Liverpool Psych-Fest is recognised as one of the most innovative and exciting festivals in the UK and we’re fortunate enough to have it right here on our doorstep. To get you excited for the weekend’s events, we talk to one of the festival’s standout acts.
Jane Weaver is a Liverpool born singer-songwriter whose critically acclaimed albums have blended experimental psychedelia with beautifully crafted melodies. Weaver’s inspirations come an array of sources including feminist Avant-Garde art and eastern European sci-fi cinema.
Having just released the concept album, Modern Kosmology, Weaver begins her UK tour at Liverpool’s Psych-Fest. We caught up with her to talk about her upcoming performance, artistic inspirations, working with Haçienda founder Rob Gretton and finding her way through the age of Britpop.
Q. Hi Jane, for a bit of colour can you tell us what you’ve been to this morning and your plans for the rest of the day?
I got the kids ready for school and then I’ve just been on my laptop doing a bit of work. I’ve got to go down to the offices of Finders Keepers Records later on where our friend Nick Simons is coming over to work on my new music video for the track Architect. I’ve got to go through the images and then complain about the lines on my forehead and then try to edit them out!
Q. You have used concepts to form your albums before, most notably with the album Slow Motion and its references to the same-named film. Modern Kosmology came out this summer. can you talk to us a bit about the ideas you wanted to explore and inspirations behind this work?
When it started I wasn’t sure exactly where it was going. I just had loads of sketches and demos of songs and some of them were very ‘garage-bandy’ and some of them were completely different and very electronic so I was struggling to bring them all together.
I actually went to Liverpool in the January of that year (2016) to get a new passport so I had a day hanging around so I thought I’d do something a bit cultural and go to the Tate Modern. Luckily, they had an exhibition on feminist Avant-Garde art and I was very inspired by that. I was having a bit of writer’s block around that time and I wasn’t sure what the concept was going to be for the album. I reasoned to myself that I shouldn’t limit myself to just looking for inspiration in music but to open up to other ways of creating and seek inspiration where I could find it.
I stumbled across an artist called Hilma Af Klint who was a landscape painter in the early 1900s who went onto become one of the first abstract painters. Her work was based on mysticism and spiritualism and she used to have séances and channel voices through her head to create work that was very unusual – using geometric shapes and code. It was to do with a different way of creating other than the conventional way in which she was taught. That was very inspiring to me.
So basically, I robbed quite a lot of her story and created an album out of it haha!
Q. In terms of Hilma af klint’s story, what are your thoughts on mysticism and spirituality and how do you apply these to your own life?
I was raised Catholic – I’m not a practising Catholic but that’s how I was raised. So, mysticism and spiritualism and anything like that was looked at as if it were the dark arts!
I love looking and examining other religions and other belief systems and trying to understand all the different things that people believe. In terms of spiritualism, I’ve never done anything like that before but I respect people who do. I wouldn’t say anything definite around the subject of spirituality because putting labels on it can limit our understanding but I do believe there are energies around us that we don’t necessarily fully understand.
There are things that we have relationships that are subtly engaged with on a deep level. For the album, I actually went to Anglesey to do some writing and the energy of working there in the close proximity of nature and being there next to the sea had a powerful effect on me.
Q. You started out with the band Kill Laura back in the 1990s at the height of Britpop and under the management of Haçienda founder, Rob Gretton. You were very young and suddenly thrust into this showbiz world. How do you reflect on that time?
With Kill Laura, we started off in Liverpool. We were a bit grungy and we ended up getting signed by Polydor. Then, just as our album was getting finished our A&R man got sacked and our album got shelved. As a 20 yr old that was hard – I was hysterically in tears about it all as it was my first experience of the music industry biting me on the arse.
We then ended up signing to Rob Gretton’s label, Manchester Records which was a new independent he’d started. It was the Britpop era at the time and we just started getting records out there.
Rob Gretton was great and he was a huge inspiration to me because he was a great believer in the north-west and the talent here. He always said that there wasn’t any need to go to London and that everything could be done here and I think that’s true. I think that was part of the reason he called the label, Manchester Records as a response to New Order signing to London Records – a bit of a jibe maybe!
I feel sorry for young bands now. For instance, bands like The Coral became famous when they were really young and it must have been very hard to deal with. Being in the music industry that young you get offered free drinks and drugs all of the time and it’s not a healthy lifestyle – physically or mentally.
I experienced certain pressures when I was younger due to being exposed to this world. Your success and self-esteem is so closely linked so when you’re young and vulnerable it can be quite overwhelming – marrying up business and creativity is very strange and very complicated. Being a bit older now I still see the dangers there for myself but I’m more prepared to meet that challenge as I’m an experienced adult.
Q. In terms of being an experienced adult, there’s the idea of dealing with your own personal journey but also engaging in world events and issues that affect other people. In the age of Brexit and Trump, what’s your take on the role of the artist in such times?
I think you need to communicate in a way you feel comfortable.
There are artists such as PJ Harvey who have done that and I think that’s great and I have a lot of respect for that. However, that’s not to say that I’m not engaged in my personal life – how can you not be when you read the papers and see what’s happening here and around the world. There is a sense of being powerlessness but there’s also a responsibility to effect change where you can.
Q. You will be part of the congregation at Liverpool Psych-fest – how much are you looking forward to playing in Liverpool and what can the fans look forward to seeing from you?
I love psych-fest in Liverpool. It’s so nicely contained with so much going on and so many different people to watch. It’s one of those things that I can just go from one thing to another. I’m kind of lazy at other festivals and can’t be arsed walking around huge sites to see things. So, Liverpool psych-fest is just the right size for me.
I’ll be performing some of my songs but adapting the show for the Psych-Fest audience – making it a little heavier and incorporating visuals and making it very loud!
Q. The term psychedelia has undergone a revival in recent years with festivals popping up all over the world. It seems to be an umbrella term for myriad styles of music. What does the term mean to you?
The term has become a bit corny over the years with people latching onto the genre to bump up their own sales.
There are bands like Tame Impala and Melody’s Echoes Chamber who was cited as the ‘new psychedelia’ but I’ve been into that type of gear for donkey’s years starting when I was a teenager going around to my mate’s house listening to Hawkwind!
However, something like Liverpool Psych-Fest – that’s the modern essence of what I respect in psych music and I have total faith in their programming. I know I’m going to see some heavy stuff that I haven’t seen before and that’s going to be right up my street!