Musician Chelsea Wolfe has long been known for dark, metal-tinged songs as heard on her previous albums Pain Is Beauty and Abyss, but on the excellent Hiss Spun (out Sept. 22 on Sargent House), she embraces a sound heavier than anything she’s done before. Here, she premieres the new Hiss Spun track “Offering” and explains how California’s Salton Sea served as inspiration for the song.
When you released “Vex” last month, you talked about how it was inspired by “a mysterious hum [that] resounds in the deep sea for about an hour.” How would you describe “Offering?"
I’ve always written these sort of psychedelic love songs to nature, and I use a lot of natural imagery and symbolism, and it’s present on this album as well. There are lines like “the hum of low sea” from "Vex” and “the kettle is wheeling” [from “The Culling”], which refers to the way that vultures circle around prey or roadkill. “Offering” is written from the perspective of the Salton Sea in southern California. I’ve always been intrigued by this place. You get out of the car and the smell of the place is almost visceral. It really leaves this kind of physical impression on you but it’s still really beautiful. It’s this strange resort anomaly to see in the middle of the desert. I wrote this song imagining the Salton Sea as this female character, and writing from her perspective. She’s this wonderful resort but she couldn’t keep up — the world wanted too much from her and eventually she started to wilt, becoming poisonous and toxic to the point where everyone abandoned her. The Salton Sea sits right on the San Andreas Fault and late last year, there was a swarm of almost 200 earthquakesdirectly beneath it over a couple days. That’s what caught my attention again because I haven’t visited there in many years so I wrote the song after that. It’s a really strange place. When you walk along the shore, you’re basically walking on the skeletons of fish.
When did you start working on this album?
It’s probably been a couple of years in the making. My process is to write continually, and once I feel like a group of songs is coming together sonically or thematically, then I’ll hone in and focus on creating a new album. Sometime in early 2016, I really started focusing in and finishing songs. This album kind of began as a side project, strangely enough. I have a friend, Jess Gowrie, who’s now my drummer. We used to have a band together about 10 years ago and when I left that band, we didn’t talk for a period of seven years. We reunited on New Year’s Day of 2015, and as soon as we started hanging out again, it was clear that our musical chemistry was not finished, and we really wanted to write songs together. So I started to write songs with her, and then we invited my bandmate Ben Chisholm and Troy Van Leeuwen from Queens of the Stone Age to play on it as well. Once a few of those songs came together, we were really digging them, and it felt like a shame to not be able to play those live, so eventually those songs became this new album.
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