Hi Issy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been fine, this whole music thing is such a culture shock. It’s 9pm in London and I’m watching HBO’s “The Undoing”, it’s one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen but as a British person it’s always nice to see Hugh Grant resurface.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Cry/Fun”?
This song is now almost a year old, so I lost all critical distance from it around June. However, it marks a change in pace, literally, from the covert stuff I was making prior. It’s the first track I made that I could imagine someone dancing to. It was also the first track I made using a Linndrum drum machine, on loan from Mark R.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I was thinking about my upbringing, a particular rift in my family, and the relationships I seek out to compensate for that rift. It’s more or less one big argument with myself.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Stuart Middleton shows with the same gallery as me in London, and I already knew and loved his work, so I was able to safely let him do his thing in Glasgow, where he lives. He updated me and I gave notes on the final edit, but this was very much his video. Stop-motion is painstaking and time-consuming, but I think those are Stuart’s favourites.
The single comes off your new album Cries Real Tears – what’s the story behind the title?
Cries Real Tears! The exclamation point is important. In an effort to find proxies for my own face just as the release was coming together, I was looking at those baby dolls made for young girls. In the last ~40 years it seems like a doll’s sophistication is defined by whether she pisses herself, whether her eyes close, or whether she cries real tears. The packaging would read “Cries Real Tears!”, and in the way that advertising occasionally touches on the deepest darkest stuff, I knew I had to use it.
How was the recording and writing process?
I record everything in my kitchen, at a big dining table. I have my guitar, my bass, a mic and a keyboard there as permanent fixtures, and if someone comes over for dinner they have to kind of eat around it all. I write mostly as I go, but I have a few instruments set up at my studio to test stuff out on in between making paintings
What role does the UK play in your writing?
I guess I made a decision at some point to sing how I talk, namely with a fairly posh British accent. I never know how that lands on American ears. An upbringing in the U.K. usually offers humour or plays on words as a smokescreen for talking about emotion – we can get really real and really dark, just as long as it’s bookended by laughter.
How has your background as a painter has influenced your approach to music?
My work ethic and output are similarly paced with painting and making music ie. I make a lot of stuff quite frantically. I think I’ll always feel a little behind in my craft in terms of songs, because I didn’t begin making them with any seriousness until 2018. I paint at my studio from 9-4pm every day, then I sit down to work on music as soon as I get home. Because the art world is my home and my living and always will be, I approach the music world and the small group of people I have here with curiosity. I ask a lot of questions.
What aspect of pain and pleasure did you get to explore on this record?
That’s really between me and my therapist, but I dug up and unknotted a lot.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I have a daily writing practice too, a diary, so I always keep words pretty close. A lot of it is free association first and a narrative later
What else is happening next in Issy Wood’s world?
Just being a musician in Biden’s America, juggling painting shows in 2021 with making new music and the visuals that accompany it.