Montreal’s own Helena Deland has captivated and cultivated thought with her debut LP release Someone New. This ethereal masterpiece really originates from a romantic mirage of EPs, which have brought beautiful live performances with artists such as Connan Mockasin, Superorganism and Weyes Blood. The stages of SXSW, Best Kept Secret and a multitude of other festivals have had the privilege of hosting Deland’s creations too.
The delicacy of voice in these EPs continues to flow into Deland’s latest release. However this time we are guided into a more prevalent question. With vocals that seem almost other dimensional, Helena asks us to think outside of the hetero-normative box; away from these ludicrous templates forced upon us by the status-quo. Innocence and freedom will always prevail and this is spoken so in this masterpiece.
To the mind, predecessors of the late 90’s such as Angie Hart synchronise beautifully with the likes of Broadcast, enveloping the listener in blissful harmony. The previously described vocals are configured and elevated with sweetly struck strings and sumptuous hints of synth. The antithesis of the questions posed and the sound of such calming chords is an altogether new experience!
It is a privilege at Bizzarre to not only conduct this interview, but to be presented the knowledge of Deland’s latest creation and the reasoning behind it.
Bizzarre: First full length LP. Following on from collation of EPs.
Live plays of these were with an extremely wide spectrum of touring artists. Is this the first full round bodied extension of Helena’s vision coming to life?
Helena Deland: It definitely feels like it! The more experienced I become at my craft, the closer it feels to something full round bodied I'd say.
B: What particular changes in style did you want to take into this album (the transition into a more synth sequence style, What does it compliment in your eyes?)?
HD: My vision had more to do with songwriting, I wanted to put together songs that really created little worlds and have the production complement whatever themes were central to the lyrics. The arrangements were chosen in that way more than from a previous decision to move towards something more synth heavy.
B:What were the main inspirations for the album? Afflictions in the realm of love?
HD: The main inspiration was a feeling of wanting to become someone else and being saddened and confused as to why I didn't already feel sufficient to myself. Ultimately, writing the record allowed me to question how much I felt I needed to run myself by others for approval and it helped me disengage somewhat with that kind of insecurity. It was a very empowering process.
B: What was your process in constructing the album?
HD: I wrote the songs on the guitar, arranged them into demos with voices and some synth lines and took a long time picking who I wanted to collaborate with to bring the songs to their full fledged songs. Once I decided to work with my friend Valentin Ignat,
I already had a pacing in mind and pretty specific ideas of where I wanted to take the record but a lot of that changed by trying things out and letting the songs metamorphosize in the studio.
B: Is this telling more to a bigger picture we all derive from or personal accounts of you as an individual?
HD: I think it is witness to a reality that excedes my own experience and that's why people relate to it. The specifics of the stories come from my own experience but I'm trying to attach it to a bigger picture.
B: If the latter, does this continue a timeline of love from the preceding EP’s?
HD: The record isn't ultimately interested in romantic relationships the way the EPs were. It's interested with how gendered positions in heterosexual relationships are telling of the roles that are socially imposed on us.
B: What are the main questions Eros are wanting to be answered?
HD: You tell me!
B: I had read that the question of gender was poignant in this project, and I was infatuated to learn more. Especially with listening to the lyrics from your amazing 2016's track “Baby”. Are we scrutinising society and its tunnel vision to the social construct of gender?
HD: The social construct of gender is real and definitely a part of what I am interested in so it finds its way into my lyrics. In Baby I wasn't so much trying to make a point about it as I was describing someone I met and mentioning in passing that I feel attracted to gender fluid people.
Someone New is an exploration of gender, power, time and the “self” that finds Deland in full control of her sound and style, even as she asks whether control is ever possible.
The album was written and recorded over a period of two years, beginning with Deland’s guitar and expanding into a lavish sonic sphere that blends elements of synth pop and classic folk. Deland’s voice ties it all together, sometimes hushed in a whisper, sometimes shrouded in distortion, and sometimes full and clear – but always inviting the listener into her world.
The album recording process was a gradual, slow and deliberate one. Following the release of 'Altogether Unaccompanied Vol III and IV' in late 2018, 'Someone New' was initially written by Deland on her own at home in her bedroom in Montréal. When she was ready to emerge from the solitary part of the work, she brought the songs to long-time friend Valentin Ignat to flesh out the arrangements. They recorded at a Montréal studio with her band before Deland took the album to New York for additional production and mixing with friend and collaborator Gabe Wax (Soccer Mommy, War On Drugs, Adrianne Lenker).
'Someone New' was announced in August with the “lush title track” as a single accompanied by a video directed by Xavier Bélanger-Dorval that features Deland
sitting for a portrait (that would result in the album’s cover artwork), capturing the discomfort of needing to keep still while being scrutinized and on display.
“Ambivalently celebrates and condemns the idea of being in one’s ‘prime’, as it is so rare that youth and self-understanding are simultaneous.”
Understated and grand, grave but upbeat, 'Someone New' is the thesis of the record, and upon its release caught the attention of Billboard, who named it one of their “10 Cool New Pop Songs To Get You Through The Week.”
September marked the release of third single, 'Truth Nugget', a lush mid-tempo track that builds around a prominent, sliding groove, accompanied by a visualizer directed by Félix Marquis-Poulin that perfectly captures the song’s dreamy magic.
“The fountain in a forest at night is what came to mind based on the sounds of the song, but metaphorically it stands as something beautiful, private feeling and reassuring that you stumble
upon unexpectedly, familiar but exciting,
the way friendship can be.”
The hypnotic single 'Lylz' was premiered with an accompanying artful time lapse video. The song was named by critics as one of their top songs by international media outlets. 'Lylz' was inspired by the relationship between early 20th century French composers (and sisters) Lili and Nadia Boulanger, along with Deland’s friend of the same name who introduced her to their work. An ode to a friendship born out of mutual esteem and fanned by the flames of worldly dissatisfaction.
'Lylz' was recorded with Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jake Portrait and marked Deland's first release since her 2018 series of beloved EPs entitled 'Altogether Unaccompanied'.
The two-year period that followed involved considerable touring, with stints supporting supporting Weyes Blood, Stella Donnelly and Connan Mockasin among others
Someone New (Live From The Roof)
Interview by Isaac Ransome
Images by Eli Sheiner Oda / Tess Roby / Alex Blouin
Create Spark / Luminelle Records