Like the recently Philthy-profiled Kristin Hersh, Charlotte Hatherley is another heroine of my teenage years that I have been out of touch with for quite some time. Since her departure from Northern Ireland power poppers Ash in 2006, her solo output has remained largely alien stateside (i.e. unavailable aside from “imports”). Since her third and last solo album, New Worlds, which dropped in 2009, she has taken on the role of a touring musician for Bat For Lashes, KT Tunstall, and Bryan Ferry. However, 2012 has her making quite a splash… even stateside. She’s released two singles, with accompanying music videos, this year, “Creatures,” and “Hook You Up,” under the moniker Sylver Tongue… “Hook You Up” even cracked the Top 10 “Modern Rock Commercial Speciality” chart. Sylver Tongue is a new side of Charlotte… a glossy, glamorous, synthetic side. She’s utilizing keys and synthesizers as the primary tools for producing a space-age brand of glam rock. She’s currently working on completing a Sylver Tongue album with producer James Rutledge and the live incarnation of the band will be supporting Bat For Lashes on a UK tour this fall. I recently got a chance to chat with the postmodern songstress about her latest work, her thoughts on the states, and just what is behind her beautifully avant-garde new identity.
Izzy Cihak: I really like this moniker, Sylver Tongue, inspired by Lyra Silvertongue and David Sylvian. Do you have any favorite public figures who have been characterized as “silver-tongued?” Morrissey is my favorite person on the planet (I realize the cliché), so I certainly appreciate the sentiment.
Charlotte Hatherley: I’ve just been watching Carl Sagan’s classic series Cosmos from 1980. He has an amazingly poetic way of talking about the world, the universe, and our place in it. The first two episodes are called “The Shores Of The Cosmic Ocean” and “One Voice In The Cosmic Fugue.” He’s also in a “Spaceship Of The Imagination.” Cool.
IC: What inspired you to pursue this current solo project? Do you find you’re getting to experiment with things and sounds that you haven’t in the past?
CH: After I released my third solo record, New Worlds, in 2009 I needed a break from writing and recording and went back on the road, playing guitar for Bat For Lashes, KT Tunstall, and Bryan Ferry. I knew I didn’t want to write another guitar record. I craved something different. Playing with these amazing musicians and travelling around the world gave me the inspiration, time, and space I needed to sow the seeds of Sylver Tongue. When I got home I wrote all the songs very quickly on a keyboard using my laptop at home.
IC: And what about your current image? The imagery of your two latest music videos is quite a bit different from your previous work. Are there any particular things that impacted your most recent visuals and fashions?
CH: I’ve always been a big fan of musicians who are also very theatrical, like Bowie, Roxy Music, Kate Bush, and Grace Jones. They all have a very strong visual aesthetic. Using ‘Sylver Tongue’ as a performance name has helped me to push myself into new dimensions with the imagery. My dad has a huge Philip K. Dick book collection and I read them all as a teenager, which hard-wired me for a love of Science Fiction. Films like Solaris, Mad Max, Bladerunner, and Alien have also been a huge visual influence.
IC: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I’m inclined to ask if you have any favorite memories or significant thoughts on the city. I know you’ve been here quite a few times throughout your career.
CH: Yes, I’ve played in Philadelphia many times! It’s always great fun! Many nights have been spent in the bars of South Street. I can’t wait to come back.
IC: What can UK fans expect of Sylver Tongue’s live show, when you hit the road this fall with Bat For Lashes? (We actually have a decent readership from the other side of the pond.)
CH: We will all be wearing (faux) fur and leathers. I want us to look beautiful and otherworldly. I’m playing keyboards and occasionally letting rip with some stellar guitar solos. It’s going to be amazing.
IC: What can your US fans expect? Your recent singles have made quite a splash here. Any plans or hopes to tour over here, even if only after the album is finished?
CH: Of course! I cannot wait to get over to the USA. I have toured there so much and I have so many friends in the US now, it’s always such great fun and I know that Sylver Tongue is going to go down very well!
IC: And finally, what have been your own, personal, highlights of 2012 thus far and what are you most excited to work on or partake in for the rest of the year?
CH: Finishing the record is my only goal, my only focus. It will be such an achievement when it’s done. I’m very close now. And, of course, the Bat tour is going to be incredible!!!