The sun is beginning to dip behind the buildings on Queens Parade in Clifton Hill, streaming golden light into the freshly renovated recording studio upstairs at a café/bar and live music venue.
Formerly known as Dexter but what is now known as Some Velvet Morning (named after the brilliant duet from Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra), Melbourne songstress Ainslie Wills greets owners Sammy Lynch and John Guskett like old friends – understandably so, as Ainslie herself is a seasoned performer at the affable venue.
Sitting down with a breathless puff, Wills apologises for being late. She’s surprised to be, having only come from North Melbourne which seems but a hop, skip and a jump away – when not travelling through peak hour.
After a few quick snaps by photographer Randi Wagner, we settle in for a chat about performing live, the importance of influences and just why we have to wait until next year to hear Ainslie Wills’ debut album.
“Sometimes the hardest part is taking what you create behind closed doors and bringing it to the live sense,” begins Wills, “because I think in a way that’s what people want to see: the openness towards the crowd and to see the music unfold”
Ainslie’s self-described, “textural, melodically-driven” tunes are ones to hear blossom. In the live setting, both her songs and Wills herself, appear tightly wound and impossible to see through until a sudden chord is struck or a pedal is stepped on (generally by long-time friend, collaborator and lead guitarist, Lawrence Folvig – who has an extensive collection to stamp on) and your heart is set alight by the sultry sounds.
Wills and Folvig, although having been performing together for years, only just started writing collaboratively in 2009. Wills admits collaborative writing isn’t for everyone: “You do really have to bond on a musical level but you also just have to spend time talking about music and what each other likes.”
As fate would have it, they’re both incredibly in tune with one another and their chemistry onstage is palpable. But Wills bats away the suggestion, “we’re still working on making things more full on stage. There’s more room for the two of us to experiment and try some different things within the structure of the songs.”
“We both love that sort of atmospheric sound, of looping and delaying,” adds Wills. “The duo thing is still in the developmental stage but I feel like we’re getting there.”
They both are self-confessed “massive fans” of bands like Grizzly Bear and Boards of Canada, “who influence us in a big way. There was a time when one of our friends said, ‘You two have got to get off this Grizzly Bear thing!’”
Wills lets out a big laugh before justifying, “that’s totally what I love about music, though: revealing things through sonic landscapes and not necessarily through words. I haven’t really delved into the whole Bob Dylan-style of songwriting where it’s quite lyrical and storytelling. I think I really need textural things to truly set the mood and Lawrence is the same.”
The word ‘texture’ comes up a lot in conversation with the Melbourne melodist and it really is the perfect way to describe her music to those who are unfamiliar – and even better to describe her live sound.
“I can’t exactly draw a line from all of my influences,” she admits, from growing up with classical music, Barbara Streisand, Jeff Buckley and West Side Story to the more recently aforementioned Grizzly Bear; “but I suppose you spend your time making music you want to hear yourself,” Wills earnestly reasons.
“I think it’s really important to be constantly ingesting new stuff. Every now and then I’ll have moments where I’m not obsessed by anything and I have a little drought but then I’ll fall in love with another artist and everything is right again!” her contagious laugh bubbles out again as she explains a feeling surely felt by many.
Her most recent obsession? “Roy Orbison,” she immediately replies. “For the past 18 months I feel like he’s sort of seeped in a little bit. If people haven’t delved into his history, people just think of him as Pretty Woman but he’s got some amazing stuff. ‘Running Scared’ was this seven movement song that never repeats the same section twice,” Ainslie gushes, “but it’s essentially a pop song, it’s just seamless. He’s got a bit of magic about him, ol’ Roy.”
With the original release of Wills’ debut LP, You Go My Way, I’ll Go Mine, pushed back from September to early 2013, we won’t hear how much influence (if any) Orbison has on the singer’s new collection of music until next year.
“We finished the recording side of things at the beginning of this year and when we put out the first couple of singles (‘Fighting Kind’ and ‘Stop Pulling The String’) we just wanted to guage how it would be received,” Ainslie explains. Suffice to say, they’ve both gone down absolute treats with the public.
“So we decided to just not rush it,” she continues. “I mean, I really wanted to get it out this year. But realistically, it’s another two years if you want to promote it properly and you’re playing the songs for quite a long time.”
Despite her initial haste, both Ainslie and Folvig decided to ride on the solid success of their two released singles. “We’re independent so we do have that time to take a little longer. We’re still building up awareness. You make the music for yourself but at the same time if you’ve made this big thing you want as many people to hear it as possible.”
Being self-managed, Wills is continuously learning through trial and error. “Whether it’s good or bad feedback, you want some kind of life for it beyond what you’ve done. We’re in no rush. You’ve just got to make decisions on what you think is best for the music.”
The sun has well and truly set and the bar downstairs at Some Velvet Morning is beginning to bustle with the evening’s patrons.
We pack our things and take our coffee cups back down to Sammy and John, where the singer delves into another lovely conversation with the two men.
Ainslie Wills has a hectic six months ahead including single launches, tours, supporting gigs and the making of film clips – the culmination of which will be the highly anticipated debut album next March.
Ainslie Wills continues her Stop Pulling The String tour with a show at Melbourne’s The Grace Darling this Friday 24th August, then wraps up at Ballarat’s Karova Lounge the following Friday 31st August. Full dates and details here.