Sarah Mary Chadwick
There’s some very painterly, stark ink drawings on Sarah Mary Chadwick’s Bandcamp site which look almost like Joy Hester’s: free lines, deep wet shadows and a lot of feeling conveyed with (what looks like) relatively few flicks of the wrist. That’s the great thing about ink and watercolours: you’ve got to be simple and honest and spontaneous. If you make a mistake then you’ve got to just go with it, because attempting to cover it up will only smear things terribly and land you with a pile of mushed paper. Chadwick created these artworks herself, and they’re a beautiful accompaniment to the unabashed sound of the electric guitar-based solo tracks on her debut LP Eating For Two. You can hear the slightest movement, breath, or fingertip sliding along frets. After ten years with Batrider, Chadwick is releasing the collection of visceral, lonely, but gorgeously hopeful tunes, and touring our eastern states.
“It was awesome, I loved doing that band but it was definitely...” Chadwick pauses to ponder while “putting [her] face on” and I hear the click and crash of cosmetics on her dressing table over the phone. “If I do stuff by myself I don’t really have to worry. That band’s been some of the best times I’ve had but also some of the worst times I’ve had as well.” Batrider began when Chadwick was just 20 years old, with three other friends. After honing her songwriting and guitar skills over these years, the wryly witty New Zealander has exhumed herself on the other side with this record that’s basically all her own. “I did record some tracks with a drummer and a bass player but I didn’t use any of them,” she explains. “On that record there’s ten songs; ‘cause it’s only coming out on vinyl it’s got to be only 20 minutes a side. If you look at Batrider it’s always ridiculous. They’ve always got, fuck I don’t know, 15 or 17 or 18 songs on them. [But] being on vinyl, I had to restrict it to that many.”
“I think it’s definitely time for me right now to do stuff by myself, because I’ve always done it but because of doing the other band it’s [never been] a priority,” she says solidly. “I’m quite happy travelling around by myself,” she responds when I ask who might be accompanying her on the tour. “It’s not too daunting. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to worry. You can eat what you want to eat.”
Speaking of eating, the LP’s title is pretty sweetly cryptic. The first thought that comes to mind is pregnancy, which Chadwick laughs heartily at and assures me has nought to do with her personal state. But Just Like Holding Shards speaks of ‘eating up inside’, so there’s this division between eating as nourishment and eating away: that is, loss. “I kind of like the idea that it’s quite greedy; having what two people should have,” she says. “You’re having your own share but you’re stealing someone else’s, in a needy kind of way.” The need (even when it’s resigned) is palpable in the afore-mentioned track, in lines like ‘I can’t even look, ‘cause looking is loving’ and ‘I’ve been looking everywhere but I can’t find God’ on the stand-out beauty Here’s A Cup.
On Angel In The Snow, an Elliott Smith cover, Chadwick’s layered voices sound like they’re whispering from various places in your head, and something like a melodica brays hauntingly over the top. “That’s an accordion,” Chadwick says, adding that she plays “really badly.” “The only instrument I can actually play well is piano: I played piano for like twelve years when I was little. But I’m a pretty middling guitarist and pretty average at... most other things,” she says. “This accordion, I recorded it. And maybe a month later I was playing somewhere and I was like ‘Oh fuck, can I borrow that accordion and I’ll play the song tonight!’ I picked it up and [the lender was] like ‘Um... you’re actually playing it upside-down.’ I didn’t realise. ‘Yeah she’s just such a unique performer,’” she mimics, and guffaws at herself.
You can’t always equate candour with seriousness, as Chadwick sincerely personifies. While some of the moments in her LP invoke that part in Romeo + Juliet when Juliet realises Romeo is dead, and does this honking bawl of grief (what does she care how she looks or sounds at that moment?), humour is never far away in Chadwick’s world. She’s pretty proud of her album cover: “It’s a painting of me in a sportsbra and pink trackpants on a couch,” she says with glee. “It was kind of supposed to be Titanic style.” While the cover art was created by her good friend Nick Wholton, Chadwick hopes to have a few more exhibitions of her own stuff and perhaps vend more than her one sale to date: “It was a life-sized, or just a little bit larger than life-sized, statue of Anna Nicole-Smith.“ Hopefully she’ll find a viable studio space to make some more art that speaks in tandem with her frank and very moving LP.
BY ZOË RADAS
SARAH MARY CHADWICK plays The Grace Darling on Friday August 31. Eating For Two is out on Friday August 24 through Bedroom Suck Records.