In a world where cheesy love songs often rule the charts, bands that opt to delve deeper and explore lesser known musical territory are a breath of fresh air. Meet AGWA. Featuring two Popular Music graduates Eliza Pickard and Daniel Booth, AGWA is influenced by artists such as Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Jeff Buckley and St Vincent.
Last month they released their debut single "Masquerades". To find out more about the new song and its enigmatic creators, we decided to sit down for a chat with AGWA's lead singer Eliza Pickard.
Firstly, congratulations on releasing your debut single "Masquerades"! Can you describe what inspired you to write it?
Thank you. Often, our songs don’t consciously draw from inspiration but more from a subconscious line of creative sense. To develop the meaning, I gathered different phrases that randomly awoke during the initial writing stage and tried to gather something together as a whole. I ended up writing Masquerades based on identity, how we, as a human race expose ourselves to the world, often hiding the raw parts and portraying the parts that are easy to understand. I believe we all have alter egos; a version of ourselves that adapts to seek acceptance, and the human mind, the one that feels and exposes everything there is.
What was the recording process like?
The recording process was quite segmented but fairly smooth. Segmented in that we recorded over a number of weeks in relatively small increments. We wanted to approach it this way so that we could fully focus on the importance of each individual part, I guess for quality control in a way but also so we could build our understanding of the layers and how they interact based on the tone and vibe of the rhythm section. Then was guitars and synths, then vocals and finally peripheral percussion. Recording this way has its pros and cons. It took longer than the average song to produce and coordinating availability/booking studio time is definitely not always easy. On the other hand it allowed us to analyse the song at each stage and with a lot of thought, envision the most suitable tonal and textural path for the song to take. We worked with Fletcher Babb as our engineer and co-producer which worked great. We have produced other music with him in the past and found him awesome to work with. He has a very graceful approach to production of music and a special ear for preserving magical moments. The majority of "Masquerades" was recorded in Studio A of the Conservatorium at Griffith University, Southport. A special mix of vintage and deluxe hardware was used to make this song sing.
Do you have any pre/post recording rituals that help get you in the zone?
We do not. Although, we eat really well, drink water and are often hungover so maybe that’s the trick right there.
What advice would you give someone who was about to record in the studio for the first time?
Be confident in yourself as much as you possibly can, even if you have to fake that confidence, it will soon evolve into the real thing. Confidence as a musician is important because you need to love what you are doing and express it fluently - this is not an ego-warrior game. This is self-love in the making of music. Know what you want, be a director and keep your ears wide open.
We have to ask - AGWA is such an interesting band name. Do the letters stand for something or is there another reason you chose it?
It doesn't stand for anything :) It's simply a herbal liqueur made with Bolivian coca leaves and heaps of other natural herbs! It tastes so good that we wanted to make music that sounded as good. :P
What made you decide to pursue music?
Oh the question! I love music, we all do. And i think we all love it too much to ever abuse the curious opportunity of putting everything we have into creating it ourselves. Music in the western culture is undervalued in terms of health; if you feel it, you should express it. Human notions. I feel sorry for musicians that get trapped by the economy and forget where happiness is available to us. We pursue music because we love it too much to miss out on the journey.
If you weren't a musician, what would you do instead?
I would become a yoga instructor because it’s an accessible way for all kinds of people to learn about the breath and how important it is to relate to it. OR i would study psychology because our brains are an undeniably “mind”blowing part of evolution, and if we were educated about them throughout school, we wouldn’t be such a sick species. :)
You graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Bachelor of Popular Music in 2016 - congrats! Looking back, what was the most important thing you learnt during the course?
To soak up as much knowledge as possible and eventually learnt to be completely open to trying new things, and to challenge myself as a musician. Songwriting was a huge learning curve; delving into the deep amounts of knowledge behind creativity was an extraordinary experience, and one that i would have never thought i would be able to apply into my own songs.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing emerging artists in the music industry at the moment?
No matter how much we would love to write music purely for ourselves in hope that the mainstream will fall in love with it as much as we do, it just wouldn’t work. I’ve found that the key to success as a musician is working extremely hard every single day, and writing for the audience at the same time as writing for ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s the listeners that ultimately decide the success of a band. We need to be sure to attain a pop sense and relate to our modern culture of music, as we express our individual sound throughout.
What's in the pipeline for AGWA?
We have exciting things coming up next year! New music to be released, perhaps a not so secret music video for a single that I won’t announce just yet! And lots of shows to be announced within the new year. We are VERY excited!
Describe your playlist to our listeners - maybe highlight a few of your favourite songs/artists and why you included them in there.
At the moment a highlight in the playlist for us at AGWA is ‘Night of the Long Knives’ by Everything Everything. This band has never let me down in providing me with incredibly crafted, unique and energetic music that still fits in a pop format… Their recent album ‘A Fever Dream’ is sooo tasty!
Another highlight from the list would be Radiohead's "Identikit". That song has such brooding undertones in the vocal production, I cannot help but feel every word. Musically Radiohead have always produced top quality songs crafted with intricate layering and minimalist beauty. Definitely a huge inspiration.
And finally, what are you really diggin' right now?
Grizzly Bear's "Painted Ruins" and Everything Everything's "A Fever Dream" are our top 2 fave albums of the year. Both are unwinding journeys of their own and are perfectly conveyed listens. Would highly recommend and would have to say that St Vincent's new “Masseduction” is personally the greatest pop album of the year! Also the “Amelie” soundtrack is full of beautiful french pieces from classical to jazz; super important to take a break from modern music from time to time :)
Take a listen to AGWA's new single "Masquerades" and their favourite songs right now on their specially curated Spotify playlist called "The Party of Lush Dreams".