Last year’s Prodrome marked the beginning of an ambitious undertaking from Boston singer-songwriter Kira McSpice, one that is now starting to take a clearer shape following the release of Aura in July. Some may recognise the names of these records as the first two phases of a migraine, with the next two, Attack and Postdrome, set to round out the artist’s four-part series going forward. Using this unique template as a basis, McSpice’s solo work is a chance for exploration, both of varying musical styles and lyrically, as a means of catharsis and introspection.
Hauntingly dark, and yet often beautiful in an understated sense, McSpice’s music is among the most intense you’re likely to hear all year – heavy not in sound or production but in the sheer intensity of the atmosphere. Fans of gothic folk or dark ambient may find lots to like, but comparisons are largely useless here, with McSpice’s inventive blend of differing styles and diverse array of instruments creating something that’s utterly in a field of its own.
Today we’re thrilled to bring you the enchanting new video for ‘Hide’, taken from Aura, alongside a conversation with McSpice about her ambitious album tetralogy, catharsis through music and more. Scroll down for the interview, then click here for the video premiere.
How would you describe your sound?
KM: At the core of my music is my voice and the concepts and emotions I want to explore sonically. Within my current four-record concept, I use tons of different instruments, sounds and genres, to explore my limits and interests. The core is exploration. Each album is a way to explore what’s inside of me.
You’ve been involved in other projects in the past, how do they compare to your solo work in terms of sound, and how does the writing/recording process differ?
I’m way more particular about how the record is written and recorded for my own work. I want every step of the process to be specifically tailored to my concept. For example, each album in this migraine series was written and recorded differently, to fit the character of each phase.
You’re now halfway through a four-part series named after the stages of a migraine. What inspired this ambitious project, and how did you come to choose this as a thematic inspiration?
My mum inspired it. She has really intense migraines and they happened a lot throughout my childhood. They are genetic so I have always been afraid that I would get them. It ties in with a lot of the themes I’ve been exploring through the albums e.g. not being able to escape your genes whether it’s migraines or mental illness, it all seems pretty hopeless. My mum started getting migraines at 25 years old. I just turned 25 and experienced my first one a couple months ago after I started this project. Funny timing. Right?
Since I don’t have much lived experience with my own migraines, I don’t sing about them in my lyrics – I only use the phases as a template. I was inspired by the constraints of how I thought the phases could sound. They each have such distinct personalities that once I started researching them I knew exactly how I would portray them.
Through the phases I explore different cycles in my lyrics, primarily the cycles of my bipolar disorder. I like the similarities between migraines and bipolar disorder. They are both things that can’t be seen, things happening in your head. There are also very definable cycles within the disorders. And they are usually completely misunderstood. A lot of people think migraines are just a bad headache, that is very wrong. I wanted to draw attention to the complexities of them, I wanted people to understand that there is so much that goes on in this painful, invisible event. Like bipolar disorder, there are many unknowns. No one knows exactly why migraines happen.
There’s subtle but noticeable differences in sound and style between Prodrome and Aura. Are these intended to reflect the differences between the varying stages? If so, what can we expect from Attack and Postdrome?
Yes! Attack will be louder and heavier. I am writing it with a band in the course of one month. The whole thing is supposed to be written very quickly, I want to keep it hot. For recording we are going to do it over the course of three nights in a warehouse. I’m also pushing my voice to its limits which is fun to explore. It’s very exciting. I’ve been waiting for this phase for a while.
Postdrome on the other hand will be a lot slower. It is meant to be a slower writing process with wind, brass and string arrangements as well as similar songwriting and vocals to Prodrome. It should have a similar sound to Prodrome but it will be different because at its core it is supposed to feel like the end of a journey. Prodrome was supposed to have this anxiety in it, this feeling like there needed to be a release. This album should feel like a long sigh.
Who/what would you cite as influences on your music?
My two biggest influences are Kate Bush and Jacqueline du Pré. Kate Bush for her imagination, Jacqueline du Pré for her emotion. I started playing the cello when I was very young and Jacqueline du Pré was my very first idol. Her heaviness in her emotive performances stuck with me throughout my whole life. Kate Bush I discovered about six years ago. I would play her CD The Kick Inside in my car and try to hit the high notes with her. She taught me how to sing and she taught me that it’s okay to be weird as long as it’s genuine and meaningful.
Your lyrics seem quite direct and very open. Do you find this music cathartic to create, and is it hard or nerve-racking to share it with the world?
I’ve always been very open. I have a hard time keeping things to myself. I think my biggest fear and frustration is not being listened to so when I get the chance to be heard I will say everything. The thing I’ve had to learn is how to say it in a creative way. The process of transmuting these experiences and feelings I have is what’s cathartic about creating for me.
In our review of Aura, our writer noted that he thought there was a hopeful undercurrent to the release despite its dark tone. Would you agree that this is the case, and if so, is it purposeful?
It was all a trick – the last song is all about running away, escaping, hiding. In that there’s this excitement and hope that it will all turn out okay. Also, I like to pretend like it’s the character in the song losing their vision. A common symptom of a migraine with aura oftentimes is blindness. The record starts to get clearer as things are getting darker. It’s kind of a delusion of hope like, “I can’t see what’s coming, it’s going to be alright, I can run away from this”. I also think it’s important to note that Aura was kind of a weird one in these phases. Not everyone who has migraines has them and sometimes people can have them without ever having the actual attack. With that being said, there could be some hope in there that the attack won’t actually happen. In the case of my migraine, Attack comes next.
For our premiere of the ‘Hide’ music video, click here.
Aura is out now and can be downloaded here for free, with the artist asking that any donations instead be made to The Loveland Foundation.
Words: George Parr