Her's interview: "We're always talking about what kind of episode our songs would be in - it's usually Twin Peaks"
Today Liverpool band Her’s release the new song ‘Under Wraps’, the heart-rending closer from their forthcoming debut album Invitation To Her’s, which is out next Friday, August 24th, on Heist Or Hit.
The duo have become known for their potent blend of earnest lyricism, lovelorn themes and cartoonish attitudes – as well as for having a cardboard cut out of Pierce Brosnan join them onstage each night. Invitation To Her’s is a consolidation of the finest parts of these aspects, delivered in a more stylised, produced and confident manner. Across the album’s 11 tracks we’re treated to a glamorous cast of characters, including invisible friends, romantic bikers and cavalier cats. But amidst these more idiosyncratic songs are some truly poignant and honest moments, where Her’s take stock of their surroundings, offer support to loved ones in hard times, and come into their own as songwriters able to thread a golden melody into each poetic instance.
With so much going on in Invitation To Her’s, we decided we needed to call Steven Fitzpatrick and Audun Lang to talk about the development of Her’s, the stories behind the tracks that make up the album, Twin Peaks, and their future with Pierce Brosnan, of course.
You've been over the initial meeting between the two of you many times, and all the things that you found in common, but I'm curious about what are the things that you didn't know that the other introduced you to that made you think "this guy is cool"?
Audun: Ste got me into Ariel Pink. He showed me the 'Put Your Number In My Phone' video when it first came out, and that was a pivotal moment.
Ste: I remember Audun introducing me to origami in a coffee shop one time. It was a dark time and I needed some distraction, and he basically gave me this one-hour origami lesson. I think we made a swan in the end. It was really good. I was absolutely mesmerised for quite a while.
Is it true that it took you guys a while of knowing each other before you started writing music together?
Ste: We did start playing music together pretty sharpish, but in another band.
Audun: Ste's originally a drummer and we were the rhythm section for Brad Stank originally.
Ste: Before it was called Brad Stank it was called Sundogs, where I played drums and Audun played bass, so we got to know each other musically initially that way.
Audun: But you would play guitar on the side, but I guess that also made it take a little while because you were still finding your feet on guitar.
Ste: Yeah, for sure.
Audun: But we happened to be offered a gig or something, and we thought we had better start to write songs.
When did the name Her's come into the picture?
Ste: Pretty early on. We made a video and we thought "we need to upload this with a name or something."
Audun: Yeah it was a late night project where we went out and filmed some artsy stuff around town, and we'd recorded a little guitar thing with some MIDI drums on top. It was all very fast, we did in a night, and we sat there at 5 in the morning having to upload it because we really wanted all our mates to see it that day, so we had to go with something for the YouTube channel, and it's been Her's ever since.
Ste: The apostrophe has been there since the start.
Did you argue about the apostrophe?
Ste: I think there were no problems with that.
Audun: It's an important part of it.
Ste: We figured out that it was massively incorrect, and if you were to read it it would be "her is." We researched that, and we discovered it's the name of a little city in Azerbaijan, Heris, famous for carpets - a very dusty looking place.
You brought out Songs of Her's last year, and now Invitation To Her's is the debut album - what are the main differences?
Ste: Songs of Her's was a collection of singles that we'd released throughout the first 12 months of the band, thrown in with a couple of sort-of b-sides or album tracks. The process didn't feel like a debut album, it was more of a way for us to package something. It wasn't a pretend release, it was just sort of a conclusion to what we'd been doing.
Audun: Yeah it kind of summarised the first year of the band. They were all the songs we'd played live that year. We never really had a plan for anything, not a strong concept, we just wrote the music we wanted to. I don't think we felt like it would hold up as an album, so we wanted people to go into it with the right mindset of it being a lot of different sounds that we'd like to explore going forward, like a collection.
Ste: Then the debut, we approached it with the idea of it being the debut album, 11 or 12 songs, we demoed all the songs together and went into the studio with Saam [Jafarzadeh], who we'd recorded everything else with, and approached it with the idea of it being this one piece. We wanted there to be some kind of flow to it. There was more focus put into the songs.
Audun: The demoing process helped out a lot because we could approach it with a lot more confidence after testing the waters with the collection Songs of Her's; more confidence in what we could allow ourselves to do in the studio.
Do you think that being in Liverpool has affected your sound at all?
Ste: We've got quite a big group of fellow musicians that we're surrounded by - they're some of our favourite UK artists. Maybe not so much Liverpool itself, but the fact that all of our friends - none of them are scouse even - are all here. Liverpool is just the name of where the scene has landed.
Audun: I feel like whenever we visit London there's definitely differences in sound; I feel like that in different parts of the country. We're obviously inspired by our mates, which you can see. But when I go to London I feel a bit oppressed by the scene, it feels very intense and heavy down there. It feels a bit socialite and cliquey. It feels very organic up here in the North; it's a good, easy community and easy lifestyle, so I think that all contributes a lot to it.
I know what you mean, there's lots of amazing music coming out of London, but I could never imagine Her's coming out of London - it's just too quirky.
Ste: That's good.
Invitation To Her's is a reference to the Twin Peaks fake soap opera Invitation To Love, isn't it?
Ste: Yeaaaaah! You did it!
Audun: Yeah, wow! I guess in that sense it's three things, because it's Invitation to Love (the Twin Peaks reference); it's Invitation to Her's (the band); and the mysterious invitation to this being, who is Her.
Ste: Her place.
Audun: Maybe you take this record, or a bouquet of flowers, round to Her's.
Twin Peaks does have more of an influence on the album than just the title, doesn't it?
Ste: Yeah absolutely, yeah. The album title, the album cover, a lot of the sounds in there.
Audun: Basically all of 'Low Beam' is a little bit Twin Peaks.
Yeah 'Low Beam' I definitely get full Twin Peaks biker bar vibes.
Ste: 'She Needs Him' as well. We're always thinking about Twin Peaks.
Audun: We're always talking about what kind of episode our song would be in, we're always translating them towards movies and stuff - it's usually Twin Peaks.
You put some interesting characters in your songs - well, are they always characters or are they sometimes you?
Ste: A bit of both. Sometimes it's fun to take on a character, at times it's super personal.
Audun: They're all more or less aspects; different masks.
Ste do you ever feel awkward bringing lyrics to Audun?
Ste: I guess if you've written something that's pretty personal it can be pretty awkward laying it down in the studio, that's sometimes a hiccough, but it's pretty easy to present it in front of Audun. He doesn't rack my nerves, which is good.
Audun: I feel like we've gotten past that. We had to do songwriting in first year together, and we had to write some really awful stuff for that, so I feel like that also eased us into it. It was really terrible.
Ste: It was good actually, because I think if anything it taught us what not to do, because them songs were pretty bad.
Audun: It turns out we almost got a First in it though. That's good effort.
Are you ever tempted to go back and turn one of those into a Her's song?
Ste: They weren't anywhere near that world. They were genre-less basically [laughs]. Vague pop. It was like "go and write a protest song."
Ste: We were singing about “all the cogs in the machine” and stuff like that.
Audun: So bad.
Ste: Really dramatic melodies and all this stuff. It was pretty nuts.
Like a teenager who's just been turned on to Pink Floyd.
Ste: Yeah, you could say that.
Audun: We don't have much protest in us, do we? We're pretty mellow. We also got tasked to write a suicide song!
Ste: Yeah, “write a suicide song, that'll be great...”
Going onto Invitation to Her's, do you think about themes that run through the album?
Audun: It's not conceptual, there's no over-arching story.
Ste: I kind of like to think of it as this bag of different emotions. It kinda has that vibe to it. Different problems and different good things in there; parallel back streets.
One of the things that I take away from it is that these are different versions of masculinity; masculinity comes in many forms and I get that from these songs.
Ste: Yeah! That's definitely a good point [laughs]. That's good, I'll take that.
So tell me about opening track 'Harvey'; is this a real person?
Ste: It's reference to a 50s film called Harvey with Jimmy Stewart in it. Harvey is an invisible giant rabbit, which Jimmy Stewart has befriended, and in the town that he lives in everybody thinks that he's lost his mind. But it's just a really nice story of a friendship, basically.
Why did you write about that?
Audun: You really like the movie. It makes for a good story about friendship; a good way of getting around talking about something that can easily become cheesy as well.
Ste: The chorus of the song is quite old, it probably came around a couple of years ago now. The lyrics kind of wrote themselves after watching the film, and it's a fun melody.
Audun: I think it reflects a bit on our friendship sometimes.
Ste: Yeah, just an uncomplicated existence; drinking on the streets, just talking about nice comfy stuff.
I really like the voice effects in that one, and now that I know it comes from a cartoon it makes more sense. How did you get that sound?
Audun: It's just a ten quid police mic.
Ste: It sounded really good in the demos, so we ended up using it on a lot of stuff on the album. It adds a really nice lo-fi quality to stuff. We recorded the acoustic guitar on 'Carry The Doubt' through it as well; that was such a nice moment when we figured out that playing the guitar through it sounded sick!
'Mannie's Smile' is about your cat?
Ste: Yeah, he was my cat, but we had to give him away a couple of years ago.
Audun: When you moved to uni.
Ste: Yeah I moved to uni, my dad had got a new job and my sister had moved out. So it was just my dad living there, and I was coming home fairly often, but not often enough for the cat to be happy. I think maybe the cat felt like we'd abandoned him a little bit, so my dad put out an ad on Facebook and found this old man who'd recently lost his wife who said he was looking for a cat.
So my dad took Mannie to this old man, and the next day the cat managed to find his way all the way back to my family home, which is on the opposite side of town. I've no idea how, I guess it's just one of those things cats have in their brains. Then my dad had to take him back again. It was pretty tragic hearing about all that stuff, so the song is kind of like an apology, a send-off, an ode to Mannie.
Audun: It was a cat you'd had since you were a kid, right?
Ste: Yeah, it was the only proper pet we'd ever had.
Audun: When I saw you guys together for the first time it was obvious that you guys were well into each other [laughs].
And is that why you call him "the captain of the cats"?
Ste: The second verse is talking about how the other cats on the street are trying to create their own ideas of what's happened. They're saying like "have they buried him under the lawn?", "has he taken a nap in the dirt?" Then the radio mic'd voice comes in, you can imagine like Aristocats, these little voices coming in that are all...
Audun: Gangster cats.
Ste: Yeah! But Mannie was the captain of the cats because he was a brute. He wasn't gonna be pushed around by any of the cats.
'If You Know What's Right' is a song about quite a specific thing - remaining living home with your parents rather than going out and discovering yourself - were you singing to specific people? Or even to yourself?
Ste: Yeah, that one's slightly obscure. I guess we both feel like we're teenagers, and we've moved away from home, and we're both from small towns, and there's a lot of people at home that seem to be getting old for no reason.
Audun: Yeah, very fast.
Ste: I've got friends that have had babies and stuff, but they're still the same people and they still have aspirations and dreams and stuff. Whereas I went to school with some people that are like married at a really young age, and I feel like they've lost their youth in a way.
Audun: It's like living your life from a recipe, instead of making your own.
Ste: Yeah, so the song is like "spend another year at home" and "don't worry about it, you don't have to jump into the deep end just because that's what your parents have done,” or whatever - which is such a small town thing.
Audun; Yeah, it's super relatable to my old neighbourhoods as well. So many of my mates just jumped into being like "adults," when you're an adult no matter the situation you're in anyway. They just get stable jobs and cars and houses next to their parents, it's like "maybe you should reflect on it a bit longer?" But it's also on us, how we reflect on that.
Ste: What did you get from it?
Yeah, I got all that totally, but I wasn't sure if you're chastising these people or saying you understand their choice?
Ste: I guess it's a bit of both. Because that's definitely what I say in the song is that it's hard for me to understand, but I get it at the same time, because we're in completely different worlds. I'm definitely not preaching.
Audun: There's a bit of sass. A bit of a stricter side there. Growing up in these communities, I feel like neither of us ever related to these mentalities and personalities. I know personally I've always held a bit of animosity towards them, because I know they've always thought I was a bit of a joke like, "oh, you're going to make music in England..." so I think there's a bit of animosity showing through subtly, in a playful way.
Is 'Carry The Doubt' a similar kind of message about getting older?
Ste: That one's definitely one of the more ambiguous tracks lyrically. I guess it's one of two songs on the album that are kind of exploring identity. It's kind of "don't carry the doubt of the decisions that you're wanting to make."
Was that written to yourself?
Ste: That's not so much to myself, it's more related to a family situation that's happened in the last two years. Nothing dead serious or anything, just somebody's transition in life basically...
Audun: It's putting your advice into song, isn't it?
Ste: Yeah, it's not trying to tackle the issue, it's quite direct to this one person. That's 'Carry The Doubt' and 'Under Wraps'.
We've mentioned that 'Low Beam' is very Twin Peaks-y; do you have any experience with bikers outside Twin Peaks?
Audun: Both our dads are bikers. I grew up on a bike, with my little baby head in a massive helmet.
Ste: I used to go to annual Harley Davidson rallies in Kirkby Stephens in the Lake District. So definitely surrounded by a lot of bikes.
Audun: Your profile picture when I first met you was you leaning on some big Harley in the night with your beanie on, and I was like "who the fuck is this?" But I also remember it being a bit Twin Peaks-y, so it was probably a good thing for our friendship, that big bike you were leaning on.
Ste: The closest we've gotten to actually getting on a motorbike is just Uber Eats [laughs].
Audun: Yeah, delivering burgers. But when you're riding around at night you can imagine yourself as a lone wolf rider on a metal steed.
Ste: I remember actually trying to think of 'Low Beam' lyrics while riding for Uber Eats, the whole "tuck in the bend" shit.
Audun: We were like a bike gang... maybe not a motorbike gang, but we would hang out by Tesco, waiting for our orders.
Ste: Very cool.
Did 'Low Beam' start from the bass line? Because I love the bass on this song.
Audun: Ste brought the riff in, and we jammed on that for ages. And then the rest kind of developed pretty naturally. The bass line works as a harmony, the second voice to Ste's riff.
Ste: It definitely took shape when the bass came in. Rhythmically it put everything in place. It's one of the few songs where we play in unison, where we play a lot of the same stuff, which is fun when we play it live.
In 'Breathing Easy' I'm curious about the line in the chorus "call off the search for my mother's words" - can you tell me about it?
Ste: I guess that's a shout out to the comfort of your mother, which isn't something that's always there anymore as you get older; people passing away and stuff. I guess quite a lot of the songs touch on that.
Then you go to something a bit more comical on 'Blue Lips'; a cold person or even an undead person.
Ste: A cold person, that's what I was aiming at. That was one of the hardest ones to write lyrically, because we'd been playing that one for such a long time. It's pre-'Cool With You'...
Audun: That was like the fifth song we wrote or something.
Ste: I'd been improv-ing the lyrics the entire time, so a lot of the lyrics that made it in there I'd written on stage basically, because I didn't want to commit to writing the words just for the sake of it. So I would just improvise it on stage for a long time, and then when it came to actually writing it I had the sounds and a few of the words that I want to put in and I shaped it around that. By that point I'd written a lot of lyrics for the album and I still wanted the songs to be interesting, and I really like how we went about that one in the end.
Audun: It didn't used to have the chorus line of "blue lips" over that bit, it was just an instrumental riffy bit, and I think that brought it all together and gave it that nice 50s tinge that really helped to give it some identity.
'She Needs Him' sounds like you're channelling the Beach Boys to me, was that your inspiration for this one?
Ste: One of them. In that second half of the song where it goes all slidey and stuff - but that was definitely Twin Peaks as well, that second half. Beach House was a little bit of an influence.
Audun: Brian Eno.
Ste: Actually The Smiths was a pretty big influence on that one.
Audun: My approach to it was Smithsian.
Ste: The guitar riff has the same kind of harmony as 'Back To The Old House' by The Smiths; it's kind of similar to that.
Audun: We wanted to bridge back to our previous releases a little, and 'She Needs Him' is one of those that does that, goes back to our old format, we kept it kind of stripped back in the first half.
Now that you've mentioned The Smiths I can see the jealousy in the lyrics as quite Morrissey-ish.
Ste: Yeah! I kind of wanted that one to sound a bit naive, as if it was a young kid that's on the biggest bad'un that he doesn't realise - he thinks the world is gonna end, but he'll actually get over it in no time. He's actually getting pent up about some strange relationship. Bit of a character, that one.
'Love On The Line' sounds like a wholesome love song on the surface, but is actually about a guy addicted to phone sex lines. Was it your intention to trick people into thinking it's just a classic love song?
Ste: A little bit, yeah. That's another one that's really hard to write, it took ages lyrically. The idea is that it's a guy that's fallen in love with a sex chat line worker, and she's taking advantage of the situation. He just wants to actually be with this woman - but maybe she's a little bit invested in it too.
Audun: He knows that he's whipped, but maybe that's what he enjoys about it. We sample a whip sound in it, a transitional sound to simulate that a bit. He's also trying to convince her like "whenever you want to chat, I'm here for you.”
Ste: "Sweet talking all the way to bankruptcy."
Yeah I love that line. Have either of you ever tried calling one of those lines?
Ste: No we haven't. But when I was doing the lyrics I was watching a lot of videos on Youtube of adverts, and we really wanted the song to sound like an advert, like it could be a jingle for one of these numbers that you could ring up. So I just watched a bunch of adverts on YouTube, 90s and 80s ones.
Audun: We actually ended up recording our own little bit for it, and we got our own phone number! We recorded a little message, so you call it up and there's a little jingle and there's us saying "call back later sugar or leave us a message." It was good, we got a lot of interesting messages on it.
Ste: We posted the number online with no context. We changed every single picture on our social media to this number to plug the single discreetly.
Audun: It was also transitioning into the next album cycle, because we'd not released anything in a long time and we wanted to make something special for coming back into it. So without saying anything, the week before it came out, we updated all the socials with that number and a little cryptic message on it, as if you're actually calling into a sex chat service called 'Love On The Line'.
Is the number still running?
Ste: I think it is... I don't think we've shut it down...
Audun: I think so...
Ste: It's still up on our socials...
'Under Wraps' seems like such a downer of an ending to the album...
Ste: I guess there's two ways of thinking about it; it's somebody struggling in a situation, but it's also a message of empowerment.
Audun: It's support and empowerment.
Ste: Yeah, you've gotta do what's right for you. But not everything's a happy ending in life [laughs].
Is that what you're talking about in the outro of the song, "And what they thought was perfect, and what they thought was fact/ Will uncover a beauty that they never could expect…”?
Ste: That's revealing your true kind of identity to the people that love you and think that you're this perfect... for example, your family members, they think you're sorted and you're content with who you are…
Audun: When it just isn't the case.
Ste: Yeah, it's not always the case. Then they'll get a shock or a surprise when they realise who it is that you really are...
Audun: And you should go for it.
Ste: It's hard to put into words.
That's good, it makes me think it's much less of a downer ending.
Audun: I hadn't heard any of the lyrics for that one beforehand, and then I thought it was probably my favourite song on the album! I cried to that song!
Ste: [Laughs] Sick, sick!
Audun: It's gonna be a bit hard playing it live, I feel... it's probably one of the most personal songs we've had. I feel like that's also why we put it at the end of the album, because we wanted to finish with something very real and leave people with something of substance.
Ste: I think we were OK with putting a big slow song at the end of the album because we've been listening to so much MGMT while doing the album, and a lot of the ideas were inspired that new MGMT album, and they've got a massive big long slow song at the end. It's kinda cool.
So we've mentioned Twin Peaks and a lot of other random influences - but is there anything that we haven't mentioned that should be shouted out as an influence?
Ste: There's a good poem that Jimmy Stewart does on some late night talk show in the 90s or something, and it's about his dog called Beau, and that kind of influenced 'Mannie's Smile' quite a bit.
Audun: There's definitely a bit of Zelda and a bit of Final Fantasy in there.
Ste: Definitely video games.
Audun: A lot of video games... There's probably a bit of badminton [laughs].
Ste: I guess one thing a lot of people don't always pick up on is the fact that we try and incorporate more R&B kind of sounds.
Audun: Yeah that seems to confuse people a little bit.
Ste: We really like Frank Ocean, that's on 'Breathing Easy'.
Ste: There's a bit of Drake in there. 'Don't Think It Over' or 'Under Wraps' have little R&B and hip-hop elements to them in the beats.
Very cool. You guys are noted Pierce Brosnan fans, so I have to ask if you're gonna go see the new Mamma Mia?
Audun: I mean, we're just gonna have to do it aren't we?
Ste: We don't have much choice.
Audun: I'm quite excited though, I've seen in the trailer he's falls off a little thing into the ocean, it looks very funny.
Ste: He genuinely liked one of our photos on Instagram the other day!
Audun: Yeah, we've made first-hand contact!
How did he find it, does he follow you?
Ste: His son follows us, and we've kind of become friends over message with his son. His son is a big fan of our stuff, which is sick!
Audun: Shout out to Paris.
Ste: Yeah, Paris Brosnan, thank you very much! And then suddenly Pierce Brosnan liked one of our photos and it was a slightly surreal moment.
Audun: I should probably screen shot that end get it framed.
You can just retire now.
Audun: Ste's got this dream scenario where we go to Malibu and go to his house and in the back yard he'll be cooking us some burgers by the pool.
Ste: He's asking us how we want our burgers cooked and stuff. [Puts on posh British accent] "What can I get you boys?"
Audun: That would be the retirement.
Ste: We'd retire in Pierce Brosnan's garden.
Audun: Eating burgers.
Ste: We'll be his pool boys.
Her’s’ debut album Invitation To Her’s is out next Friday, August 24th on Heist or Hit.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 16th August 2018.