AROUSING AN AIR of ambience and profundity, I listened to the soon to be released double EP ‘Hiraeth’ beside singer-songwriter and dear friend, Chris Jones of These Brittle Bones. Outside, the amenity of a storm allowed Chris to contemplate the essence and process that led the youthful musician to produce this deeply intimate and intricate piece of work.
With a title derived from his home country of Wales, Chris expressed with utmost sentiment the meaning behind the title choice and explained to me its conceptual depth. “Hiraeth often translates as ‘homesickness’ but the entire concept is far more complex,” he hums from behind his quite appropriately present Welsh teacup. “It involves an aspect of impossibility. Hiraeth is a feeling, a longing for home or even a national history that never existed. It’s about identity and a pining for something sometimes unreachable.”
The first song ‘Remain’, along with the very personal audio commentary, was exclusively released on Spotify on January 20th. Chris put together a Spotify playlist, a mosaic of influential and favourite tracks, for Obscured readers which can be found here: THESE BRITTLE BONES x Obscured.SG
“I listen to everything that I don’t have on vinyl on Spotify. Despite the controversy of streaming that has evoked these past few months, I find the accessibility groundbreaking. It’s one of most powerful developments in the music industry in the past decade.”
As ‘Remain’, an instrumental self-recorded piece from Part 1 of the EP ‘The Bedroom’ plays, a sense of rich understanding filled the space. “With no direct translation into English, I wanted to transform this idea of conveying meaning without words through an a cappella instrumental to create this unique understanding.”
Reflecting upon our opportunity to see neo-classical musician Olafur Arnalds last year, Chris discussed how composers by the likes of Phillip Glass and Hans Zimmer have influenced him throughout his writing process. “Writing music for film and theatre is something that I aspire to do one day having grown up listening to soundtracks for the greater part of my life. Some of my most distinct childhood memories are driving down the Gower at home, listening to Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ soundtrack.” Chris’s passion for alternative rock and neo-classical music stemmed from such composers combined with the fluidity of British weather and a sense of home.
“I think a cappella instrumentals are too often overlooked as some find a lack of meaning due to a lack of words, but with thought, they can convey more meaning with a greater effect than words, through sound. When I began to write, I started with lyrics, but given the specifics of the time the song was written about, I struggled to put into words what I was feeling, the extent of emotion that is indescribable, like Hiraeth,” he expressed, taking another sip from his mug and making a note on a nearby scrap of paper.
“However, as the EP progresses, lyrics begin to complement everything, as this feeling goes away and I come into a fuller version of myself. Lyrically, I have always been inspired by the depths of literature and coming from a background of English teachers, with my Grandad being an author, this has always been an important source of expression.”
As the light dimmed on our conversations, Chris and I discussed his influences from other sources of visual expression such as dramatic pieces, including Büchner’s Woyzeck and Shaffer’s Equus and the intensity of themes that are explored. “I’m heavily influenced by drama. I enjoy transforming into other people and seeing things from that fresh perspective. It was a great source of comfort when I was experiencing a lot of hiraeth. It made me much happier and let me grow as a musician.”
Hiraeth, split into Part 1 and Part 2, shows a journey of an artist’s emotion development between the deeply personal ‘The Bedroom’ and the locally recorded ‘The Studio’, introducing songs written and mused upon since 2011. With the freedom of his own bedroom set-up, the flow of creativity led to recording within short hours of the day but Chris emphasized how grateful he was to the producer who allowed him to record ‘Hiraeth. Part 2: The Studio’. “At home, I’m a lot more connected to my song-writing process and a huge part of this is the sea. The elements are the focal point to any track I write. I’d go crazy if I was away from the sea for too long!” laughed Chris. “This music is the most personal I have ever written and I used a lot of ambience. I loved the process of experimenting, which allowed me to explore the sounds you might find by the Welsh coast. It’s like a sensory recount.”
“I’m hugely grateful for the many people that have helped me get this out to the world.” Back in August last year, These Brittle Bones signed a digital distribution deal with Believe Digital who have allowed an international reach and have been suited to Chris’s situation as a musician.
With this access to a digital platform, Chris has given exclusive access to the first music video of the EP for the song ‘Embers’. “I took this video when at home in the summer, mostly driving through the Gower, and only two weeks after writing the song so its meaning was fresh in my mind. This song is all about ‘passion’. Not [in a] materialistic sense but ‘passion’ in its purest and finest form. It’s about how your perception of passion changes. I wrote this song very late at night last year when I was really missing home. It’s not about human intimacy or relationships, it is about the relationship one can have with a place and how deeply that can transcend.”
RELEASED ON MARROWBONE PRODUCTIONS (BELIEVE DIGITAL), PUBLISHED BY KOBALT MUSIC GROUP,