By Sophie Minello
Released October 18th, When I say to you Black Lightning by Common Holly hits the shelves. This storybook cinematic album is surely a captivating listen, bringing in unique soundscapes and feelings. Sunlight was lucky enough to meet up with Brigitte Naggar to learn more about her inspiration for the masterpiece. Read our interview below:
Immediately, the title of your album pulled me in. It’s very in the air and interesting. What’s the story behind the title When I say to you Black Lightning?
Part of the reason I chose it was so I could get to talk about it after. It’s called When I say to you Black Lightning and the first thing that I liked about it was how it’s kind of gestural, it’s pointing towards somewhere. It’s a sentence that’s not finished, but you’re the one to answer. It’s kind of like I’m just triggering something in you and then you response. That kind of stands for what I’m trying to do with the whole album which is, yes, it’s personal and it’s intimate but it’s also a lot more than that. It’s fiction and it’s stories of people around me and it’s interpretation. I wanted it to be more about a familiar feeling than a personal confession.
Do you have an overarching concept throughout this album?
I do feel like the concept came after [the album]. It’s basically a processing of all kinds of feelings, be they from growth or discovery or discovering pain or discovering death and discovering life. All the various tribulations you might be taken through in your path.
All of your music seems to have this spooky undertone. In other reviews, they highlight this distinctive sound that you have. Was there something that made you levitate towards this sound or did it just become part of you?
I’ve always been interested in darker music like Portishead and earlier Radiohead and definitely the feeling of mystery. I guess in the same way as the title of the album, it’s kind of this idea of unanswered questions. I really like for it to feel that way. Also, pairing up with my producer Devon Bate, he’s big into weird soundscaping and sound design. That’s kind of where this strange dark sound comes from.
Tell me about the video process behind the albums first two singles and why you decided to make videos for both those songs?
It started with “Central Booking”. That one was very automatic, I was like “I want to do something with a tube man, I want to see the most eerie sadness and also joy.” For “Joshua Snakes,” we did in a month. It was kind of a last minute decision and my good friend Steve put it together and that was amazing. That one was like “What does this feel like? Go!”
How was working with your new label Barsuk for this album?
They’ve been amazing. I think a lot of labels that talk big about themselves and feel extremely cool but at the end of the day aren’t really there to support you. Basuk are just really intelligent, thoughtful, and caring people. It really comes through in their work.
Were there any big lessons that you’ve learned since you recorded your first album that you put to use in this new album?
Try to write something that you can play live. I think when I started this was very much a solo project and I had no intention of performing it. After trying to assemble so many bands around those songs, I discovered that it’s much more fun to have drums in your band. I ended up playing my own drums on this album so that was really fun. I wanted to do something that felt more fun. I think with the album that comes after this one, you’ll probably find more of an in between.
Tell me about the art direction for this album. Why do you think it’s a good fit for your music?
I ended up working with a great team who were living in Montreal. I had worked with them for a video from the previous album and I just thought they worked really well together and had a cool aesthetic. We talked a lot about mystery, minimal elements of grunge, and saturated color to create something that appeared sincere but also was interesting to the eye. The album cover was that. It was one of the first photos we took while working together.
You recently announced your first headlining tour. How did hitting that milestone feel?
It’s so exciting and I’m really nervous about it. In Canada we’re really lucky because we have access to funding and the tricky thing is when you get into headline territory your funding options are diminished because they want you to be incentivized and go out and sell tickets. It’s definitely a scarier prospect to feel like I’m almost definitely going to lose money. The best thing we can do about that is just that, go out and tell people about it and home they come out. Play our hearts out.
Is there anything important you want people to know about this album as it’s shown to people for the first time?
It’s one that I hope people will want to listen to in a focused way to understand what’s going on there. I hope that it inspires people to listen intently.