Best of 2015: SOAK: “I don’t know what I expected to happen”

SOAK: “I don’t know what I expected to happen”

Debut albums and Mercury nods would change most people for good. Not Bridie. A year on, she’s still hiding in bins.

“I don’t know what I expected to happen but it’s been a very good year,” says SOAK, a year on from appearing in DIY’s Class of 2015. “I knew the album was coming out, so I was really hoping it would do well,” she says. “ And then I was hoping that we would continue to earn, doing lots of festivals and shows… It’s what we’ve done.” As simple as that. No big deal.

Last Christmas feels like an eternity away now, well before the BBC ‘Sound Of’ longlist, the release of her debut LP ‘Before We Forgot How to Dream’, and the Mercury Prize nomination and accompanying choruses of critical praise. It’s been a dizzyingly fast leap from the ranks of an emerging artist to a household name. Nowadays Bridie Monds-Watson hardly ever gets nervous before her gigs. When she does “it’s usually a good thing ‘cos it gives you a bit of adrenalin, some added excitement to go on and have a cool show,” she shrugs.

By her own admission the Mercury nomination she got for her debut was a “surreal but humbling” experience. “The whole thing took me by surprise,” Bridie admits. “I was on tour in Vienna. I wasn’t shocked but it didn’t really sink in for ages.” The ceremony, on the other hand, was exactly what she was expecting - “right corporate and then a booze-up afterwards”. All of the SOAK gang went out to party in Soho after the awards. “It was a lot of fun, and a very long night,” she remembers in a slightly conspiratorial tone of voice.

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“When I feel the need to talk is usually when I start writing.”

Bridie Monds-Watson

‘Before We Forgot How to Dream’ is a delicate and charming coming-of-age record, a collection of observations telling the stories of people closest to Bridie. Given that some of the songs were penned when she was only thirteen and a long way away from the world of international touring and major awards, do they still have relevance to her now? SOAK sees it in fairly unassuming terms. “I’ve been playing the songs on this album for several years, and it’s kind of becoming more difficult to put yourself back in the shoes of the person I was when I wrote them,” she reasons.

When it comes to writing new material, she readily admits that friends and family, and “just real life stuff”, remain the source of her inspiration. “When I feel the need to talk is usually when I start writing,” she adds, with a quiet confidence. “I’m more mature and independent. Since I was 15 I’ve been touring, and doing a lot of music-related stuff. I guess I just know myself a bit better and know a lot more about music.” She pauses and chuckles. “Yeah, kind of normal things.”

At times it feels Bridie is a little uncomfortable with all the attention she’s getting. She doesn’t want any fuss, and just wants to get on with writing new music. Said new music is something she’s more than happy to talk about. The current plan is to make a noisy second album. “Mainly because I’ve been listening to a lot of loud bands, reading a lot about those bands, and about the 80s and 70s,” she says. “I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from those kind of people.” Although she still cites Radiohead as a major influence, she’s also got a lot of love for DIY Class of 2016 stars The Japanese House and Rat Boy. “I’ve started doing demos, and I’m really interested in drum patterns,” SOAK says of progress towards new material, “but that’s mainly it so far.”

“I don’t know what I expected to happen but it’s been a very good year,”

Bridie Monds-Watson

Back home in Derry for Christmas, SOAK is enjoying a brief spell of normal life again. Whether that means hiding in bins (“I was in the bin ‘cos I was surprising my friend when I got home from a tour. I’ve also hidden in the box before to surprise him.”) or skateboarding, she seems remarkably laid back about everything.

Three days after Christmas SOAK is heading off on tour again; to Australia for 3 weeks. For now, however, it’s holiday time. “The night before Christmas, my two brothers and I usually try to convince our parents to let us open our presents,” she says. “Just normal things like that. My actual plan is to wake up on Christmas morning, eat a lot of food, drink a lot and then sleep. A perfect day.”

Photo: Mike Massaro / DIY. SOAK’s Mercury-nominated debut album ‘Before We Forgot How to Dream’ is out now.