Recalling the last time music lifted her spirits, Vancouver-based songwriter Veda Hille thinks of several examples before settling on a recent show.
“All great shows have a way to lift you out of your everyday life,” she said. “The Belle and Sebastian show … did that in a really strong way. Any time you surrender yourself … (you kind of) dissolve your individual self, and it’s easier to do that in big crowd of people listening to music.”
Whether through her own intricately structured folk tunes or through re-visioning other people’s compositions, Hille has long worked to achieve that transcendence. Drawing on sources as varied as Emily Carr’s writings or her Grandmother’s hymn book, Hille applies her background training in “assemblage” sculpture, which re-imagines found objects into new shapes, to songwriting.
“I always strive to hit something that’s ecstatic — and great pop music is ecstatic,” she said. “(In my) grandma’s hymn book, the language was very strong at times, almost sexual in its worship of God … (For the new album) I wanted to meld it into something that’s more my own.”
Asked whether technology helps or hinders such an experience, Hille said walking around town listening to her iPod definitely “adds a different dimension” to her errands. However, technology can also affect the immediacy of her work. For this reason, This Riot Life was recorded live in a five-day session with tight-knit friends. While in the past Hille has used computers to assemble tracks, her approach is much different from other sample-based musicians like hip-hop producers.
“I’ve always been a pretty nerdy white girl,” she said with a laugh. “I used to do a lot more manipulation with technology … (but found that) takes a certain amount of mental work, and I thought it was maybe getting in way of myself. In this new project, I just play music and not (mediate) it as much.”
Rob McMahon is a freelance writer. A graduate of UBC’s Journalism program, he contributes to Metro and other publications. Top music memories include a road trip to Coachella and catching Lollapalooza ‘95.