You’ve said of your previous (wonderful) album A Suitable Girl, that your ‘voice is too high.’ What is it about the pitch of those songs that you dislike, compared to some of the aerial awesomeness you achieve on this album (like the end of January!)?
It was never really my voice that I had a problem with. I was struggling to accept myself in general and so picking apart one part of me is the way that I self sabotage. In saying that, rejecting my voice and that last record helped me to come to a place where I could write Hello, I’m Doing my Best. It was a reaction to that and the realisation that rejecting myself and my story and my voice is a waste of time and I should just embrace what I got.
You also said that during writing, you discovered the “thing [you] were pushing against was [yourself].” That’s a pretty massive detection. Do you suspect that more of these kinds of personal revelations are coming in the future?
Haha, yes, always. I’m a very introspective person, so I’m always looking in to work out why I feel the way I do. It helps me to move forward. I’m definitely writing about stuff for the third record that is spinning me out a bit! But it’s all good and I enjoy digging out my flaws and letting them go. Or just accepting them, because some fears or flaws never leave – they just become quieter.
Please tell us that at least some of the things from Backseat’s lyrics and clip are true in the story of your romance with Oscar [Dawson; producer, musician, husband]. Most specifically, did you cold-call him (the way the spoken-word bit in the song’s middle suggests), and did you bond over Tool?
So yes, I did cold-call him! I was so nervous, and I basically said the same thing that’s on the recording. I won the triple j Unearthed comp to open Melbourne Laneway in 2013 and I needed a guitarist, and Oz had played guitar on the EP, so I thought I would just call and see if he was free. I was so surprised and happy he wanted to play music with me! And, the thing about Tool is a bit of poetic license. We did bond over ’90s bands but not Tool. Tool just rhymed easier than Nirvana or Red Hot Chili Peppers!
The entire album is a real examination of past follies, current follies, admissions, confidences, and a literal History of Boys. Did you put I Won’t Lie as the closing track to kind of stamp authenticity on the previous messages?
Yeah, I guess that song feels uplifting in a self-deprecating way, and kinda sums up the whole message of the record. It was one of the first songs I wrote (along with Backseat) so it felt good to put such an early, unfiltered song like that (as you put it) stamp, to finish the album.
That track finishes with a “na-na-na” singalong which has an almost Pixies feel. How do you generally feel about gang or group vocals (they’re not something you’ve used heaps in the past)?
I am an ex-choir girl so I love ‘na-na’ sections and singalongs! In fact, I write these bits secretly wishing the audience will join in with me during the shows. The crowd joins in during Girlie Bits and Ur A Piece Of Shit and I LOVE it!
The “Put your hands up” section in Ur A Piece Of Shit is a super crazy cheerlead. Did you choose these specific issues (eating disorders, a mum that doesn’t care) because you remember them being pertinent in high school?
They just kinda came out as I was writing the song. Also, they are issues that still affect me today. I still struggle with eating, and feeling grossed-out by creepy dudes as do my friends (who I wrote the song for). Thats the point of the song; the stuff we one through as kids still dogs us today, but we are just getting through it the best we can, trying not to let it get us down and understanding our problems.
The clip sees you exorcising (violently) these stereotyped versions of yourself. How have you navigated that task literally in life?
I wanted to explore the idea that I have parts of myself that make me feel shame or fear, and I essentially try to avoid them or push them down with therapy, rationalisation, self help books, drugs/alcohol, whatever! So, inspired by the movie Heathers, I thought I would actually kill the generic personifications of these parts of myself. I love ’90s horror movies like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, so thats where the inspo came from.
Hello, I’m Doing My Best by Ali Barter is out October 18 via Inertia.
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