Premiere: Eilish Gilligan shares (and discusses) her tender debut EP, Hospital
The beautifully intimate and self-produced EP is a moment of spectacle for the Melbourne musician, one that's been a long time coming.
Header image by Simon Walsh.
It's always a surprise to learn that all of Eilish Gilligan's successes over the years have been without even an EP-length release. Since her 2016 entrance in Here, the Melbourne-based musician has constantly showcased her ability for gripping and theatrical high-tier pop; her work - 2017's Creature of Habit, 2018's S.M.F.Y. and Patterns, 2019's The Pull, Keep Up and Someone Else - capturing the height of her emotions and experiences with the same richness as what you'd expect from Lorde (someone who Eilish has been long compared to throughout the last few years).
Nevertheless, it's true. Everything that Eilish Gilligan has brought us over the last four years - all the moments of thriving beauty and heartbreaking subtlety alike - have been a one-off release that captures her in a specific moment; the opportunity for a greater, together-linking body of work always there, but never chased by Eilish (until now). Today, we premiere her debut EP Hospital in a moment that's not just a long time coming for the pop favourite, but also one that sees her introduce herself more-so than ever before, whether it be as a multi-faceted and multi-talented musician, or as the person who informs and experiences every aching lyric she sings about.
Hospital is a delicate collection of six-tracks that sees Eilish turn inwards, exploring the depths of her craft and knowledge for a release that's entirely self-produced and self-written; using the opportunity of a debut EP to release a package of songs that really represent her talents in every field, away from the collaborators she often works with. As a result, it seems to be a more tender and delicate release, capable of reaching those high, drama-filled pop peaks but more-so focusing on her songwriting craft, and the beauty in delicacy as shown through releases like Taylor Swift's folklore earlier in the year.
When You Are Well opens with one of the EP's brighter points; a blending and contrast of her two sides as she moulds together the softness of its opening with the rushing electronica of the song's eventual climax, which deepens that connection to Eilish's influence in dance music that before this point, hasn't been seen too clearly. Songs like Calling Me Out are stripped-back, built entirely around piano, percussion and the odd sweeping sample here or there. Songs like October December and Anniversary bring those aforementioned moments of deep reflection that in turn, shine through a musical tenderness that stands out from the Eilish discography.
It's heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time, seeing Eilish channel the complexities of emotions into her songwriting in a way that really represents herself as an entire, full-rounded musician - and the person behind each of those notes and lyrics. It's really something wonderful, and after so many years of seeing Eilish Gilligan constantly further herself in pop music - and Australian pop music as a whole - Hospital feels like the pinnacle of her talents (so far), and the power they can hold when shown their most potently.
You can listen to the entire EP as it premieres on Pilerats below (ahead of its official release tomorrow, November 26th). Underneath that, you can also read our interview with Eilish, which dissects the themes and creation of the EP and what drove its subtle, self-produced nature. Also, be sure to catch Eilish Gilligan perform the EP live on her Twitch channel, today at 4PM AEDT / 1PM AWST.
So not only is this your debut EP (!!), but it’s also entirely self-produced, which is a huge feat in itself, let alone for something as monumental as a debut EP. Was there anything in particular that drew you to doing a self-produced release? And what was the process of actually putting it all together compared to how it’d usually work?
For some reason, I have always dreamed of being completely self-sufficient as an artist. I wish I could do everything myself, I am absolutely a control freak, and I think it is this part of my personality that desperately wanted to produce a whole EP by myself. The process in and of itself was extremely bizarre simply because I was doing it in 2020, which, to be fair, has made even the most normal things feel otherworldly. I think in a way the isolation worked kind of in my favour - there were no distractions, no temptation to compare myself to anyone else, and at least at the beginning of the lockdown, I had a lot of creative energy that was funnelled directly into this EP (and other things too!).
How do you think that self-producing this record shaped its eventual sound?
I have always had quite idiosyncratic tastes as an artist, and I think I’m only just now beginning to realise and embrace that. I have always known my voice is a bit weird, but truly only recently did I realise that my taste as a producer is also a little off-centre. But I love it and embrace it because it makes me who I am, and I like who I am, for the most part. I have always been inspired by the piano, it’s my first love, my first and only real instrument (except for voice, I suppose), so a self-produced EG EP was always going to feature piano heavily. My team and I were calling it ‘the piano EP’ for the longest time, before it had a name. But even though piano is a huge feature, it just...has a bit more going on than that, which kinda surprised us all, I think. I am so proud of this work and what it represents. I feel very close to it, and I feel very much like I am giving it one last hug before I let it go and be free forever.
That’s the one thing that’s immediately so striking about this record - how stripped-back and subtle it is, especially compared to your past work. Do you think that’s a byproduct of it being such a personal and intimate release, with no guest collaborators?
I think so! But I do also think an EP like this has always been inevitable for me. Like I said, I’m a pianist, I grew up loving Chopin and Debussy and I think a soft, melody- and texture-driven collection of songs from me was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when. This year has been a bit of a dramatic blur, to be honest, so I can’t quite remember how it all came about - all I know is I had this ‘piano EP’ idea in my head for months, with the original plan being that it would be a surprise drop after another EP I’ve been working on came out. Then Melbourne went into lockdown, I couldn’t work on my other EP up in Sydney, and I turned inwards, for better (this EP) or worse (not seeing a single friend IRL in four months).
Can you tell us a bit about the EP, and the themes that you talk about through it?
I called the EP Hospital because I always felt like the songs suited a hospital waiting room; subtle, upset, soft, vulnerable, but somehow comforting, quiet - rolling, disconcerting textures envelop the listener while familiar, secure sounds (piano) provide a sense of place and grounding. There’s a lot of discussion of mental illness on this EP, which is something I’ve not really addressed so frankly in my music before, and I do think that informs a lot of the subtle production choices. The glowing, gentle sunlight of Flesh is the only really hopeful track, and I’m so pleased with the balance it provides. October, December might be my current favourite just because I think she’s the most dramatic one - except for maybe Anniversary. I’ve never sworn in a recorded song like that, I’m pretty sure, and the effect is surprisingly powerful, at least I reckon it is. What the fuck is wrong with me is a question I unfortunately tend to ask myself often for a variety of reasons.
I know that you’ve been doing a lot of work on Twitch over the course of the past few months, whether it be working on songs or doing covers and everything else. Has that all come into help influence / dictate the EP’s direction?
I absolutely adore Twitch - I have managed to build a delightful community on the platform who are funny and silly and intelligent and just straight up brilliant people who care about me and respect me and my craft deeply. There was a stretch of weeks there in lockdown where I would speak more with my Twitch community on a weekly basis than I would with my friends in Melbourne. I am proud to make content, and to make music, that they enjoy - Flesh was actually created completely from nothing on the stream (sans vocals!). Unfortunately, I lost the VOD before I realised that I’d be putting Flesh on the EP, regardless though - isn’t that cool? I think it’s just so amazing that I made something from nothing, with a whole bunch of people who care about me by my side, live, and now it’s on my debut EP and those people who were there for its creation can have it forever. I would encourage any artist who is curious about Twitch to come and spend some time on the platform. It is absolutely brilliant, and it is the future.
How do you feel like doing this will inform what you do in the future?
In a very clinical way, as I have spent so many months with these songs and become slightly desensitised to them (even though I do still love them), I have found myself looking at this EP as a kind of resume - I think people don’t realise that I am a producer, and that’s kind of my fault because I didn’t start calling myself one until like, 12 months ago, even though I’d technically been producing since I was 15. I don’t know why I didn’t call myself a producer until then, but now I have a very real and very good reason to call myself a producer, and it’s sitting right here in this article - a self-produced EP. By me! I can produce, I am a producer, and I am excited to embrace that title, I really, really am.
Clinical reasons aside, I am proud of the way I tackled matters that are not exclusively based on romantic love in this EP (although feel free to interpret how you please). This EP examines the intensity of intimate friendships, unexpected phone confrontations with a colleague, the hot glow of distance, the frustration of not being able to help someone with mental illness and the putrid self-hatred that often comes with one’s own issues with mental illness, God - just wishing I could turn myself into a human hospital so I could house everyone I care about who is struggling - I feel like my writing has come a long way since I started this project (interestingly, with a song called The Dogs which also tackles mental illness) and to be frank I am so proud of how I spent my time this year. This EP is something I am deeply, deeply proud of for many reasons.
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