In general. I like the idea of overarching concepts, themes or worlds for albums, but in this case I let every song come to me naturally.
healthyliving is the project of long-time collaborators and friends, Amaya López-Carromero (Maud the moth), Scott McLean (Falloch, Ashenspire) and Stefan Pötzsch, who met through the European underground metal scene. Having worked on various musical projects together for years, Amaya, Scott’s and Stefan’s artistic and personal connection coalesced organically and fuelled a small transnational collective across Scotland, Spain and Germany.
Songs of Abundance, Psalms of Grief is their concise and direct debut full-length album, funded by Creative Scotland and will be co-released on the 7th April by the band and La Rubia Producciones, followed by a debut live performance at the prestigious Roadburn Festival in Tilburg. Adriana Ciccone caught up with Amaya and Scott to talk about the new album, the process and much more.
E&D: When I last interviewed you back in 2021, I had asked you about the album that was in the works and you mentioned that it was important for the three of you to be in the same space when creating and writing for the album, as you were all living in different cities at the time. What was it like when you finally were together in one room?
Scott: I think it was for almost 2 years (Sept 2020 to June 2022) that we didn’t manage to all be in the one room, which seems crazy saying that now. As soon as we got together again everything just felt natural, as if no time had passed, although things didn’t go completely to plan!
Amaya: Stefan came for pre-production in Scotland and we all got covid! Hahaha it was HORRIBLE.
E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the writing process for the new album? Did you have a set of rules or guidelines in place? Did you already have song ideas in mind?
Scott: The majority of tracks were written while I was living in Dresden, which is where Stefan also lives. We would meet at our rehearsal space and play together and whenever we heard something we were inspired by we would develop it into a complete track and then send it to Amaya. Amaya would then write vocals/lyrics to any of the tracks that she found inspiring. There was never a discussion about which of the songs Amaya should work on, it was purely down to what she would find inspiring.
There were also a few specific rules I had for writing the songs:
1. Whenever an idea was found to be inspiring the whole song and structure needed to be written and finished within the same session. Going back to work on it later or changing it was not allowed.
2. We were not allowed to layer extra instrumental parts to the songs to make them ‘more interesting’; everything had to be based around one guitar part, one bass part and the drums. When recording though, layering of the same part is allowed as long it’s performed the same way and the only difference is in the sound of that layer.
There were a few songs that didn’t follow this process; ‘To the fields’ was written by Amaya on acoustic guitar and arranged as a band when we were all together. ‘Dream Hive’ was based on an initial idea which we found very inspiring, but required a bit more work and saw a couple of different versions. It wasn’t till we all jammed this song together during our pre-production session that it took its final form.
‘Obey’ was the most challenging song to arrange. The writing was quite straightforward; on acoustic guitar with voice but we struggled to find an arrangement that we were happy with as a band and it was only finalised a week before the album was sent to mastering. It wasn’t until we arranged it with synths instead of bass guitar that everything clicked.
E&D: Your debut full-length album, Songs of Abundance, Psalms of Grief will be co-released on the 7th of April by the band and La Rubia Producciones. It was also funded by Creative Scotland, an organization that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits there and distributes funding from the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. I read that the Scottish community is very important to the band. Can you tell us about that connection and why it is important to you?
Scott: It’s really amazing to have an organisation like Creative Scotland that supports and funds a whole variety of endeavours from creative people in Scotland. Having their support really made a huge difference with how we were able to approach making the album. We’re also extremely lucky to be working with Nuria at La Rubia Producciones with whom we work as equal partners and it allows for a really efficient and positive working environment.
Amaya: This is the first time in my artistic career where I’ve received this type of funding, so it’s very meaningful to me. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, it makes me feel very empowered and validated to see that others take our art seriously and worthy of attention and support.
E&D: I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the album in its entirety and it’s incredible. It’s heavy in sound and emotion but also uplifting and introspective. The connection between the three of you is special and shows through your music. Can you tell us about the theme behind this release and what you hope fans will take away from it?
Scott: Thanks so much! When making music I’m purely interested in how it feels for me, I don’t really think about what people will take away from it. Of course it is really nice and does mean a lot when people respond positively to music that I’ve made but if I thought about what people might take away from it while making it then that would dilute my own expression. As for themes for the album while making it I was trying to explore instinct and aiming to never deviate from an initial idea. I wanted each song to be a snapshot of consciousness that would hopefully reflect whatever I was feeling in that moment. Nothing was allowed to be over-thought.
Amaya: Yeah, it was the same for me. I see the album as a collection of life instances which stuck in my mind and I regurgitated in the trance-like state of music creation later on. In general. I like the idea of overarching concepts, themes or worlds for albums, but in this case I let every song come to me naturally. The name of the album really references this idea of “collection” or “photo album”. In particular for the lyrics, most of the scenes and themes are rooted in my experience after emigrating to the UK.
E&D: You will be playing your first ever show at Roadburn 2023. Bands usually don’t get that kind of opportunity to play on such a big stage for their first show. I think that is a testament to your musicianship as individual artists up to this point. How do you feel about playing Roadburn together as a band? What does it mean to you?
Scott: Yeah, it is pretty wild to get to play our debut show at such an amazing festival. For me, I think the thing that makes it most special is that it’s not just healthyliving that will play. Amaya is also performing with her solo project, Maud the Moth, and then I’m playing with Ashenspire as well, so between the 3 projects, all my best friends and closest musical collaborators are performing at the festival which is just crazy! It’s going to be a really special festival for us all.
Amaya: Really a dream come true. It’s a festival that I have followed for over 10 years and which I admire greatly.
E&D: You have a very DIY ethic and I read that you both put together the video for the incredible track, ‘Galleries’. Can you tell us about what went into making the video?
Scott: That was done really last minute. We realised we needed to put the song on Youtube and having some visual aspect rather than a picture always looks better. Luckily Amaya had some phone footage from inside the building where Stefan’s rehearsal space is, which is where we wrote ‘Galleries’. I think the footage is actually from the same day as we wrote the song! So I quickly edited it and put together a simple video for the track. It was very spontaneous and completely unplanned but we’re really happy with how it turned out and the connection back to where the song was originally born.
Amaya: I find that working with others in a way which is right for all parts takes a lot of time and is very subject to luck and compatibility, so DIY is often the best and most efficient way to proceed until you find your dream creative partner. I also really believe in doing things with intent and dedication. Especially in the arts where a project can benefit from this multidisciplinary aspect, and allow the creator to feed in with audio, video, objects and performance. I like being very involved with the work and almost inhabiting it.
E&D: What have been the biggest influences on healthyliving’s sound?
Scott: It’s always hard to say what have been the biggest influences on the sound as there are so many small factors that create the whole picture. I could talk for hours about the sound and the decisions that were made to arrive where we did. The sound is one area of the album where it wasn’t just trusting instinct and never deviating from it. We had a specific idea of what we wanted the band to sound like on the album and I worked on it until we got that result. One important point of the band is each musician is just focusing on what they do best and we trust each other completely with how each of us wants to contribute to a song.
Amaya: For me it’s always a matter of trial and error, until the recorded material evokes the same feelings that originated in me when I first felt the need to work on the demo. Regarding the singing, I feel like the tone and style also needed to reflect this and it ended up being quite varied, with some super intimate parts which are more narrative, just describing an environment, and more unhinged and belted ones where the song took a more abstract and cathartic turn,
E&D: After Roadburn 2023, do you have any plans on touring in support of the album?
Scott: We have a festival performance in the UK in the summer that still has to be announced and then we’re hoping to play more shows and do a bit of touring in the autumn.
E&D: What’s next for healthyliving?
Amaya: We are in the middle of the release campaign now, and we will start working on a tour in autumn. It’s always hard to predict where an album might take you, so we will probably take it as it comes and go with the flow.
(Photo credit: Chris Scott)