Hobart Band EWAH & The Vision of Paradise released its debut album Everything Fades to Blue in February this year.
Bandleader EWAH (who you may know as Emma Waters) grew up in the farming town of Scottsdale, North East Tasmania. But she spent her formative years in Melbourne, moving there in 1999 to study creative arts and pursue her music career.
“I was chasing the dream of the sticky-carpet music scene, where some of my heroes had tread and continued to perform,” EWAH says.
She spent 14 years gigging around Melbourne as a solo artist (under the moniker E-wah Lady), and also collaborated with bands such as E-wah Lady & The Open Road and post-punk outfit Insult for Injury.
EWAH has released multiple independent albums including GOSPEL DANCE in 2010. The same year, she won the APRA Darebin Songwriters’ Award.
But afflicted by homesickness she couldn’t shake, EWAH returned to Hobart in late 2013.
She began working on electro demos, and soon realised she needed more people and more instruments.
“It’s a team, and I want to work hard for them. It’s also fun collaborating. It gives you an energy and confidence that is quite different from the solo experience.”
In this essay, EWAH discusses the artists who have carved their way into a space in her mind, and influenced her music.
EW: There have been numerous and numinous entities that have informed my ideas, preoccupations, dress, speech, movement, chord progressions, editing choices and all those other factors that weigh into the creative process.
Yes, I could tell you about the series of Peter Pan songwriters who are each in their own way feminine/masculine bastions of transgressive storytelling[i]: Bob, Lou, Nick, Rowland, Serge, Leonard, John and Iggy. [ii]
I could go on to mention my ongoing attraction to the androgene: Patti, David, and Nina.[iii]
Maybe I could talk about the exhilarating, exploratory nature of new wave French film (Francois and Jean-Luc).[iv] Or the anthropological eye on the Australian interior in films like Walkabout and Wake in Fright[v]; or anything by Rolf de Heer.
I could confess that I owe a lot of my understanding of human chemistry — aka ‘the birds and the bees’ — and the human condition to comedy[vi]: Monty Python, The Comic Strip Presents, Woody Allen, Steve Coogan, Larry David, Richard Ayoade[vii], the Broad City girls [viii], or Amy Schumer.
I am drowning in influences, but these are the heads bobbing up to the top.
And so, exhausted by all this spectacular stimulus, I sleep. And eventually, I dream.[ix] So, it may be simpler to say that somewhere early in the morning, in that little patch of semi-consciousness between sleeping and waking, is where my influences lie — in dreams.
So much happens in that little patch of flickering REM. At a million miles an hour, as I begin to slowly stir into the conscious world, my brain has orchestrated all kinds of wondrous worlds and works — soundtracks, sets, lighting, script, location, cast and costume.
Dreams are where my songs and stories begin.
[i] Yep, you’ll notice they’re a bunch of blokes; these boys swaggering and stumbling and staggering into adulthood, armed with an axe and a pen, punching away with a great sense of importance at pianos and typewriters. Many have been derided for their treatment of women, both on and off the page. But personally, I find their depictions of female characters mystical, mythical, magical, everyday, gender-bending, powerful and vulnerable. In a way, you could well say an extension of the songwriters themselves.
[ii] In case you couldn’t guess, these dear sirs are: Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Rowland S Howard, Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon (where it all began) and Iggy Pop (who is his own thing altogether – IGGY!).
[iii] Patti Smith (whose books Just Kids and M Train are magical, lyrical and pretty much compulsory reads), David Bowie (the teenage crush that endures into adulthood), Nina Simone (her voice embodies the androgene — ambiguous and tempestuous as her moods, shifting from fierce to frail to thorny to velvety).
[iv] Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard: you make me dizzy with excitement when I watch your films. Precocious with experimentation and brimming with philosophy, hip talk, music, fashion, enigmatic characters, gender politics and new approaches to cinematography.
[v] Both Walkabout and Wake in Fright screened at Cannes Film Festival in the same year, 1971. Can you imagine?
[vi] As a kid, I’d sneak out of bed and watch Monty Python, Blackadder, The Young Ones and other comedies deemed ribald by the ABC — ripe with double entendre and violent slapstick. Moving stealthily in bed socks, I deftly nudged the door to the living room just far enough open to swat on adult humour.
[vii] Richard Ayoade is a dang funny guy, and he’s into Serge Gainsbourg, French new wave cinema and all that existentialist bizzo. Word.
[viii] “Gross” is now back in my vocabulary. These broads taught me it can be used broadly.