“Silence/Motion is definitely an extremely personal record,” Allison “Sunny” Faris of Blackwater Holylight says. “I was going through a lot during the time we were writing, on top of the pandemic and world shutting down. There were things happening in my life that truly put me in a lower spot than I’ve experienced, so the record mostly reflects that sorrow.
“I really needed to write to be able to cope and process my pain, and I’m so thankful I was able to do that, although it felt gut-wrenchingly challenging to face and feel a lot of the time.”
There’s a theme of processing vast, personal trauma throughout Blackwater Holylight’s new album, Silence/Motion. Both lyrically and musically, it embodies the crushing emptiness, sorrow, strength, and rebuilding of recovering from personal devastation.
“It is an ode to the juxtaposition of feeling paralyzingly blank, and like your entire life is moving through you simultaneously,” Faris continues. “The song ‘Silence/Motion’ is about a rape that I experienced as a teenager, so clearly this song and title are very important and personal to me. I think that there are so many different ways to undergo this awareness of feeling nothing and everything at the same time.
“I wanted to write something that was personal to my life, but that people could find their own meaning in. I hope people are able to listen to this song and album and are able to find some healing for themselves somewhere in it.”
Considering the dark times in which it was created, Silence/Motion is the band’s most melodic album so far. They recorded it as a four-piece: Faris on vocals and guitar (on “Silence/Motion,” “MDIII,” “Around You,” and “Every Corner”) and bass for the remainder, Sarah McKenna on synths, Mikayla Mayhew on guitar (and bass when Faris plays guitar), and Eliese Dorsay on drums. The band’s second guitarist, Erika Osterhout, was added after the recording and will perform the songs with them live.
“As a band, we’ve always practiced being vulnerable with each other, and we wanted to celebrate that theme to the fullest while writing Silence/Motion,” Faris says. “We were all extraordinarily gentle with one another and wanted to make sure everyone had the space to express and try all of the ideas we were having, and I think you can hear the nurturing nature of this process on the album.”
“Despite being outrageously depressed, we still managed to laugh a lot and feel free,” Faris admits. “Being with one another was providing a sense of safety and belonging which was so crucial, especially given the times. We all had ideas out on the table and wanted to support all of them.
“It was really great to feel so collaborative in writing, and it was an extra-fun challenge to put all the pieces together for the final product. Sarah was a total trooper and was pregnant with her daughter the entire time we were writing, and was in the studio at nine months. We were all anxiously awaiting Daisy’s arrival, wondering if she would make her debut while recording, but in perfect timing, she showed up a week after we finished.”
For Silence/Motion the band chose to work with a producer for the first time, bringing in A.L.N. (Mizmor, Hell) to produce, along with recording engineer Dylan White, who also helmed their previous album Veils of Winter (2019), at Odessa Recording Studio in Portland, Oregon.
“Dylan was our engineer for Veil of Winter and has been a longtime friend of mine,” Faris says. “We love working with him and were stoked to have the chance to make another record with him. He had been working for some other bands at Odessa at that time, so we figured we’d utilize his knowledge of the space as well. I wanted Liam to come in and produce with us because I love the music he makes and how his records all sound.
“When he said he was into working with us, I got so excited and knew he’d bring a lot to the table. We had never worked with a producer previously, and I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to work with him for our first go at it. I learned a lot from both of them, and they were really kind of pushed me outside some of my comfort zones and provided some new techniques that put this record on a different level than the first two. It certainly still sounds like us, and is us, but there’s some really stark differences in these recordings.”
Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts. It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying, and beautiful all at once. Silence/Motion finds the band honing those contrasts, letting ideas, moods, and feelings fully develop from song to song.
“There are so many things happening all at once, with so many reasons to fight for and against each other,” Faris says. “I think the most important thing we can do is to reflect what our highest values are, and make decisions based off of those values. I value taking time and being gentle. I try my best to practice this with myself, relationships, and [the] world. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and like it’s all too much, I try to circle back to this philosophy, slow it all down and practice compassion.”
“Writing this album was frankly life saving for me, and us as a band,” Faris concludes. “There were a lot of moments last year I really wanted to throw in the towel on my life and this project, but having this outlet was a huge reminder of the importance of using art to reflect what you value and allow it to guide through the layers upon layers of unrest that the world is witnessing day in and day out. A reminder that we’re all so individually important to this planet, and that we have to show up now more than ever.”
Watch the video for “Around You” here:
Photo courtesy of Blackwater Holylight and James Rexroad