EP Walkthrough: Yorke takes us behind her debut EP, Liberosis

EP Walkthrough: Yorke takes us behind her debut EP, Liberosis

On her debut EP, the Byron Bay-raised musician thrives in a Lorde-adjacent alt-pop world.

There's no denying that a lot of today's modern-day pop - and the pop of tomorrow, too - are heavily influenced by the alt-pop explosion of the early-00s. At the time, Max Martin's maximalist footprint on EDM-driven pop was at its peak, ushering the Swedish hitmaker into another supposed decade of dominance thanks to artists spearheading this sound at the time: Katy Perry, Kesha, Pink, Britney Spears and the list goes on. 

However, at the same time, something was brewing in the underground. Soon, internet culture would thrive through Tumblr blogs; artists like The 1975 and Lana Del Rey quickly spreading through embedded media players that would blast Chocolate and Video Games the second you'd click onto a user's home page. Their sound wasn't anything new per-say - a lot of its influence came through indie bands that occupied the turn of the millennium, like Weezer - but its incorporation with pop hooks and songwriting-emphasised backbones was uncharted territory, and the sound quickly took off.

Skip forward ten years to 2020, and the pop music canon feels indebted to this time. Lana Del Rey and The 1975 are titans in their respective sounds, and are now joined by a legion of others who have also put out sound-shifting records, from Lorde and Clairo to, back in Australia, artists like Angus & Julia Stone and Matt Corby. All of these acts may be vastly different to one another, but there's something they share, and something that's quickly becoming one of the 2010s defining sounds: subtle, moving pop music built on minimalism and emotion.

Yorke, the Byron Bay-raised musician who has captivated us time and time again over the last 18 months or so, is someone bringing an extension of this sound forward into 2020. With every single since her captivating debut First Light, the musician has brought high-tier impactful pop to the forefront, through singles both grand and triumphant to those that teeter on the edge of softly-sung ballads soaked with the emotional intensity of some of this sound's defining names. They're all distinctly Yorke, separating themselves from the rest of this soft indie-pop world with expert craft and high attention to detail, whether that be in the context of punchy lyricism and beautiful songwriting, or the jigsawing productions that melt away underneath, perfectly complementing her every vocal.

Today, on her debut EP Liberosis, this sound is at its most potent. On one side, Liberosis is an encapsulation of Yorke's career thus far and its many peaks. Wake The City moulds shimmering electronica together with Yorke's impactful pop prowess - "I don't want to wake the city, but I can't stand to see you go," her vocal cries in its chorus - while singles like Thought I Could showcase a different side of Yorke's sound, something more aligned with the impactful and gripping ballads of Robyn (with a more piano-backed production, versus Robyn's unique synth).

However, on its other side, Liberosis is an EP that shows where Yorke can go. Only three of the EP's seven songs haven't been heard prior to its release, but they each show different sonic directions Yorke can follow with future projects. On Promise, the musician begins at her most triumphant and grand - a blaring opening feeling like something you'd find from The Hunger Games' infamous soundtrack - while on Nights We Waste, the intricate percussion of Lorde's Melodrama feels reborn and paired with the stripped-back guitar of HAIM.

In saying that, the EP's closing track Don't Let The Lights Go feels like Yorke at her most potent. Featuring New York-via-Melbourne musician LANKS, the track feels plucked from Lorde's debut album (sorry for another Lorde comparative, it just makes sense); a soft-stirring four-minutes of Yorke's vocal in feature display, joined later by a dueting LANKS who elevates the track to its most victorious. It's nothing necessarily new in the grand scheme of things, but new isn't necessarily needed - you just need to do a good job of bringing it forward to the current, and that's what Yorke does here.

Here, Yorke walks us through the EP one song at a time, with a couple of behind-the-scenes photos taking us into the EP's creation. Check it out while you dive into the record below:

Promise

The promise is the only song on the EP that we didn’t start from scratch. Xavier (Dunn) and I were talking about the elements that make a Yorke song – big, cinematic, emotional, moody – and he remembered an old instrumental he’d created years back. He played it and within seconds I was like “Yep, yep this is the one, it sounds just like something out of a movie”. 

This led to us talking about the Titanic and playing the instrumental over the movie trailer. I hadn’t seen the film but had a basic idea – and suddenly we were writing the song from the villain Cal Hockley’s perspective. It’s the only song I’ve ever really written from a character’s perspective. I got busy researching the era and plot, and the song was written really quickly. I remember coming out of the session and walking through Surry Hills in Sydney listening to it on repeat, feeling like such a badarse. 

Wake the City 

I remember when I first heard Vera Blue’s Hold on Triple J, I had stalked her Insta to try and find who the producer was… so getting to work Andy Mak was really exciting for me. I was pretty nervous going into the session, to be honest.

We started writing on some synths and experimenting with different sounds, but nothing seemed to be really sticking. The studio we were in, Forbes Street, had a beautiful (extremely out of tune) stand up piano and we both sat down and started messing around. I had this lyric “I don’t want to wake the city” that I kept circling back to and the song really wrote itself after that. I think we probably wrote most of the song on a couple of voice memos.

Getting to watch Andy working was really insightful too. He made a point to talk me through different production tricks he was doing, so I learnt a lot. We wrote the song in one day, produced it up the next and then came back a few months later to re-track all the live instruments. Hearing it all come together was so special.

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Thought I Could

Writing Thought I Could involved a thousand different emotions and lots of coffee. It was my first ever night session (no sleep = grumpy Grace) AND my debut single was coming out at midnight (hello anxiety, my old friend). I’d never worked with Andy (Hopkins) before, but straight away we clicked. I had a pretty clear concept of the song premise and we jumped between guitar and keys trying to figure out the best way to tell the story. I think the thing I love most about working with Andy is he’ll never settle, instead challenging ideas to make sure they’re the best.

The chorus came first, and it was a dance around the room and cheer moment (overtiredness I assume). The rest of the song was written pretty quickly after that and we left the studio about 3 AM. I had an early flight back to Byron that morning and remember grumpily listening to the song on the plane being like “ugh this is terrible”. Luckily, once I slept, I came around to it pretty quick. This song will forever remain one of my favourite tracks I’ve ever written. Shout out to Brody Simpson who played drums, he’s the real MVP here – the song wouldn’t be the same without him.

Nights We Waste

I was fortunate enough to write this one again with Andy Hopkins. We wrote it during a long stint of writing sessions and I walked into the session feeling a bit burnt out… so we decided to cure this by writing something fun and upbeat. I love this song because of how relevant it is, now more than ever.

I hadn’t listened to the original demo in ages and just gave it a spin. It’s considerably slower, in a different key, has a different name and is pretty mellow in comparison. I always find the process of the demo to the final product so interesting, and the general public would never realise the work that goes on getting these songs perfect. 

For me, Nights We Waste is like coming up for air on the EP. A chance to just let go for a second and be in the moment. We really didn’t want the song to be too heavily produced, so you could focus on the lyrics. Andy really nailed the production.


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First Light

I LOVE CHRIS COLLINS! Okay sorry, outburst over. 

First Light was written the day after writing Wake the City, so I think I was on a high walking into this session. I really loved the writing process of this track. Chris was jamming on his electric and I had this melody for the hook ‘Oh I’m struggling, let it breathe’. I think I mentioned to Chris that whatever he was playing reminded me of that feeling when you first get your driver’s license, and you feel invincible. He whipped out this blurry photo of a sun setting over a country road that he’d taken recently, and I really connected with it, reminded me of home. The song was written quickly after that, it was really wholesome.

Fast forward to finishing the song off – we were in this beautiful studio and it was my first time working in a space like that. I think one of my favourite moments was using a music stand as an instrument, which you can hear throughout the song.

Also, big love to Chris for mixing most of the tracks! He killed it. He takes a lot of care in everything he does, and it shows.

Treading Water

I wrote Treading Water with Sam Phay at his home studio in Melbourne, after a long discussion on how a family friend had said something along the lines of "when is Grace going to give up this hobby and get a real job”. Sam had been in a similar situation, so we decided to write a song to empower us, rather than dwell on the negatives. The song was produced by Andy Hopkins, who really connected with the story behind the song - I can hear that in the production.

There is a pretty cute story behind the production actually. The week Andy and I were in Forbes Street Studios, they had a 15-year-old work experience student, Sophie, there. She really wanted to be a producer, so we asked her to join us for the 2 days and she ended up tracking all my vocals. She was so good too – can’t wait till she’s a big shot producer and I can say Sophie worked on one of my tracks!

Don’t Let the Lights Go Out (feat. LANKS)

Will (Lanks) and I had never met before we wrote this song but clicked straight away. He is so easy to open up to, and I knew he’d be the perfect person to write this song with. We wrote the track really quickly in this tiny room in Marrickville (Sydney), and I learnt a lot from Wills approach to writing.

The song was co-produced by both Andy Hopkins and Will, and it was such a fun session. Will and Andy play squash together, so there was a lot of banter going on. I’d never experienced two producers working together, so it was super interesting for me to see how they both bounced ideas off each other. We recorded the beautiful piano in Forbes Street again, as well as hitting random objects that sounded cool. I recorded my vocals first, and when Will stepped up to the mic… I MELTED. Rip Grace. I’ll never get over his voice. 

It was really important to me that this song retained its emotion, and it wasn’t overproduced. I’d played it a bunch acoustically live and was always taken aback how quiet the room would get. I wanted it to keep that same feeling – and even though it took a few versions to get there, I’m so happy with where it landed.

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