"I got right to the bottom of the spiral, and just wrote all these words" - Gordi


Gordi chose the song Volcanic as some of her best work.

Volcanic is from her 2020 album Our Two Skins.

This is a partial transcript from her interview. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I was in Stockholm and Berlin when I wrote the track, it was in the middle of 2018.

And I had kind of gone through a big period of quite personal sort of upheaval in my life, and was really sort of coming to terms with that, that that’s what the record is about.

And when I wrote Volcanic I basically wrote the words first I was in Stockholm, and I sort of started to go into a bit of a spin and a bit of a panic.

When you start freaking out about something, it’s just like this absolute spiral. And I think I got right to the bottom of the spiral, and just wrote all these words.

I guess it was essentially kind of a poem. And then I just kept the words in my like, writing book.

The next week, I was going to Berlin for this week of like a collaborative festival called People.

It’s run by Justin Vernon, who’s known as Bon Iver, and the Dessner Brothers from the band, The National.

They curate this week of artists coming together writing songs.

And every day, we would go from the hotel where we all stayed, get on this little boat, it was very idyllic, taken down a river to the Funkhaus, which was an old like radio station. It’s now been turned into like a massive music sort of studio.

Nils Frahm works out of there. I was searching for a space to sort of just start doing some of my own writing. And I came into this big warehouse.

There was all this metal work being done around me. But it was kind of cool, because it meant I could just like, go for it.

No one could really hear what I was doing. I got out this page that I’d written all these words on, and just started playing the piano in this big warehouse.

At the end of the day, I kind of had the song written.

When I wrote it, I felt like, I felt like it was the best song I’d ever written, partly because of the the lyrics – the way that the sort of figurative aspects of the song really sort of ran all the way through it.

I spent a lot of time that day reading about volcanoes, and sort of picking out my favorite words from different websites that I was reading about volcanoes on.

And they kind of all like, made their way into the lyrics.

But you know, it was still such a personal journey, but I think it’s also the kind of song that then becomes very personal for someone else who it’s not even about.

Often I find it really hard to resist very traditional forms and structures in songs.

I’d written like the first two verses in the chorus and I kind of stopped myself purposefully being like, just let it sit for a minute, don’t rush in and write a bridge or a down chorus or whatever.

So I kind of finished it, and went back to the hotel.

There was this grand piano behind the room, in a little library behind the kitchen of the hotel. So I went in there, and I sort of just started playing this, like, piano riff.

It basically evolved and formed to be essentially what I think of as sort of the, the extended outro of the song.

I liked how freeing that was, but still, how much it’s sort of reflected on the core of the lyrical content, which was this sort of slow eruption, and all these kind of feelings and thoughts bubbling up to the surface.

And when I played that piano part, I was like, I really feel like this is kind of capturing that feeling.

So I think the way that the lyrics, and the music very naturally sort of ran in parallel made me feel like it was some of my best work.

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I kept changing lyrics, I mean the core of it stays the same.

When I was coming to actually make the record in 2019, I sort of went back through with a fine tooth comb all the lyrics from the record, and thought ‘Is that the best way that I can say that?’

It also made me like, moves me towards this new style of writing which is sort of more of a stream of consciousness, rather than four nice tidy lines that make up a verse and necessarily rhyme and an A-B couple.

I felt like this song kind of unlocked a bit of a door for me, that I sort of happily walked through.

At the time, I’d been going through, you know, a bit of a crisis of my own about kind of who I was, about sexuality, and it was on the background of Australia voting on same sex marriage, and I was in this new relationship.

I think this song was all of those things that I couldn’t spit out in nice clear sentences to say this is how I’m feeling.

Instead of sort of just came out in the form of Volcanic which was sort of this real stream of consciousness, panic, but I think also by the time I’d come to the end of it, I came back to that phrase of you know, sometimes words aren’t enough and you know, thank fuck we have music.

It’s one of my favorite songs to play live.

Last year in July, when I played to nobody, and we did like a live stream, there was no audience. And, yeah, when I was kind of getting it together, like doing the sort of looking at the stems of the song and dividing up, who’s going to kind of play what.

I sort of said to my band, ‘these are the vague parameters, but really just lean into your sort of parts and flesh them out.’

That kind of end part does, you feel like, you just have to hang on, because it does feel like it starts to spiral out of control.

There’s something so cool in that, especially when, you know, otherwise, the set that we play is very, you know, there’s a lot of metrics in it. And there’s, it’s all feels very sort of on a grid, and everything’s very planned and purposeful.

Sometimes you can feel a bit stifled by that.

So moments in the set, where it’s a lot more just freeing. That’s a really cool feeling.

Someone wrote to me saying, “Volcanic, I’ve never heard a song so sort of aptly capture what it feels like to panic.’

I think that was a bit of a theme of the record.

But, you know, given the theme of the record was me coming to terms with my identity and having this, like, really honest conversation with my grandmother, who’s 95, who know me my whole life and coming to terms with all of that.

I had, yeah, real outpouring from people online being like, ‘I listened to this song, and then I came out to my family’, or ‘I listened to this song, and it repaired my relationship with my grandparent’.

It is such an amazing by product of being vulnerable and being honest.

When I finished kind of making this record, and when Our Two Skins was finished, and I would show anyone a song from it, I would always show them Volcanic.

And I showed to people, a close friend of mine, and another friend of mine, who had done a lot of work with Alex Summers, who is a producer-composer artist in his own right, and has done a lot of work with Sigur Ros.

I have a lot of admiration for him. I sent the record to him.

Probably the piece of feedback that I’ve like dwelled on the most out of this entire process was his – ‘I’ve never heard you make something that sounds so like you.’

And that meant a lot to me because of, you know, the entire context of the story.

Listen to this story on Some of My Best Work, a free weekly podcast hosted by music journalist Jane Rocca.

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