It's been three years since Fair Maiden's self-titled debut album, a collection of haunting, folk dreams that strayed far from modern convention and harked back to the genre's roots. The album chanted and chorused, dipped in and out of the shadows, and even dabbled in quaint, 60s country pop.
Now, the Adelaide band led by Ellen Carey are readying for a new era. A comeback is in the works, with new material being refined and tweaked in the studio for release, as well as a fresh lineup plucked straight from the scene Carey surrounds herself with.
Returning to Melbourne after almost a year, we talked to Ellen before her show with Bitch Prefect at the Tramway this weekend about the new changes Fair Maiden is facing.
Noisey: A lot of your music is folk-based. What do you love about folk music and what attracts you to the genre?
Ellen Carey: I've always been really drawn to it. love the simplicity,but also vocally, I've always really enjoyed listening to it: you can really let the vocals do a lot or have a lot of harmonies or really lovely melodies. It's very lyric-based, and that kind of stuff always interested me. I also had a Catholic upbringing, so I think hymns and all that really resonate with me because it's been something that I've been brought up with.
What were your goals with the new album?
I don't even know if we really had any! I think just to get it done and do the best of our possible abilities. When I wrote the songs, the guys would listen to it and they'd bring what they could bring to the table which was always amazing. The goal was just to get it done because Steph (Crase) came down for one weekend only, and she hadn't even learnt half of the songs, so we just had to see what happened and they did an amazing job. I'm really happy with it.
Is there any theme that this album revolves around?
I played some rough mixes to a few friends and family and they have been really lovely and supportive about it, and they've mentioned it's a little bit more intricate and maybe a lot darker. I don't know if it's just me maturing or getting more bitter as I get older [laughs]. 2016, I think for many people, was just bum city, and so I guess I was picking up on a lot of stuff that people were going through around me, and it sort of comes through. It's pretty… darkish [laughs].
It's been a while since the last album. How have you evolved as a musician in three years?
I've been a bit more interested in trying to challenge myself with songwriting because it's easy for me to do nursery rhyme style songs. I really like that stuff, but I wanted to break away from that a little bit more and add in interesting things or get the guys to do more instrumental stuff or have more input. I think that shows with the recordings this time, which is also why it's pretty different.
And you have some new band members now?
Yeah! The last album it was myself, Steph, my brother Joel (Carey), and Liam Kenny, who are both in Peak Twins and other amazing bands. But then we had a guy called Noah (Renolds) who moved to Melbourne, so now it's my good friend Hamish (Baird), Harriet (Fraser-Barbour), and Steph still—she's like the concrete pillar, the backbone to the whole thing. I'm really happy with everyone, but I'm also really happy with where we are now.
Why was there a change? People just not available?
Yeah, not available, completely! They all left me [laughs]. They all went interstate. Melbourne keeps pulling everyone from the lineup, which is fine because I love Melbourne. But yeah, it's been pretty bloody tricky but now I think we've got it sorted [laughs].
Speaking of Melbourne, you guys are playing here this weekend. How do you feel about coming back to Melbourne?
Yeah, really good! I love playing in Melbourne. I lived there when I was younger and it's always been my second home. There's a really amazing music scene over there and really supportive people, and we always have the best time when we play. This one's gonna be fun because it's in the afternoon and free, so it should be a really nice couple of days.
How do you guys go about creating a live presence?
Just… try and enjoy ourselves, don't fuck up too badly, don't drink too much—which we never adhere to. Yeah, just try your best and have the best time ever. That's basically it.
Catch Fair Maiden and Bitch Prefect in Melbourne at the Tramway Hotel Jan 29.