The Jezabels‘ keyboardist Heather Shannon has released her debut album, a collection of solo piano pieces titled ‘Midnight Sun’. The atmospheric compositions were written by Shannon during a residency in the Icelandic town of Ísafjörður in 2017.
“I lived in a house there on my own for a month. I basically wrote all of that music in Iceland; in Ísafjörður – so all of that music was either all written or started or finished there. It’s very much connected to that place and that time in my life,” Shannon said of her compositional process.
A year prior, the musician’s ovarian cancer had re-emerged, shortly before the release of The Jezabels’ 2016 album ‘Synthia’. The band were forced to temporarily postpone a world tour in support of the record while Shannon completed chemotherapy treatment.
“I needed to have that alone-time at that point. I’d just gone through six months of chemotherapy and had very intense cabin fever – because you can’t really do much when you’re going through that; you don’t have any energy,” Shannon explains.
“I was very homebound after flying all around the world with the band for so long. I just felt really odd. So I had to get as far away as I could – and so I went there.”
Shannon then recorded the songs on a Fazioli concert grand piano at the Sydney Conservatory of Music, where she is currently studying a master’s of composition. Listen to ‘Midnight Sun’ below – it’s available for digital download here.
“The landscape was so incredibly beautiful,” Shannon adds of the Westfjordian town in which the songs on ‘Midnight Sun’ began to first take shape.
“It’s quite overwhelming how sublime the nature is there. I think there was something about just how unfamiliar it was that almost helped me to get my ideas out on paper. The music reflects the nature that I was surrounded in, but also the solitude and the peace and quiet and being alone.”
The Jezabels went on hiatus in late 2017. Since then, Shannon has continued to work as a composer while studying. She collaborated with Jezabels guitarist Sam Lockwood on the score to Heath Davis’ 2018 film Book Week, and the following year had two pieces commissioned by the ACO Collective. One of them, ‘Ricochet’, is featured on ‘Midnight Sun’.
“I’ve come from this contemporary music world and now I’m operating in more of a classical world, but they’re both related,” Shannon explains of her work since the band she first made a name with embarked on a hiatus.
“The Jezabels is such a huge part of my musical experience, learning how to write music through improvisation and collaborating and all of that really feeds into everything that I do now.”
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‘Midnight Sun’ arrives a few months after Shannon’s Jezabels bandmate Hayley Mary released her second EP, ‘The Drip’. The EP followed up Mary’s solo debut ‘The Piss, The Perfume’, which arrived last year.
Last year, Mary told NME that despite the Jezabels’ inactivity in recent years, the band had not officially ended. “We never really stopped, we just don’t really have anything happening at the moment,” she said.