The anchorwoman, alias Catherine Anne Davies, has spoken NME about her new single – a cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ – as well as her new album and upcoming spring tour.
Davies has shared a number of covers over the past year as part of ‘Bandcamp Friday’ – with his rendition of New Order’s 1986 the latest in a string of indie classics. She recently received praise from collaborators Manic Street Preachers for her take on ‘This Is Yesterday’.
“When I’ve done covers, the criteria has always been: is this a great song, and is there something new or different that I can bring to it?” Davies said NME, who have already covered songs by the likes of The Cure, Depeche Mode and Blur. “I’ve tried to recreate them in a very different way from the original.”
Despite dramatically changing some beloved songs, Davies said the covers have been a hit with fans of the originals.
“When I’ve tackled a song where there’s a big fan base, like with Depeche Mode or The Cure, you always feel a little bit of trepidation – like you don’t want to ruin someone’s favorite song!
“But I’ve been really lucky because all the fans have been really kind and embraced the songs, precisely because I’ve approached them very differently from the originals. I’m not trying to copy or destroy what they love.”
Davies said she liked ‘Bizarre Love Triangles’ “ambiguity as a sort of mystery short story.”
She continued, “Great songs like this one have that hole where the listener can insert their own interpretation. As any perfect song should, it allows the listener to project their own meaning and narrative onto it.”
Davies’ version is particularly synth-heavy – something the musician described as a tribute to New Order keyboardist Gillian Gilbert’s “uncelebrated genius”. “I remember following Tim Burgess’ listening party on Twitter and them shows a hand-drawn image of Gillian’s programming on ‘Blue Monday’ and it was extraordinary. Her role in innovating alternative dance music needs more recognition.”
The song’s accompanying video, which has been directed by JJ Eringa, was made “in the image of Manchester” as a tribute to New Order, with touchstones for “abstract cityscapes and brutalist influences” often found in their work, Davies added.
The track was produced by Davies and mixed by Mario McNulty, famous for his work with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails and Prince. “He just made it sound even more badass! I’ve been an admirer of his work since he worked on Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’. It was very special to work with him.”
While her other covers have dropped via Bandcamp Friday, her latest release arrived via Drowned in Sound’s recently relaunched Single Club label.
“There is a great history of artists who started their careers via the DiS Singles Club, like Martha Wainwright,” explained Davies. “It’s great to have it back. Sean Adams [label owner and her co-manager] always had a track record of innovative ways of working that felt very much ahead of its time, and this label is a reflection of that.”
Finally, a selection of covers will be re-recorded for a new album to be released later this year. Davies said she hopes the project will help audiences appreciate cover versions more.
“There’s always been a lot of snobbery with covers,” she continued. “People assume you’re just doing a quirky acoustic version or a John Lewis Christmas advert with numbers.
“But you have a proven, ready-made song in front of you to flex your own vocal, production and arrangement skills, which means there’s always a lot of scope for unique re-interpretations and re-interpretations that can add something new to the song, or can make you see it in a completely different light.”
Davies said she was also influenced by Tori Amos’ groundbreaking covers album, ‘Strange Little Girls’.
“Like with ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, flipping the perspective from a male voice to a female voice was something I’m really interested in. Most of the songs I’ve done have been by male vocalists, so I wonder if I I’ve unconsciously followed in Tori’s footsteps a bit here and recast them in a female light.”
Although Davies may still be deciding on the final list of covers for the album, she said she was confident her version of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ would make the cut.
“Robert Smith has been a really important person to me over the last few years,” Davies shared NME. “I was asked to perform at his Meltdown in 2018 and when I was making my last album we exchanged emails and he was very encouraging.
“He’s a brilliant songwriter and producer and he’s given me a lot of inspiration to produce my own work,” said Davies, in a week in which she’s been nominated for a Music Producer’s Guild award. “As we have seen recently with his challenge to Ticketmaster, he is a very ethical and principled person and is helping to address one of the many problems with live touring at the moment.”
Davies embarks with a new band on his first tour since the pandemic this spring, with a headline slot at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. A completely independent artist, Davies said she has felt the struggles of the live music industry more than ever.
“The costs have just escalated so much,” she explained. “Margins were already tight, but now with increased fuel, hotel costs and venues taking a percentage of the merch money, it’s impossible to make ends meet.
“I think it’s good that artists are being more honest about this now, like Little Simz who recently talked about not being able to afford his US tour. The live touring model is screwed.”
Davies said she believes her chance to tour Europe has now also disappeared since the UK left the EU in 2016. “Tour Europe? There’s not a damn chance since Brexit,” she continued.
“The logistics are just so extreme. The issue of carnets is incredibly complex and now there is a very real risk of your equipment being held up at customs, meaning you miss a show – as we have already seen with some artists. Can we afford to play roulette every night on this trip? We can’t do that, and that makes me really sad.”
Davies said a system like they have in Canada, where their government invests heavily in culture, is “desperately needed” in the UK.
“We need more subsidization of our creative output because otherwise music will just be reserved for the upper middle class,” she continued. “It obviously has a huge knock-on effect on the kind of music we’re going to hear and the stories we’re listening to. We’re already in desperate need of more diverse voices.”
Davies recently created a Patreon to help fund her third original music album following the critically acclaimed ”The Art Of Losing”. She has followed a model set up by artists like Gary Numan and Public Service Broadcasting, who hoped to unlock the process of making the record with fans.
“Bandcamp Fridays helped me lift the curtain on how I made songs with fans more,” Davies said. “There weren’t many artists who did that apart from Radiohead when they released their demos. It’s opened up more dialogue with fans and enabled me to reflect more on my own process as well.”
While the themes for her next album are “still emerging”, she said she’s confident it will be “more collaborative”, mirroring her recent work with Band Spectra on the political anthem ‘Human Reciprocator’. “The themes on the last album were quite dark and it needed a more solitary process. The mantra for album three is to get some of the joy out of songwriting again,” explained Davies.
“I’m finding that [joy] through my work with other female songwriters, producers and multi-instrumentalists such as Eaves Wilder, with whom I have worked.”
As for other collaborations, Davies would love to work with Elton John, who championed her latest album on his radio show. “He’s just made such incredible records and is someone else who’s been very supportive; it would be a dream to work with him. Who knows: maybe we could even do a cover together?!”
See The Anchoress’ upcoming tour dates, and visit here for tickets and information.
1 – Parish, Huddersfield
9 – Boilerroom, Guildford
10 – Comedy, Brighton
12 – Rescue room, Nottingham
13 – Deaf Institute, Manchester
14 – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
17 – Guildhall, Gloucester
18 – Academy, Birmingham
20 – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
21 – Thekla, Bristol
21 – Leaf, Liverpool
22 – Summerhall, Edinburgh
23 – Central Library, Hull
24 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
30 – Acapella, Cardiff
4 – Junction, Cambridge