FAIR MOTHERS shares a dark swirling tale of brutal self-honesty in his new single/video “Harpy”

The ominous, fuzzed-out tone of a single guitar note. A foreboding piano line. Esther Swift’s haunting, intricate harp. All of these combine to devastating effect on ‘Harpy’, a dark, swirling tale about facing up to what you’ve become with unflinching honesty, and the first single taken from Stonehaven musician Fair Mothers’ new album In Monochrome.  

“I’m just trying to see the state of me,” says Fair Mothers, aka Kevin Allan, of the song’s autobiographical nature. Featuring cello from acclaimed Scottish composer-arranger Pete Harvey and guest vocals by Glasgow-based US artist Faith Eliott, it’s an intense listen that quickly disintegrates, leaving Swift’s elegant harp work centre stage.

There’s a restless, garish fairground quality to the song. A sense of defiance too. “So old man in the mirror / What you got left?” Allan asks, a sentiment that fits perfectly with In Monochrome’s themes of family, love, and maintaining those relationships which mean the most to us.

The accompanying video, directed by Scottish BAFTA-winning filmmaker and musician Adam Stafford, is equally as stark and dramatic. Drained of all false colour, shot in black and white in the countryside of Ayrshire, it depicts a mysterious stranger and a violent killing that, much like the song, poses as many questions as answers. “Adam initially had in mind an Nosferatu Vampire, self-medicating with ‘magic bullets’ (pills) each morning as he tries to see himself in his bathroom mirror,” says Allan. “This turned into a murderous road trip, which Adam inferred from the lyrics. It was his translation completely; I had to go back to the song to see how he had done it, and it was there.”

It’s the perfect appetiser for the brooding variety inside In Monochrome, the follow up to February’s Separate Lives and the culmination of a series of sessions at Edinburgh’s Happiness Hotel studio with producer and Song, By Toad label boss Matthew Young. It continues Allan’s fertile collaborations – alongside Swift, Harvey, and Eliott, In Monochrome also features Canadian artist Dana Gavanski, and even a brief cameo from Lost Map’s Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail.

“Most of my songs need another voice – a woman’s voice – and I’m incredibly grateful to have worked with Katheryn Joseph in the past, and now with Dana and especially with Faith,” says Allan of his approach to working with others. And while Separate Lives exposed a sense of deep isolation, In Monochrome reflects the search for a way out, for those connections that bring true technicolour and a range of feeling; good and bad and everything in between. “I have such a strong sense that it’s getting very late for us, or maybe just getting late for me,” adds Allan. “And that it has to start with knowing myself. Because it’s principally me that’s lying to me. Christ knows why that is.”

Released in August 2020 via Song, By Toad, In Monochrome will be preceded by ‘Harpy’, out on 19th June 2020. The closing chapter of two years of work, it’s Allan’s richest, most emotionally resonant collection of songs yet. And while self-deprecation runs deep, he’s answered Harpy’s protagonist eloquently – he has plenty left, and a unique, heart wrenching way of saying it.

“Harpy”  is out on 19th June 2020.

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