Intimate and unconditional, Wyldest’s sophomore album ‘Monthly Friend’ dives into the depths of womanhood and female identity. Tender, raw dream pop navigates a journey of reflection, confrontation, acceptance, and self-discovery.
Stream: “Monthly Friend” – Wyldest
It started from a song I wrote about feeling trapped by my own body,. ‘Monthly Friend’ is a playful way to describe my period – it started as a fun thing, then the more I went down the womanhood rabbit-hole, it became an obvious fit for the album as a whole.
“Being a woman is being just another human capable of anything and limited by nothing,” Wyldest’s Zoe Mead told Atwood Magazine for our 2020 Women’s History Month series. “It has very little to do with femininity, although social constructs may have us thinking otherwise. Gender stereotyping is toxic and it causes endless frustration and suffering from men and women alike. We should be able to just drop the fact that some of us humans have vaginas and some of us don’t.”
Arriving a year and a half later, Mead’s radiant second album as Wyldest dives into the depths of womanhood and female identity.
Intimate and unconditional, Monthly Friend is a tender, raw dream pop journey of reflection, confrontation, acceptance, and self-discovery. Wyldest navigates nuanced perspectives, stereotypes and prejudices, and her own personal experiences with a critical mind, evoking passionate emotions while breaking down barriers at the same time. Her music, while so full of grace and lively warmth, ultimately exists as an unapologetic unshackling of societal constraints and a provocative rejection of normative thinking. It’s an embrace of womanhood, as much as it is an exploration of what exactly “womanhood” means.
“I want to be seen as an equal in society, able to carry heavy equipment, run fast, and eat lots,” Mead shared in that same 2020 feature. “It’s taken years, but I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my own body, accepting my womanhood, but also not letting it dictate what I do, how I behave and how I present myself… Womanhood is defined by our mindset, not physical form, and is a world where anyone is welcome.”
Today, that sentiment rings truer than ever through a hauntingly beautiful album that plunges headfirst into the rawest parts of our very being.
There’s a voice inside my head
Saying to give it all to you
But I don’t want to give you hope
I decide to hold the words
I’m savingm I’ll save them all for you
But you will only wear them out
Forget, stop wasting my time and yours
And still you’re here
Are we seeing Shadows?
I’ll fall with you like dead fruit
I’ll crawl through thorns to free you
– “Monthly Friend,” Wyldest
Released May 28, 2021 via Hand in Hive, Wyldest’s sophomore album Monthly Friend is as gentle and soft as it is utterly cinematic. Following 2019’s Dream Chaos, the concept album (of sorts) finds an inspired Zoe Mead honing her craft, creating a world into which listeners can immerse their senses, indulge in sensational feelings, and let go for awhile.
“It was the beginning of the first lockdown 2020 when I was experiencing some writer’s block,” Mead tells Atwood Magazine. “It was a frustrating time (as all of us found), I wasn’t going out and experiencing anything new, so I felt a little trapped and uninspired. To remedy this, I did a ton of reading. I read a lot of poetry and science books and the combination of the two got me thinking a lot about humans and how we’ve evolved to take on our gender roles. I spent a lot of time unpacking the way I feel about all of this, trying to make sense of my own feelings… I ended up deciding to make that a theme of a couple of songs, then I accidentally ended up recording 10 songs with that as the overriding theme. So, Monthly Friend is a concept album in its entirety, with themes relating to womanhood, the physicality of it, the different ideas around it and it’s limitations and the advantages. Throughout the album, I visit these feelings through metaphors, largely related to nature.”
“The first song I wrote for the album was ‘Monthly Friend’, which is loosely a song about my monthly cycle – but on a deeper level, it was me trying to dismantle feelings towards my body,” Mead explains. “I as trying to make sense of this and thought a lot about how woman are subject to a lot of repression from society based on their bodies. We’re made to feel shame about cycles, hormones/bound by our ability to bare children…There are times when I feel a little trapped within my body. After having written ”Monthly Friend,” I realised there was a lot more I wanted to dismantle, so I went down that rabbit hole and ended up with an entire album under the title ‘Monthly Friend‘.”
“I’d hope it feels like an evolution from my previous work. I definitely feel more comfortable to put honesty into my songwriting a lot more than I did before, so I really hope that people connect with it and feel the feelings that I felt while writing it. I hope it provided the catharsis that I felt when I was writing it too.”
From start to finish, Monthly Friend embarks on a whirlwind sonic and emotional journey.
Wyldest’s enthralling opening tracks “Beggar” and “Hollow” billow will the special hushed vibrance that makes her music hurt so good – and on every track, there’s either a special line or a majestic melody waiting to tear us down and build us back up again.
Highlights abound for the artist, who shares a deep connection to this music. “[My favorite] varies, but at this moment I’m going to say ‘Almost Bliss’. It isn’t one of the singles and it sits right in the middle of the album, but I was probably most excited when I recorded it. I was really experimental in the production and had right a fun time mixing it. It has a lot in it instrumentally, but also quite a lot of dynamics. Also I’m looking forward to playing it live as it’s got a fun jam to rock out to at the end and i do love a good emotional belt out.
Meanwhile, she cites the title track as containing some of her favorite lyrics. “’For love, for life, inside I’m wilting’, because it represents a bit of an epiphany moment for me,” Mead muses. “When I wrote that lyric, I felt a great sense of truth; it was almost therapeutic putting how I feel into words – the physicality of ‘wilting’ as a woman reflecting on how magical womanhood is, rather than feeling shame or owned by an idea that a woman is perhaps not normal if she doesn’t actively want to breed. Womanhood in a sense holds everything together and really is one of the most significant miracles of humankind. For me, it is a way to accept my body for what it is and celebrate how it works, rather than feel shameful or bound by it.”
Womanhood in a sense holds everything together and really is one of the most significant miracles of humankind. For me, it is a way to accept my body for what it is and celebrate how it works, rather than feel shameful or bound by it.
While it is, in fact, filled with tiny upheavals and cathartic moments of truth and enlightenment, Monthly Friend is an easy, welcoming listen. Wyldest envelops her glistening guitars and sweet vocals around the audience, inviting us in to share in her beauty, her pain, and everything in-between. By the time the clashes on “Burn” subside into the turbulent self-expression pouring out of “The Void,” the only reasonable response is to flip Wyldest’s record over and start it once again.
We can pretend
To try forever
But I’m tired of wasting
All my time
I thought we’d work
To make things better
But we’ve changed too much
To be the way we were
Let me go, I’m falling behind
So let me go and let it burn
Should I have tried
I don’t know if I’m guilty
And It hurts to remember
How we used to be
– “Burn,” Wyldest
“Although this album has some feminist undertones, it’s still just a collection of stories and ideas presented in song format,” Mead shares. “I never want listeners to be able to interpret a single meaning from my songs. I want to make music that can be universally enjoyed, however I use my themes as vehicles to write and in doing so I need to feel things, to write music with feeling, so I channel what I know, what I feel passionate about.”
“I hope people are able to relate in some way and gain some confidence to appreciate themselves and their physical form. Also (like myself), be keen to learn more about society’s imbalances and work towards a more equal and just world.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Wyldest’s Monthly Friend with Atwood Magazine as Zoe Mead goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her stunning sophomore LP!
Stream: ‘Monthly Friend’ – Wyldest
:: Inside Monthly Friend ::
I suffer from insomnia, my brain struggles to switch itself to relaxation mode. It can be infuriating at times. It usually happens when I have something coming-up or something is playing on my subconscious. “Beggar” was written at a time when my insomnia got particularly bad in lockdown 2020 after I’d read a book called The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkings. I was thinking about a theory he’d referenced called ‘Prisoners Dilemma’; a paradox where two people are acting in their own interests for a mutual outcome. It’s related to evolution in the sense that we all enter into relationships with others based on our own decision as to whether it will provide a safe environment for our genes. “Beggar” is about survival of the fittest, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine stuff – like we protect and love those who protect and love us – as a mutually beneficial thing.
In the midst of all this scientific thinking, I have a spiritual side that is desperately trying to fight against the evolutionary science stuff that is beginning to make so much sense to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that making sense of the world isn’t something that can be achieved via one source. It’s ok to be scientific and spiritual, we just have to make sense of this best we can (and sleep at night would be nice).
“Hollow” is my empowerment song. The idea that we are the plants and society is this ‘reptile’, blending in with its surroundings, constantly using us, consuming us. Reptile being a bit of a play on our government.
Society and corrupt governments are helpless to the strength of what we collectively will become – “I’m a dying apple tree, everything that falls from me, has roots you see” – I like to think that we’re all just sowing the seeds of what’s to come and it’s a pretty unstoppable thing.
I felt a bit self-indulgent writing this song, like there are so many issues which I feel I can’t (and shouldn’t) address because I will never be able to understand. However what I can do is acknowledge them and start trying to understand.
All I know is I wrote a song about change, something that I believe is the only way the human race can continue to exist, so I’m celebrating it, believing that it’s happening and growing and learning as much as I can everyday.
Let’s not be hollow, let’s be full to the brim with feeling.
This is a really personal song, it’s about a real relationship I had with a friend who went from being a “buddy” to someone who I changed myself for to be accepted, desired and admired. “Buddy” is about how destructive this behaviour is and my aversion to being within the male gaze: “I don’t want to be your prize”.
It references the relationship between predator and prey in nature against a backdrop of human relationships, highlighting a very flawed society where females are the hunted and males are the hunters in this “game of seek and hide”.
It seems pretty silly that I, as a female, should succumb to a life of opportunities ‘hunting me’ like I’m some kind of lamb in an open field waiting for a fate to be presented to me against my will. Fortunately we don’t live in a time where women are expected to be ‘dainty’ and ‘passive’ creatures, so I’m gonna be the very opposite of that.
It’s ultimately triumphant – “Just try to catch me now” – after the enlightenment of not needing to be desired in this way. It’s also future-proofing my sanity, knowing that no matter how old I get or what I decide to do, I’m governed by my own mind.
I spent the first half of my teen years stuffing my crop top and carrying around my older sisters’ sanitary products with the intention of making them fall out of my backpack at school to convince my friends I was reaching womanhood like them (true story). It took me a lot longer and I was so ashamed of it.
When I eventually went through it, I experienced the exact opposite – trying to fight my body as it morphed into something new and (to me at the time) terrifying.
These feelings followed me into my adulthood and I still feel them now. It’s like I’m having a constant battle with my body. “For love, for life, inside I’m wilting” – that is a direct comparison to one’s monthly cycle – my body’s constant reminder, telling me to bare children, every inch of it appears to be betraying what’s inside my head.
“Monthly Friend” is about the temptation I’ve felt to succumb to society’s expectation of me as a woman and the acceptance of my body. Taking comfort in the fact that it functions as it should and this is a blessing that I should not fight. Sure being female comes with a womb and extra layer of fat, but with it is the ability to feel things so beautifully with our sensitive hormones. Our bodies are a blessing in disguise.
All people, and in particular females, are subject to emotional abuse and lack of confidence inflicted by societal norms. We grow up hearing phrases like, “You must be dying to get married” and, “You’re a good drummer/computer scientist/plumber for a girl” – that just becomes the norm, and when we reach adulthood, those notions are imprinted into our very being. “Heal” is about how much these notions can affect us into making poor decisions and allowing others to keep us within a toxic environment…
Recently, I saw someone very close to me go from being a confident, beautiful art student, to being the sidekick to a very unhappy, abusive partner and her personality literally dissolved before my eyes. “Heal” is about the repression that women tend to be subject to through learned social norms that just keeps getting rammed down our throats. In my lifetime I would love to see gender stereotypes being eradicated completely.
“Almost Bliss” is a nod to the lack of satisfaction many of us feel in life. Like when we’re kids, we believe that we’re gonna do this, be like this. Then we grow up and forget to strive for what we truly desire.
“Drawn like fireflies, dead by sunrise…”
“The light is fading upon your skin and my body won’t lie.”
Is “almost” enough? I’ve certainly been in many situations, I would describe it as “fine”, in fact, perhaps many of us are in a constant state of “almost” and perhaps that’s natural. But my point is that we should never stop wanting to drop the “almost” from “Almost Bliss”.
Glue is a song about the end of the universe.
I watched a space documentary at the beginning of lockdown in 2020 and I got to thinking that if we do make it to a time where the sun is imploding in on itself and we’re floating around in little spaceships in the dark, we’ve done pretty well as a species. Unlikely to happen with yellow-haired leaders in place though. I digress, but basically this is a love song to mother earth and the pretty damn magnificent world we have. It’s not a song about being all preachy about the environment (although I do love the earth) but I guess I wrote it as a comfort blanket to myself that the earth will find a way to sort itself out, whether we’re here or not.
“Arrows” is about that moment of enlightenment. Coming to a realisation of power and freedom in a world filled with perceived restrictions: “I try to understand, the future in my hands and my mind awakens.”
“Burn” is about the realisation that two people are not bringing anything positive to each other’s lives and the point in time where you feel a huge desire to escape a situation which is toxic. Once seen, you can’t unsee it and if something’s holding you back, you feel an intense urgency to free yourself from the burden of it.
“The Void” is based on a poem I read by my beloved Rupi Kaur: “I do not want to have you, to fill the empty parts of me, I want to be full on my own.”
It’s about the attachment we feel to others who may temporarily fill a void we have in our lives: “I can feel the void, the absence taking over me”. These kinds of attachments can almost pull the wool over our eyes and push things to the subconscious, bubbling away getting worse. The song stands as a reminder that we should deal with ourselves before trying to fulfil ourselves with another individual.
“I want to fill so complete, I could light a whole city, and then I want to have you, cause the two of us combined could set it on fire.”
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📸 © 2021
:: Stream Wyldest ::