Empty Wells in Lonely Cities
Edward Ruscha’s book, Various Small Fires, contains photographs depicting vacant suburbia: car parks, abandoned streets… This is what PARIS WELLS has decided to model her second album off, starting with the title. “The title of the album was the first thing written, before any of the music. We started with the title Various Small Fires on a white board, veered off a bit then came back to the original idea, full circle,” Wells assuredly tells me. The new album darts in and out of different vocal arrangements and production, Wells says. “The bpm has been notched up,” but her signature style stands true. Wells is a strong soulful voice encouraging these quiet communities to stir. She is the Carnivàle travelling circus ready to “wake them up.”
Wells discovered her vigour for excited music scenes amidst otherwise empty cities whilst overseas last year. I begin to understand this as she tells me, “When I look at a lot of Ruscha’s stuff I think ‘man, that’s how I feel right now.’ He’s got this passion for urban loneliness… Some of it will be humourous and some of it will be quite bleak.” It’s not surprising that she might feel this way after visiting New Orleans last year. Wells seems emotionally torn between the community’s pluck and their desertion, as she says, “There’s this town of people who are trying to pick themselves up and they’re all so well mannered and excited to have anyone there! You can tell this used to be a more European, different side of America. Sadly though, you can also tell it’s now more of a tourist town, rather than a great town which tourists used to visit. There’s stray cats and restaurants which are still on tourist flyers but which you go to and find gutted. A lot of people just bailed on this community.” She goes on to recall a Mos Def gig as an exciting and moving moment for New Orleans, where the sense of community felt strong.
Wells expresses deep affection for music lovers overseas and locally, gushing that “People fight for their live music in Melbourne! Dan Sultan and I led thousands of people down Swanston Street to protest liquor licensing which required extra security guards that these small venues couldn’t afford… There are a lot of people that care about what you’re doing musically! The kind of people who hear a song and make a note of it, then quickly go online to find out who you are.” It is abundantly clear that music enthusiasts contribute to communities which thrive. While Wells carries on about Melbourne I feel compelled to tell her how protective Canberrans are of their access to music. Wells admits she is looking into visiting Canberra soon, adding, “I played in Canberra with True Live and it was a really responsive crowd! There’s a good music culture there that you wouldn’t expect.”