Multi-hyphenate creative powerhouse Megan Washington has ideas. Lots of them. In conversation we scud across many topics – Beyonce’s Homecoming, Ginger Rogers, Gurrumul, podcasting, ego, lyrical Easter eggs, ‘givers’ and ‘takers’ in performance – but they’re all interconnected with her thoughts on the teeming thicket of ideas that is her new album Batflowers.
Megan Washington is a believer in the endless interplay of all life’s components, particularly when it comes to art and narrative. “I want to make something that’s sort of connecting my eyes to my ears, and realising that all music is musical theatre,” she says. “All music, all songs, everything. Even how a baby cries is like musical theatre – it’s got its own code inside it. It’s audio cinema; it’s telling you a story. Even a chord: whether a chord is major or minor, that’s emotional information. So the whole record for me is a musical. It’s a musical about getting back up again.”
This role Washington has found for herself – existing in tandem with those afore-mentioned hyphenates, which include podcaster, film and television scorewriter, sound engineer, hand-drawn animator (the fruits of which you can see in the lyric clip for her single Dark Parts), mother, and a pile more – is one she cherishes deeply. “I love to be an artist. It’s a gift to be able to make people feel how you feel, especially when how you feel is good, despite the sh-tness of the world, its horrendousness – to make space for beauty and for people to come and connect with their feelings and to connect with themselves,” she explains.
“’What can I do in this global movement of whatever the f-ck is happening to Earth, like, this massive adjustment?’” she asks, recalling her thoughts at the beginning of the journey towards assembling this new album. “’What is the service that I can provide?’ Because nobody needs any more sad girl pop about me and all my f-cking problems. We’re all having to be there for each other in a way that we’ve never had to do before, because we’ve never had something affect the whole planet before, not for ages – not for 100 years. So I’m just trying to do what I can, which is to have fun, to invite people in. Even if it’s ten minutes of ‘not this.’”
In being ‘not this’, Batflowers succeeds with thrilling grace. Switches glides through an electrical storm with a Sorrento Moon sort of magic, and is connected lyrically to the jaw-dropping Catherine Wheel, which preserves a moment in which Washington forgot her piano chords (but couldn’t bear to re-record this super intimate take on a piano in Berlin; this track has also received an orchestral arrangement from Paul Hankinson, which Washington performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House in 2017). Meanwhile, Dark Parts thumps through a 7/8 time signature which lashes its piano roots bewitchingly against your brain, with lyrics that threaten to fall over one another but never do:
“Show me all your icky blacky yucky/ Show me all your sticky tacky lonely/ …Let me show you all my shadowy and cynical/ Let me show you all the dark parts of me.”
Washington asserts that Batflowers sprang from the visceral seam between dreaming and singing. “For me, dreaming is very passive and singing is very active,” she explains. “When I sing about what I dream, I become a true creator – which is being active and passive together. Like, that’s when I am the dude and the lady.”
What does she mean by collapsing that binary? We get closer to it when talking about the pervasive desire of some listeners to find out the definitive meaning behind a piece of art, thinking their own interpretation may be wrong; ‘What is the true meaning of this song?’
“The answer is always both,” Washington says with feeling. “For me, the big cosmic joke is: Is it man or woman? No, it’s both, dummy! Is it night or day? No, it’s both. Is it gay or straight? Both! Actually, it’s everything.” She clarifies: “The answer to what those people are asking is, yes, I do have a sense of where this song is coming from, and that’s me. And there’s a sense of where the song is going, and that’s you. Both of those points are necessary for the song to exist at all, in any way. It’s not a wall that exists in time and space when I’m not there or you’re not there. The song needs me, but it also needs you.”
Batflowers by Washington is out Friday August 28 via Island/Universal.
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