Aldous Harding Sings Dark Songs of Sweetness and Light


Aidin Vaziri | A lot of people are starting to talk about Aldous Harding. This makes the shy 26-year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter terribly uncomfortable. But with a ringing endorsement from Lorde (the fellow Kiwi called her “the most interesting musician around”) and critical praise pouring in for her second album and 4AD record label debut, “Party” (produced by frequent PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish), Harding might need to get used to the attention. She talked to us from a stop in Brooklyn, N.Y., on her current tour.

Q: You’re coming up on 27 — do you expect a major life change ahead with the whole Saturn return thing?

A: I hadn’t even considered the whole thing. I have moments where I’m like, 27 is the time! Now that you mention it, it is happening that way. Sometimes I feel like I’m dying. I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s not until September.

Q: You might come out the other side sounding like Gwen Stefani.

A: I’ve already gone through my Gwen Stefani moment.

Q: Now you get to relive the most difficult moments of your life every night by performing “Party” on tour.

A: That’s not what it is about. With the first album, I didn’t have anything positive to say. With this one, I wanted to share the nice feelings I was having. Even the horrible songs, like “I’m So Sorry,” I wanted to remind myself that I had that conversation with myself about my buddy, the booze. I thought it was a nice way to admit that it’s something that will always be around. It comes from a much calmer place, even though I don’t know if people feel that. The content is quite sweet if you listen closely.

Q: You started playing a lot of these songs before “Party” was ever made. Do you still feel connected to them?

A: It’s not me being bored that I’m worried about. I want to make sure that I play good shows, and I give a song what it deserves. I want to play it like the first time even though it’s the 70th time. Knowing I can’t upsets me, and you have to accept that you have been playing them a long time, but I have to remember not everybody has heard them as much as I have.

Q: You have such a distinctive sound. Is it a case of trying to sound like Rihanna and failing in the most epic way possible?

A: I don’t know that I’m trying to sound like anything in particular. Whether it’s done on purpose or when you’re trying for something or you’re not a particularly good guitar player there’s a nice balance there. Not knowing what you are doing can look quite powerful from the outside. You probably think you’re doing something completely different to how people feel.

Q: You’re doing some interesting things with your voice on the record. Is it challenging to re-create it live?

A: It’s not a challenge. I can go, “I need to make my voice sound like this!” And it will do it. I don’t have to practice them in front of the mirror or anything. The challenge is finding out how I want to perform these songs at a later time. I know I’ll always use my voice as an instrument when I feel it’s needed. I think it’s interesting. It could completely change. I’m drip-feeding the new sound and seeing if people are receptive to that. If they’re not, I’ll do it any way.