Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: George Voronov
Out of the post release cycle and not quite in the new record space, Mercury Prize-nominated singer SOAK finds themselves in a relative period of peace. Content in their new home in Dublin, they reflect on their penchant for capturing the seminal eras of their life before they enter a new one. The conversation lands ahead of their exclusive performance as part of the Jameson’s Connects series on Monday 13 March in The Camden, Dublin.
Every weekend, SOAK makes their way to Phoenix Park to have a kick about. The physical activity married with the impossible task of focusing on anything other than the ball in front of them has a sort of meditative effect. It’s a ritual they’ve maintained since moving with their girlfriend from Brighton to Dublin a few months ago and comes as part of a lifestyle that finds its pace in the sweet spot between their previous two host cities. While SOAK’s early twenties in Manchester were plastered with parties and spontaneity, their subsequent move to England’s south coast came at a time where their movements were restricted. So being grounded in a new city that houses a lot of their friends is both an opportunity to explore and to settle somewhere familiar.
“I play football up there on a Saturday”, Bridie aka SOAK says, pointing towards a playing field overlooking the through road. We’re in a taxi surrounded by the trees of Europe’s biggest city park and a grey sky that looks like it was filled in a single click by Microsoft Paint’s bucket tool. Bridie explains they don’t really care much for the partisan fan culture of football and couldn’t tell you anything about the Premier League. Their enjoyment of the sport is purely experiential. “It’s just for the craic, but there’s this team that just started called the Phoenix Tigers. It’s like a predominantly queer team, but I was dying to play because…” Bridie says, trailing off as they are interrupted by the taxi driver.
“That’s not very politically correct” he says, jibing in bad faith. “You can’t be saying things like that” he remarks as if he’s presented a queer person with the “gotcha” moment of the century.
“Queer? That’s what we call it as gay people you know” Bridie explains. They’re not concerned with debating someone that is only interested in discussing queerness when there’s a chance to be contrarian. Moreover, Phoenix Park is one of their happy places so they aren’t going to let an annoying taxi driver ruin their day.
It’s been a busy start to 2023 for the singer from Derry, who has just returned from a four week tour of the states. The series of shows across America were thrown together at a month’s notice but they still managed to draw full rooms of committed listeners. When you take into consideration that SOAK has consistently released great music and evolved without totally abandoning the intimate songwriting of their critically acclaimed debut Before We Forgot How To Dream, It’s not hard to understand why. Though so much has changed and they’re certainly settled in Dublin, there’s still an allure to America. Sure, its aspirational quality is waning in the hellfire of late stage capitalism, but there’s an enduring romanticism that keeps drawing SOAK back.
“I chat a lot between songs and banter a bit and it goes down well because they [Americans] talk back. Sometimes in like England, people are too polite to interact with you and sometimes it’s like drawing blood from a stone. In America I’m literally chatting to people in front of me”, SOAK explains as we leave the taxi in our rearview and hike up a small hill.
I want to be able to print my life off and frame itSOAK
“We ended up driving down the west coast from Seattle to LA. It takes like 20 hours. We could have just taken the straight path but it’s so boring… We just stopped at this town”, SOAK says, bringing up a photo on their Instagram. “Because it had all these mad Motel signs. It’s the most Wes Anderson thing”.
Photos like this are a permanent fixture on Bridie’s Instagram, which is as much a vehicle for their music as it is a home for their other passion – photography.
“I want to be able to print my life off and frame it” they say, without flinching.
Their obsession with documentation started with making “stupid stunt videos” with their best friend Jack, who lived next door before they eventually graduated to photography. Now, Bridie spends “their nerdy time” watching YouTube run-throughs and editing their own photos, so it’s unsurprising to hear they rarely leave the gaff without a camera. “When we’re away I always have my Fuji x100. I find great satisfaction in it and it gives you a mission when you’re on a walk. I’m only taking pictures of things I really care about. I’m not taking grand, cool shots or anything. I prefer photos where I’m like, oh, ‘I can see the story or like yeah, emotion in that’”.
Bridie explains that the format of photos has changed as they’ve moved between cities, so it’s easy to spot when and where an image is from. Likewise, what they have taken photos of has incrementally changed. This era categorisation is clear in images of their time in the north west of England where spontaneous flicks showcase friends messing around. Whereas, Brighton was a significantly more intentional period in their life, with images of important moments like moving in and days out with their partner making the cut. Even with their most recent album If I never know you like this again, Bridie documented the entire time recording in Attica Studios in Donegal after lockdown. The grainy images are an homage to the shared experiences they missed so dearly. Ultimately, it’s the benefit of hindsight that provides these insights and while it’s a different medium to journalling, Bridie explains there’s shared DNA in their processes with both.
“I’ll journal but in a way that I know I’m going to find lyrics in it later. I’ll journal to kind of see where I’m at mentally, because I’m very good at just avoiding things, but when I write I’m confronted with it. I think you can rationalise too, if you are reading it back there’s a bit of distance. You go from ‘there’s too much going on I can’t’ to ‘oh, it’s totally doable’. Having distance from things changes everything. You’ll make a song and drive yourself mad with it. Then a couple days later, you listen to it again and you know if it’s good or bad.”
I’ll journal but in a way that I know I’m going to find lyrics in it later. I’ll journal to kind of see where I’m at mentally, because I’m very good at just avoiding things, but when I write I’m confronted with it.SOAK
Old photos help document the past, but now Bridie is more concerned about imagining the future and their next record. While the material is still being finished, there’s notes written in other cities that are bearing new relevance. While sometimes journalling is a necessary exercise to close the tabs in their head, right now, they’re feeling good.
With limited tickets available, interested persons can apply on the Jameson Connects website and enter a comp to win tickets for themselves and their friends.
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