Julianna Barwick's hushed, melodic voice twists its way through the phone line like she's telling me a fairy tale. And in a way, she is. When we catch up in late May to chat about her show at the Tube Factory on Wednesday, she tells me about all the little pieces that fell into place to make her new album Will – out in May on Dead Oceans – so magical. It involves Moogs and Sufjan Stevens. Here's Barwick:
“After going to Iceland [to record Nepenthe], and Alex [Somers] and the Sigur Ros studio and the girls singing and the beauty, the drama – it just took a while for me to start recording because I didn't have a big production. I was returning to my bedroom-style recording roots. So, I didn't have a big plan, I just started recording at different places and took up opportunities that were handed to me.
"I met the Moog guys at Form Arcosanti, last year, and they asked me to demo the Mother-32 that came out next fall, the one that I used on the record and that I've been using live. They asked me what my plans were for last year and I said, 'Well, I'm trying to make a new record; doing it slowly but surely.' And they said, 'Would you want to come to Asheville and do some stuff in our Sound Lab this summer?' And I said absolutely. So I went down there and was in their Sound Lab working on a bunch of stuff; any time I had a question I would call one of the guys and they would come over and show me how to do stuff .The Moog people are like the friendliest people in the world. It's kind of crazy, and I'm still flying high from MoogFest.
“I recorded in February in my friend's upstate house; it was lonely. I was there all by myself for a week, no car, no nothing. Then summertime I went to Asheville and recorded at Moog. …
“I had a couple shows in Europe and decided to spend a couple weeks in Lisbon at the end. I'd been there so many times I had a bunch of good friends there and love it there. … It just so happened that one of my friends, his band had just finished a studio the day before I got there. I went to look at it, and they had exactly what I needed, which was a soundproofed room with a piano. … They just gave me the keys and went out of town. It was kind of a ridiculous hook-up! They were like, 'Guess who's piano that is?' And said, 'It's Sufjan Stevens'. That's his piano. His last show for the Age of Adz tour was here and he said, 'Does anybody want this piano, because we can't really take it back with us.' I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' There was still electric tape and confetti in it and stuff. That was funny because I used Sufjan's space to make The Magic Place, and the piano in The Magic Place was Sufjan's. That was freaking weird, too. All these cosmic things lined up.
“Part of the whole thing was that I wanted to incorporate some of those secret little wishes that I'd always had. Like having a guy sing with me, a male voice and a female voice at the same time; having cello; having drums. By the time I got back to Brooklyn and was piecing it all together, all of those elements had started to fall into place.”
If you go:
Julianna Barwick with Mas Ysa
Wednesday, June 22, 8 p.m.
Tube Factory, 1125 Cruft St.