Alex Wilson and Patrick Shanahan have been prolific in their short time together – producing a debut EP ‘Face of the Sea’ barely a year after establishing themselves as Ophelia. The pair hope their soon to-be-released sophomore EP ‘Invisible’ will reflect the musical journey they have made since and, as they tell Maddie McIntyre, expect it to reveal a darker, more mature side to their music, whilst maintaining the catchy dance rhythms of their earlier release.
“You know… I had never really even listened to dubstep before we got together and started experimenting… but I think that’s why we enjoyed it so much, it was just so different from anything either of us had done before,” Patrick Shanahan, Ophelia’s composer/producer, muses.
“Is what we do even dubstep? I don’t know,” he laughs.
If you like to organise your CD/vinyl/cassette/mp3 collection by genre then Auckland-based Ophelia are going to do your head in. (Unless you already have a folk-dubstep-orchestral category – in which case I recommend your friends and family mount an intervention immediately.)
Singer/songwriter Alex Wilson and Patrick Shanahan comprise the two halves of Ophelia’s weird and wonderful whole, and have been unassumingly developing a repertoire of exciting dance tracks since they met in late 2012. Ophelia combines Wilson’s passionate, folk-inspired lyrics with Shanahan’s polished production and composition skills. The duo have worked hard over the last two and a half years and now look forward to the March release of their second EP, ‘Invisible’.
The pair met through Shanahan’s friendship with Wilson’s brother. After hearing some of Alex’s original indie folk compositions on YouTube, Patrick got in touch with her and Ophelia was soon born.
“Originally we just got together to explore my folk stuff, Wilson explains. “But we quickly got bored of that and decided to move on to co-writing some songs and exploring different soundscapes. Eventually we ended up with this crazy sound that was quite dubstep-ey.
Wilson’s early musical career in folk music explains the unique structure of Ophelia’s songs, though the young songwriter is quick to mark the differences.
“I’m writing on very different instruments now from my folk days. Despite the majority of their releases being beat/bass-heavy, EDM tracks, the lyrics stand out from traditional pop or electronic tropes by maintaining that thoughtful, conversational style loved by the folk music community. Odd as the combination may seem on paper, Ophelia brings together the best components of folk, electronica, blues, dubstep and even orchestral classical music to produce an organic, exciting new sound that could just be the next big thing.
The name is a literary reference to the tragic heroine in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and reflects the pair’s desire to create a lasting and other-worldly impression on listeners.
“After her death, [Ophelia’s] significance explodes onto the consciousness of the other characters,” Shanahan explains, “leaving behind her an eerie wake, mysterious and somehow indelible.”
Such arresting imagery is appropriately reflected in Wilson’s dark, unpredictable lyrics and haunting, multi-layered vocals. ‘Invisible’ is the name of their upcoming EP due out in March. They hope it reflects the musical journey they have made since ‘Face of the Sea’ and will reveal a darker, more mature side to their music, whilst maintaining the catchy dance rhythms of their earlier work.
Having produced their debut EP barely a year after starting to play together, ‘Invisible’ is the product of many months of hard-work and long studio hours.
Recorded across a total of four different studios, ‘Invisible’ has been crafted and shaped by many talented members of the local music industry – with contributions made by guitarist Fabian Aravales, Jordan Stone from Roundhead and Ben Feggans from Sydney’s Studio 301.
“Everything starts off in my home studio, Shanahan explains. “We begin the recording process here, and then for this record we actually went to Depot Sound in Devonport to cut some trial tracks, and then finally finished up recording the majority of the instrumentation and vocals over at Roundhead Studios. That’s also where we mixed the record.”
Despite the majority of the new EP being recorded using software instruments – in particular a drum machine – both members of Ophelia were appreciative of the opportunity to use the professional studios’ high-quality instruments and recording facilities, not to mention the invaluable mentoring and advice provided by the engineers.
“The Roundhead experience was great for us, he says, “… just the sheer quality of gear was incredible. We worked with Jordan Stone over there, and he just added so much to the EP. It was great to bounce production ideas off somebody so experienced and he really made a lot of our songs come to life.
Eden, the first single off the five track (plus a remix) EP, was released on iTunes back in September. Wilson wrote the song with the intention of catching the indescribable feeling she experiences climbing up Mt Eden and looking down on the city below. Close friend and film-maker Chris Williams came up with the concept and made the psychedelic animated music video that accompanies the single, and is the mastermind behind music videos of two more tracks from the new release.
Ophelia are very focused on the future and what their next move will be once the EP is out. Shanahan hints at a tilt across the Tasman being on the cards.
“We recently signed a publishing deal with the Australian company Alberts – so we might head over to Sydney to do some collaboration with some of the other musicians on their books.”
Wilson is excited at the prospect of further developing their live performance.
“We used to have essentially a third member who was a VJ who did live projection mapping. He moved to Japan, so we are trying to find a new VJ to create a really exciting, interesting live show.
“We also want to work more on writing and performing simultaneously. Up until now we’ve kept the two very separate, with all new material kept under wraps until the EP has been released. We’re hoping to make it a more organic process of writing and performing and then maybe recording if it does well in a live setting for our future projects.”
In the meantime, with festival discussions underway and the release of two new videos as well as the EP to look forward to, the pair have their hands full managing an ever-growing social media fanbase while working on new material.