With her much-anticipated debut album Forever Blue due for release next Friday, July 3rd via Bella Union, and having recently shared videos for “All I Asked For (Was To End It All)” and a stunning cover version of the Deftones track “Be Quiet And Drive” from her ‘Songs From Isolation’ video project, today A.A. Williams shares new track “Love And Pain”. Listen to it HERE.
Of the track Williams says: “Love And Pain explores the juxtaposition of positive and negative emotions, specifically the titular feelings that often go hand in hand. The protagonist acknowledges that their ongoing sadness is often of their own creation – they try to accept love from another, but soon come to see that this affection masks more bitter intentions. I tried to mimic this harsh realisation musically, the cautious, inquisitive opening and verses starkly interrupted by the crushing weight of the latter half of the song – it’s repetitive chords, layered vocals and swirling synths evoking all-enveloping and uncontrollable sorrow.”
A rapturous blend of post-rock and post-classical, Forever Blue smoulders with uncoiling melodies and haunted atmospheres, shifting from serenity to explosive drama, often within the same song. Williams is a fantastic musician as well as songwriter, playing the guitar, cello and piano, and her voice has the controlled delivery of a seasoned chanteuse while still channelling the rawest of emotions.
Forever Blue is named after a song that didn’t make the album’s final cut, “but it still encapsulated these songs,” Williams explains. “It sounded timeless and in the right place.” The album’s threads encapsulate the anxieties and addiction of love and loss with haunting detail, though Williams admits the theme was shaped more by her subconscious than any grand plan.
“The lyrics come at the end, they fall into place, rhythmically, and link together,” she explains. “And then it’s my job to decipher what I’ve written! I want the words to get my point across but still let the listener map on their own experiences. I find it really therapeutic.”
Therapy is intrinsic to Williams’ approach: to not just express and unpick her feelings of longing and loss but to work through them. “Verbalising something, you feel a weight has been lifted,” she says. The transition can be mirrored in the dynamic shift from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’, as on “Glimmer” and arguably at its most euphoric on “Melt”. “There’s something very satisfying and elating about songs that have that drop in them, to stomp on the guitar pedal on and let it all out.” It’s testament to Williams’ skills, and those of husband and bassist Thomas Williams, that Forever Blue’s commanding sound was largely captured at the couple’s two-bedroom flat in North London. Drums by Geoff Holroyde were added at engineer Adrian Hall’s studio in South London, with guest vocals from Johannes Persson (Cult Of Luna), who adds his deep-trawling growl to “Fearless” (“he sounds like Tectonic plates moving” Williams feels), Fredrik Kihlberg (Cult Of Luna) on “Glimmer” and Tom Fleming (One True Pairing, ex-Wild Beasts) on “Dirt”.
Williams can scarcely believe she’s in such exalted company, or that her band has toured with Cult Of Luna, Russian Circles, Explosions In The Sky, Nordic Giants and Sisters Of Mercy, whilst performing with MONO at their 10th anniversary show. It’s not because she doesn’t trust her own worth but that Williams only became a singer-songwriter by chance.
Having taken music lessons from the age of six and been immersed in classical music, Williams’ life was forever changed when she discovered Deftones in her mid-teens, “and after them, all things heavy,” she recalls. “It was music that made me feel included, that tapped into me.”
Yet it was only years later, when she found a guitar in the street with a note attached, “please take me, just needs work,” that Williams started playing guitar, and only started writing songs as a way of learning how to play. “I wrote in different styles to find a sound I was comfortable with,” she says. “Likewise, with singing. I’d never before thought of singing with a microphone in front of other people. It’s been quite a journey.”
That journey was thrown off course by the Coronavirus lockdown, but Williams’ response has been the ‘Songs From Isolation’ video project, solo renditions of songs suggested by her fans. At the time of writing, she has performed Radiohead’s “Creep”, Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Every Day Is Exactly The Same” and Nick Cave’s “Into Your Arms”.
As ‘Songs From Isolation’ keeps posting intimate messages from a place of solitude, Forever Blue will spread the news of A.A. Williams’ extraordinary talent far and wide – and once lockdown is over, she and her band will be taking the next steps on her journey by touring the record. She’s already come so far but this story is only just beginning.
Pre-order Forever Blue HERE