Song-by-Song: ‘Littleuniverses’ by Littleuniverses

Littleuniverses
Littleuniverses

Littleuniverses: “I cried for 15-minutes straight after I recorded the song (Will I Be A Mother) and then was depressed and unable to do anything for two days.” Photo: Alex Kasyan

The songwriter from Montreal welcomes into the world of her self-titled debut album – full of beauty, hope and love

Littleuniverses is a songwriter from Montreal, Quebec, making music that brings together elements of folk, dark gentle core and cinematic filmscapes. Listening to her self-titled debut album, that creative moniker feels incredibly pertinent. Each song is something of its own hidden world to get lost in. Taken together, these 10 songs about identity, relationships, struggle, the search for beauty and meaning, love, hope, mysticism, and the passing of time do indeed form their own little universe that can be explored and lived within.

Join us then as we go on a journey of discovery into this magical realm…

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MAGIC

I love nature and being out in the wilderness. When I’m in a lush forest surrounded by trees and listening to rustling leaves and birdsong I am overcome with calmness and serenity. It is my belief that coming to the realisation of being deeply in love with someone who equally loves you back, can have a similar calming and serene effect on the soul.

I started to write Magic during a camping trip in 2021 with my boyfriend. We had gone deep into the forest for a few days without any phone reception or internet. The sheer beauty of nature and the experiences that we had deep in the lush forest inspired the song. The connection with him and the elements brought forth this sense of magic. Magic is a love song that goes through the journey of the elements of magic (earth, fire, water, wind/air, ether) to pay homage to nature, love, and spiritual connection.

I had originally composed the entire song on guitar. After Randall [Dunn – producer] listened to the demo, he told me that he envisioned it more on the piano and asked me to re-write the music on piano with a different tempo. This process of rewriting a song on another instrument at a different tempo forced me to think about how the music really fit with my lyrics and my interpretation. In the process, I wrote the whole “western-esque” riff that is heard and the song really took shape.

I somehow always would go back to rewriting/refining my poetry but never thought to re-write a song on a new instrument with a new tempo when I felt it was done. That was a really eye-opening moment for me.

WOMAN

I wrote Woman as a poem and never intended for it to become a song. When I started to piece together the concepts that I wanted to address on this album, I realised that I needed to transform this poem into a song. Woman is a celebration of feminine mystique and sensuality. Writing this poem was my way to overcome the struggles that I encountered from being a woman and to celebrate being a woman.

BIRD IN YOUR HAT

In August 2019, I wrote a romantic poem called Roses In The Garden. At that time, I used to do a lot of landscape painting and started to let myself be more open to feeling love, expressing love, and loving myself. Love was more of a concept to me at that time. I started to question why I felt this way and metaphorically compared the complexity of these feelings to the changing of the seasons.

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For example, I would draw parallels with how nature would grow, blossom, withstand the twists and turns of the weather, to later die and blossom again. The changing of the seasons, of myself and my perception of what it is and means to love would keep transforming in my mind. Thus, I felt myself revisiting this romantic poem and re-writing it.

The way that I viewed it would shift as I reflected on my current self in a relationship versus how I once was in a relationship. I would re-read this poem and think about all the reasons that caused the shift of feelings. Everything started to take on this almost “Shakespearean” shade of dark. I reflected a lot on fate and synchronicity. For example, I remembered how I visited a tarot reader before I got involved in a long-term relationship. This moment kept replaying in my head as I thought of how the tarot reader just kept looking at me with concerned eyes like she knew that I would reach a point where everything would start to crumble only to enable me to be a more confident version of myself.

Several months passed and I completed this self-reflection on the subway and refined the poem. All the psychological churning was put to rest, and I changed its title to Departure. Once again, much like with Woman, I didn’t think that I would transform the essence of this poem into a song. It made me realise how I went from being afraid of expressing my true self to being true to who I am and striving to question and answer my wants and needs. This song is about the evolving state of oneself, facing fears head-on and growth. The underlying message of this song is “not being afraid of being yourself” and stepping away from the “tornado / eye of the storm”. The tornado is symbolic of being constantly surrounded by aggressive people. Bird In Your Hat is an analogy of having felt like a little bird fluttering back to its magician and being afraid to spread its wings.

FOREVER TO NEVER AGAIN

Forever To Never Again is a song about never knowing what moment with a person will be the last. After an extremely difficult break-up, my heart ached incessantly. I replayed moments of my then relationship over and over in my mind. Forever To Never Again is a symbolic title for the song. It centres around how love can go from forever, to never seeing the person that you were in love with ever again.

When writing this song, I questioned beauty, I questioned togetherness, and I questioned life. I wondered if everything was in fact transient, and I questioned what truly is eternal. I churned through these thoughts to find my answers and in the process wrote this song. I perform Forever To Never Again in vocal acts in a way that is meant to allow for reflection, much like how someone experiences chapters in a book or even acts in a play.

Littleuniverses

Littleuniverses: “This process of rewriting a song on another instrument at a different tempo forced me to think about how the music really fit with my lyrics.” Photo: Alex Kasyan

WILL I BE A MOTHER

Before pursuing my career as a musician, I worked as a buyer in the fashion industry. There were so many moments during that career when I would feel so frustrated as a woman. Time and time again I would be questioned about when I would get married, settle down and have children. Already, I had never wanted to pursue a career in business, and then, over and above all of that, I would be put on the spot to answer this series of intrusive questions.

This Q&A made me feel that I had to work even harder at what I did and made me develop a very hard shell. I became an ultimate workhorse. I worked full-time, managed a team, and achieved a graduate degree all at the same time. However, in the process, I completely neglected my body and let stress feed on it to make it unhealthy and too thin. I had reached a level where I blocked out most of my personal feelings.

I was led to believe that I could no longer pursue my career as an artist, so it was probably my destiny to be a businesswoman and start my own business. However, this neglect of my health led me to develop some health complications which in turn, led to major life-changing events. As much as all these events were so pivotal in me pursuing my dream as an artist, they are painful to talk about. I changed my life and had to face some darker facts about my life and what I really wanted from it. I suffered a series of losses and then came to terms with it all.

I wrote the lyrics to Will I Be A Mother one very early morning in my home studio. Once everything poured out of me, I wrote the music on my keyboard and sang the version that is on the album. I cried for 15 minutes straight after I recorded the song and then was depressed and unable to do anything for two days. The lyrics of this song explain what it’s about. It’s very direct. I hope it helps others find some sense of comfort in its straightforwardness.

SNOWFLAKES

Snowflakes is a poem based on an evening I had in NYC. The arrangement was created on the spot at Strange Weather studios. I always loved this poem as it makes me think about that fun night.

SWORD

The song Chelsea Hotel, the film Ex Machina, the Metaverse and reflections on fetishism inspired me to write Sword. These diverse inspirations have the common thread of social interaction and human desire. They all influenced the way in which I wrote this song.

Sword is a love story about someone who fetishizes the digital version of their muse but continues to yearn for their muse in their true human form. I believe that perceptions influence one’s personal reality, especially in 2022. I have seen people become incredibly sexually attracted to something that is not real and be in a state of dissatisfaction because I am led to believe that it is only human with human interaction that can completely satisfy human desire.

YOUR LAKE

Your Lake tells a story of being in the darkness of a relationship with the wrong person and losing oneself in the process. The lake in this song is the analogy of a place that you go to have a great time but that can easily turn into a nightmare if you move too fast into its uncharted waters.

Small bruises is the analogy for knowing that something is not right but ignoring it. It’s only until small bruises accumulate that you see and understand how delusional it is to brush off so many little things. Little things can quickly become big things that take time to overcome. The humming in the song was done on purpose as I thought it resembled something I would do, or what anyone does for that matter, when asked to reflect on a moment in their past – i.e. you kind of hum, to think about it and retrieve the memory. There is a song by Metallica and Marianne Faithfull (The Memory Remains)  that inspired this idea in me.

8

8 is the only French song on the album. This song is somewhat of a fantasy, and I called it 8 symbolically as it is the day that my boyfriend and I were born. It is also a number when flipped horizontally resembles infinity. 8 Is a song about wanting to run away, being afraid of being vulnerable and then taking the plunge of letting yourself completely be vulnerable with another person. It flutters in somewhat of an amorphous sonic universe which represents the passionate unknown. The song revolves around a written love note. I purposefully chose the pen and paper note to pay homage to the books of French author George Sand.

SEND IT AWAY

Send It Away was recorded live in one take at Strange Weather studios. This came to a surprise to me because when I wrote the song, I just kept sending Randall demo after demo of my interpretation because I felt that I couldn’t quite put my finger on the sentiment of the song. I’m led to believe that I felt like this with Send It Away in particular, because it communicates a message of hope; and maintaining positivity is not always easy as it sways with life.

I think hope is something that sometimes can get lost. For example, when I feel no hope in something and decide to persevere, hope eventually comes back, appearing in all its glory and I get the strange sensation that I never truly lost it. It’s a strange phenomenon because when I feel hope and positivity again, I realise that perseverance with time and reflection “unmasked it from its hiding place”.

It was very important to me to have a song that creates this sense of hope and positivity without being what I consider “cringey”. In our darkest moments, I want to believe that this pinhole of light (hope) will eventually burn through whatever obstacle is in front of us when we change our paradigm, and that time will send “it” away (“it” being the obstacle or whatever is driving us down). Hence the last verse, “pick your poison or toast to fate”. I think we can turn things around when the negative mind games start. We just must consciously make that decision to turn things around (which is not always easy to do).

Littleuniverses is out now. For music, videos and much more, head over to littleuniverses.com

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