Rabbit Island on Deep In The Big
Rabbit Island is the musical project of Amber Fresh, where she creates haunting and beautiful songs best listened to alone to fully absorb how special they are.
Her latest album Deep In The Big was released back in August and already has a forever home on our album rotations as such a soothing, striking, and beautiful piece of work.
Following the launch party of the album last weekend, Pam caught up with Amber to discuss the making of the album, writing love letters to friends, and the music which helps her find a sense of calm in this often chaotic world.
Interview by Pamela Boland
Tell us about creating Deep In The Big, what was your sound creating process in getting it all together, collating the lyrics and the whole sound of it. What was rewarding about making the album and what was challenging?
Hey, well, in a way it was like O God, Come Quick [Amber’s previous album], in that my way of writing songs is to do it all at once, in one big go, words, chords, melody, then add more layers to it. With O God, Come Quick it was kind of re-creating what I'd been doing at home in that same way, but with an engineer and recording reel to reel and with more possibilities for sound, instrumentation from other people and all the rest.
For Deep in The Big the first big recording was done in Melbourne over a week of really great sleepovers and then into the studio everyday with engineers, Aden [Senycia] and Nathalie, with friends dropping by but mainly being in my own zone just with extra hands right there to help get it all captured. I spent a lot of time with Aden crawling round the piano putting shitloads of mics in all the right places and listening and re-listening ‘till it was all right, but then actual recording is pretty quick. We did heaps of re-amping and then got Nick [Albrook] on guitar, Ben [Witt] on bass, Tristen [Parr] on cello back in Perth at Aden's folks home where he had a mini-studio set up by the ocean. Recording and mixing is very special. It's like this magical treat where you get to make something bigger than you could have with just your own knowledge, skills, physical and spiritual resources.
The challenging thing was just my own mind trying to eat itself at different points, but I just had to keep trying to stay positive and deep in something good and... let it happen I guess.
What does the album mean to you? You sing a bit about your friends in the songs, and about being far away from people you love and about being close, were they a big part of the songwriting for the album?
Yes they were a big part. My friendships were huge in this set of songs, friendships and heartbreaks and a broader deeper idea of love. Certain friendships related to music were very important - I'm not going to say names of people though, too complicated!
The album is very special to me, and I hope it will feel that way for a long time. I feel the same about O God, Come Quick - that it has an important place in the life of some people I know and in my musical life.
You have created a sound that is an incredible mix of ambient-folk-psychy goodness, do you think it's important that artists don't feel constrained by a genre or expectation of a genre? Do you find there is a pressure to box yourself in the industry or are times changing?
Some people love talking about genres and that's lovely, some people just feel they have to use them for writing about music or whatever, but I honestly don't try to fit in a genre box, and for people I know I don't think that's a consideration. To make special music I don't think expectations of any kind from the outside are helpful, or even thinking about it as an 'industry'. It's just art, it's creation, like, what we are meant to do as humans, create beauty in all sorts of ways and whether it comes out and can be called 'death metal' or 'a baby' or 'contemporary art' or 'a delicious pizza' it's all worthwhile and lovely and in some way our purpose on the earth in my opinion.
My friends and I have all found the album super emotional, I listened to it whole for the first time while walking around Freo and it really slowed me down and made me take in my surroundings and feel good in a sense of calm, do you hope people find that in your music?
Yeah. If it calms people that's a very special thing. I hope it works like that, for sure. That makes it worth it. Same if it's emotional in a way that's good. Phew.
Is there an artist/album that does that for you, instills calm or a big deep breath?
Probably some Alice Coltrane. Or these two records I got at a special moment in the old Planet Record store as payment for playing there one day, picked for me by my old bandmate Jake. They were A Short Life of Trouble - Popular American Ballads 1927-1943, and Eat the Dream - Gnawa Music from Essaouria. But really if I'm in anxious trouble and need to be calm for me I just have to listen to the sound of the earth, sans extra music, or the sound of a friend's voice IRL or on the phone.
Who are you listening to at the moment, what's on repeat?
Ah right now at this very moment I'm listening to a solo project from one of the guys from Good Morning, Stefan Blair. He played some songs on the piano last time I was in Melbourne and it was so beautiful. I'm getting a sneak peak of his new songs. Also on repeat at our house, for the past three years have been Pure X - Pleasure, Joan Armatrading - Me, Myself, I, Brigitte Fontaine - Brigitte Fontaine, Karen Dalton - In My Own Time, and then a bunch of trap music ha.
Love letters is an ode to femme/non-binary musicians, with that in mind, who are you most influenced or inspired by, who do you love, who would you like to write a love letter to? Whether it be music wise, or just who because of who they are?
I write love letters to my female friends in my mind very often actually! At the moment I've been writing in my mind to my strong amazing redhead friend Kate, my deeply intelligent and creatively magical friend Leonie, and my friend Elizabeth who can see the future, they're the ones I've been thinking about most.
For influence and inspiration, probably Laurie Anderson. I'd love to meet her and look upon her face and drink a tea together. Or even more than that, I'd like to see my Latvian grandmother who I miss very much and who I wish would like my music if she were alive in this realm.