In Conversation: Wilma Archer

In Conversation: Wilma Archer

Understanding a complex yet bold new record...

Wilma Archer's new album 'A Western Circular' took almost a half decade to complete.

It's a span that saw him flit between London and his hometown of Newcastle, attracting fresh comrades, and new collaborators in the process.

A record that feels fresh, the material was actually allowed to age, with recording taking place across different times.

Featuring guests such as Sudan Archives and mercurial rap artist DOOM, 'A Western Circular' is an incredible feat - especially given that the voice which sounds loudest is actually Wilma Archer's.

Clash endeavoured to find out more...

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You started creating the album in solitude - hometown of Newcastle - surrounded by instruments rather than people. Is that a state you find helps with creativity?

When you’re truly inspired then there’s no better place, but when inspiration was lacking it got extremely bleak at times.

At one point I was a member at ‘The Gym’. It was as much a lack of structure and obligations as a lack of social interaction that gave me the chance to write so much; a lot of which wasn’t great, and will never be heard.

How did you collaborate with the featured artists while working in seclusion? How did that work?Seems to be about finding beauty in the darkness - does that seem particularly relevant to what the world is going through right now?

There was certainly no deliberate effort to shape the music into something cathartic. When it came time to discuss lyrics with DOOM, Sam, Laura and Sudan, I deliberately kept things vague; people love to be told or at least guided how to think about music, and there’s no easier way to tell people what a ‘song’ is about than spelling it out with words.

To me lyrics have always felt secondary and most of the time - unimportant. So the topics I chose for us to write about are all loosely based around (not on) the actual theme - which, being a predominantly instrumental album, had to be communicated wordlessly.

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How or where do you think the album helps the listener do this? Are there uplifting or comforting moments?

The second chorus of ‘the boon’. I sent Sam an essay explaining to him what the song meant to me (as per the above vague descriptive system), which referenced two Simpsons episodes. He understood completely and gave something amazing.

'Cheater' is about narrowly missing being obliterated by a car. Any other moments of levity or otherwise will be hidden throughout the instrumentation, heard entirely differently from each listener, and therefore much harder to communicate. When you enjoy a piece of music but find it impossible to put into words, its probably objectively decent.

Now you’ve come to release the album, we’re all in a state of near-solitude, much like you were when you created it. How does that feel?

Apart from the genuine health threat, rather than an imagined one - I don’t feel too disrupted. I’d spent a long time rehearsing a seven-piece band that was just beginning to gel on stage, so its a shame that has all stopped. Having to assert yourself in order to gain attention is uncomfortable at the best of times, but now feels wrong considering what we’re all facing.

What feels different about releasing a record into this world, compared to what it’s usually like? Are there any positive or interesting aspects to putting music out now?

I tend to finish solo albums once every five years. Now is the worst time in living memory to be releasing and promoting an album.

Artists who would otherwise be performing their music to a live audience are now being forced to engage in all kinds of ungainly social media displays that they’re not equipped to do.

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'A Western Circular' is out now.

Interview by Emma Finamore
Photography: Steve Gullick

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