We have featured tunes from Cinder Well’s new LP “The Unconcious Echo” on a couple of occasions recently. It’s a dark, beautiful affair tinged with loss and features some wonderful songwriting and playing. You can imagine our delight when Ennis-based band leader Amelia Baker agreed to do an interview with us! The group are on tour around Ireland from May 20th, check their FB for details.
Is there a core of people at the heart of Cinder Well or is it essentially you?
There is absolutely a core of people at the heart of Cinder Well, especially on the new record. While I have always been the main songwriter and conductor of the project, there has always collaboration been with other people- whether they are playing or singing on the recordings, joining me on the stage, or making tapes or patches for the band.
How are you feeling about the new record? How would you describe it?
I really like it! It’s almost been a year since we recorded, and I still enjoy listening to the record. I think that’s probably a good sign…I would describe the album as dark and drony with some very substantial glimmers of hope. Everyone who was a part of this album lost at least one really special person over the past few years, and I think there’s a lot of that feeling in the album.
What attracts you to the darkness?
I just like spooky stuff. I really like Twin Peaks and poking around abandoned houses… I don’t really know why. I find inspiration in things that have more of a presence and a meaning than what you see at a first glance.
To be parochial for a moment or two, you mention Irish folk music as an influence; could you tell us a bit more about that?
I play Irish and old-time music on the fiddle, and I also sing ballads of Irish and English origin. I’m currently living in Ireland and completing a Masters in Irish Traditional Music Performance at the University of Limerick. So, I’m pretty much listening to and playing Irish music all the time these days. I think it tends to sneak into my own music.
Is the upcoming tour in May your first time playing in Ireland?
I toured in Ireland in 2015 with my band Blackbird Raum. We played in Dublin at a squat the day the referendum on gay marriage was passed and it was an amazing party. All the punks, squatters, and trad musicians were there, and I recall some Buckfast too.
Cinder Well played a show in Dublin 2016. This will be our first time playing in Ireland as a full band! We’re looking forward to playing around the country.
I love your lyrics; you obviously take great care with your words, which comes first for you, words or music?
Thank you! The music definitely comes first. I constantly have melodies playing in my head. Often a few lyrics pop out and then I enjoy “word crafting” around them to build a full song. I used to feel like lyrics were just a necessary vessel to sing melodies with. But over the years I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from songwriters, and from ballads, and I find a lot enjoyment in writing lyrics.
When did your musical journey begin?
I started playing piano when I was a child, but I hated lessons and being told to read sheet music. My family listened to a lot of music like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and The Grateful Dead when I was growing up. When I was 16 years or so I started jamming with friends and writing songs while taking guidance from artists like Elliott Smith and Cat Power. I lived in Santa Cruz for many years where I got to play in bands like Gembrokers and Blackbird Raum, and got exposed to traditional fiddle music.
Do you have a favourite poem?
actually no… *insert that shrugging emoji*
How do you feel about the political situation in the US at the moment?
I absolutely fucking hate he who must not be named and everything he stands for. He has given rise to fascism and white supremacy and continues to do damage to people of colour, immigrant and queer communities, and the environment. On a more positive note, I think that the conversations, organizing and mutual aid that happens amongst radical communities in the US is something special. While I live in Ireland now, I appreciate the kind of dialogue and support that happens in far left/ radical circles, which seems more few and far between here.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
I remember a family friend gave me a cassette tape with George Winston on it and I loved it.
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
There is a song on the last Gembrokers album called “Bury the Sound” that I really like. I think it captures a moment in time for myself and for the three of us who were in the band. There are a few stanzas of lyrics, and then a fiddle tune that I wrote with piano and guitar. I wrote it before I started listening to Irish music all the time, so that’s kind of fun.
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
Phil Elvrum of Mount Eerie and The Microphones is a big inspiration for me. I appreciate the way that his music seems to evolve with where he is at in his life, and every album is extremely different but released under the same band name. His lyrics are so honest and personal.
I’ve recently had a reawakening to the goddess that is Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics are crafted stories… she’s amazing.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you recently?
I was in a session in Ennis and I knocked over someone’s pint, and broken glass flew EVERYWHERE but all the instruments were okay. I guess it’s not that weird, but it was pretty stressful.
What’s the best band you’ve heard recently?
What’s the best phrase you’ve picked up in another language?
KURVA… thanks to the best Polish dude who drove us on tour with Blackbird Raum.
(We think it means “Bitch” in Hungarian.)
What question would you like to be asked that you never are and what would your answer be?
“Do you want a carnitas taco, and a coconut popsicle, at the beach?”
Does the path of excess lead to the palace of wisdom?
What have you got in your pockets (assuming you have pockets at the time of writing)?
Some hippie lipstick from the health food shop in Portland.
What music would you like to have played at your funeral? (Just to end on an upbeat note)
“The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac on repeat. And all my friends jamming their fave fiddle tunes.
Amelia also gave a class photo to add to our Gallery –
band photos by Carter Murdoch