‘This record is darker and more pensive,’ says Joan Wasser of her newest Joan As Police Woman album, 'Damned Devotion'. ‘The title is undeniably dramatic but it’s a subject I’ve been tangling with all my life: how does one live a devoted life without becoming obsessed or losing one’s mind?’
While her 2014 album 'The Classic' was a soulful celebration of life and her 2011 album 'The Deep Field' a lush moody expansion, this new release sees Joan stripping her compositions back to the core, resulting in her rawest album yet.
‘I’m always searching for new ways to create wilder, freer songs,’ she says. ‘One of the things I did differently for this record was to experiment more with drum programming: editing and manipulating Parker Kindred’s live beats as templates for new songs.’
Essentially, she explains, these new compositions were written in three distinct ways. A few were recorded as Wasser has done in the past, which is to bring the song to the band, rehearse it and then take it to the studio and record live. Others were crafted using grooves that Parker Kindred, on drums, and Wasser, on bass, had created in the studio. ‘I’d go back to my home studio with hours of material, chop up the improv and create songs from them.’ And, finally, several songs employed her programmed drum tracks as the foundation, with Kindred and her good friend and brilliant keys player, Thomas Bartlett, recording over them.
‘Parker, Thomas and I are the crux of this album,’ she acknowledges. ‘Ninety per cent of the sounds you hear are made by one of us. They intrinsically felt what I was going for on this record, so I was able to keep it very close-knit.’
The first track to be shared from the album is Warning Bell, a tender, bewitching song of regret Joan wrote about “being a romantic and the naiveté that goes along with it. While I don’t ever want to lose that innocence, I’ve been in situations where I wish there had been an alarm to wake me from my dream state.” She plaintively sings the chorus, “If there was a warning bell, I’d know, but all I hear is music, soft and low, I never see it coming.”
Of What Was It Like, she adds: ‘It’s clear I can’t make an album without involving the subject of death. Both my fathers died since I made the last record. What Was It Like is about the dad I grew up with, about feeling grateful for his calm, sensible presence and at the same time acknowledging that, even though we were very close, I’ll never really know who he was. I have had four parents [Wasser was given up for adoption in infancy] and now three of them have gone. The questions I wished I’d asked but never thought to will always swirl around in my mind.’