An unjust prison stay inspired Witch Of The East’s “Comfort Me” video
It’s been an interesting ride for Aeris Houlihan, the polymath behind Witch Of The East. After touring behind the release of her 2019 debut album, Queen Of Insecurity, she moved to Eastern Europe to recharge and write. And then life happened.
While in the country, she confronted a boisterous man in a bar who was being threatening. It turned out that the meathead with advanced toxic masculinity didn’t appreciate being schooled by a trans woman. Through the assailant’s political connections, Houlihan ended up in a prison for a few weeks before returning to the U.K. Her new video, “Comfort Me,” is a response to the situation, and Alternative Press is premiering it today.
Houlihan kept us up to date with everything regarding the video shoot, the newest member of the band and how she stays busy in spite of the pandemic. She also promises that she will arrive on American shores to cast her magic, sonic and otherwise, microbes be damned.
Who is that singing with you on "Comfort Me"?
That's Zera Tonin. She's a vocalist and performance artist and really adds to the Witch Of The East palette. She's an awesome cat all-round. She's a permanent member of the band. You should check out her band, Arch Femmesis. They're rad! I did their recent music video, “Velvet Thunder.”
Tell us about the making of the video. What was it you were going for? A textured, neo-shoegaze kind of vibe?
It was heavily inspired by the time I spent in prison behind bars. I didn't want to be too direct and obvious about it. Which is why I went down the abstract/psychedelic look using a lot of projection. The black lines on our bodies represent the reflections of cell bars. It took a lot of work to put it all together, but it came out beautifully. We filmed it in a lovely theater called Stage One at the University of Leeds while they had a day free between two touring shows. A few weeks later, it was closed for lockdown.
Both "Comfort Me" and the single "Fool's Paradise" feel more vulnerable than a lot of the darker and heavier tracks from Queen Of Insecurity. What will WOTE II sound like? Or is it far too early to try to corral your psyche into one different thing or another?
I agree. “Comfort Me” and “Fool’s Paradise” are more vulnerable. People have seen the dark witch, but now it feels like the right time to show some light. The new album, Savage Beauty, will be more three-dimensional and will try to capture many different aspects of a plethora of emotional experiences and situations. In times like these, we need hope and honesty.
"Comfort Me" does feel like a troubled soul seeking refuge. What is the song about? Is this a manifestation of where your headspace is these days?
I wrote a lot of it prior to prison, but it really came together once I got back to the U.K. It's about being in an isolated headspace. Interestingly enough, since the COVID-19 outbreak, I guess a lot of people can take something from it.
Did COVID-19 stop the Witch from coming to America? Were you confirmed for SXSW this year before they canceled?
It did, unfortunately. We were in talks with a band from America to go on tour in 2020. Alas, hopefully next year when some sort of normality resumes. SXSW came up in conversation with our label boss Will Robinson from I'm Not From London Records. Like many other things, it'll have to wait until next year. We would really like to play it. We managed to get to Europe, which was one of the best tours to date. So we're coming for you America, very soon.
How are you writing and recording the next record? Do you have FaceTime rehearsals or other technological meet-ups?
We managed to get one rehearsal in, but that was more just to brush off the cobwebs, really. We're still socially distancing in the U.K. I like writing at my home studio and getting the skeleton of the tracks down. I usually spend 10 hours a day working on music or music videos. I can't wait to get out and tour. Hopefully we're getting closer to this. I guess I'm one of the luckier ones, as many people in the arts sector have lost their jobs.
Check out “Comfort Me” below.