Ariel is ready to make noise again


Marcus Thaine has a chat with Ariel about Dampvamp, art and her new band, Firesaint: 

Sydney’s Lauren Ariel Sexton-Shaw, otherwise known by the mononym Ariel, exudes a kind of creative magnetism that is hard to ignore. Whether it’s her detailed painted depictions of pagan priestesses, laden with symbology, or her haunting songwriting under the recent Firesaint, Ariel keeps those creative juices flowing.

Painting under the guise of LoveAriel, her fine art has widely received attention, however only recently has her music surged to the forefront of her output. Last year saw the rise, and unfortunately the demise, of Dampvamp – the femme fatale force of three, providing a swampy-rock reincarnation of the blues. Having toured America, appeared at SXSW and released an album, Dampvamp felt the fate of many a band and chose to explore other avenues.

Yearning to be writing and performing again, Ariel formed Firesaint with Danny Connors (of Danger Dannys and The Shooters Party) and Nathan Kovesky (of Dead Jonnie). Taking a more laidback approach to working within a band and making music, Firesaint have been writing and recording their debut EP and playing venues around Sydney. Where Dampvamp was more bass heavy, with minimal guitar lines, Firesaint is a far more expansive sound. Wolves glides along to the muted pace of snare and a cooing chorus-line while Suicide Song swings to an ascending bass riff and the subdued psychedelic echoes of the lead guitar.

We caught up with Ariel to figure out a little more about Firesaint’s upcoming EP and shows.

Despite having a similar instrumental set-up, there seems to be alleviation of the darker sound akin to Dampvamp. Was this intentional, or did it come naturally with the development of the band?
I think that was a natural progression. I was very angry with my life and myself on the edge of an all-consuming depression when I started Dampvamp and thank god I did, because I think it saved me. I needed to express all that darkness and painting just wasn’t cutting it at the time.

What was the writing process like for the EP? Can we expect to hear some songs from the Dampvamp era?
There are a few songs I wrote while with Dampvamp that were not recorded and I have reworked into a new sound with Firesaint, but mostly it’s new stuff. The writing comes naturally and from all angles as usual.

Suicide Song emanated from an inkblot which looked like a ledge. Can you tell us the story behind another song?
Well, Wolves was written while jamming with Caroline (Dampvamp) and Ariel Pink (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti) in LA on stopover from playing SXSW. We chilled at his shack and got super stoned while killing time for our connecting flight and that song just popped out of me and an old acoustic guitar with a few strings missing, and a grimy keyboard. LUSH…

firesaintWolves and Suicide Song both have a sedated, steady sound to them, however live there seems to be a much more visceral and aggressive approach to some of the songs. Is this indicative to the sound of the EP?
Yes, those first two sedated songs were recorded with a different drummer to who we play live with now, and it was the beginning of a new era of music for me and I think I wanted to ease into it carefully and that came through in the sound. I’m comfortable again now and ready to make noise again, the live show has real grunt and we will be attempting to capture that in the new EP.

Jack Mannix of Circle Pit sang on Dampvamp’s Dark Days, is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with Firesaint?
I’ve not thought about it, but Nathan, my new bass player has a beautiful voice, maybe I should write us a duet!

Your current LoveAriel art exhibition is titled Saintanism, and if I’m correct, is cantered around a new religion or way of thinking. How closely are the projects related, and generally to what extent does your art inform you music and visa versa?
Gee that’s a hard one. Who can say really? I feel like I have a lot to express and to experience, and when one medium fails, I just pick up the other.

By the same token, is there an overarching idea or philosophy to Firesaint?
Not so much as Dampvamp, this new project is more about just being a band and making some real exciting sounds. This time around we are a little less concerned with the image and approach and more concerned with the authenticity and the experience.

You recorded and mixed your EP with Jack Moffitt of The Preatures and Simon Day of many-a-Sydney-band fame. How was it working with them?
Amazing! They are rad dudes and great friends and that’s why I continue to work with them (well, they continue to help me out of the kindness of their hearts!).

I hear you can read tarot, so what’s on the cards for Firesaint?
Yes that’s right, but you see a tricky thing happens to the oracle of the cards. See, when you master the Tarot and other fortune telling skills you graduate from being the “seeker” into the “reader”. When you are no longer the seeker, in essence you are in control of your destiny and are in effect at one with nature and the powers to change reality. So I wouldn’t read my own tarot, it would be more effective to write a list of what I wanted and then burn it or something to that effect. But I’m not worried about where we are going at this point, I’m just happy to still be making music in a fun band and honing my craft. The rest will come as it pleases.

Interview by Marcus Thaine.