Newcomer Wassailer introduces himself as “a lone artist travelling from door-to-door, singing rowdy songs in exchange for wine and a sofa to sleep on.” It’s a modest statement, but one that the Lewisham-based artist will quickly rise above. He signposts a much bigger future with his debut single ‘Son’, which is released on September 9th via Empty Streets Records.
Stretching his vocal from near spoken word to a sparkling falsetto, ‘Son’ captures elements from Wassailer’s genre-twisting influences. It’s an emotionally haunting concoction that echoes the electro-soul of Tom Misch, the afterhours vibe of Puma Blue, the downtempo grooves of early Floating Points and the mesmerising ambience of Portishead. It touches upon UK jazz, neo-soul and even the storytelling aspects of folk without being beholden to any of them.
‘Son’ also explores a fascinating and universally relatable topic: the ways in which parents and children perceive things differently. As Wassailer explains: “I’m not sure if it’s a note to my future son, or if it’s a letter I would’ve liked to receive from my dad. I like the idea that music can reunite generations that struggle to understand each other. It’s hard to say things sometimes. Especially when you’ve been silent for so long, or when you avoid sensitive subjects such as depression, drug addiction, suicidal thoughts, or just a broken heart. It’s an ongoing question. Are your parents heroes, monsters, or just humans, constantly learning, with their own scars and mistakes. I also asked myself: will I be a better parent myself?”
The song was brought to life with a video courtesy of David Bertram (Young Director Award, Cannes Film Festival). His narrative plays on the song’s key lyric “To kill your dad, only in your mind.” Using stark monochrome, Bertram depicts a mysterious collective of children, who could be refugees, survivors of a plane crash, or members of a lawless community similar to ‘Lord of the Flies’. Whoever they are, they show no mercy when rising up against the adults.
“The idea was born at the beginning of the quarantine,” explains Bertram. “Scientists agreed that children could be ‘healthy carriers’ and contaminate their loved ones. These innocent beings could inadvertently become the executioners of their entire family. It is this paradox that is at the origin of the project. I wanted to talk about this period by using striking and poetic images that explore the end of childhood and the loss of innocence. There are many interpretations, but above all we want it to resonate on an intimate level.”
Wassailer’s artist name is inspired by the tradition of wassailing, a custom similar to caroling which sees people singing at people’s front doors, sharing mulled drinks from a wassail bowl and spreading goodwill. It offers a neat metaphor that encapsulates his all-inclusive style.
Prior to his current artist identity, Wassailer lived in east London’s Bow and was better known as Will, the shadow studio arranger and live multi-instrumentalist behind indie pop group We Were Evergreen, who toured with the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, Metronomy, Nick Mulvey and Villagers.
He later relocated to Lewisham where he immersed himself in London’s most vital new music, finding inspiration in scenes ranging from the rising jazz movement to vibrant afrobeats. He’s currently preparing his debut album, which journeys from jazzy slow jams to emerging dancefloor fillers, with lyrics which address the contradictions, social issues and the lack of empathy behind mankind’s behaviour. His early shows have included gigs with Scottish Siobhan Wilson, Rondo Mo and L.A. Salami.
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