound UK’s fab rural venues tours.
Now I’m off for a swim! See you on the road.
You Are Wolf will perform at the BBC Radio 3 Open Ear concert on 30 September 2017. Find out more.