Three singles into her new album campaign, Rae Morris is sounding like a brand-new artist. Where the Bombay Bicycle Club collaborator’s 2015 debut ‘Unguarded’ featured eight different co-writers and a suitably variable aural palette, ‘Someone Out There’ is an entirely different proposition.
Due on February 2, the 25-year-old’s second album was co-written with just one other person – Fryars – and each of the cuts so far have teased a sleek, idiosyncratic vision: it’s sprightly, full of hooks, and – especially for a major label pop artist – gratifyingly weird. “I felt free to do whatever I wanted,” she tells NME on the release of her new ‘Atletico’ video. “I broke my own rules down. There are vocal melodies and hooks that I had never dared myself to do before.”
What’s behind the name ‘Atletico’? Anything to do with Atletico Madrid?
“It’s not about football at all, we were just watching a football match when we were writing the record and I really loved the word “Atletico” when I saw it. We started to write the song the next day and as I started to sing the melodies, that word was just stuck there.
“Really, it’s a direct translation of ‘athletic’, and the song we were writing is about when I was single and going out on nights out hoping to find the bravery and energy inside myself to go and talk to someone and put myself out there – but I’d always end up back home full of energy, wishing that I’d actually stayed out and managed to talk to somebody. So the “I’m Atletico” thing is: ‘I’m full of energy that I haven’t used.'”
Any shoot highlights from the video?
“We were in New Orleans – it was my first time there. The highlight was probably when we went on a swamp tour and I got to hold a baby alligator, which was a pretty cool experience – although didn’t really like holding it, to be honest. They’re kind of cute, but just a bit unnerving because they look so much like dinosaurs. It makes you really question your entire existence.”
How has it been different writing this album compared to your debut?
“The main difference is having one solid, consistent person to talk to about it throughout the writing process, the production process and the creative process. And that’s been Fryars – it’s been so cool. He was there on the first record, but keeping it a small team [this time round] – and not working with loads and loads and loads of people – is a really different experience. There’s a chance of things getting watered down when you spread them out far and wide, so keeping it close-knit and sticking to the plan was really helpful.”
You said in your recent Annie Mac interview that you might not work with Fryars again now that you’re together – did you really mean that?
“No, I just said that because I was on the radio and I was stressed… We still work together all the time, I just meant that it’s definitely different when you’re going out with someone and you work with them. Because it changes – I guess you can be more honest with them. But I hope we can always make music together.”
What were you listening to when you wrote the album?
“I wasn’t particularly obsessed with anything, and that’s always the way for me when I’m making new music. I was more absorbing myself into the music I was making rather than listening to too much external stuff. I had a lot of amazing conversations with Fryars, who I made pretty much all the music with.
“It felt really freeing to do that, and a lot of information came to the surface – I felt like I could do anything, which was the first time ever where I felt so free to just do whatever I wanted. I broke my own rules down. ‘Atletico’ is a series of vocal melodies and little hooks and trails that I had never dared myself to do before.”
Did you have a goal of what you wanted the sound or production to be like when you started writing?
“It became very clear really, really quickly. I don’t think I knew exactly, but I knew that I wanted to push forward. I just felt like it was time that I was doing something that was genuinely ‘me’, and trying to stop any sort of attitude of trying to do anything. Or pretending in any way.”
Did your label just let you do whatever you wanted?
“Yeah, 100 percent, in an unnerving, amazing way. Just like: ‘Are you guys sure you don’t want to hear something, just to make sure you like it?’ I was actually living with one of my A&Rs at the time, because he was living with Fryars, so he could hear stuff through the walls and I guess that was his way of keeping a tab on it. But yeah, it was incredibly supportive for a big major label.”
Is there a concept or a story to the album?
“There’s not a concept that joins every single song, but I’d like to think they’re all little stories and moments in the past couple of years. They all do tell a story.
“There is a story behind the album title. When we were writing ‘Someone Out There’ I received some gifts from a really amazing fan who had made lots of presents for my family: handmade scarves, t-shirts, and really personal, amazing presents. It just made me stop and think: ‘That is so amazing, that someone that I don’t really know has spent so much time and really put a lot of work into this expression of passion for music, for something that he really loves.’
“So particularly at this time when it’s hard to connect with strangers – even though the internet makes it so easy – it’s a look at the fact that there are people out there that have the same passions as you, and you can connect through music. It really moved me.”
What’s going to be the album’s biggest surprise for fans?
“There’s a song called ‘Rose Garden’, which I think is the most out-there. I feel like I put a lot of my own ideas into that song, in terms of its production, and it’s quite heavy, it’s got an almost techno beat – and it’s also very emotionally important to me. It’s a little bit different to the others. I hope people like it.”
You toured and collaborated with Bombay Bicycle Club a few years ago. Are you still in touch?
“Yeah, they’re good friends. I mostly speak to Jack [Steadman], who’s doing good things as Mr Jukes. They’re all busy doing different things – Suren was actually playing drums for me earlier in the year for a couple of dates, and he’s now with Jessie Ware which is cool.”
Do you have a dream collaboration for the future?
“I never really dream them up, I guess, because I don’t feel like I’m at the point where they’re all very possible now. I feel like I’d have to be slightly more successful to dream of collaborating with Björk… but it’d be really nice. I think collaborations are good so I’m generally up for them.”
How did you go about designing your album cover?
“I did a lot of artwork for this record, actually, and a lot of it will be included in the sleeves and stuff, but it just felt like the colour palette was very consistent: the yellows, pinks, blues, reds. It’s a very vibrant, dynamic colour palette and the yellow just seemed the most accurate and representative the music.”
‘Someone Out There’ is released February 2.