In Conversation with Emma Wigham of Witching Waves

Words by Jasmine Bourgeois
Photos by Jo Higgs

Witching Waves, made up of Emma Wigham (drums / lead vocals), Estella Adeyeri (bass, and also a member of Big Joanie and Charmpit), and Mark Jasper (guitar / vocals), is a prominent force in London’s indie/post-punk scene. The band’s debut album Fear of Falling Down was released in 2014 on Soft Power Records, and hailed as one of the year’s top 50 albums by Drowned In Sound. Their second LP Crystal Cafe was released in two years later, receiving equally rave reviews. Just over a month ago, they’ve come back with their third album Persistence, released via Specialist Subject Records. Persistence was recorded live directly to tape over just two days. “We really really wanted this album to capture the feeling and energy of our live set,” Emma says. “We felt that hadn’t really come across on our previous recordings so it made sense to record live with us all in the room together.”

And it certainly does so. The album is rhythmic, interesting, and clean, but full of erratic riffs and punk undertones that keep you gripped as each track starts and ends. For anyone who’s already familiar with their sound, you can certainly expect the same level of excellency. This is a band that knows what they do, and they do it damn well.

Tom Tom talked with Emma about the new album and what’s next for Witching Waves.

TTM: I know you sing and drum. How do you balance the two?? I’ve been trying to learn how to do this forever, and can barely manage even with the simplest parts.

EW: I started playing drums in Witching Waves and always had to sing at the same time so it’s been out of necessity really! I think if I’d have learned the drums and then tried to sing over it would have been a lot harder! But that’s the way I’ve always done it. I think the way I play has developed around the fact that I need to be able to sing at the same time and vice versa so the two are wrapped up in each other. I see my voice as being a bit like another limb! Sometimes I’ll really want to play a certain beat and will have to really work at it so that I can sing at the same time. Now that I feel more confident with my drumming, I want to push myself further so that the drumming and singing don’t dictate to each other so much.

When did you start drumming? Do you play other instruments?

I started drumming six years ago when we started WW. I played guitar in my previous band but something was pulling me towards the drums. Witching Waves has been a constant learning experience. It was really uncomfortable at the beginning feeling like I was learning to play my instrument in front of people. To be honest, it’s only in the last year or so that that feeling has faded. I was quite serious about playing the flute throughout school. When I moved to guitar I always struggled to find the same structure and focus that I had experienced previously in music. With drums it all seemed to come together – creativity and structure.

Are you in any other projects right now?

I’ve been doing a few things… I recorded the drums for the new Milky Wimpshake album at the beginning of the year. That was pretty exciting as MW and their related projects like Red Monkey and Slampt have been really inspirational to me. I’ve also been playing with Stef Fi which is Steph Phillips’ from Big Joanie’s solo project. We recorded some songs last year and, hopefully, they’ll be out in the world soon. I’ve been playing on more and more projects outside of WW and I’m really excited to do more.

Most of the songs were recorded live. Do you prefer recording that way? How do you think this way of recording contributed to the overall feel of the album?

I think I do prefer recording live but it depends on the situation. We really really wanted this album to capture the feeling and energy of our live set. We felt that hadn’t really come across on our previous recordings so it made sense to record live with us all in the room together. I like being able to check in with everyone else in the moment and I think it was the most honest way for us to record this album.

The studio we recorded at (Sound Savers ran by Mark WW) is also where we practiced and had written most of the album. We wanted to document this period of the band in the most honest, energetic and efficient way we could so doing it live in a space that was quite personal to us made the most sense.

Did your writing process differ at all with this album than previous albums?

Our writing process has almost always been collaborative and done in the practice room. Sometimes Mark might come with a riff to try out but we don’t really come with ready-made song ideas. That’s always been the same but we’ve been though a few different line-up changes over the years and a lot of the initial ideas for this album were written when it was just the two of us. Then we toured a lot and Estella joined us and added her bass parts which further shaped them. I think it can be good to give the songs a bit of time to evolve and find their identity before recording them. Saying that, we did end up making a few adjustments during the recording process which we hadn’t really done before.

I LOVE ‘Underachiever’. I read somewhere that you almost dropped it. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came around to keeping it?

Yeah, we’ve had a rocky relationship with ‘Underachiever’! There was something about the song that we just felt really uncertain about and we went back and forth after recording it deciding whether it should go on the album. I’m glad we kept it as it seems like one of the songs that other people have connected with the most. That’s been interesting because the idea for the song was more personal than usual. I’m normally quite abstract in my lyrics and that’s something I want to change a little bit. ‘Underachiever’ is about holding yourself back on purpose so that you don’t have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. This is something I’ve done a lot in my life and I’m really trying to change. It’s been quite cathartic to externalize it in the song…

What are some of coolest places you’ve played? Favorite bands you’ve played with? Any venues and/or bands you’d love to play at/with?

We’ve toured quite a lot over the last six years and I feel so lucky to have played in some amazing places and met so many good people. When we were starting out we played at a small DIY venue in London called Power Lunches a lot (it felt like it was every week for a while!). That was really formative for us. It was a really unintimidating space, about 100 capacity (maybe less!) and was run by the best people. It was a big part of the London DIY/punk/arts community at the time and it was really wonderful to be a part of it.

We once played on a boat as it did a tour of the Hamburg harbour in Germany – that was pretty weird and great all at the same time. My drum kit was moving around!

Witching Waves are going on tour in Europe this June with Molar who are one of my favourite bands so I’m really excited to visit some new places and see them play every night.

What’s in the near horizon for Witching Waves?

We plan to play as much as we can over the next year and to start work on the next album. We have dates all over the UK and in Europe throughout this Summer so keep your eyes peeled!

Follow Witching Waves! Bandcamp//Facebook

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