Women Underground- Eilidh Harris - From The Jenny Tingle Series

There are so many awesome and inspirational women in the UK's music and arts scene. Women Underground is a series of articles showcasing female creatives. The purpose of these interviews isn't to complain, to undermine men or to cast women in the roles of victims of an unfair society - it's to highlight the sheer volume of amazing music, art and creative contributions made by women.

Eilidh Harris is the powerful frontwoman of Glasgow-based doom band, Pyre of The Earth. A writer and poet as well as a musician, Eilidh is easily one of the smartest and coolest people I know.

Cheers for chatting to me on behalf of NHC music! How are you?

“No problem at all! Happy to be involved! Doing not too bad, thanks”.

When did you realise that you love music?

“I grew up going to a lot of ceilidh dances (traditional Scottish music) with my family. These are some of my earliest memories and I have been singing all my life in church and choirs, so I guess I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love music. It has constantly been a massive part of my life”.

Who are your inspirations, as a musician and as a person?

“I will never get all the right mentions here, there will definitely be someone I forget. The first person that I really remember touching my soul was Jim Morrison; he saw the real tragedy in existence as well as having a profound understanding of beauty. Peter Steele of Type O Negative has also had a profound emotional affect on me; he feels like a kindred spirit and I often think about him when I perform. Scott Weinrich of Saint Vitus and the Obsessed, is another musician that connects with me and inspires to keep creating. A few strong and incredible front women/artists that inspire me to make my own music; Alia O’Brien (Blood Ceremony), Farida Lemouchi (Devil’s Blood), Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Amalie Bruun (Myrkur), Kristin Hayden (Lingua Ignota), Jillian Taylor (Ruby the Hatchet), Annick Giroux (Cauchemar), Jessica Bowen (Jex Thoth), Dorthia Cottrell (Windhand), PJ Harvey and Ann-Sofie Hoyles (Spiders). Simone de Beauvoir and Shulamith Firestone are feminist philosophers that have helped me to realise myself”.

You’re fascinated by philosophy, theology and feminism and are an avid reader – what book are you sinking your mental teeth into this week?

“I have a couple on the go at the moment; I like to switch between a couple of books with very different topics, it helps me focus. This week I am reading ‘Kill All Normies’ by Angela Nagle (Zero Books); it’s a look at online culture surrounding things like the alt-right and social justice warriors. Social media stresses me out immensely but it is a significant part of our culture, so hopefully this book will help me to better understand why people behave in such ridiculous ways online. I am also reading about the concepts of woman and goddess in Hinduism; in Hindu culture there is considerable emphasis on the divine feminine which I find interesting because it differs from the Christian perspective of the divine being prominently male. Although I am agnostic I still find certain archetypes inspiring and my favourite goddess is Kali; in the Indian epics, she provokes Shiva to take part in risky behaviour which threatens the stability of the cosmos. In the book I am reading, Hindu Goddesses by David Kingsley, she is interpretted as being capable of shaking up one’s naïve assumptions to allow a clearer perception of the way things really are”.

Your lyrics often verge into metaphysical/theological territories, like in Mountain Temple, your lyrics, “Answers left to us, the pressure and trust, the terrifying Chaos”  What was your thought process behind the lyrics to Mountain Temple?

Mountain temple was the first song that I ever wrote; it came from a phase of constantly wondering what the absence of God meant for conscious existence. Although I have considered myself an agnostic since I was in my early teens, it had taken me a bit longer for my lack of faith in a Christian God to actually sink in. The idea that there is no higher purpose authored by a supreme being is difficult to comprehend and it is something that I am still thinking about every day and my perspective on it is constantly shifting. If there is no guiding ‘father’ figure, it falls on the individual to give meaning to their existence and this seems like a lot of responsibility”.

Glasgow’s music scene is amazing! Is there anything you think could make it even better?

“I believe it is very important that people who appreciate the scene make sure that they represent themselves at shows. We are completely spoiled in Glasgow for venues and the promoters here work very hard”.

What is your usual process when developing lyrics for a song? Do you draw on experiences and emotions from your own life for subject matter?

“I am very lucky to have an incredible group of people around me to work with in Pyre of the Earth; it is a process that I am still learning and developing. I try to write even if I don’t feel like because being creative is complicated. I want to say something that people can connect with because a large part of music for me is feeling less alone about the things that cannot be expressed in language. I try to express profound feelings and states of minds”.

As well as a musician, you are also a poet and a writer, publishing thoughts online in your blog, After The Pyre. Can you tell us a little about After The Pyre and the reason you write?

After the Pyre is a collection of essays that I have written about different topics such as meditation and feminism. I have been neglecting it during the academic year and it needs some serious revision. I want to write thought provoking, subjective dialogues about important issues. I am mostly doing it for the development of my own writing and thought processes; it’s currently a work in progress. I appreciate the work of youtubers like Natalie Wynn of Contrapoints and Olly Thorn of Philosophy Tube and I believe they make a positive social impact and ideally, I would like After the Pyre to do this as well”.

Your best and worst gigs and why?

“We played a gig on the day the results for the Scottish independence vote came in; I was very angry and disappointed. My favourite gig was a free gig in Box, Glasgow because the sound guy put in a bit of extra effort and I could hear everything really well; it was quite a quiet show on a weekday night, but I felt very focused”.

Do you ever get nervous before gigs? How do you deal with this?

“I drink wine. I planned to only have one glass before our first gig but during our soundcheck, my heart started beating furiously so I had at least one more… Although, performing is honestly the best thing that I have ever done, and it is more of an adrenalin rush than nerves. After a couple of times playing live, I felt like I got used to it and I don’t need to rely on wine to drown the butterflies anymore”.

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out to encourage them?

“You have to just do it regardless of how you feel; I believe everyone has the potential to create something beautiful”.

What do you love most about music?

“Music is everything; it feels like magic to me and it can be so many things; refuge, motivation, catharsis… I agree with Nietzsche that life would be a mistake without it. I couldn’t live without it. ‘My melancholia wants to rest in the abysses and hiding places of perfection – this is why I need music’ – Fredrich Nietzsche”.