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RABBIT ISLAND Deep in the ephemeral

Rabbit Island, aka Amber Fresh, Perth’s treasured pixie queen, is releasing a much anticipated studio album titled Deep in the Big. The release features instrumentation from long-time collaborator/bestie Nick Allbrook (Pond), and is out now through Bedroom Suck via Remote Control Records. Amber chats with EMMA STOKES about recording, hearing the voice of ephemeral guidance (The Big), connection at a distance, and planning to not make plans. 

I really love your album, you told me that you finished it two or three years ago? But I can’t remember why you said you’re only just releasing it now?

I mean, I guess the esoteric answer is that things happen when they’re meant to happen or whatever, but also I was just super indecisive about certain things, like, what order to put songs in. I couldn’t feel happy about the masters for ages, and then some label stuff changed and that took a little bit of time. But mainly, sometimes I’m slow.

Do you feel differently about the songs than when you made them? Like how sometimes when you make something you might not like it so much but it can change with perspective?

I know what you mean, but actually I feel the same way about them as I did when they were finished. I feel really good and happy about it all. And yeah, I dunno, maybe I’ll always feel that way. Or maybe in 10 years’ time I’ll think some of it’s not that cool. But my first album that I made in the studio (2011’s O God Come Quick), even though some things about it I wouldn’t be happy with now, I still feel like it’s as it should be. I think for writing I feel a bit more cringey looking back at things I wrote a long time ago, but for music I think I have a few more years to go until I look back and cringe… or maybe I just won’t.

Was this recorded in the studio?

Yeah it was. Most of it was done in the studio in Melbourne called Sound Park, it’s a really beautiful, warm place with lots of wood in it. I was mostly just there with Aden Senycia and Natalie Pavlovic. Then we did lots of other things to it back here in Aden’s parents’ place where he had set up a studio in City Beach, and that’s when Nick [Allbrook] came in and did some guitar stuff and we re-amped lots of things, and my friend Tristen Parr did a bit of cello, and Ben Witt played some bass lines. We just filled things in until it was done.

You coloured in the spaces…

Yeah.

Was there anyone else involved in making the noises?

Not really. Sam Maher, who I’d been playing with around that time was gonna do drums on things but then we ended up not having drums. So he visited, and different people visited in the studio. Another friend was going to do trumpet but I ended up just doing some trumpet sounds with my voice [laughs]. I recorded the main part of one of the songs at a bowling club where me and Peter Bibby and a few other friends were hanging out. There was a piano in there so I just made a song, and you can hear Pete hitting the pool balls in the background and some friends eating chips. But yeah, mainly this time who is playing on it is just me, with quite a bit of Nick on a few songs, and then a tiny bit of other people.

The Gold Hall Beckons… with the telephones? I love that one…

Yep, I like it too. The cello part that Tristen did was amazing. Me and Aden were in the room just listening to the cello and nothing else while he was recording it, and it was just like this beautiful whole improvised piece that sounds really amazing on its own, but on that song it sounds like a bloody saxophone… in a nice way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you write the songs by yourself? Or do you just kinda start them off by yourself and then other people add in bits?

Nah… I just make them, I mean, do you ever actually write a song? Or just get to play a song? For Nick’s parts he would play things and I would either like it or not like it, and I’d cut in or cut out things he’d play. Or re-amp or mess with pedals and things while he played. But yeah, anyone who has played on the songs, I might say what I want but usually not much. I like it better if people do just what they feel, and if they can’t feel it then there’s no point. It’s not planned parts, it’s just what’s meant to be there.

Like authorised improvising, you’re the boss.

Yeah probably, or like spiritually, energetically charged improvising as a team, but where one person’s playing, and the other people are just pumping energy in and receiving energy.

I love it, it’s like a big machine with energy tubes…

Yep, something like that.

Were most of the lyrics for things written around the same time? Because I feel like the singles especially sound like they are about being away from people you love. Was that at a point when people were far away from you?

Um, Deep in The Big was about people being very close in the moment, and Interstate is yes, about people being very far away but also connected to me. People being far away is a big thing in a lot of it.  Connection at a distance, and things being made right at a distance even when you’re within deep heartbreak, or concern. People being close even though they’re far. In the time when I was making some of those songs, I could often really physically feel certain people’s presence when they weren’t around. I was having lots of beautiful and unusual experiences of spiritual or big things being physical.

There’s a quote from you in your press release that I like: “The songs on this album were made when I was hearing from The Big a lot. The Big seemed to be teaching and comforting me and I’d hear its voice and follow it.” So is the way this album sounds kind of like your portrayal of how that voice sounds when you hear it?

I hope that for people who it’s for, that they will experience it in that way. But I couldn’t try and do that on purpose. I felt like that was what was happening and going into it, so I hope that some people will experience that coming out of the songs and the sound. Even if it’s just a couple of people, that’s cool.

Are you going to make any music videos? You used to make lots of music videos!

Yeah! Well last time I did an album in a studio I made some videos and then heaps of other people made videos. I just said, “Here’s the songs, does anyone want to make something?” and then lots of people did. There is one video that me and Nick already made, for the song 11, 12, 13 (check it out below). I’ve made one for The Gold Hall Beckons as well. I probably will have videos for a couple of the other ones. I’m more in the zone of wanting things to happen without trying or planning too hard. Even though I realise to get through life making plans can also be a good way to go.

It does sound like you’re pretty excited for people to hear these songs, is this a joyful time?

Yeah, it’s scary too, it’s always a mix of being excited, and having existential crises about this, that and the other, including music stuff. I’m just trying to be positive in general in life. Hopefully people will listen to the songs and like it, hopefully people will buy a vinyl and want to put it on a whole bunch of times not just out of friendship, but out of enjoyment and desire; but who knows. If that doesn’t happen I’ll focus on surfing and boxing and being a good friend.

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