WELL that came pretty much out of nowhere, with only a two-week lead-in; Wayne Coyne and his merrie band of Oklahoman astral explorers The Flaming Lips, are releasing an album of Nick Cave covers, Where the Viaduct Looms, tomorrow; with vocals and instrumentation by 14-year-old Nell Smith and Dave Fridmann, of course, working his sonic magic from the other side of the screen.
The story of this record begins when Nell, aged 12, who’d emigrated with her family from Leeds to Canada, met Wayne at a show in Calgary. Converted to the cause, as so many are, she was soon a regular, down the front, resplendent in a parrot costume.
Wayne began to take the fan and fledgling guitarist under his wing, and began to collaborate as she wrote her first songs.
When a planned trip to record with the band in Oklahoma was cancelled due to the virus, Wayne suggested she record some Nick Cave songs and email them over to be backed by the band; and thus was an album born. Nell wasn’t aware of Nick’s mighty oeuvre and thus thought she would bring a new approach to the songs. The first track they recorded was a cover of “Girl In Amber”.
Wayne says: “It’s always great to meet excited, young creative people. With Nell we could see she is on a journey and thought it would be fun to join her for a while and see if we could get things going. It was a great way to connect with her and help harness her cool attitude to making music.”
Nell adds: “I still can’t really believe it. It was a really steep learning curve but Wayne was so encouraging when I was struggling with a few of the songs that I kept going.
“I hadn’t heard of Nick Cave but Wayne suggested that we should start with an album of his cover versions, and then look at recording some of my own songs later. It was cool to listen and learn about Nick Cave and pick the songs we wanted to record.
“I’m so excited to see this turn into a real record release. I’m super happy to be working with Bella Union and really looking forward to everyone hearing the album.”
And the record gets the seal of approval from the great Australian tunesmith himself, with Nick writing over at The Red Hand Files: “This version of ‘Girl in Amber’ is just lovely. I was going to say Nell Smith inhabits the song, but that’s wrong, rather she vacates the song, in a way that I could never do.
“I always found it difficult to step away from this particular song and sing it with its necessary remove, just got so twisted up in the words, I guess.
“Nell shows a remarkable understanding of the song, a sense of dispassion that is both beautiful and chilling. I just love it. I’m a fan.”
That nine-song album features rereadings of Cave classics such as “The Weeping Song”, “Into My Arms”, “No More Shall We Part”, “Red Right Hand” and others. Watch the video for “The Ship Song”, below.
Nell Smith/The Flaming Lips’ When The Viaduct Looms will be released digitally and on cassette tomorrow, November 26th; you can order yours direct from Bella Union, here.