[INTERVIEW] Vesper Wood on knowing your power and supporting equality as a human

One half of Kaleida, Vesper Wood has gone solo with three intensely meaningful songs on love, life and principles.

Vesper Wood Interview

In our interviews, we always try to focus on the human side of artists, but in fact, it is not very common they actually respond that way. Last week, we had the chance to talk with Christina Wood, the person behind Vesper Wood, a project that is born some years after Kaleida was born as her main project. Kaleida had significant success (and we expect them to continue to have a lot more with their comeback soon), so we were interested in understanding how Vesper Wood beginning is based on lessons learned and what was the motivation behind “starting it all over again”. We were surprised to find a deeply humanistic and true feminist behind it all. And if we already felt inspired by her first songs, we find ourselves kind of obsessed about it now.  So, for all you gentle human souls, this is Vesper Wood:

One-Half of Kaleida

Christina Wood and Cicely Goulder as Kaleida

[WtMM] You were quite successful as half of Kaleida, what lead you to pursue a solo career?
[Vesper Wood] My partner in Kaleida took some time off to have her second baby and I was feeling idle…thought it might be time to get together some of the more personal songs I had been writing and try a different approach to working and production…and keep learning.

What are the main differences in terms of sonority and lyrics between Vesper Wood and Kaleida?
Vesper Wood is more stripped back, less electronic, more organic, raw. I kept things pretty close to the demo’s as I wanted the tracks to retain an intimate, un-refined, transparent feel, and the lyrics are a lot more personal.

100% Vesper Wood

Christina Wood as Vesper Wood

What is the story behind Vesper Wood? I mean, what do you feel Vesper Wood is more about and how do you see the project in about two years’ time?
It’s just a lot more introverted, and kind of a nod to my folk influences, that music that I love. In two years’ time…another album? Enough recognition to go on Jools Holland? Enough listeners for a long tour!

Carson was released about one week ago, and is the third song of Vesper Wood’s project

With which artists you identify the most at the moment, and with who you would like to work the most?
I love Aldous Harding’s musical style, and I wish I were as witty as she is. She’s a beautiful songwriter. I always look up with Bjork – she’s my hero for her work ethic, individuality, and emotional courage. Who would I like to work with? I’d be up for working with Lana del Rey, to be honest. Like make a really lush feminine track with her, just bask in it, the dark feminine. I’d love to work with Poliça too, do some guest vocals for them. Love their drumming and Ryan Olson’s production, and Channy’s spirit. Would love to work with some Native American musicians and get into their world too. What else? Make a song with Hilary Clinton. I wonder what her singing is like. Maybe it’s really moving. Make a song with my grandmother if I could. Make a song with an orchestra.

Was there a song that “changed it all” for you?
No, but the two albums that have been the most fascinating for me were Bjork’s Debut and Fever Ray’s 1stalbum. I loved the songwriting, singing, and production on both of those. Just fresh. They were pivotal to my obsession with music and music-making.

If I Had A Heart taken from Fever Ray debut album

Who would you say was the main artist(s) that inspired you to follow a musical career?
Loretta Lynn, Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, Elizabeth Laprelle, Kate Bush, Bjork, The Knife and Fever Ray, Soap&Skin

Beyond the Songs and Into Humanity

“Descend” is a haunting song where your vocals take the central stage. For us, it reminds a bit of acts such as Aldous Harding and Perfume Genius but with clear differences that are so easily associated to your voice. Was there a story behind it? 
Thank you! That’s a lush compliment.
It’s a classic breakup track, lol. It was about being rejected/ something ending and self righteously standing for love overall, standing by how you feel in denial because it was so epic. You know, a bit naïve, as if you putting your love out in the world matters more than the actual dynamics of two sometimes ambivalent, always complex human beings interacting in actual time and space. I was listening to one of Bjork’s songs from Vulnicura the other day and she said a similar thing to her ex-partner, maybe in a more interesting way – “For our love/ Kept me save from death/ You doubted the light/ And the shelter it can give/ For in love we are immortal/ Eternal and safe from death.”
It’s like the pain of rejection is compounded by this larger pain at the other person no longer believing in the power of love, no longer choosing to love to bring you through together, no longer being committed to the concept of love. You feel the pain of the world in that. So yeah, not overly dramatic or anything.

Do you feel you could only write, and sing a song like “Descend” after you were in the music business for some years? Or do you feel it just a natural product of your sensibility and craft?
Yes, when I started out I had no idea what I was doing, and not much confidence – just a lot of instinct and conviction, and a heavy emotionality that needed an outlet. (smiles) I suppose I stayed really close to my demo on this track, and I kept it simple – so in that sense I wouldn’t have been able to make a track like Descend when I started out, as I would have felt it needed to be changed in a million iterations by other people.

What is “The Wall” about?
I feel really strongly about having women’s voices heard and through a wider expression of their perspective their power increased. The Wall was about feeling outraged at how little respect and awareness there is in our society for women’s health issues. They have been taboo and private for so long, and a lot of women really really suffer with painful and traumatic issues that go straight to the core of who they are as a woman, whether it’s chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, hard-core operations, not being able to conceive, recurring miscarriages. I went through several operations in the last few years for my reproductive health, and I felt a lot of anger that I had not been educated about it all as a young girl – I didn’t even know how ovulation really worked until about 2 years ago, when I stopped taking the birth control pill after 16 years, and I have 2 academic degrees! It seems to me that that kind of disconnect with our fertility and our female power is a part of the larger issue of women not being equal or honored in the way we should be.

The song was sort of directed at the next generation – saying “don’t you listen, know your power”, and it was also about fathers raising their daughters in feminist and equal ways, not perpetuating what has happened for centuries. ‘Call the fathers/ of the daughters/ and ask ‘em what’s enough.’ I just don’t understand how you wouldn’t want your daughter to have every opportunity and fulfill all her potential as a father, human being to human being. I really think that little boys should be raised to know exactly what’s going on with women too. So that they support and honor female fertility. So it’s kind of like, come on men, get involved, help us out here, be real men who aren’t afraid of women owning their power. I’m hoping the video for The Wall, which is coming out soon, will help get that message across :).

On Breaking Trough, Trust and Creation

Here at WtMM our goal is to champion very new artists and projects. Having been part of Kaleida and now making a sort of “new beginning” could you tell us two advises that you feel can help new artists getting the most attention of the public and media?
To be honest, I feel like I am so terrible at getting attention on social media – I really have no idea what would be advisable! It seems like you have to be a certain personality type to be good at it, i.e. not shy, love self-promoting, very verbal, very visual. I am none of those things – music is my code language. We had some success with Kaleida because of a random encounter and our track Think being featured in the first John Wick film. We probably would have a lot more if we were better at the above. I suppose I would just advise to stay true to yourself, and be recklessly driven…never give up if it’s what you love, and if the music is good, somehow it will get heard. If you’re performative with your online persona, even better.

Think is currently counting 12 million views on Youtube.

What do you most regret in your past concerning your musical career? Was there something you would not do again?
Not trusting myself enough.

And what were the happiest moments to date?
Playing shows is my favorite part of it all. Opening for Alt-J in Prague was pretty amazing. It was a beautiful evening, sunset, and the Czech love to dance, no inhibitions…a great, open-hearted crowd.

Can you share some details about your typical creative process behind songs like “Descend” and “The Wall”? 
Is it down and play around on the computer and the keyboard with various sounds and out of a weird internal fog come some melodies, progressions etc. At the time I don’t have much of a clue what I’m doing. When I listen back after some space I can see what is good, what to refine, add to, complete etc. It takes a long time for me. It’s all very intuitive. Usually, some words are there, some kind of the essence of the feeling/meaning I’m singing about, but I have to complete them later, after the arrangement etc.

Did that process change a lot in the past years?
Not yet, but I’m hoping it does because I’m getting a bit bored of it! Feel like I need a new approach, new tools, new skills. So I’m thinking about that next morphing now.

Shows, Baby, Collabs?

What’s next for Vesper Wood?
I’m playing a few shows in New York, D.C., and Florida in March. Then I’m having a baby in April! So probably a bit of time off, and then more writing and a new album once I have resurfaced!

Can we expect any collaborations with other acts?
Not at the moment…but I’m totally open to it if anyone is up for it.

Looking forward to playing these songs live? 
Yes, I love to perform live and connect with the audience. It’s much easier for me to communicate on stage through music than in real life.

 Can we expect some shows in Europe in the near future?
Not immediately. We’ll play some Kaleida shows in Europe when we get our next album out, so stay tuned for that.

We certainly will!