INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by ANNA BEAN
Late last year, Aeris Houlihan – vocalist/guitarist of sister-doom duo Chambers – decided to move on and embark on a solo musical project.
This has resulted in Witch Of The East, which is a beautifully dark and deeply emotional combination of grunge, dark pop, and industrial rock, which was effectively showcased with recent video release ‘Hexenhaus‘, and with much more in the pipeline – including a debut album coming out this July, and a extensive run of UK touring to promote that – Aeris explained everything about it to me in more detail.
How did Witch Of The East initially come about?
My previous band (Chambers) came to an end, mainly because we were pushing in different directions artistically, but we have a lot of good memories together that I’ll always cherish, and ultimately, I decided to leave because the time felt right.
One night just prior to making this decision, I was driving back on my own from Manchester after a not so great practice. I looked over to the other side of the motorway to see a paramedic trying to save the life of a man that had just been in a bad car accident. I don’t want to get graphic, but I saw something I try to forget regularly, and for me, it was like a bullet to the brain, because I then began to ask myself, “Why continue to do something I’m not enjoying? Life is too short!“
What was the reason behind choosing Witch Of The East as a name?
Witch bloodline mixed in with being inspired by Middle Eastern music. Also, lest we forget the Witch of the East (‘The Wizard of Oz‘), who only had a tiny amount of screen time. She deserved more!
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
I write when I feel really emotional over something. When you’re feeling that way, the last thing you want to do is write a song, which is why I force myself to do it, as you get to capture something from the dark lands and share it with people.
I also write songs whilst picturing the characters and environments they’re in, so I guess you could say I’m like a screenwriter.
What inspires you lyrically?
Being as honest as I can to serve the song, an example of this being ‘When You Fuck Me‘, which is a very vulnerable song.
I also love poetry, and I like to add that or spoken word to some of the songs I write, as it adds another dimension to them.
You recently brought out a video for one of your tracks, entitled ‘Hexenhaus’. How has the response been to that so far?
I’m going to be releasing music videos for all of the songs on the album, before releasing the album itself, as I wanted to take a different approach. The visual side of things is just as important to me as the music, and I do my own videos, so I’m able to bring out the personalities of the songs even further.
The track was taken from your debut album, ‘Queen Of Insecurity’, due for release this July. How was the recording process for that?
The recording process was half-done at my home studio by myself. I wrote a bunch of songs with the intention of having them feel like a journey from one to the next, kind of like being in a haunted house, walking from one room to the next.
My favourite part of the recording process was having my friends Medina Rekic (ex- White Miles), Lee Smith (ex-Middleman), and Morgan Pettigrew (Minatore) playing on the record. It was a honour, as they’re all so talented!
And how will the upcoming release differ stylistically to the work you put out as part of Chambers?
Witch of the East is a solo project. However, I love working with other musicians, and when I’m writing a song, I sometimes get excited about a section, as I can visualise/hear one of my friends (musicians) playing on it, which is when I usually message them asking them if they want to collaborate, and I’m going to be working on a single later this year with one of my favourite musicians, which is exciting, as I know they’ll inspire me and get me thinking in a way that I may not have considered before.
You have already played a couple of live sets. How have they been going down with audiences?
There’s been a really strong connection between the music and the audiences, as I think people can relate to a lot of what I’m singing about, and a guy was actually crying on my shoulder after one of the last shows, which was a first for me!
And how is performing live as an experience for you personally?
I feel a strong connection to the audiences at our shows, which is something very special, as bringing one another joy makes me feel happy.
However, it’s terrifying singing about your innermost personal feelings, as I’m opening up my heart to a room full of people every show, but this way, the songs are so much more powerful.
Album aside, what have you got planned for the rest of 2019?
We’re going to be touring a lot this year, playing shows with some of my favourite bands, as well as doing at least another five music videos, and I’m also filming and editing music videos for a few other bands this year.
Music aside, I want to get back into my jiu-jitsu classes.
And finally, what is the long-term aim of Witch Of The East?
My personal aim is to keep writing songs that excite me, and also to keep working with such amazing musicians as my drummer Michael McManus.
There’s also a lot of other things underway by our label I’m Not From London Records, such as touring Europe and America by 2020, and I’m also excited about the possibility of working with fashion labels. There will be more to come on that subject!
‘QUEEN OF INSECURITY’ – THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM WITCH OF THE EAST – WILL BE RELEASED ON JULY 5 VIA I’M NOT FROM LONDON RECORDS, AND FURTHER INFO ON THIS – AND MORE – CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: