Five years after their debut album, and with the band now firmly broken up, it’s a weird point at which we arrive at Woman’s Hour’s ‘Ephyra’. An album they never quite knew if they’d release, the trio’s final word is a gorgeous one, and the added context around it makes every note seem more pertinent, like whispers from the past that they just couldn’t quite leave untouched.
“‘Ephyra’ as a whole is an album that seems to express a wealth of complex emotions,” we wrote in our review of the album. Vocal harmonies are often isolated from the rest of the instrumentation, creating a confounding sadness. Nowhere else is this more obvious than on the closing track, ominously titled ‘Removal of Hope’. Ultimately, ‘Ephyra’ may have been the demise of this band, but Woman’s Hour have created something truly special in these final throes.
With ‘Ephyra’ out now, we spoke to the band - vocalist Fiona Burgess, guitarist Will Burgess and keys player Josh Hunnisett - about their decision to let the album see the light of day, and a sense of unfinished business that they can now put to bed.
Stream ‘Ephyra’ and read the interview below.
What made you begin to decide to release 'Ephyra' after all?
Fiona: I couldn't stand the thought of this album sitting on our hard drives gathering dust. I always hoped we would release this music, but our personal and mental health had to take priority. This album encompasses a chapter of our lives that is over, but that has had a lasting and profound impact. I think now with the dominance of social media there's a big expectation for artists to be communicating with their fans all the time and displaying their productivity. The act of releasing an album after we’ve broken up is in some ways a conscious act of rebellion. It doesn’t fit the protocol of what’s expected of a band. It is a record forged from remains, a kind of post-mortem examination. Where Conversations was more of an inward looking record, Ephyra is outward looking. So much has changed since we began writing this album and I think it’s important to question the desire for band’s to fit a certain trajectory that is actually very conservative and ultimately lead to our deterioration.
Will: When you take everything away it makes you appreciate what you had. It was very difficult at the time we were making the record, but gradually all the shit that surrounded it dies down a bit and you can see more clearly. We all felt we were really close to something and the less you need others approval the easier it is to create something you love.
What was the process like of listening back and working out what would comprise the record?
Josh: The process of listening back felt like a real journey back in time, to a moment of great creativity and emotion, but also tension and internal turmoil. As I was mixing the record, opening sessions from when we were still together was pretty strange. I was taken right back to sitting in Will's house in Leytonstone working on ideas, replaying conversations in my head, dealing with all of the struggles we were going through all over again. Having spent time addressing my mental health after the break up of the band, it definitely felt like a dangerous position to be getting into. Over time I moved past these difficult memories and ultimately loved working these songs to the finish line. Now I'm missing the process!
Fiona: At that time we were mainly communicating via text, we hadn’t seen each other in person in quite some time so I think that contributed to decisions being made quite quickly and efficiently. There wasn’t too much back and forth for fear of creating animosity. It was all quite respectful and harmonious.
We had a pretty good idea of what tracks would be on the record before we split up, but then after some distance and without so much pressure attached to what we were creating, our decisions became much easier. Funnily enough, the first single and album opener Don’t Speak wasn’t originally going to be on the record. It was one of our early demos that we always thought of as a segue rather than a song in its own right. But then when I listened back to it I just realised that it needed to be given a place on the album.
It was definitely a strange and unfamiliar process. But gradually through these decisions being made, our relationships got better and I actually think it was a very healing process for me, a kind of rebirthing.
Will: It was quite surprising actually. I think this is a very very different record to the one that we would have made if we had stayed together and finished it at the time. In fact I think most of these songs wouldn’t have been on it. I think I prefer what we have now over what we were making though.
"I couldn't stand the thought of this album sitting on our hard drives gathering dust."
— Fiona Burgess
Was there always a sense of unfinished business between you all?
Fiona: Once we broke up, it was clear that at that time the most important thing was looking after ourselves as individuals. And there was a mutual respect between us that our mental health was more important than our artistic output. So at first I think we all just got on with our lives without considering what would happen to the music we’d made. But then after about a year, there was a collective desire to release what we’d made together. I don’t think I could ever really accept the break up until we’d released the music. It was like I needed that closure, and I wanted us to end on a high. It felt too depressing to give up without celebrating all the energy, commitment and brutal honesty that had gone into making it.
Will: It’s hard to just walk away from something that is a part of you. So yes. I suppose so!
'Ephyra' is out now via Practise Music.
As featured in the February 2019 issue of DIY, out now.