Everything but the Girl Breaks a 24-Year Silence With a Bang
Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have reconnected musically for their new album 'Fuse.' The album is full of modern melancholy.
Tracey Thorn, Ben Watt and their first love, Tracey, didn't want anyone to know that they were returning to the world as Everything but the Girl after having been apart for 24 years.
They were a duo that built a loyal following in the 1980s, '90s, making beautiful, difficult music. In 1995, they had an international hit with "Missing". They returned to recording and writing during the pandemic. Thorn and Watt decided to call their first collaborations "TREN" -- for Tracey & Ben -- rather than reviving an identity with as many back stories as Everything but the Girl. Thorn stated in a video interview that they were aware of the fact that it was not going to be an easy task to return after such a long time.
The pair spoke from London, where they sat side-by-side, dressed in grays and blacks, in a room that has been used to record music. A small keyboard was placed behind them next to bookshelves. As the other spoke, each listened attentively and fondly to the other.
Both 60-year-olds Thorn and Watt remained together while Everything but the Girl was dormant. They have been together since 1982 when they were both students at University of Hull, England. After suspending Everything but the Girl's last performance in 2000, they had three children. The duo will be back in April with "Fuse", their first album since 1999. It is a great album that lives up to its best work.
In the decades that followed, Watt and Thorn had separate careers. Watt made albums and traveled the globe as a D.J. Watt produced albums; toured the world as a D.J. After spending years caring for her children, Thorn returned to songwriting and released four solo albums. She also wrote books including 'Bedsit Disco Queen, How I Grew up and Tried To Be a Pop Star' and 'Naked at the Albert Hall', which are her reflections about the mentality and physicality of being an artist.
Watt explained that Watt and Watt worked independently with different projects at different times. This allowed them to work together in raising their family.
He said, "We made the conscious decision that, if we want our kids to be sane, it is important for the family to remain together. "And I believe we decided that we would continue to work on our individual paths for a while. It felt almost like an escape from all the other things.
They hadn't put Everything but the Girl behind their. Thorn and Watt managed to expand the group's catalogue in the 2010s. This attracted a large audience. It was evident that their music was timeless and not outdated.
Romy Madley Croft, a member of the British band the xx, said that 'There's an emotion simplicity and directness to me lyrically'. She first heard Everything but the Girl when her parents were fans and Missing was on the radio. Thorn recognized their musical kinship and recorded her version of xx's Night Time' in 2011.
Madley Croft stated that Tracey makes you feel like you are close to her. She speaks in a way that is intimate and carries the emotion. "One of my goals is to say a lot but not very much and leave people free to interpret it as they see fit. I think Tracey accomplishes that. It's very satisfying to hear the line that simply says a lot very, very clearly.
Everything but the Girl was named after the sexist tagline for a local furniture store that featured a model beside the products on sale. Thorn said in "Bedsit Disco Queen" that if they had known we would continue for years, they would have chosen a better name.
The group had a steady mid-level recording career for the first ten years. That was until 1995 when they released a remix of "Missing" by American D.J. Todd Terry was an international hit. Everything but the Girl tried a different approach with each album: From skeletal to maximal to bossa nova rock to rock to retro Wall of Sound to chic Los Angeles pop. The songs were subtle and stealthy, using rich, smooth music to conceal lyrics that challenge psychological and political assumptions. Thorn's voice, low, smoky, and pensive, with a rare indulgence in vibrato, ornamentation, gave the songs an emotional equipoise, regardless of their style.
Thorn stated, 'I can see through the line.' "We are exploring new things with a different outfit. If you were a director of a movie, your vision or the ideas you have might be easily identifiable, regardless of whether you are making a western, a detective film, or a romance. These records have some of this. It is a combination of simplicity and complexity that is key.
Watt took Watt's thought. He said, "Ambivalence is mixed feelings is a major through line in all of our stuff as well." This is true in both the way we choose the notes and the lyrics we write. That element of suspension is essential. You leave space for the listener. It is a great idea to allow people to step into the audio picture and virtually walk around the reverbs.
Watt was diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome in 1992, a rare autoimmune disorder. This led Everything but the Girl in 1992 to cut back on verbal and musical frills and release rawer feelings on Amplified heart' and Walking Wounded', the albums that would define its artistic peak in the 1990s.
Watt stated that there was a time in the 1990s when they had to discover how to live together again. This was mostly due to the aftermath of my illness which made Watt a changed person. Tracey was there to witness the change, which was difficult in its own right. It's in the title of both 'Amplified' and 'Walking Wounded. They're songs about us feeling alone, but learning to live together again.
1994's 'Amplified Heart' included the original version 'Missing'. Terry's club-ready remix featuring a new, danceable beat brought Everything but the Girl to a global audience. The single was certified gold in the United States, and platinum in Britain. It has been an everlasting hit and has had a wide audience because of its unique chemistry of melancholy and suspense. Thorn's vocal leaps as she sings "like the deserts lose the rain", "Missing" is a dance-crying milestone that can be used alone or on the dance floor.
Thorn and Watt were already fascinated by the rapidly-evolving music found in London's clubs. Everything but the Girl, in its late-1990s form, merged moody reflection with electronic dance music to create two albums, 'Walking Wounded' and 'Temperamental,' both released in 1999. It's a sound that "Fuse" reclaims and expands.
Watt stated, "We discussed trying to find new methods of writing, new uses of our voices, and new ways to land on different notes."
"Fuse" embraces both electronic soundscapes as well as grown-up empathy. It opens with a subterranean bass beat and Thorn singing, "Nothing Left to Lose" as Thorn declares vulnerability. It ends with an ardent, husky mission statement that summarizes Everything but the Girl’s dual imperatives. Thorn sings 'Karaoke' to say that she sings 'to heal brokenhearted' as well as 'to get the party going'
Between, 'Fuse,' who offers sage advice in the gloomily magnificent 'When You Mistake Up', goes on a surreal European club-hopping tale in No One Knows We’re Dancing’ and pleads for'something that I can hold onto in?Forever'
Thorn and Watt had to work together after the pandemic. Thorn stated, "We were faced with that decision that many people were confronted." What are we going do now? Is it possible to return to the way we were? Is this the beginning of something new? We weren't sure.
They began to exchange small musical ideas, chords, lyrics and sounds, after being isolated at home.
Thorn stated that they were trying to do the same thing artists do. Thorn explained that this trick is used to fool yourself into believing that we aren't doing something that seems big. We are doing something smaller and easier. We are just creating music. We don't have to tell anyone. It doesn't matter if anyone is waiting or expecting it, or putting pressure on. Let's see what happens.
The beginnings of the album were distinctly lo-fi. Watt stated that Watt started to record things on his phone. Watt said, "I tried to improvise without worrying too much about writing finished work. I would just play with Voice Memo and hope I captured something. Tracey approached me and asked if I would like to work with her. These fragments and ideas of chord movements and improvisations came to me from Tracey. I also had some new voicings. They were slightly spiky and used fourths and sixths instead of thirds and fifths. It was great fun for people who have been making music together for over 20 years to find a new note.
At first, the music was slow and atmospheric. After the duo moved to a studio in Bath, England, danceable songs were possible. Thorn said that the record began in a mood of, "We're not putting pressure on", with a few downbeat, very ambient-sounding tracks. After three days in the studio, we began to get more excited. We had eight tracks at one point, and now, ostensibly because of our progress, almost have an album.
"But I believe that was when we both experienced a moment of awakening. We both sat up and asked, "Do you know what?" She added, "This can be even better." We started with low expectations but have been pleasantly surprised. Our expectations were raised. If you want to return after a long time, then do it with a bang.
They were also excited about the new technology that was available after Everything but the Girl's last album. Digital effects can alter Thorn's vocals in some songs. Watt stated that they allowed themselves to be less respectful of Tracey’s voice. Watt said, "It wasn’t just this sacred sound that always sat at the top of music. It was treated with Auto-Tune and pitch-shifting plug-ins to see if it could be used as a texture and not just a vehicle for the lyrics. It was another interesting color that we added to the canvas.
One new song, "Lost," features Thorn singing a list: "I lost mine/I lost all my belongings/I lost the biggest client" -- which moves from prosaic and heartbreaking. Watt claimed that some of the lyrics were derived from entering the words "I lost" into Google. As the song progresses, Watt says that some of the lyrics were inspired by typing 'I lost' into Google.
Everything but the Girl is open to all electronic changes, but it doesn't hide its heart. While Watt and Thorn tried to be free-flowing creatively while they were making the album, their usual self-consciousness was not far behind. Thorn stated that he can see the urgency in many of the lyrics about trying to contact someone. This is probably the result of feeling cut off, isolated and unable to make contact with people for a long time.
No plans are made for a tour. Thorn stated that the tour carries more baggage than recording an album.
Watt stated that one of the difficulties with touring is that you must always look forward for your audience. You're expected to perform the hit songs, so you're as much an entertainer than you are a creator artist. If we are honest, neither one of us has a lot of interest in the old stuff. It was, you know, good at the time. It is something we respect. He grinned. 'We did our best.'