Former Street Chant frontperson Emily Edrosa releases her long-awaited debut solo album today. In honour of its arrival, we asked her to explain what inspired Another Wave Is Coming.
I spent the four years that I lived in LA drying out, literally. When I lived in the Grey Lynn flat where Street Chant made Hauora, we had a massive black mould problem. I ignored it because of location and price, but I definitely paid for it. For years during and after that time I’d spend at least two days of each week sick in bed with sinus infections.
Luckily for me, LA is dry and renters actually have rights there, so I got to live in a nice dry house and learn more online about how to heal. I drank shitloads of apple cider vinegar and learnt a lot about supplements and naturopathy stuff online, I actually want to study it now. I thought I would spend the rest of my life being that sick so it was really liberating to learn it wasn’t just my body breaking down and that I did have the ability to heal.
While living there was really hard emotionally, having the space away from people and to be in a dry environment with cheap supplements (or cheaper than in NZ, at least) meant I could get my life back. The hardest part of being sick wasn’t even being stuck in bed, it was the constant brain fog. I just totally lost the ability to concentrate. I’m happy I can read books and be productive again, because that wasn’t any way to live. I was healing the whole time I was making this album.
I still love writing a song on the couch on the guitar, recording it and playing it back, then teaching it to a band and coming up with parts together. That was the way I wrote with Street Chant for years. But with this album, I really liked being able to write on a DAW – I’d come up with MIDI drum parts, tap them in, play the bass and then at the end of the songwriting session I’d have a song.
The band doesn’t have to get it tight or remember the parts, and you can also move the parts around and try stuff out without the drummer looking at the clock because they have to go and make their girlfriend dinner. Being able to open up your computer to a session and remember what you were up to last time and immerse yourself into a world reminds me of reading a really good novel.
Apart from the album being about moving to a strange new place, the other major theme is about being in a long-term relationship. A lot of art and music focuses on when things are like, “NEW! YOUNG! LOVE! DOPAMINE!” so it’s much harder and more complicated – and perhaps more interesting – to write songs which are about how it is after a few years together, when you have to pay bills and figure out how to live separate-but-joined lives alongside one another.
I think it was probably more intense for me and my partner because we were in a new country where we didn’t have any family or friends. We just relied on each other so much. The deep bond and strength which you have to work towards together is so difficult, but it’s so rewarding when you can make it work.
My partner supported me every step of the way for this album, as partners usually have to do when they’re in relationships with artists. It can definitely be a stress for them too – I think most of them are probably constantly wondering if their partner’s making a mistake in a song, in a career choice or even in an Instagram caption. She’s my first and practically only thank you on this album.
Working for tips sucks! And that’s what I did for the last four years. Working for tips means your boss (who is usually paying you minimum wage, if you’re lucky) gets to exploit you and have fewer people working than they should, and you can’t really argue because if you have enough staff working then your tips will get split differently and you get less.
You get forced to work like a dog, and it also means that customers demand so much more of you and act like total dickheads cause they’re the ones who are going to be paying your rent. I worked so hard for years, which meant that I was often too exhausted to work on music, which meant that I would punish myself because hey, that’s the whole reason I was there, right? Confusing.
I guess if there was an upside to working in hospo in America, it’s that I was painfully, painfully shy before I went there, but working for tips meant if I was going to pay my rent I had to become a cool, confident (clown) waitress. And not to generalise, but Americans are quite chatty and curious people too. It brought me out of my shell and I learnt that I can be interesting and not just silent unless I’ve necked 12 beers. I’m glad I learned that, because now I feel like I can actually have convos with people. And people are the best (sometimes).
5. Missing people
Speaking of people, for about a year after I moved to LA I kept thinking I was on holiday and would be able to come back to Auckland soon and see my friends. I really took for granted being able to just walk into a bar and see someone I know and have a chat to them. Honestly, I think even more than that I missed being able to just ask people or bands to play a show with me, knowing that I had enough cred that they’d say yes. Both of those things were humbling and lonely.
I missed my friends and community so much, living in LA. It’s easy to become jaded in Auckland – and I definitely was when I first left – but the constant careerism and networking of LA really made me realise I’d been taking my buddies and acquaintances and music scene for granted. Love your mates please!
Emily Edrosa plays tonight (November 20th) at Auckland’s Wine Cellar, with support from Disciple Pati and Chewy Gum – presale tickets are available here. Another Wave is Coming is available now on all digital streaming services, and for download or physical purchase from Bandcamp.