Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
New Zealand is the setting for the layered, atmospheric music that Alicia Merz composes as Birds of Passage. Intimate in feel and dark in tone, the album puts you in the room with Merz where emotions are conveyed with immediacy. A firm believer in minimalism, she uses this aesthetic to communicate raw, honest feelings. This is all made clear on “Dare I Feel,” the track off her new album Death Of Our Invention, which we’re premiering here. We also get deeper into the philosophy that underpins her music in the interview that follows.
The full album Death of Our Invention is out on April 6th. How similar are the tracks on the album to “Dare I Feel” that you’re sharing with us today?
There are a few songs on the album that are similar to dare I feel in sound, though more are darker. Similar though overall in atmosphere, intimacy and minimalistic sound. Minimalism is very important to me in music for I feel like the essence is laid bare. It’s just honest. There is nothing to hide behind. Because in reality I think there is something akin to that inside ourselves. Rawness of feeling, with nothing to hide behind, although to others we usually try to put on a front, I think we need to be less afraid to be more real.
You’ve recorded a number of albums and EPs already. What was new on Death of Our Invention? Was there something you set out to accomplish that you hadn’t done before with this album?
Yes. I don’t really set out to accomplish anything consciously as such before I write the songs because mainly they just come from where I’m at at the moment emotionally etc., and so that is reflected in the songs.. But in putting the album together (I.e. selection of songs, album title, and artwork etc) I did have a message I wanted to convey. This album for me, as a whole, is one that says something important.
“Dare I Feel” is a provocative title. What are the dangers sorrounding feeling that you want to evoke?
I think in general people find certain feelings difficult to deal with. I know that’s certainly the case for me and it’s because the feelings are painful. We hurt and that’s what makes us try and distract ourselves from our feelings with things…whatever they may be… often detrimental things.. But allowing the feelings and not running away from them and being with the sadness and pain and despair and heartache etc., is important and something I am still learning all the time to do. There’s also something beautiful in accepting it, daring to feel it in its fullness, even though it might be hard and seem to cause deep sadness. This song is particularly to do with feelings of inadequacy, but also acceptance and appreciation of oneself just as we are.
Minimalism is very important to me in music for I feel like the essence is laid bare. It’s just honest.
You achieve a particularly intimate effect on your recordings, almost as though you’re in the room with the listener. Can you tell us a little about your recording process and how you create your sound?
Well, it’s just that. Your description of intimate is actually how I record. My process is always alone at home and pretty unorthodox. I want to whisper to you, I want to be in the room with you, because I feel like that closeness is important and my music’s subject matter is often very intimate also.
There is no set method to how I create my sound, it’s all about atmosphere for me and how I’m feeling at the time. I like to use field recordings, particularly ones that have some kind of sentimental value, and like making sounds somewhat unrecognisable.
When I first started making music I made it because I couldn’t find any music for myself and what I needed that offered much intimacy and closeness. Now I can’t stand to listen to my own stuff after I’ve recorded it! It’s the writing of the songs and recording and playing them live that is cathartic for me. But hopefully some of my songs can offer that solace for others. Also there are messages I want to get through, and I feel that intimate atmosphere is a very real way of hopefully achieving this.
Do you have any tour plans coming up once the album is released?
It’s possible I go to Europe to tour towards the end of this year.