Aldous Harding on the ‘intense performer’ label and new album Party

Aldous Harding remains an enigma to me. As of the time this piece is published, I’m preparing to see her perform at The Great Escape, a few days before her highly anticipated album Party sees release. Already, the New Zealander has had a hectic few months of shows; appearances at SXSW positioned Harding as a buzz artist to be keeping a close eye on, while her presence in Europe has continued to gain momentum.

Much has been said about Harding’s on-stage presence and the relation of her music live. While the term ‘gothic-folk’ has been bandied about as much as the comparisons to PJ Harvey, Harding’s new material is a deeper dive into the bewitching and relentlessly honest songwriting and narrative-crafting skill she has been honing since her 2014 debut album was released.

On the phone with Harding only recently, there’s an air of discomfort that permeates through the conversation when it comes to walking me through the process behind Party. As she mentions quite candidly, she’s more interested in performing the songs than talking about them.

“The only way that I know how to articulate the way that I feel about the songs on that record is by playing them. I don’t like talking about it. That’s not to undermine this in any way, but I find talking about it quite difficult. I like to play them rather than talk about them.”

This isn’t to say our conversation was simply a minute long. Harding’s excitement for the release of Party is very present, as is her enthusiasm for looking ahead to the next chapter of her artistry being further explore.

“I wanted to serve the songs and enjoy the album myself.” she says. “Of course I want people to like it, but I stuck with what I thought was decent. I just have to say that even six months ago feels like such a long time ago, because I’m already thinking about the music I plan to make. That’s very much a now thing.”

“When you ask me about the process, I mean, it sounds as close as I wanted it to sound, because that’s [just] how it sounds. At the time, that’s what John Parish [producer] and myself decided was the right sound. I’m really happy with it.”

Having relocated to Bristol to make and record Party led Harding to a focused and driven environment for writing and bringing her ideas to fruition. As we’ve heard with the haunting “Horizon” and “Imagining My Man” so far as released singles, fans are in for one hell of a ride.

“It feels like I’ve thought about a record a lot and I’m hoping people feel the same way that I do about it.” she admits. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing; I don’t really have much else to offer at this point. I feel really proud of it and really lucky to work with someone like John. It’s done! The album’s done and it’ll do what it’ll do. I’ve just got to make sure I play fine shows.”

She doesn’t put too many romanticised ideals on the making of the album. Working on Party wasn’t resultant of a run of epiphanies and breakthrough moments in studio.

“It was like, “Okay – we’ve got this amount of time and I’ve got this amount of material,”” Harding explains. “It’s funny, I wish that I had lots of amazing stories about this process, but I don’t. It was pretty much a case of, we sat down and we had a Diet Coke; we laughed a little bit and then it was like, “What are we doing now? What’s the first thing we’re going to do?” John was very patient and I had a lot of ideas; 80% of them were useable and the other 20%, John had to chip away at. There was nothing particularly romantic or musically spiritual [about it]; we were more interested in the end result than the process. There wasn’t a lot of talking. there was spur of the moment stuff but it was very much a ‘job’.”

Of upcoming shows to follow the album’s release, Harding again, is clearly in a positive space about it all but remains focused on moving forward. Shows are selling out in the UK and Europe, she’s supporting Belle and Sebastian in Ireland, while the rest of Harding’s calendar will see her tour through America, Canada as well as lapping back over Europe towards the end of 2017.

“I’m just focused in a nice way,” she muses. “I just want to play the songs and I don’t really care about too much else to be honest.”

“I’m planning to show up, hopefully,” she laughs. “[and] still be very much excited and in touch with what I’m up to and I’m just going to deliver the songs how I planned. Really, no frills. I’m getting a lot of ‘intense’ performer kind of stuff and I guess I know that, but that’s good because that’s how I feel when I play the new songs. I feel a lot more intensity and I’m quite happy to be doing with what I’m doing.”

Party is out via 4AD/Remote Control on May 19th.