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This self-produced fifth studio album follows 2020’s Mercury nominated Spook the Herd. Its nine songs are existential meditations examining life’s possibilities, facing the hand we’ve been dealt and the question of whether we can change our individual and collective destinies.
Singer and songwriter Hazel Wilde has no doubt that motherhood fundamentally shifted her perspective. “Writing songs requires a certain level of self-indulgence, and songwriters can be prone to dwelling on themselves,” she says. “Motherhood made me aware at having a different stake in the world. I’ve got to believe that there’s a better way and an alternative future to the one we’ve been hurtling towards. I’ve also got to believe that I could be better as a person, too.”
Mixed by the band’s guitarist Paul Gregory, in the bedroom of his home in North Shields, there is a sense of time and place that runs deep throughout this record. Given some of its themes, a biting irony is found in an entire previous version of the record being discarded. Mental health struggles and personal problems in the band had a big impact on how the initial version took shape. “Despite trying everything we could to make it work we reached the point where we just had to stop” Wilde explains. Drummer Ol Ketteringham parted ways with the band, something Wilde says was “heartbreakingly difficult as we were and still are extremely close”.
The band scrapped nearly a year’s worth of work, regressing to song demos with just Wilde performing with a single instrument as they began again with Radiohead’s Philip Selway joining the album sessions on drums. “Philip brought an energy to the songs that reignited our belief in them,” says Wilde. “Within a few weeks we had a whole other version of the album and things felt very different,” Wilde continues. “We had changed the destiny of the record.”
It’s a heartening idea. Despite the difficulties in its genesis, Versions of Us is the most empowering album yet from the band. In exploring whether we can change fate or are doomed to repeat the same mistakes in life, this powerful collection of songs ultimately alights on hope.
1 The Likes Of Us
2 Real Life
4 String Theory
5 Thumb Of War
6 The Saboteur
8 Rich Girls
9 Last Transmission