INDIGO SPARKE – ” Hysteria “

Posted: October 6, 2022 in MUSIC

Indigo Sparke’s 2021 debut, “Echo“, was a minimalist yet evocative collection of folk songs that resonated for its intimacy as much as its intensity, each vibration captured deftly by the simmering production from Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. The Australian singer-songwriter’s poetic song writing already seemed to edge toward a vast infinity, but on her sophomore full-length, “Hysteria”, Sparke has broadened horizons, fleshing out and expanding her sound with help from the National’s Aaron Dessner, who brought a similar warmth and fullness to Taylor Swift’s latest records. Far from abandoning the elemental, cosmic pull of her earlier work, Sparke stretches her muscles, tapping into a raw fury that allows her to untangle a complex web of emotions that feel at once deeply personal and ancient.

The result is a sweeping 14-track effort that reclaims familial and patriarchal histories while reflecting on the nature of love, following waves of feeling and crashing, rather unexpectedly, into a kind of spiritual transcendence. “Hysteria” is an album that extends beyond the self, that reaches for the ocean but always finds its way back to shore, holding enough fuel to keep a fire through the night and fall back into dreams.
‘Hysteria’ is the second album by Australian singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke. Sparke plays a brand of quiet, indie-folk – the kind of mesmerising sound that demands you be quiet and listen. Comparisons can be drawn with the likes of Vashti Bunyan and Aldous Harding. ‘Hysteria’ was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner

I never, until this year, ever in my whole entire life – I never wore the colour blue. I really didn’t like it, I had massive resistance to it. I mean, I’d wear blue denim or whatever, but never blue clothing. And I don’t know what happened, but I think reclaiming that part of my name and my history and everything associated with blue or indigo became this really beautiful, joyful thing. And now I’m wearing blue all the time. I’m loving blue, everything blue at the moment. [laughs] I know it’s quite esoteric, but I think I’ve just been healing, and this is a part of my strange and nonlinear healing journey.

I really wanted for the record to be this journey, and I think that song is where I re-emerge from the underground or the underworld or something, coming out. Even though there’s a lot of similar themes in the lyrics of history and trauma and love, it’s paired with these major chords, which gives it this really strange – it’s always felt like my Neil Young song in some way. You get that pang and that hit of nostalgia and expansive existential beauty and melancholy and just life, and it feels good, it feels open and you feel the light, and somehow you also simultaneously feel the ache of what it is to live and love and long for things.

I had done my first recording session with Aaron in summer, and then went back in the fall for the next session. And then someone in the circle got COVID, so we all isolated and that session didn’t happen. And when we came out of isolation, he was like, “Just go home and keep writing.” Even though we already had more than enough songs – we had too many songs, actually. But I went back to New Mexico, I was living in Taos at the time, and I just kept writing and writing and writing. And ‘Pressure in My Chest’ was one of the songs that I wrote living in New Mexico in Taos.

So when I went back for the next session, which was middle of winter. And it was really funny because writing the song, it was another one of those ones that just kind of sprouted out of nowhere and came through. I was recording it on a voice memo and I was like, “Aaron’s gonna love this song, this is going to be Aaron’s favourite song.” I just had a feeling, I don’t know what it was. And then I went and I played it for him. I had a bunch of new songs, which most of them ended up making it onto the album. But that’s where that song came from. And in the end, he was like, “I love this song so much.”

I wrote this song initially about a woman – I thought I was writing it about a woman that I had been in a relationship with. And there was a period of time when I was living in Minneapolis, and there was a lot of emotional chaos unfurling in the space between us. It was actually quite magnificent and beautiful – how things unravel themselves in love is so stunning in some ways, and terrifying in other ways.

Inspired by the woman that I was with and deeply, deeply in love with, but then I came to realize, this is actually about me – and all of us, in some way. We are the physical embodiment of prayer, that’s what we are. It’s so unique and so special, and it just happened that at that in that point, I was like, “God is a woman’s name.” Because this person that I was in love with was a woman and identify as a woman. In some way, I was like, this is cool, breaking the construct of, what is God? What is it to pray? What is it to be alive? What is it to feel all of these things – it’s really hard to put such a big concept or philosophical rumination of spirituality and religion into something really, again, esoteric and existential. It’s hard to put it into words, but definitely, the feeling is expansive.

It’s one of my favourite songs to play live. And it’s really inked in my heart, this song. I wrote it slightly differently, with a different strumming pattern, and then Aaron started thinking of finger-picking it and I was like, “Wow.” And then he just kept layering guitars on and I was like, “This is perfect for the emotional narrative of this song.” I think this one, again, is about love and mental health. Actually, not so much my mental health in this song, but another person’s mental health, and how as humans we do tangle and we weave together in these really complicated ways. I don’t know quite how to put it into words either, this song, but it feels kind of like falling rain or something.

It was the first time in a long time that I had started to feel love again with someone and for someone and I’d just kind of given up. It was all very fleeting and beautiful and felt kind of nostalgic. We were listening to a lot of Jeff Buckley, and that was infused in this song. But it kind of followed itself into something new and morphed with Aaron’s production on it. I wasn’t sure at first. I was kind of like, it’s just too emotional ballad or something. And Aaron’s like, “No, it’s one of my favourites, it’s stunning.” And then I listened to it a few more times after taking a little bit of space from it, and I was like, “Oh, I love this song, this is so beautiful the way it turned out.”

This song felt so circular to me, in its lyrical world and its production, everything. It was totally born out of a re-cycle of relationship that I’d had years prior that I had entered into again, which was really, really bizarre. There’s so many layers to this song, and a bit of mythology in it too. I was thinking a lot about the Oracle of Delphi in Greek mythology, and I was thinking a lot about consciousness and how children come through with this innocence, without the layers of fear and judgement and history that we accumulate as we get older.

I think that’s been my life, really: a constant cycle of navigating those themes inside of myself. And not finding the balance at times in those things – being in one of them more so than the other, you know, has nearly killed me. Like, holding, holding, holding, holding – it’s so intense in my body. And then falling, falling, falling: falling in love, falling through, falling, so many different iterations and metaphors in that. Melting… Yeah, I don’t even really need to fully go into that. I can leave that open for interpretation, everyone has their own understanding of that. I love this song, it might be one of my favourites on the album.

It is about waiting, it is very much a longing song. It was one of the earlier ones that I had written in COVID, and has deep yearning and grief. I think the changing time signature, slowing down definitely helped create a sense of space or a break. It starts off in that faster finger-picking thing in some way, and then everything slows down. But it wasn’t intentional at all. I didn’t sit down and think, I’m going to try and create this sense of waiting or space, although that is in there for sure. I think sticking with the repetitive chords, which I do in a lot of my songs anyway, but specifically with this, it’s back and forth on those two chords the whole way through, so that helps give a sense of a repetitive waiting.

I think Aaron and I just kept listening to it and we were like, “This is so good.” There’s some other songs that didn’t make the album, which will come out on a B-sides soon. I guess it also ended up coming down to sequencing, trying to navigate which songs flowed together more as a world or as a family for the record. It was really hard, but it just ended up being one of the ones that we were like, “This has got to stay on there.”

I was definitely having the experience of feeling rage in my body as something that was so intense in my solar plexus that felt like fire. It felt like I was being burned alive from the inside, and I was like, “How the fuck do I process this emotion?” And it felt so ancient, so old. It felt like it was just getting triggered in present-day situations, but it wasn’t actually to do with those situations.

It was definitely hard to sing this one. [laughs] Just goes straight into it and so high and pretty full-on. I had a form for this song, Aaron and I wrote the bridge. It was another one that was nearly ditched but I felt really attached to it. I was holding on, I guess. [laughs] Another holding song. But yeah, I don’t totally remember more than that, apart from that it was really intense to sing.

you find yourself sometimes in these bizarre situations tangled in lies or versions of yourself that you’re presenting to someone else to stay safe, but that’s not who you actually are. And so, you find yourself “in love,” but it’s all just a lie. You’re further away from yourself and you’re further from that person. It’s not love at all, you’re so far from love. But that’s why I was alternating that line in ‘Time Gets Eaten’, “Love is still alive/ Love is a lie.” They both exist, and it’s like, which do you occupy? And how do you navigate it? How do you feel the difference, reconcile it?

Fever dream, that’s a really good way of putting it. It did in my mind feel like the perfect bookend to the album. Also, like you said, really autobiographical. Even just the last lines, “Please don’t wake me up/ Just tell me it’s okay to dream.” I remember putting it at the end thinking it’s kind of funny because I’ve just gone through this huge wave of expressing this whole range of emotion, this very vast weather pattern, and then at the end I’m just like, “I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to talk about it.” I wrote this song actually in Minneapolis as well, this is another Minneapolis song. It’s been written for a while, actually. I played this song on my Tiny Desk, it was the last song, and at that point, it didn’t even have a name.
Indigo Sparke From the album “Hysteria“, out October 7th 2022, via Sacred Bones Records

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