Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram

On Filming On 16mm, Sonic The Hedgehog & Being Like A Boy Scout

12 September 2016 | 2:20 pm | Dylan Stewart

"I value documenting this experience; it's worth having something to look back on so when I'm 80 I can say 'oh, that's what I used to look like'."

More Angel Olsen More Angel Olsen

There she was. Hungover, sand beneath her toes in Byron Bay. Angel Olsen, already a known entity and on tour in Australia, was recovering from the night before by writing arguably the best song of her burgeoning career, Sister. It's nearly eight minutes' worth of music that seems, on face value, to be Olsen at her most fragile; her most vulnerable.

Turns out, it's not as emotional as it first appears. "For me it's a happy song," she says down the line from her adopted home town of Asheville, North Carolina. "It's not a sad song, it makes me laugh. It goes up and down and then you think it's gonna end but it keeps going. I've got some really dark songs but this isn't one."

Such a description shines a different kind of light on the laconic guitar lines that wash through the track, reminiscent of the scene where Olsen wrote the lyrics. It also typifies the second half of MY WOMAN, Olsen's third record. Introspection allows space to fully explore its musical ideas: along with other tracks like Heart Shaped Face and Pops it's a beautiful ballad that follows the more accessible, upbeat half-dozen tracks at the beginning of the album.

"I'd written a couple of songs but I soon hit a point where I didn't write for five months." Playing a small number of shows in Europe over the course of a few weeks allowed Olsen the chance to re-energise. "We'd played in Spain, had a few days off, Portugal, where we played two songs in four days; Istanbul, Athens, and an island in the Mediterranean.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

"I arrived home, though, to receive bad news from some friends. I'd been all up in the clouds then this news hit."

"It was such a beautiful, reflective trip; we were like The Beatles in India or something. I arrived home, though, to receive bad news from some friends. I'd been all up in the clouds then this news hit. Maybe it was a mix of the two head spaces, but I ended up writing five songs that were all very different from each other."

She took the songs into a Los Angeles studio and worked alongside co-producer Justin Raisen until they were just right. After working with the highly regarded John Congleton on her previous release, 2014's Burn Your Fire No Witness, over the past couple of years the relationship Olsen built with Raisen grew stronger and stronger; so strong, in fact, there was no one else to work with on her latest release.

"We would talk on the phone, exchange emails, work on demos... It got to the point where I realised that I just want to work with this person. I want to co-produce something. I want him to be there to help me do it.

"I don't even want to own the co-producer role, because everybody gained something from that experience and none of it would've happened without Justin."

The result, MY WOMAN, is a cohesive work of art that isn't done justice unless listened to in full. And it's one that will be presented to Australian audiences when Olsen, her band, and hopefully a video game or two, tour the country.

"For this trip I'm gonna try to get a SEGA Genesis on the bus and play Sonic The Hedgehog. I also really want to start getting into yoga. I'm getting older now [not really, she's only 29] and playing a guitar every night kind of fucks with my shoulder so I try to get into watching yoga DVDs."

Of course, if she grows out of Sonic and yoga; hell, even if she grows out of music, she'll have a full recount of the time she's spent touring. "We have footage of our shows on 16mm and digital, and one day hopefully we'll do something with it.

"I do intend to bring my 16mm with me on tour again and maybe have some friends join us on tour to take some footage. I value documenting this experience; it's worth having something to look back on so when I'm 80 I can say 'oh, that's what I used to look like'."

Whether she'll still be living in Asheville at 80 is uncertain, but her love of the city - a big town really, with fewer residents than Launceston - seems clear. "It's like a vortex," she begins of the Appalachian town. "We're in a valley in the middle of some of the oldest mountains in the United States.

"We have a milder climate, it's always humid and the air is always really soft. There are beautiful overgrown gardens and it's a really pretty place to live and very calming. It's nice to come home to a place that's quieter.

"Around here, if you don't know how to hike or what to do if there's a bear in your neighbourhood, then you're an idiot. We know a lot about bears and hiking and the wilderness and snakes and shit. The people here are like boy scouts."