After one has passed through the liminal state of adolescence, vestiges of youth tend to take on a sentiment somewhere between bitterness and nostalgia. SOAK., a project by 18-year old Bridie Monds-Watson, is just this sort of living vestige through music. Adolescence is the time where your identity starts to ossify; where you figure out that love may break your heart, but it can’t break you. Or in her own words: “The teenage heart/ is an unguarded thought/ We’re trying hard/ to make something of what we are.” What SOAK. does so wonderfully is to bring you back to the fragility and beauty of that time of life. And so, at her intimate show on Monday night at Le Carmen in Paris, Bridie brought me back to my own past and guided me through her present.
Le Carmen is not your typical music venue. In fact, it’s a club that has the air of a 16th century salon: dimly lit with red lights, adorned with Baroquish friezes, murals on the ceiling, ionic columns in the corners, and Venus de Milo-esque statues. SOAK.’s minimal DIY stage was set up at the far end of the room, just in front of a gilded mirror that reached up to the vaulted ceiling.
After a delay due to technical difficulties, she slipped through the small crowd gathered for Festival A Nous Paris to reach the stage. She switched between using an acoustic and electric guitar, and began (I believe) with “Explosions” off the Blud EP. Most of her sound was quite melancholy, which was difficult to take in in one show. Imagine if you could’ve channeled all your teenage loneliness and dysphoria into music. Yeah. That’s heavy. But SOAK’s narrative is wise beyond her years, her voice gruff as if she’s lived her life twice over. Her pronunciation twists loaded words, paralleling the torsion within on songs like “Explosions”, “24 Windowed House”, and “Shuvels”. Though the recorded versions of her songs benefit from more instrumentation (piano, very light percussion, violins), hearing her play the songs acoustic revealed the core of the music. “Sea Creatures”, her most recent release, stood out as the most hopeful track. It has a very full sound, backed by an orchestra and supportive percussion that give it a dream-like quality. Live, it was less robust but still lighthearted.
SOAK.’s first entrée into the industry was with “Blud”, which was also the first song we’d every heard by Bridie, so it was special for me to hear her play that cornerstone. Even more tender was to hear her describe the inspiration for the song. She explained that one night, her parents got in a fight on the second floor of their house. She went up to the third floor, laid down on the floorboards, and pressed her ear to the ceiling to see if she could untangle the words to figure out what the fight was about. And “Blud” was borne.
By this point in the show, she’d encouraged us to have a sit to enjoy the rest of her set, which made things quite cozy. She closed out the show with a new song that will be on the album, “Oh Brother”. She faded out the reverb of the guitar and slid off stage like a shadow, gliding through the crowd just as she’d appeared at the beginning of the night.
Before We Forgot How To Dream, SOAK.’s debut album, will be out the First of June, 2015 on CHVRCHES’ label, Goodbye Records. With the audible progression from the acoustic nature of the Blud EP to the grandeur of “Sea Creatures”, and the manner with which each song is shot through with emotion and honesty, Before We Forgot How To Dream promises to be beautiful and moving: a snapshot of the young life of one Bridie Monds-Watson.