Caroline Blind: “The Spell Between”
Released March 20, 2020.
Article originally posted 2 July 2020
Caroline Blind’s debut solo album: ‘The Spell Between’ is an eclectic album of choice covers, older Sunshine Blind tracks re-imagined & new original ones.
The magic that binds all this other-worldly sound together is Caroline’s vocal, soft & sensual like a siren luring you in to a mysterious faery world of no escape. I’m OK with this, the real world sucks just now anyway.
Blind, lead singer and [rhythm] guitarist of Sunshine Blind, the Goth/Darkwave/triphop band formed in New York in 1991 has been described previously by the press as the Goth-mother of the 90’s American Goth/Darkwave scene. The fact that Andrew “I’m not goth” Eldritch described Sunshine Blind as being, visually at least, “Too Goth” to be on the same bill as him back in 1997 just makes me love them and Caroline even more. She’s one of us, and proud of it too.
The album features guest input from myriad Goth Rock legends from across the globe. Rich W. of The Wake (US) , Gordon Young from Joy Thieves/Pretentious Moi/Children on Stun/ The Dream Disciples .David Wolfenden of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Ashe Ruppe from Delphine Coma and George Earth from Switchblade Symphony.
There are 11 worthy tracks on this album. More than enough musical bang for your buck and I won’t discuss them all here, as that would ruin the surprise of that all-important virgin listen, if you haven’t already. I’m a big covers fan, when done right, and these have certainly been done justice and then some.
So just to whet your whistle, a few of those choice covers that stand out are;
First: The opening song of the album sets the tone nicely. An ethereal & sultry version of The Wake (US) track from 1996’s “Nine Ways” LP. If this is the soundtrack to the “slow train to nowhere” I’m buying a season ticket getting on board and never alighting.
God Damn the Sun: It’s not often songs conjure random old French sayings in ones’ head, but this sparked an old French quote that goes along the lines of “Il faut souffrir pour être belle!” Roughly translated “beauty is pain” or “there is pain in beauty”. This is the epitome of that. Stunningly beautiful, the light gentle acoustic vibe of the track belaying the haunting lyrics dealing with depression and loss. A more than worthy cover of the last track from the 1989 Swans album “The Burning World”
Ain’t no Sunshine: We’ve probably all heard the 1971 Bill Withers classic or the Joe Cocker version of this song at some point, but this version is possibly one of the most beautiful cover versions of any song ever, a stripped down, “trip -goth” re-arrangement that gives it a subtle edge of Goth, making it both more mournful and seriously more groovy than the original. Evoking a sense of isolation, of loss, of a darkened room & the smells of too many smoked cigarettes & Bourbon. Been there before. If I ever go there again at least now I’ll have this on the soundtrack.
Heaven: Is just that, heavenly. Another acoustic number and a wonderfully gentle song to unwind, open up and pour a glass of red for. A cover of the Red Lorry Yellow Lorry song from the 1989 “Blow” album. As covers go, whilst this doesn’t diverge much from the source material, Caroline’s vocal gives the lyrics so much more depth and beauty. I’m a Lorries fan myself and David Wolfenden worked on the record with Caroline and one can only imagine that he would agree with me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….If this record doesn’t give you Goosebumps my un-dead friends then you is just dead already. There is no amount of sunshine that can you blind you to the fact that this is a beautiful and thoughtful record, a spellbinding potion, a juxtaposition of ‘eye of acoustic’, ‘almost Folky Goth newt’ with more traditional ‘Wool of Bat Goth Rock’ and just a touch of ‘toe of Trip Hop frog’. Hubble bubble, this intoxicating witches brew is indeed a Spell, right between the ears.
Caroline was also gracious enough to let us here at BVA throw a few random questions here way for our first interview: BVA: The album was released just before the current Pandemic, How has this affected the release?
CB: Actually, I feel very fortunate that I got almost everything in for it before the pandemic… I jumped in full time doing music in 2018, which included doing live shows again, mostly of Sunshine Blind material, to reacquaint people with what I do. I had a very busy two years of writing, recording, touring and travel, I even got to play a show in Mexico City, which was the first time I’d been there…. All before the lock down…. Just! It culminated for me in releasing this album March 20, pretty much the first week of the pandemic and lock downs. I was so glad to have done all the shows, touring, and reconnecting with people on the road before this quarantine. I feel it was great timing. I always listen to my muses when they say “jump now”. It has often worked out great for me, even if I think it’s not the best thing at the time. Who am I to argue with strong messages from the Universe?As for the pandemic’s effect on the release, I’m happy just to release the album, and have it out there. I promote it, of course, but yeah, the real heavy lifting has been done, far as I’m concerned. (On to the next!)
BVA: It’s quite an eclectic collection, was this intentional? And what was the thought process & inspiration behind it?
CB: No, it was not intentional. My actual intention, when I started, was to write an entire album with one collaborator or one group of collaborators. I’ve never been interested in working solo. I’ve always written songs over someone else’s music. That is how I know/ like to work. So, absent a collaborator, I don’t write on my own songs. (Yet.) I tried working with a couple people, nothing really clicked, I found one that was very promising, and we wrote a few songs and they really moved/ inspired me, like I hadn’t felt in years… very hard to find… I was very inspired, but as it often goes with musicians, the person was nowhere near as serious about it as I was, which was very difficult. So, sadly, none of those songs were released, or are on this album… that’s probably the most difficult part… music that is stillborn..Fortunately, while I was waiting on any of those collaborations to bear any fruit, I kept at it, and recorded cover songs in my studio, and I went down a rabbit hole of exploration with them, because I had never produced things in a studio before, and I was getting to know all the gear, and things you could do. I did a lot of experimenting with sound, and cover songs are an easy way to do that… I posted a few online, and there, I found new friends and collaborators, and I found that it was MUCH easier to find people who would commit to one song, rather than one album, so I ended up writing a song here and there, over different people’s music, and having them augment the cover songs I had recorded. In the end, I had to conclude that no one was able/ willing to commit to a full project, but there are plenty of musical fish in the sea, and that I could be the constant in my creative process (whether or not I like it, because I don’t… lol), and I could stitch it all together, be the “project director”. It was kind of a revelation. I guess I “came into my own”, as it were. (Kicking and screaming, though…). Maybe not what I wanted to do, but what I needed to do…As for inspiration, it’s the same as many artists- Depression, Divorce, death, unrequited love, injustice, feelings of inadequacy, loss of self-worth and identity, trying to find meaning,- all the usual suspects. Nobody puts out an album like this, this melancholy, and full of rage and tears, when they are feeling happy! We do all the technical aspects of creating this art to sublimate the feelings that are too big for us to feel, so they don’t kill us! Or, at least I do! We revisit our pasts (cover songs that meant so much to us, and preach gospel to us), we grapple with the present- what we are going through now; loss, death, grief, uncertainty about the future, and we try to create a new future (through distilling it all into new songs). My albums are pure psychological processing, for me. It’s how I cope with the world. Through music.
BVA: How did you choose which covers to do, are they just personal faves?
CB: In 2016 I took a course in audio engineering, and I needed to practice recording and mixing songs in the software, practice using mics, layering, getting levels and using the plugins… so I just picked something I could play and sing myself quickly… The first song I recorded by myself was “God Damn the Sun”. Songs that have been recorded with pretty much voice and guitar were chosen first, because I could play them, and if, god forbid, I ever had to do a live solo show, I could keep the guitar simple, and really showcase the vocal, which is my forte’. So I guess “logic” and “necessity’ is the first part of the answer, and of course I would choose my favorite songs- Swans, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry etc., all beloved favorites of mine.
BVA: I’m sure we are all looking forward to when Gigs start up again are there any plans to tour with the record? The UK?
CB: I don’t really see how, as I don’t really have a band. I’ve managed these past few years with friends and hired guns, but it’s a lot of work, and feels weird to get them to play songs that they didn’t have any hand in creating… It’s just my take on it, -whether they care about that part of it, is probably a different take… So, I guess I’m not sure. Maybe I will feel differently by the time we can tour again. Meanwhile, I love going to see my friends’ bands play, and in normal times, I can often be found at a festival or a show, possibly thousands of miles from where I live, hanging in the audience. It’s so much less work to just attend someone else’s show! And you’ll often find me somewhere in the UK as well, with bands or friends or at shows, as it’s my favourite place to be. Right now, there is too much uncertainty to have any show or touring plans, so, no, no live show plans.
BVA: And lastly will we be seeing more solo stuff in future or are there more SB records on the way or both?
CB: I’ve given up trying to get Sunshine Blind shows to happen. I’ve managed to get a few ‘reunion’ shows, twice we played the Convergence festival in the last 7 years, but there is no interest from my original Sunshine Blind collaborator in doing more. It took years, and monumental amounts of energy and money to make the shows we did do happen, and I’ve given up on it. I’ve tried! That’s why I toured last year with other people doing the Sunshine Blind songs. People who were really excited to do it. It was great to be out there playing the songs again, but at the same time, I was the only original member, so it wasn’t Sunshine Blind, it was something else… which is fine, but by extension, opens the door to just go ahead and do “something else” completely. I feel ‘The Spell Between’ was a foray into seeing what “something else” would look like – starting easy with cover songs and doing remakes of my own songs, experimenting writing new songs was testing all the systems because it’s the first time I’m doing much of it by myself. It was me, finding a new way of working…. Just ‘ramping up”… Though the immediate response of people to one torch-bearer calling people to a project was something I did not expect. People came running, or were so gracious to help, if I asked them, and took my handful of acoustic cover songs, wrote new songs, produced and mixed it sublimely, and turned the album into some next level other-worldly work of art! They made me be better, do better, strive more, and I was so inspired by them, and the whole process. Yes, there will be more music coming from me, there already is… Since I’ve released this album, people are calling me more to do some work…. It’s a new, and uncharted way of working for me, but all I’ve ever wanted is to connect with people, on this deep level, through music, for a spell…
Photo credit: J Lacey.