Four years on from her 2017 debut album Reflection Of Youth, EERA, aka Anna Lena Bruland, returns on December 3 with her long-awaited, monolithic follow-up Speak. Headliner caught up with her to discuss the experiences that shaped the record, her growth as a songwriter and learning not to take herself so seriously…
“I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I was back on stage.. it’s amazing,” says EERA of her recent return to live performance after a lengthy spell away from the stage. “You kind of get used to not doing it, but then you get that feedback from the crowd and that camaraderie with the band and it’s great. It’s definitely where I’m meant to be.”
An artist as spellbinding live as she is on record, it’s hard to argue with her sentiments. It’s been four years since the release of her highly acclaimed debut Reflection Of Youth, an intriguing album that deftly weaved lo-fi, crunching guitars with moments of ethereal intimacy and sparse instrumentation. A compelling listen on record, it took on a new life when brought to the stage, the heavier moments landing like a felled skyscraper, the intimate moments all the more beguiling. And if Speak is anything to go by, her latest shows will truly be something to behold.
Today, she is taking a day off from her UK tour, joining us from a hotel room looking refreshed and possessed of a warm, friendly demeanour. It’s a little disarming at first, given the often pensive, mysterious image channeled through her records, artwork and music videos. Evidently, she is enjoying the traces of normality that have begun to emerge in the lives of musicians. Not just in the form of live performance, but in finally being able to share these new songs with the world.
“I’ve been sitting on these songs for quite a while, since before the pandemic,” she explains. “If not for the pandemic it probably would have come out sooner; it’s something a lot of bands have experienced.”
Building on the foundations she established with Reflection Of Youth, Speaks tugs at the extremities of her debut and drags them into new sonic territory. The grit and bite of the guitars from before have been given a shoegazey makeover, allowing slivers of light to burst through the darkness, while EERA’s songwriting has become far more direct. Lead single Ladder is a fitting example. Were it produced four years ago it may have hit like a sledgehammer. Here, it soars.
“I was listening to a lot of shoegaze before I started work on this album,” she notes. “And with shoegaze music I find you have to listen to it over and over again to get all the textures. At first you think you’re listening to one thing and then you realise there are 10 different layers to what you’re hearing. I wanted that vibe on this record, and going into that mindset helped. I also wanted an album that was more in line with where I wanted to go. I had a clearer view of what I wanted to say – it’s very direct and very me. That’s why I chose the title Speak for this album. I wanted no filter. I wanted a big, unapologetic sound. When I was writing the demos I added extra elements, so that that sound was there right from the beginning.”
Though very much a complete and cohesive body of work, Speak endured something of a fractured genesis. Working with her long-time collaborator Allister Kellaway provided some crucial consistency in a production process that saw sessions move between a variety of studios, cities and countries. As she puts it, it came together like multiple pieces glued together.
“I worked very closely with Allister," she says. “Where we are so in tune it made the process of creating the sound we wanted really easy, regardless of the location we were in. Plus, the friends who lent me their studios have similar tastes to me, so they have the kind of gear that I love to use. I’m glad it came together so well, as there were times when I looked at all the different places we’d recorded and wondered how it might affect the overall sound of the album, for me and the listener as well.”