A week before the release of her fearless sophomore album ‘Hysteria,’ singer/songwriter and indie rising star Indigo Sparke speaks with Atwood Magazine about reconciliation, reclamation, and what it takes to fortify an internal sense of home.
Stream: “Hysteria” – Indigo Sparke
Singer/songwriter Indigo Sparke is soon to release her new album, Hysteria, via Sacred Bones (October 7th). If this is the first you’re hearing of Sparke, or if you’re a fan of her minimalist debut LP echo (produced by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker), Hysteria will sweep you off your feet. It is an undeniable triumph, an earned masterpiece.
Sparke moved to upstate New York a year and a half ago to record Hysteria, joining forces with multi-instrumentalist, storyteller extraordinaire Aaron Dessner (The National, Taylor Swift). With the space to surrender and a creative partner to help curate and color her big folder of demos, Hysteria came together as a clarified crowning glory of one woman’s journey through a profoundly excruciating and complex period. Sparke fiercely vocalizes her most bittersweet epiphanies and primal self-discoveries on the album’s 14 tracks. Where echo featured the soft allure of Sparke’s finger-picked guitar and melancholic, ethereal vocals, Hysteria is full-bodied, kaleidoscopic and unapologetically intense.
I think I’ve moved through something in this [album], moved through into the next phase of my identity.
Hysteria’s three singles, “Blue,” “Pressure In My Chest,” and “Hysteria,” barely scratch the surface of the immediacy and breathtaking elation that the album has to offer. “God Is A Woman’s Name” is a forcefield of guttural feminine energy, a wild woman anthem. Striking a more tender chord, “Pluto” lays back in the swing of solitude ⏤ a meditation on letting go and letting be.
“The whole theme of this album, in some ways, is reconciling. Reconciling hysteria, reconciling grief, and reconciling trauma and time and how the time like brings us around in these circles. It was maybe the first time in my life that I was truly, truly, truly alone. It didn’t have family, no friends, no relationship, no safety mechanism. And I had to fortify the sense of home, internally. And the only thing I could kind of keep returning to was my breath.”
Atwood Magazine got the opportunity to come full circle with Indigo Sparke. Following up on our last interview with the artist in February of 2021, we dove into where Sparke is now and how far she’s come since releasing her debut LP Echo. Read the full interview below and stream Hysteria everywhere on October 7th!
A CONVERSATION WITH INDIGO SPARKE
Atwood Magazine: Last year I spoke to you two weeks before your debut LP. You were in Sydney, Australia sitting with your younger sister catching up and receiving some words of wisdom. Today we are a week away from the release of your album, Hysteria, where are you and how are you doing?
Indigo Sparke: Wow, it is all coming back to me now. Well, I am in upstate New York. I think at that point I was absolutely terrified of moving over here. And I was in such a deep state of anxiety and depression. I had an intuitive feeling of how intense it was going to be to do it. So yeah, this is so crazy. I’ve reached a full 360. Nearly on the flip side of that album, the new album’s coming out in a week. I feel like everything’s only really kind of landed in the last few months. I don’t think I could have ever really imagined at that point that this is where I would be now. Although, maybe I did have some faint kind of glimmer of hopefulness that I would be here.
I am curious, why did you move to upstate New York instead of the city?
Indigo Sparke: I think because I grew up in the country. I grew up between the country and the city. I was between Sydney and then the Hunter Valley area, or Byron Bay Area, since I was really young. So I think that is like something that I didn’t actually totally realize until recently, again, was so deeply ingrained in me that I needed, not just one or the other, like, not just a big city, and not just nature. And I think I was trying to do it in various different ways. Like I was going from Vashon in the Pacific Northwest to New York, back and forth for a period of time. And Taos, New Mexico back and forth to New York. I was like, this is just too much. And I had always felt that I would live upstate New York, always it was just, you know, the rental market at the moment is insane. And so it just took a really long time. But I’ve finally found this spot. So it’s been amazing, because I can just drive in and out when I need to. I do miss the city when I’m here. And then I miss up here when I’m down there. And in moments when there is so much incoming data, I just needed to have a nature zone.
Last year you mentioned your music and your team all came together in the middle of the pandemic’s storm. It had also been a profoundly excruciating year for you. What followed that crazy isolated time for you? What environment did the songs of this album originate from?
Indigo Sparke: Well, a lot of those songs came from that isolation period. “Blue” came out in that isolation period. “Pressure In My Chest” actually came much later when I was living in New Mexico. “Hysteria” came from that period of quarantine. I remember writing that song at my dad’s house. Also, that house was in the middle of nature. There’s a lot of other songs on the record that came out of that period too.
“Pressure In My Chest” feels like release — melodically it flows loose and free and the juxtaposition between the breathless repetition of the words is genius. Can you talk about this song, what it means to you, what the story of writing it was?
Indigo Sparke: Yeah, totally. The song definitely feels expansive to me too. Quite a few people were like “this is going to be the COVID song,” and I was like, not at all. I think for me, the song came out of a place of feeling totally liberated in some capacity. I was really facing myself and sitting with myself, but I was feeling this massive expansion. I had just packed up all my stuff again, for like the fourth or fifth time or something. I’ve moved like six times. I’d packed everything into a rental car in LA two days before New Year’s Eve and I drove out to New Mexico and moved into this house in Taos, and was living for quite a few months in this really massive 400 year old adobe house. With ceilings that were painted by D. H. Lawrence. It was such a crazy house, and I was out there and just driving in that desert expanse. It opens out into nothingness. I was living by myself and didn’t really know anyone. I think I just had arrived at this point where I felt like finally I didn’t have any attachments to a relationship or anything. I was free to just be in the tides of myself every day. I had little bits and pieces that I had brought with me not just from Australia, but from my travels.
How did the “Pressure In My Chest” evolve over the course of writing it?
Indigo Sparke: Originally, “Pressure In My Chest” was called “Little Red Heart”. I had this tiny little red heart earring that I had brought with me. It used to be my mom’s. And I remember wearing it actually. And I just kind of brought it around with me, along with like, a bunch of baby photos and stuff. The whole theme of this album, in some ways, is reconciling. Reconciling hysteria, reconciling grief, and reconciling trauma and time and how the time like brings us around in these circles. It was maybe the first time in my life that I was truly, truly, truly alone. It didn’t have family, no friends, no relationship, no safety mechanism. And I had to fortify the sense of home, internally. And the only thing I could kind of keep returning to was my breath. So the song was born out of that place.
In 2021, I asked you what you were looking forward to and you said: “I’m excited to push into more of the guts of things. The rawness of things. Just express it in a different way. I think I want to find more of an edge. I don’t feel soft and super feminine at the moment. I feel strong in my femininity in some ways, but I feel like there’s a new sense of harshness and strength since moving through some things that have felt incredibly brutal. I’m really looking forward to having the space to have that come through in new recordings.” Did you find the space you needed to push into the guts of things and express in a new way?
Indigo Sparke: I feel like I definitely embodied that. The new album definitely has an edge to it that the last album didn’t have. The last album was kind of ethereal and soft in some ways. Hysteria feels super structured. It is spirit and voice forward. It is intense and different. And, you know, there’s softness in it, but it’s in a different way to the last record.
The color blue. Your name is blue, one of your singles is titled Blue. Talk to me about how identity shows up in this album.
Indigo Sparke: I feel like in some sort of way, I was actually trying to shed my identity. Or maybe shed a past identity, or an identity that I felt was actually not an identity, but actually an accumulation of projections of 31 years of living that people have dumped on me.
Indigo Sparke: So I was like, no, okay I’m actually a woman now. I’m a woman. I am not all those stories. And this album is a shedding and then a rebirth which I guess we all inevitably do in creative works. Whether you’re a poet or a painter, whatever you do, every body of work is, in some ways, like a new reclamation of self. Identity is an interesting thing. It’s constantly changing. It can be so liberating accepting your history and your identity, in some sense, and can also be so limiting. And I’ve worked with those extremes. I think I’ve moved through something in this [album], moved through into the next phase of my identity.
Wow. Okay, my last question. Thank you, by the way, this has been so awesome. If you were to advise someone on how to survive the journey you went on over the past year and change, what would you prescribe?
Indigo Sparke: A therapist. Some really good friends. A safe place to rest. Time in nature and good books.
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📸 © Angela Ricciardi
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