Sydney based talent Sarah Belkner has just released her debut album But You Are, But It Has. The record became Double J‘s weekly feature album when it dropped, and it is earning critical acclaim whilst expanding the young talent’s audience. Belkner’s debut EP Humans was released in May 2015, and since then she has been refining and preparing But You Are, But It Has. The album is a lush, beautiful and introspective journey inside the mind of a phenomenal artist, and it is as well arranged as it is well written.
To celebrate the release of the new record, we decided to have Sarah Belkner tell us the story of But You Are, But It Has and break the album down for us.
But You Are, But It Has was made with my band, and co-produced by myself and my husband Richard Belkner, who engineered it at our studio Free Energy Device in Camperdown. Free Energy Device is a space that Richie passionately built with a vision for original music to be brought to life daily. He wanted it to be a space we could build a community of musicians around.
Work on these songs started 3 years ago, including the release of the EP Humans. Around this time, I had been edging my way slowly out of quite a strange and lost time in my life. I found myself in some scenarios I knew I didn’t really want to be in, but I had made myself feel obligated and was trapped in a lot of fear. Literally quite petrified – like a rock. I had to start to learn to exorcise the ghost of failure.
In hindsight I can see I used the writing of the songs on But You Are, But It Has to literally get myself moving again. So, there is darkness and hope right there next to each other like they are in everyday life.
The title is about finding movement from accepting things that have happened that you really can’t change and don’t need to let rule you. But also not accepting you are completely screwed. These events will and have happened, so finding liberation in that was really the key for me. Don’t wait to be fine to live your life, or you’ll be waiting forever.
I was very interested in the surrealist idea of blurring the line of conscious and unconscious thought, of dream and reality, and once I was working in the studio with Richie (engineer, co producer and husband) we set about finding ways to express this by meshing synthesised and un-synthesised sounds. Each of us playing on the album are using acoustic and electronic instruments intertwined. Matt even runs his clarinet through a pedal board. Richie plays the studio like an instrument.
We didn’t use a computer to sample instruments, so any machines used were played or set up as a loop that we’d then play to. There was one session where we had 3 of us with 6 hands on the Roland Juno at once during the take just to get the sound.
But You Are, But It Has is kind of simple, slightly fantastical and epic at the same time. I feel the album sits just on the outskirts of ‘real’ life, and we wanted it to occupy its own space.
My band were there from the start bringing new identity and endless talent to the performances. Evan Mannell, Neal Sutherland and Matt Keegan are my musical brothers. I can’t find words to say what it means to me to make music with them. Then we finished the songs off with Brendan Maclean and the ‘Commentator’ chorus of Billie McCarthy, Ngaiire and Elana Stone. Jonathan Wilson from Castratti played Swarmatron, and Michael Lynch Mastered it beautifully.
The one message I’d love people to get out of it is that no matter how stuck and empty you are feeling, how disillusioned with everything you are, how much of a failure you feel, there is always a way to move again and change your perspective.
Sarah Belkner‘s terrific debut album is available digitally now, and you can pre-order the vinyl and a beautiful lyric book on Sarah’s website here.