Gretel on Bob Fosse and working with Mura Masa for her new single 'Far Out'

Interview Gretel: “I’ve decided I just want to write good songs that create new paths in indie music”

To mark the release of her huge new single ‘Far Out’, we catch up with Gretel to find out more about what she’s got in store for her exciting next chapter.

Gretel (fka Gretel Hänlyn, who we tipped back in December to be part of DIY’s illustrious Class of 2024) has this week returned in statement-making fashion with the release of ‘Far Out’, her first new music of the year. 

Once again written alongside her frequent creative collaborator Mura Masa, the single follows on from Gretel’s 2023 ‘Head Of The Love Club’ EP and her 2022 debut project ‘Slugeye’, and once again sees the 22-year-old make significant strides towards building her own distinctive sonic and visual world. To mark the arrival of ‘Far Out’ - which lands alongside a cinematic video in which she pays tribute to the iconic Bob Fosse with a groovy bout of mesmerising, ’60s-inspired choreo - we spoke to Gretel about the track’s creation and what’s on the cards for the rest of 2024. 

Hey Gretel, last time we spoke to you was just before Christmas for our Class of 2024 tips issue - what have you been up to in the six months since then?
Yeah, I think I was on tour at the time, right? I’ve been squirrelled away writing since then and immersing myself in building a visual and creative world for the upcoming releases. I’m full of references now - I’ve gotta say, I love the control that gives me.

During that chat, you described your intentions for your new material as penning things that were "challenging but accessible; beautiful but grotesque" - how has that viewpoint translated onto what you've been writing?
I think I’ve managed to find the perfect balance for myself of making my new material just as accessible, if not more so, as my previous work, whilst also challenging the genre forward. I think when I said that stuff to you I meant I wanted to challenge the listener, because I had writer's block and wanted to rationalise my bad writing! But since then, I’ve decided I just want to write good songs that create new paths in guitar and indie music, rather than going down the same well trodden route.  

Your new track 'Far Out' is a big tune, but in a pleasingly odd way! Tell us a bit about how it came together and what musical world you wanted it to live in.
Thank you! As I said, I had writer's block, and there was a lot of pressure to provide a single so I didn’t get ‘forgotten’ or whatever. I was in the studio with Mura and told him about the pressures and we decided to quite simply just make a single. It was painfully straightforward compared to all the months of fruitless torture surrounding it! But what helped me write it was how satirically I viewed the song and its hooks - everything about it is so aloof and borderline.

You told us previously that the track was about a long-distance relationship where "he was far away but he also loved to do drugs so he was pretty far out…” How did you try to capture that sentiment on the track?
It was a bit of a chicken vs egg thing - I started singing about this guy being ‘far out’, like being far from my ‘shore’, and then that started morphing into the hippy meaning of far out, which influenced all the groovy guitars and ‘60s aloof tones in the song. Those obnoxious beeps were almost too aloof for me, until I made the music video concept and realised that the beeps helped translate the Fosse tone of the video. 

Has the subject of the song listened to it? If so, what did they make of it…
Yeah, I was at the beginning of our time together when I wrote it and I showed it to him. He loved it but hated the beeps, which ended up being another reason to keep them haha! Funnily enough, we actually met through him being a fan of my music, so he was already more inclined to like it. What he hasn’t heard is all the music I wrote after him - there are at least three singles coming up that are about it, and it’s some of my best stuff.

The video is already making a play for one of the year's most instantly iconic offerings - well done on that. How did you land on the Bob Fosse tribute and what Gretel spin did you want to put on it?
Oh blimey, thank you! It was actually Mura that showed me The Aloof dance scene from Sweet Charity, after I said I wanted to do a deadpan dance in a video. I’m an awkward person but also weirdly confident in it, especially when dancing, so I can see why he thought of me. It all came so naturally when I started fleshing out the concept and making the dance. There’s Fosse references all over the video. Making the choreo and getting the concept just right was hard work, but the vision was so clear from the get-go so I knew I had to make it perfect. Also when it came to choreo, I knew I had to really put the work in, because it just had to completely represent my character and the song. To tie it into my Gothic influences, we added in Nosferatu-esque shadowplay and some funny camerawork that belongs in The Office, and voila! Sorry I’m rambling - I’ve got a lot to say about that video!

How was it learning the routine and giving that performance? Are you someone that regularly busts a move when you're out or did you have to challenge yourself to commit to the concept?
It was actually super easy to commit to the concept; it’s already the way I like to boogie. It was hard coming up with the routine though - it took 20+ hours and I had so many panic attacks about it. But once I was working with Charlotte Edmunds (co-choreo and an actual professional) and she was teaching me how to do the moves properly, it all became so enjoyable. But yeah I don’t dance often - I’m awkward and off-putting in da club, but when I do, I go all out. I hope to court someone who’s on the same wavelength as me on the dance floor one day… (so, someone who’s also on the spectrum). 

Both the video and, in its own way, the track, have quite a '60s, slightly Warhol-y, Pop Art-y feel. Is that something we can expect going into the next phase of Gretel?
The ‘60s thing I do really love, but my new stuff isn’t allll like that - each song has its own personality that way though, and they’re all nuggets of my personality and what I find cool. I’d say the Gothic and aloof is the confluence vein, more so than the ‘60s/Warhol vibe.

You're keeping up the collab with Mura Masa on this new track - what is it about that partnership that works so well for you? What's he like as a collaborator?
That’s ma boy right there. I’ve learnt that being creative with your friends is a beautiful thing. He understands me fundamentally and knows me, so he knows how to make a song feel like me in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to word to him. I could talk for days about him to be honest; as a collaborator, he’s got a real talent for really seeing an artist and pushing their strongest qualities through production, no fluff.

What things - musical, visual, people, whatever you like - have been inspiring you of late?
I’m gonna gate-keep my visual references until more stuff is out! I'm feeling really inspired by so many artists right now though, both old and new works. I’ve loved looking at people’s work and trying to understand exactly why it works so well on them - so, not pulling inspo from them as much as just compartmentalising them in my brain. Right now I’m loving Fontaines DC’s lyricism, early PJ Harvey’s musical arrangements, and horror films. 

And what can we expect from you in the second half of 2024?
More music and more videos! 

Tags: Gretel, Listen, Watch, Features, Interviews

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