One of our early releases of 2023 is 'Nurture,' the collaborative album from marine eyes (Cynthia Bernard) & IKSRE (Phoebe Dubar). The two artists decided to ask each other a few questions on creativity and their songwriting process.
Cynthia: Our shared love of field recording is what sparked the idea of us creating an album together. How did your love of field recording begin? Do you feel like 'Nurture' gave you new insight into the practice of using nature sounds in your music?
Phoebe: I've always loved the sounds of the living world - I spent half my childhood in the country and even now as an adult, I can't spend too long in the city or I start to go crazy. It's why I live in the suburbs. I can't live amongst concrete. I started recording the sounds of nature entirely by accident - in fact, the entire IKSRE project happened at the same time.
Five years ago, I was sitting by the stream one day and was struck by the gorgeous soundscape surrounding me. I happened to have my laptop with me, so I opened up Ableton and hit record, using the Macbook mic. That song became "Alone. At Paradise" from my first album, "Unfurl". Fast forward four years to finding the perfect sounds to send to you, (FYI I now use a Zoom H4n Pro, headphones and tripod - no more laptop mic recordings, LOL), and I was definitely more considered in what I captured for you for this project, that's for sure. I wanted to document soundscapes that were unique to Australia. I wanted to send you sounds that you never would have heard before. To give you an aural experience of another place - our birds, frogs, insects, wind through our native trees... I even got a recording of a grunting koala but decided against sending it to you. It's a pretty freaky sound.
Cynthia: One of the things I cherish about 'Nurture' is that we have an auditory scrapbook of our friendship being born. Throughout the album process and beyond, we have been able to connect deeply on many things, including creative motherhood. Do you feel your relationship with music has shifted since your beautiful daughter was born? How do music and motherhood fit together in your life?
Phoebe: Oh my god yes! One thousand million percent, yes. I went from a full-time funk/soul/disco singer with a party band, who also wrote indie electro jams and played in sweaty clubs, to a sound healer and one woman solo ambient music show. How much more of a shift could there be? But life is all about growth and shifting with the seasons and after 10 years doing that, I felt an immediate shift away from that kind of music making as soon as I became a mum. I've always just wanted to make people feel good with my music, I guess I do it in a far more sustainable way now - rather than party time fun music, I make music to nourish and nurture. And for sure, music and motherhood are totally complementary and exist side by side in my life - whether it be writing silly songs with Stella or nurturing her love of music; or her accompanying me to family-friendly gigs, or on field recording expeditions, it's something that we share constantly and is integral to our wellbeing. Like sunshine. Or fresh food.
Cynthia: Name one current obsession/passion in your life that has absolutely nothing to do with music.
Phoebe: INDOOR PLANTS! My house is a freaking jungle with plants of every conceivable variety, scattered all over the place. My husband constantly jokes that we need a full-time plant waterer on staff soon. But I love my plant-babies so much and get so much joy from tending to them. I get so upset when one of them gets infested with pests or looks sickly. The ones I'm most proud of are my big Fiddle Leaf Fig, who I call "Nigel" and I grew from about 75cm tall to the towering 3m he is now. And my two Parlour Palms, which I bought on sale at Bunnings (I think it's maybe our equivalent of Home Depot?) in 2014 and they're still kicking! Speaking of, it's time for me to go and water them now. :)
Phoebe: You are one of my favourite musicians because you're so authentic and I can just feel your heart in every song you write. It's obvious that making music is in your bones - but do you remember a particular moment in your life when you suddenly realized that you just HAD to make music?
Cynthia: Thank you, I feel the same about you! Your heart is undoubtedly infused with your music and is one of the first things that made me fall in love with the audio worlds you create. I can think of many moments when I have had to put everything else aside and create, but I have to mention the first time I felt this pull musically. When I was about 10, I was sitting inside my house in Concord, California and it began to rain outside. I was suddenly filled with the desire to sit on our covered front porch, lean up against the pink stucco siding and start writing a song about the rain and how it made me feel. This moment sticks out to me, still. Not because the song was especially good, but at such a young age I felt a connection to how nature can inspire music and tapped into that. Now, I record the sounds around me and add them to my music, cementing how that particular moment made me feel. And here we are, full circle.
Phoebe: We went deep with this album, sharing some very personal stories and becoming close friends along the way. Do you find you need a story in your head before you write something, or not? What are some examples of both - stories and not stories - from idyll, chamomile, Nurture?
Cynthia: I love that 'Nurture' was a way for us to grow in friendship together, I am grateful for our beautiful foundation!
I would say it is quite split for me. Many times I do have a story in my mind when I sit down to write but sometimes I need to sit down and write without anything on my mind, letting things flow out in a meditative state. When I approach a song like this, often I find the story mid-way or after working on the song.
An example of having the story ahead of time is my song from idyll, 'roses all alone.' I wrote it with the intention to capture how much I value my alone time and took field recordings and a line from a poem I wrote on one of my solo dates and added them to the track. I sat down that same evening to start the song and it flowed effortlessly.
A song on chamomile where this didn't happen is my track, 'outpourings.' Creating this song was improvisational for me and the story of the track became clear just after recording the main vocal textures and guitar. The story of the song is about improvisation being fulfilling in a different way, there is magic in remaining open to the unknown.
With Nurture, every song had meaning from the start as the majority of the tracks began with us sharing our field recording with the other accompanied by a geographical lesson, photos and journal of sorts. I feel like this added to the magic within the songs as we were living vicariously through one another, truly placing ourselves in new environments. 'You'll Grow,' quickly became our song to comfort the earth as the field recordings you sent me were from bushfire-ridden land. This was also the first time I had written songs to field recordings I hadn't captured on my own. It was a beautiful experience to work with your sounds and stories and I can't wait to visit some of the locations with you when I visit Australia one day!
Phoebe: I know you love to cook, and entertain. So, tell me this - who are the ten people - alive, dead, even fictional - who you'd invite to a dinner party, and why? (And as bonus points, what would you serve, and what would the first album you would have playing to set the mood?)
Cynthia: I have a large family and cook for 7 every night so I don't really want to have a large dinner party right now since I already do most nights, ha. But if I had to choose a few people I would say Mary Oliver, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dolores O'Riordan, Thom Yorke, and you and your family (one part of this that will come true with your visit to California this year)! Not sure how all these personalities would go together but James and I are both Geminis so I am sure it would work out just fine, lol. Oh, and we would definitely make sushi, and likely be playing the album we were currently working on as it would be a good opportunity to check how it translates in a group setting. ;)