To celebrate the release of her debut EP, ‘Book of Shadows’, Melbourne creative Witching Hour, aka Claire Quartz, takes us through the eclectic release track by track.
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains discussion of mental health. If you are suffering from any of the issues that have been discussed or need assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
A book of shadows is a type of journal kept by a witch. This release is my sonic book of shadows from the past couple of years, and tells stories of love, loss, self-reclamation, mental health battles, damaging relationships, creepy dudes, and grief.
It’s a collection of formative, defining experiences, distilled in musical form. The songs were written between 2018-2020, a time where I stared down many of my own shadows, and had experiences both exhilarating and devastating. I like to think of Book Of Shadows as a chronicle of those years, a musical diary of sorts.
It features tracks that I worked on with my wonderful friends Ezekiel and Michael, my lovely pal Tim Palstra, and my dad also mastered all of the songs. We worked on production for some of my earlier tracks together too, which was so much fun. To my synaesthetic mind, Book Of Shadows is a dynamic, swirling artwork full of every shade of pink imaginable.
Queen Of Wands encapsulates the magic of choosing yourself. I wrote this song in early 2020, during a time where I was living on my own in a super cute apartment with my gorgeous cat Armie, and I had experienced a total paradigm shift after a string of damaging relationships. I had always had this urge to swiftly find the right person to spend my life with, and as a result often tried to contort people into that role who were not right for me at all. Then one day I felt something deep within me suddenly say ‘STOP!’, and I just completely let go of control over that outcome, and sat with the fear of the unknown.
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As soon as I faced the darkness and uncertainty, I felt myself come alive again. I felt like my truest and most authentic self again, and felt colour and life fill my body for the first time since I was about 15. I relished my time in that apartment, hanging with my cat (who you can hear purring in the verses!), taking myself out on dates, and while in that transformative little cocoon I found myself resonating with the tarot archetype Queen Of Wands - fiery, independent, passionate, joyous, and deeply in touch with her own shadows. I also reference two other tarot cards in the track - The Fool and The World. Overall, Queen Of Wands celebrates a powerful return to self.
Comedown was written about the despair and desperation of ending a relationship with a partner who was struggling with alcoholism. I was in a relationship that I watched slowly disintegrate, and while I tried to keep things together he continued to drink more and more, and treated me worse and worse.
I had reached a place where I was being hurt too much to continue, and knew it had to end. I had grieved our relationship while we were still together, so by the time it actually ended I had little attachment left and my feelings for him had died out, so I just felt sad for him, and sorry for our past selves that things had gotten to the point where I had to wave my white flag to his red flags. Comedown captures those feelings and resentments I held towards him.
As Above, So Below follows a dialogue between my ‘light’ and ‘shadow’ selves. The first verse and chorus are written from the perspective of my light self, desperately trying to outrun and outsmart my own darkness, and the second verse and chorus show the perspective of my shadow self, who is trying to welcome my light self with open arms, and show her the wisdom that lies in her own underbelly. The song reflects the duality within, and the personal power and self-understanding that can be attained through uniting these light and dark aspects of oneself.
As Above, So Below is about my own mental health battle, and was written during the first lockdown in 2020. I was already living alone and working from home prior to the pandemic, but lockdown gave me even more time than usual to sit with my own demons. I have struggled for a long time with OCD, anxiety, and depression, but it always felt like there was more going on within myself that I couldn’t quite get on top of or understand - as though my shadow self was always one step ahead of me. During the second lockdown in the later half of the year, I got diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and I find it so interesting going back and listening to this track, and seeing that struggle (that I definitely still deal with) inside my own head, as it so deeply reflects what I was yet to learn about myself.
Hell Hath No Fury Like was written about a boy who stirred up trouble in my life when I re-partnered. It playfully pokes at the way he quietly sulked and seethed at the choices I made after our relationship ended, causing issues in our social circle without ever having the courage to discuss it with me directly. The song captures the transformative self-reclamation I experienced, the empowerment that comes with refusing to comply with the requests of someone who used to treat you poorly, and showcases the fierce and fiery side of self-love.
Colourblind is an exploration of dishonest, manipulative relationships. It’s about navigating relationships with people who gaslight and lie, while you’re clouded by love and hope for what could be. I drew upon an amalgamation of my own experiences when writing the song, with different lines referencing different ex-partners. The lyrics in the verses each reference a colour of the rainbow, and the track encourages you to liberate yourself from anyone who doesn’t see your ‘colour’, while maintaining a soft vulnerability.
Nice Guy was written about a friend of an ex, who paraded himself as a passionate advocate for social justice and feminism, yet regularly expressed his sexual frustration towards me and many other women in his life through subtle yet uncomfortable, unwanted advances. I would question if it was really happening or if I was making a big deal out of it, and my partner at the time, who was best friends with this person, would often ignore the problem or blame me for the incidents. This track is an exploration of those events, and touches on themes of victim-blaming and gaslighting.
One In A Million is an incredibly special song, one that is very precious to me. For me, songwriting is a way to tame complex, messy emotions, and wrangle them into little sonic soundbites where they can exist outside my brain and body, giving me relief from those heavy feelings. This track is perhaps the most potent example of this process. One In A Million was written in late 2018 and early 2019, as I went through the difficult experience of falling pregnant during a time where I wasn’t in a position to have a child and was not in a healthy relationship with my partner at the time, and it details the grief-riddled journey that followed. I felt torn between the choice I knew was best, and the love I felt for my potential future child. The song is written from the perspective of me talking to that possible future child, and chronicles the complex grief I went through.