Sometimes, being left to your own devices is the best thing that can happen to you. It’s when things get interesting (or hilarious). Take for example, Miss Helen Franzmann AKA McKisko: self-confessed lover, not fighter.
When her band Redbreast disbanded shortly after relocating to London, she moved to Dublin where she hunkered down in an attic and started work on her debut, Glorio. The record received glowing reviews, which her parents show off like a straight-A school report card.
So with that in mind, I busted in on some of her alone time for a chat.
With a voice that has been described as ‘sounding like an angel singing while walking over crushed glass’, I was eager to find out how she coped with the stress and nerve wracking tension of releasing a solo debut.
“By having low expectations”, she laughs. “I was so happy to finish the album after two years that to release it was enough for me. Any positive feedback since then has been great. I released an EP before with Redbreast and it didn’t reach many ears so I half expected that to happen again. People seem to be hearing this more which is nice.”
It’s on this kind of modesty that the album hangs. It doesn’t blast its guns or get in your face. It’s a beautiful, minimal affair that surely but unexpectedly pulls you in and under, with a sonic richness that she attributes to her Redbreast past.
“(Being a part of Redbreast) helped me communicate better with other musicians so when I write a song I hear additional sounds and instruments immediately. It helped me when thinking about rhythm and space within a song. “
That said, as anyone who attended one of her recent album launches will attest, her songs translate into the live space just as well. Judging from the performances, playing live unsurprisingly came naturally, but not without teething problems.
“The band broke up and I had done a few solo shows so it was a natural progression. Solo performances made me cry with nerves early on. It was something I wanted to be better at. Gradually I’ve become more comfortable with it and now I’m slowly bringing other people into the act again.”
The album has polish and refinement. McKisko has a few tricks up her sleeve that will allow her to get the same effect live.
“I hunt down supreme live sound engineers. I wouldn’t say our live show is refined and polished but it’s an impression of the songs on the album. It’s always a little different. And there are other songs thrown in to keep it interesting for both the audience and us. I use a loop pedal in a few songs to fill things out. I play a variety of instruments so there are different sounds coming through all the time.”
It is the strength of these live shows that have gotten her support shows for Bon Iver and Jose Gonzalez.
“Justin, Jose and their bands were all good, friendly folk”, she revealed. “Bon Iver was the first big support I had done and I was very conscious that the audience was waiting for them. Their show was so impressive. It was exciting to see an artist expand on the album songs. He played a live set that sounded very different to his album. He was overwhelmed by the response in Australia. Jose Gonzales and his band were all pretty relaxed and unaffected by their success.”
“I’ve been a fan of his music for a long time and was really excited to be playing with him. We drank cups of tea and ate apricots after the show. I guess they both impacted me in that they weren’t self-obsessed egomaniacs. They’re just doing their thing and the chaos surrounding them has little to do with pursuing that. They’re all making good music and are committed to making more good music. It was what I hoped it would be like.”
Questions answered, I slowly back out of the room, leaving only footsteps, and taking only memories. Though she may seem like an angel, she is a mere mortal, and here’s proof: just like the rest of us, she loves frosty fruits.