into the wild… the making of ‘Wilderness’

pilgrims-allbum-cover-1

“WILDERNESS” – a collection of songs inspired by animals, animals that have been totemic in the relation between a man (Robert Davidson) and a woman (Kat McDonald);  the ‘Pilgrims’ who crafted these songs.

we are often asked about the songs, what inspired each one and/or the strange turn of events that led to us crafting this body of music.

it’s been a very personal quest. an all-consuming driving force that laid us bare and taught us both so much about life, love and ourselves – and the world that we live in.

CLICK HERE to listen to Wilderness, in its unspoilt entirety…  << LISTEN NOW >>

song one – druid

druid

K: this song is about loyalty.  having been moved and inspired by a documentary about a pack of wolves, called Druids, in the USA, and their the unshakeable and instinctive loyalty to one another, i felt compelled to write about this because i could relate to their union, and their loneliness, their melancholy.  wolves have held my fascination and admiration for many years, since i was a child.  their cries seem full of sadness and yearning.  i wrote a poem, called Druid, inspired by the loyalty of wolves, and the trust bestowed on me by my lover, Robert (also my fellow songwriting partner/ my fellow Pilgrim) and the honesty and forever in his eyes, eyes that i could easily lose myself in. there is a wilderness in his eyes that i needed to lose myself in.  i felt melancholy. i felt guilty of not exploring this wilderness sooner. this song contains an unsent letter to Robert, spoken as a poem, which is a personal explanation for my shame in not getting lost in that wilderness sooner and how i hadn’t been honest with myself, and my regrets and fears. i regret keeping him waiting for me, like the lone wolf Casanova in the film that moved me.  the cries of those wolves, and their loyalty, resonated in me so i picked up my guitar….

R: What an opening. The cry of those wolves is chilling and exhilarating in equal measures. I fell in love with Kat’s writing during this album. She’s a writer first and foremost, in my opinion. So it was easy to help her craft these songs from her writing, picking out lyrics and sewing them into the fabric of the music. Ach, for a while I couldn’t be bothered with…women. The idea of love. And then I got to know Kathryn. I felt like Cassanova was returning. The lover in me was returning. Bit cheesy I suppose but, true. So the tale of the wolf Cassanova really resonated with us. The song is dramatic with big drums drenched in reverb and sweeping strings and then transforms into a kind of lounge, surf pop tune. Peculiar.

song two – my gentle centaurian

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K: this was the first song i wrote on my guitar. as a little girl, i have loved horses (name one little girl who doesn’t!) and mythology.  tales of ancient archetypes and mythological creatures has fuelled my imagination with a desire to escape into those worlds.  this song is about horses, and how they mirror your emotions back to you.  their strength, their grace and their beauty; their innocence and wisdom.  Sagittarius (half man/half horse) is Robert’s star sign… now i am not hung up on astrology but i love these old stories.  i felt a sense of connection with Robert from a very early stage in our friendship. i grew more intrigued by him and the way he views the world. he would listen to me, like noone could. there was a sense of ease, a familiarity – like family or that we had known each other before this life.  i remember lying on his bed one Wednesday afternoon and watching him sleep, and kick in his sleep.  his mind was (and remains) a growing curiosity of mine, wild and tangled just like his long hair, seemed to be teeming over with questions, brilliance, words, songs, compassion. i wanted to run with that mind… run with those wild horses. so i ran away with him….

R: That she did. She ran, like a pony on a beach. Galloping. She explains it more articulately than I could. So I shall focus on the track for now. Another song that builds on a powerful singular beat of a floor tom. Like when you watch a horse run and it just looks like it could run forever. Into the past. Into the time where we met before. We have an almost carnival feel in this song that conjures wooden horses on a carousel, spinning, over and over and over again. Dizzy with joy, with love. There’s even an accordion! Now, any accordion players out there for our live show? No? Didn’t think so. Guitarists can form a long, long, line here…

centaur2

song three – behold, the watcher

watcher1

K: having had a strange, and somewhat unnerving, dream about a fox… a vixen, with green eyes, that had followed Robert and i deep into a forest, watched us share intimate moments and make love and seemed to be everywhere i turned.  foxes, in dreams, portend a warning sign and can be indicative of someone entering your life who is a deceiver, a liar. our love was new and there were many who did not like the fact that we were now lovers. my subconscious had chose to depict my fears of others’ interference and jealousy by way of a fox.  an innocent fox.  i told Robert of this dream and he crafted this song.  the dream was confounded by a visitation from a beautiful fox later that summer…  i returned home, to my home by the sea, to find a fox on my doorstep.  i asked her to show me and she led me to a place i’d never known before… one of completeness, of happiness and new-found freedom; a place where i felt safe… Robert’s arms, where i go to hibernate.

R: Behold, indeed! This reeks of…fox piss. No, it reeks of massive attack. The electronic beat and mixture of bizarre synths and actual fox noises sets a mood that might just change your state of consciousness. It’s otherworldly. Eerie, even. And then it goes all pop, so…Nah, it’s an epic song in its proportions. Grandiose, hopefully without the pomposity. Radio friendly, wink wink. Not that we care about such things.

watcher

song four – no fear of trap nor pin

no-fear-of-trap-nor-pin

K: they say home is where the heart is.  to me, it is more than that. home is where i will never be made to feel unwelcome; home is a place where i will always feel safe; home is a place where i will always return.  Robert’s home, along the coast from mine, is like a cocoon. his room, his bed, is our cocoon. it is a place where we lock ourselves away and hide from the outside world. it is a warm and safe place. a place where love resides. it is also home to one hundred butterflies. every year, it seems, butterflies mysteriously appear in his home… in various rooms. maybe they enter his house because they feel safe, as i do. they are beautiful and their lives short-lived. there is a sense of beauty and sadness there. a sense of loneliness. these butterflies are an endangered species and rare and every year they return, like gentle Pilgrims, it would seem… they return, with no fear.  i too return, and i will always return, to our cocoon.  this song is about those butterflies… and the butterflies in my stomach and heart that flutter with anticipation of seeing my love and losing myself in his smile.

R: Okay, I’m not sure I want everyone to know that my house in infested with butterfly larvae…too late. Kind of destroys the fantasy. But when they have finished eating the carpets and metamorphisise into the glorious small tortoiseshell butterfly, only then can their true splendorous form be romanticised over! So the song is light and fluttery and airy, sung with a solo falsetto voice, which later breaks into a heavier dynamic, before returning to the light flutter of butterfly wings. Rather nice.

song five – Tibor

tibor

K: the inspiration for this song came long before i realised the emotional depth-charge of my encounter with a tiger.  Tibor is a beautiful young male Amur tiger.  sadly, he was caged in a zoo when i saw him, but i sat with him for over an hour, close and yet unafraid. we studied each others faces. we could taste each others scent.  we connected, spiritually.  he spoke to me.  he seemed to sense my ‘cages’ and spoke to me, in soft low chuffing tones…  he told me to take the chance and run free.  he told me not to waste any opportunity to find true happiness. so i exited my ‘cage’ and ran.  i ran as fast as i could. i was scared, but liberated.  Tibor told me to take chances and not be afraid to love.  to really love. to allow myself to be devoured by love – the most powerful of emotions.  and so i did.  i will never forget Tibor.  i will never forget our ‘connection’.  he remains caged, sadly, and i wish he was free.  but he will, forever, walk with me.

R: How can you take a powerful roaming free-spirit of the jungle and stick it in a cage for hairless apes to gawk at? What goes on in the mind of a tiger in captivity? Are they questioning us? Our seeming lack of regard and compassion? They slowly edge closer to extinction, like the rest of us, only sooner. Man has made a mockery of these beautiful beasts. Kat’s visit with Tibor inspired the song, again a creeping, stalking kind of song that unfolds into a full-on tiger charge.

song six – wolverine

K: there is no rhyme nor reason to this ditty. it was born from an outtake of song two, and our fascination with wolverines. they are such misunderstood creatures.

R: Yes we sang ‘over and over again’, reversed it, learned how to speak it backwards and then sang it, and then reversed it again. We both thought it ended up sounding like ‘Wolverine’. I think Radiohead did this with ‘Spinning Plates’.

song seven – the bee-keeper

beekeeper

K: my father could charm bees. he died when i was only 13 but this is one thing i remember about him.  his hands, calloused and tanned with hard work yet, gentle and yielding with me and nature.  oh how he loved nature.  and how he loved bees.  they say a girl seeks qualities in her lovers like those of her father. perhaps i found this in Robert.  he, like my father and i, had an extraordinary curiosity about nature and a real hunger to understand the many mysteries of life.  he too was a mystery to me. he lived alone, he wrote stories, he exuded a comfort and familiarity, something i craved… like honey.  and he too could charm bees….

R: Another creepy electronic song that builds in intensity with drums and synths that transport you into the heart of the hive. Bees are suffering. Pesticides, over-production of honey, radiowaves and so on. Man and his progress. And they suffer another particularly nasty parasite too, aptly named Varroa Destructor. But this song is more of a celebration of bees, and Kat’s exploration of a strange new man in her life. I love the grain in Kat’s voice here.

song eight – charm

charm

K: an unusual song,  borne of the percussive sound of the quirky little salvo of kisses Robert and i plant on each other…  a charm.   a charm is also the collective term for hummingbirds.  we kiss like hummingbirds, where we lose ourselves in each others mouths.  the sweetness, the playful eroticism, the joy and tenderness, the feeding and nourishment for the soul that comes with love, and loving.  this song is a hummingbird kiss…. if you listen, you can hear those sweet kisses….

R: Lots of chords in this one, picked on ‘Julio’, Kat’s Spanish guitar. This song is light and percussive with a lovely sub-based driven beat when it drops. Some very unnerving sounding synths, performed by Kat, accompany strings. There’s even an oboe in there! It is a breath of fresh air this song. But take a deep breath. We are about to submerge into the deepest, darkest waters.

song nine – shiver

Shark

K: a shiver is the collective term for sharks.  i shivered when i came to learn of this.  it was a very apt description. they have such presence.  when Robert and i first announced our desire to be together there were many who became ‘sharks’… circling, threatening, attacking, intimidating… out to kill.  this song is a song of two halves: the first half, written by Robert, is a jagged and scathing word from such a shark and its intent.  the second half, accidentally written by myself, built from a poem i had written of the same name which i had intend reading aloud, as spoken word, on the outro but it grew into this languid and haunting song of its own merits, an innocent retort to the shark’s initial attack.  it is a lyrical improv of the lovers’ retreat to an infinite world, away from the sharks that circle and provoke, driving them closer together.

R: I wanted to be the shark in this song. To come from the sharks perspective. A cool, but deadly, character that can rock it out with the best of the marine beasts, and might just bite your legs off at the same time! The gangsta!

Dog eat dog

Man eat dog

Shark eat man

Man eat man

The ‘second half’ of the song is more personal in regards to lyrics. The sharks were circling. Trying to take a bite out of us. We escaped.

song ten – Black Sole

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K: Robert and i rescued a cat on my birthday, April 2016.  a cat called Alf.  an alien life form.  half Bengal, half Maine Coon, he’s a big and beautiful boy.  he has a strong persona, real presence and charm.  he possesses 7 of the 8 physical and personality traits of both Scottish wildcat and Clouded Leopard (being half Bengal, that’s in his gene pool, anyway!) – one of which is the black ‘leathers’ on the soles of his paws… and he has BIG paws, claws like a gangster’s flick knife and a smile that will melt your heart… he is our child-cat-voodoo owl, all charm and stripes, familiar eyes….  one look at him and we can’t turn back…  an amazing little creature.

R: How could we not write about this beautiful creature. What a character. He’s a big softy and enjoys a snuggle. But he doesn’t mind a rumble with other cats too. Left to his own devices, he’s a killer. I’ve witnessed him eating many a large moth, alive. And then stretch a devil’s smile across his cute furry face. They’ll find me one day, in my house, dead, with Alf chewing on my lips. Does he love me? Does he care? But he’s so cute so none of that really matters, does it!? This song is a bit more, dare I say it, conventional. Rocking. Think ‘The Kills’ or if Bowie and Bjork were singing?

song eleven – Tilly

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K: i wrote this as a bassline on a 3-string guitar. inspired by being in the company of an aloof and elusive black cat named Tilly for seven days, while Robert’s mum was in Portugal. i watched Tilly for hours and found her to be a curious soul… and saw how she played us.

R: Ah, little Tilly. Disturbed beyond repair. Something from her past has spooked this little lady. A timid creature who every so often shows you a loving, playful side. A quirky little song that matches the quirkiness of Tilly’s character. We’ve got bass-like synths and finger-clicks and a glockenspiel in this one.

song twelve – corvid

corvid

K: another song we built up, based loosely on a poem i wrote called ‘they’.  i marvel at corvids: the chatter of jackdaws and their intelligent blue eyes, the plotting of ravens and their strategies; the brazen nature of magpies.  the place i live was historically inhabited by ravens and there are, to this day, many crows that dwell in the castle ruins and surrounding trees.  i adore them, and feed them from time to time. i talk to them too and watch as they tilt their heads in acknowledgement of my voice. they remind me of cripple old men in ill-fitting suits.  these ‘winged intelligentsia’ are curious birds and illuminating. we watched a documentary about them and we now see them in a different light.  and it’s true: they never forget your face….

R: Crows, another highly intelligent creature of the earth. They have a unique intimate voice reserved for family only, not just the classic ‘caw’ that we hear every other day. Great puzzle-solvers and great memories. They share what they learn with each other. Chattering, sharing the drama. This song changes pace and style throughout. Again, a rocking lounge song to begin with, soon turns into a country-esque chorus. Then there’s an eastern, orchestral, ‘Bond theme’ instrumental , with Kat wailing like some possessed Mongolian throat singer. It ends with a short explosion of punk rock. Nice and weird.

song thirteen – for my whale brothers and sisters

for-my-whale-brothers-and-sisters

K: this sad and haunting song was written after watching ‘Sonic Sea’ – a documentary about the effect of noise pollution on the planet’s beautiful marine mammals.  we recommend that you watch this film, if you care about the environment, planet and its inhabitants.  it had a profound effect on me. i could not stop crying when i saw the truth and felt compelled to write about the plight of the dolphins, whales and other sea mammals. the truth is terrifying and desperately sad. it made me despair of humans. i felt a sense of grieving… first sadness, then questioning and disbelief, then anger and rage. i am sorry if this song makes you cry or disturbs you.. or makes you feel uncomfortable, that was our intention.

R: Ah, the whales. How my heart does break. These poor creatures, driven ashore, flee the unbearable din that humans create. Shipping. Cruises. Military. Setting of nuclear explosions in the oceans, for Christ’s sake. All take their toll. Brain haemorrhage. Suicide. Family members lost, forever. Unable to echo-locate each other. To hear each other calling. This powerful song tries to shine a light on their plight.

Cry for your mother, brother, sister, father, child, lover…they can’t hear you.

The lyrics were adapted from Kat’s poem, ‘For my whale brothers and sisters’, which was printed in the New York Literary Magazine. The song ends with an abrupt and legit cry from Kat and a humpback whale, screaming over the noise pollution. Leaves me slightly disturbed.

We hope you have enjoyed being on this musical journey with us, and implore you to consider the world around you.  open your eyes, open your hearts and minds and see that we, as humans, have the power to make this world a beautiful place…  be compassionate, consider those who cannot speak for themselves… and remember, be kind to one another.

Kat & Robert

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