Freya walks us through her dreamy sophomore LP, The Fifth
The dreamy, nostalgia-tinged release continues to showcase the Melbourne musician's incredible, washed-out sound.
Header photo by Naomi Lee Beveridge.
There's a lot of beauty in nostalgia when it's done correctly, particularly in music. A simple song can remind you of life highlights and give you this feeling of warm comfort and familiarity – even if the music isn't directly related to the scene it evokes. Melbourne musician Freya has managed to perfect this feeling perfectly on her sophomore album The Fifth, drawing upon influences in 90s indie, emo and dream-pop to give you this lasting feeling of familiarity – even if you, like me, didn't happen to listen to Slowdive or The Cocteau Twins in the 90s because – well, because you were like three years old, and your music catalogue didn't expand much beyond The Wiggles or that Shania Twain CD your mother kept in the car.
Nevertheless, by combining dreamy, stripped-back melodies and particularly haunting and emotive vocals, Freya's self-described 'dreamo' sound (that is dream-pop mixed with emo for those playing at home) is lush and soft, swirling with muted guitar melodies and thick synth work. Her vocals, which often soar over the top but occasionally, sit in the background behind the safety of the song's production, are tinged with vulnerability and cloudiness, reaching out and encouraging you to step in Freya's hand-crafted musical space.
The album's out now and it's already been met with a heap of love, so be sure to dive into the record below while Freya walks you through its inner-meanings and creation.
I tend to end up writing lyrics in parallel. One song might be simultaneously dealing with two (or more) ideas at once and they'll fade in and out throughout the track. Unrecognisable is a song mostly about where I felt I was in my life at the time of writing it; where I was living and what I was doing with my life. The house I was living in at the time was my (sort of) childhood home-turned-sharehouse after my family moved out. As of the time of writing, I had been living there for fourteen years, and more and more the place was becoming so distant to me. It just didn't feel like home anymore. I felt cooped up and like I needed to get out of there and explore a different chapter in my life or I'd become stagnant and stuck.
At the same time, the song touches on the development of a long-distance relationship I had at the time with an online friend who lived in the UK, how we had been friends for so long but only started to realise what we both saw in each other. There are a few words of motivation written into the song for her ("I know you have come so far / it's all on you now"). Regardless of how that relationship ended, she's an amazing woman and I know she's going to do amazing things. I knew this would be the opening track when I was writing it, so it was definitely composed that way. I also like to tie my music together in whatever way I can, which is why I re-use a sample from E.R. (the TV show) just before the last chorus, which I had used on my previous album Stranger Things.
Technically not the first song I wrote on the album (Trees was written in 2016), but this was the first song I had made that I knew I was writing stuff for a new release. One weekend in September I had just suddenly gotten another creative spark after months of just having no ideas and I wrote and recorded Nineteen Hours and Unrecognisable in their entirety in the space of three days. I love it when I get those surges of energy to actually create.
Nineteen Hours is a love song for the person I was in a long-distance relationship with (touched on in Unrecognisable). I had actually gotten the chance to go to the UK and meet up with her in July that year, so this song is about that encounter. Because of schedules we barely had a whole day to spend together, only about nineteen hours. The lyric "seven bells, we lay, at last we break the tension" is a direct reference to School of Seven Bells' album Alpinisms, which was what we had playing when we kissed for the first time. This is also the track that drops the album title, (trading time with you up on the fifth). The AirBnB we stayed in was this gorgeous townhouse in Hampstead and our room was on the fifth floor. This is also the fifth full-length album I've written, so that worked out really nicely as a theme for the album. This track also harkens back to that 90s indie, Pinback vibe that pretty much got me into writing music in the first place.
Breath and Chime
This song is about one of my partners. When I wrote this song, we had maybe hung out in person once or twice. They had come over to my house a couple of times and we had just spent some time together watching anime and dumb YouTube videos. We would just kiss each other and feel that exciting spark of a brand new relationship being nurtured. This song is pretty much directly about that relationship developing and emerging. The lyric "how can you be real" is just something we'd say to each other as part of those sweet nothings you say when you're crushing. The bridge kind of is a response to compliments when you can't really see that in yourself. They would say all these nice things that they saw in me and I'd have trouble recognising it for my self ("I know you're too kind / your words don't sit right / your honesty is not the same as mine").
This is really a very intimate song. The title Breath and Chime, and the repeated verse that contains it ("brush skin / take my time / soft notes / breath and chime") refers to those little breaths and moans that happen when you're fooling around with someone, usually involuntary. It's a really sweet feeling to be able to draw that sort of reaction from someone and have someone draw that from you. Breath and Chime is also one of the first times I've sung primarily in my falsetto so it was a great way to explore that side of my voice. It's dream and shoegaze-y and hazy and I wanted to capture that sort of fuzzy, dreamy feeling you get in your head when you start to fall in love with someone.
Cohabitation continues that theme from Unrecognisable about my living situation. At the time I was living with my girlfriend, now of five years, and we had been living together for two of those. We already knew that by 2018 we'd all have to move out of that house and find somewhere else to live. I knew that I would be moving to the inner-city, well away from the eastern suburbs where we were living. I had a job lined up and housemates and I knew that she wouldn't be moving with me just because her own situation wouldn't allow her to comfortably. This was something that, naturally, both of us were growing anxious about, but we knew we'd still be persevering in the relationship despite the distance, and that our not living together wouldn't be considered a "step back". Plus I was coming to terms with what I needed at the time. I needed to get out of that house, and I think I needed to exist in my own space for a while. Mentally, it can hard for me to always be sharing the space around me with another person, so I wanted somewhere that was wholly mine. We knew it was coming but we hoped that it wouldn't get too much in the way of being together. This song is kind of a reassurance that everything will be okay, and that it's okay for things to change.
Musically, I drew a bit of inspiration from Turnover for the vocals on this. Those chorus harmonies are basically a direct reference to the way Turnover write their harmonies on Peripheral Vision with a solid, grounded lead melody and an almost ambient and dreamy high harmony that doesn't move around a lot. I also tried to do a lot with percussion on this track to keep things a bit varied.
The third song I had written for the album after Nineteen Hours and Cohabitation. I never thought this track would make it on because it felt way too far out for the style I had going so far. It's so high energy and electronic and has a full drum and bass section. But, the more I added to it and the more the rest of the album fell in place, thematically, it just was meant to be there. The song, lyrically, is, again, about that long-distance relationship established in Nineteen Hours. More and more I'm singing to her and realising how much I was so emotionally invested in that relationship and I just had so much I wanted to say to her, which is the bulk of this song's lyrics. When things dissolved in that relationship I added that last verse.
It's a bittersweet combination of a love song and a break-up song. Things are amicable between us now but I don't think I was in a great place writing that. It just took me a while to discover that long-distance relationships are hard for me, and that I was never going to be able to be as emotionally fulfilled as I needed to be to remain engaged.
A late addition to the album but one of the earlier written tracks. Falling was written on its own back in April of 2017 before I was even actively writing for the new album. It started as an experiment to make synths and percussion using only a metal drink bottle (which is what that bell synth you hear throughout is recorded from). I wrote this song while I was still studying, and is really about those days where it's raining and you just don't want to leave the house and go to class. Those times you just want to be with someone you love to help you feel better for what is, clearly, a regrettable decision. There's also a bit of self-flagellation in the chorus (come down on me for causing my accidents). Like when that regret sinks in and you realise you probably should've just been responsible and done something with your day.
The final part of this song has a direct reference to Worsening by Baths ("I sing 'be safe' / oh just hold me"). Obsidian is one of those albums that I listened to a lot in the space of time I had met and started being with my girlfriend and that song just brings me a lot of comfort. Those last lyrics are basically just talking about putting on some good music and cuddling for a little while.
Musically this song was inspired by Alvvays. Antisocialites is easily one of my favourite albums of 2017 so I wanted to make a bit of a call out to that sort of fun, jangly dream pop. Lyrically, it's pretty on the nose. This song is about kissing and sharing that moment with someone. Surprisingly, this song isn't about any one person in particular. I think I had wrote it about any sort of encounter like that that you could have with someone. Not much else to say about this one other than I'm really happy I got to record some nice sparkly acoustic guitar for it because I think it really lifted the sound a lot.
The oldest song on the album and the first one I recorded — well before I even knew I was recording an album. Back in July/August 2016, I was living by myself, housesitting my mum's house in Camberwell. I had brought over all my recording gear and challenged myself to write one song a day for as long as I could. I was hitting a low point in my depression and anxiety and starting to realise the state my head was in. I was starting to really fall out with some very old friends and I was realising how much I needed to get out of the home I was living in. In the lyrics, I'm pretty much talking to myself. I'm trying to find some sort of good in everything but it's hard when mental health makes everything really cloudy. I was also at a peak of my gender transition at the time and was in the process of changing my name ("oh trade my name").
My good friend Sos Gill contributes a line of vocals to this track, which was pure luck. We had already planned to hang out that evening and I hadn't recorded my daily song yet. She's a singer and I figured it'd be nice to have a friend on a track so dark.
The last song to be recorded on the album. I knew it'd be the closing track when I wrote it. I was listening to a lot of Broken Social Scene at the time and loved their dynamic way of writing different movements within same tracks. The song opens with a field recording of some bats squeaking in some trees I took when walking to my sister's house at night from the station in West Footscray. The song deals with my own accountability for my actions. When I was a part of that big online community (the same one that relationship came from) I had similar connections with a few different people. A pattern emerged where I would become close to someone, and then suddenly just move on, barely noticing it myself. I'd stop responding to messages, I'd not be reciprocating the same feelings or energy, and it wasn't until this was being pointed out to me that I started to analyse myself and realised that this was something I was doing.
I realised that I'd grow close to someone, and then as soon as I reached a point where the only way I could strengthen the relationship would be to meet them in person, I'd drop off and just move on. They all lived in different countries so I couldn't actually see them and I hadn't noticed that long distance just didn't work for me. It's something I ended up speaking to my psych a lot about and I'm on better terms with the people I treated poorly now after realising what I was doing.
Musically, this is the heaviest song on the album. I managed to pull off a sort of screaming vocal at the end which I'm proud of and I specifically made a big rock closer with some inspiration taken from The World Is a Beautiful Place. It's cheesy, but it made me happy to close out the album that way.
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