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Since hooking up with shaggy rocker Faris Badwan of The Horrors for a collaborative LP two years ago, rumours about the exact nature of their relationship have dogged both.
Reading Festival 2014: The Horrors' Faris Badwan – 'I only sleep for about two hours a night'
After considerable rumination, she's decided the smartest strategy is to say as little as possible. As it is, people think it's weird me and Faris are even in a band together. It is such an unlikely collaboration. On its own that is probably strange enough, without the need to go any further. Besides, she's right — not knowing much about her personal doings cloaks her songs in a somnolent air of otherworldliness, a sensibility that would surely be ruined were she and Badwan all over the tabloids it's not a stretch to imagine that they could be — The Horrors are a big band with a Mercury music prize nomination under their belt.
The collection she and Badwan released as Cat's Eyes caught many unawares. Gauzy and understated, where The Horrors are dense, noisy and cathartic, it reimagined s girl pop as fuzz-drenched alternative rock. Some considered it unlistenable, to others it was a stand out of the year.
For her second long player, her first as a solo artist, she has doubled down on the crestfallen gothic persona she honed with Cat's Eyes. Assembled in Abbey Road studios with the assistance of a world class string section, The Deserters is muggy and hypnotic, all banshee coos and droning guitars. In a good way it sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a fish-tank, Zeffira's voice drifting up through the weeds and the murk. The engineers are so fast. If I'd gone anywhere else it wouldn't have sounded as good and would have taken longer" From small town British Columbia, the story of how Zeffira wound up plying tortured songwriter pop in London would constitute an article in itself.
On a classical music scholarship to a British university, she was refused entry at Heathrow Airport due to a document mix-up on the part of the authorities, she insists. As a result she lost her place in a top programme but, determined to relocate to the UK all the same, blagged her way into a substitute teacher position in south London.
I was supposed to be at school and instead I was teaching without qualifications. I had to go to Italy to go back on track with my singing. We were just writing songs for fun.
She didn't really know what bands did. She was always acoustic and I was into effects, I guess. What was the approach at the beginning? Then it went away from there. So how has it changed?The Horrors interview - Faris (part 1)
One notable change just from hearing them today is the Kraut influence on 'Standoff' that creates a ruckus on the dancefloor at Number 6. The mood turns from awe, to loose, and feral. The addition of heavier tracks to their set since this second album makes them a more phenomenal live act for a festival than they would be otherwise.
Rachel Zeffira - Wikipedia
But albums aren't the main way Badwan intends to spend time with Cat's Eyes going forward: That was really cool.
The films really good and we did all the score. These aren't rockers toying around with symphonies at all. She used to be an opera singer and she just has insane technique. She's taught me so much about writing songs as well. To get to work with someone like that where I can take those parts and manipulate them is fun.
Given Zeffira's classical background this helped them play some pretty spectacular shows so far. Their first gig was at the Vatican in front of several Cardinals. They also played with piece orchestra in London.
It's remarkable therefore that I'm here after watching Zeffira, Badwan, and the rest of the band, which is pretty big line up by normal standards, with a couple hundred people at Festival Number 6.
They're clearly not used to roughing it on small stages: