Now Hear This!: We Are Loud Whispers - 'Suchness' (album premiere)

PopMatters premieres Suchness, the debut album by trans-Pacific duo We Are Loud Whispers.


Trans-Pacific duo We Are Loud Whispers have a knack of making what doesn't seem possible. The brainchild of Sonya Westcott and Ayumu Haitani, the pair's debut effort Suchness was created over emails sent between their respective homes in Seattle and the Japanese island of Honshu, without the two principals ever coming together face-to-face again after briefly meeting in 2007 when Westcott's earlier gig Arthur & Yu toured Japan. And yet you wouldn't know that Suchness, which premieres on PopMatters, was the product of purely virtual interaction, considering the warmth and immediacy of the music therein. Indeed, the contradictions built into the band name We Are Loud Whispers reflect how Haitani and Westcott bring together contrasting elements so seamlessly, combining electronic atmospherics with gentle, organic orchestration. PopMatters caught up with Westcott via email -- naturally -- to find out more about how We Are Loud Whispers came to be and how, appropriately enough, the twosome collaborated with the Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello. PopMatters is pleased to share a stream of Suchness, out this week on Hardly Art.

We Are Loud Whispers - "This Time" (for sharing and downloading)


Photo by Charlie Schuck


PopMatters: Can you describe how We Are Loud Whispers came together and your process of working together transcontinentally via the Internet?

Sonya Westcott: I met Ayumu when Arthur & Yu did a small tour of Japan back in 2007. We hit it off right away and managed to stay in contact ever since. I was fortunate enough to see his band, 4 Bonjour's Parties perform while I was there and was absolutely impressed with all the instrumentation involved, which made for a great live show. Ayumu also did a cover of an Arthur & Yu song that I really loved. We Are Loud Whispers was really just a chance for me to work with Ayumu. We did one song a few years ago and were strongly encouraged to do an album.

PopMatters: How did you figure out that this was the right project for you? How did you decide to go into We Are Loud Whispers after being in Arthur & Yu?

Sonya Westcott: Arthur & Yu was on hiatus. Grant [Olsen] was working on his project, Gold Leaves. So it just seemed natural to pursue WALW based on the feedback we were receiving. It was nice to do things differently for a change and to be able to take the time I needed to focus on this album. We didn't rush it.

PopMatters: Considering the long-distance circumstances behind the making of Suchness, do you think We Are Loud Whispers could only have come together at this time, thanks to the technologies you use? Of course, other projects have come together via email or by post, but is there anything particular to the way you collaborated online that comes through in the music?

Sonya Westcott: I don't think so. I feel like even if we were living in the same town, the album would have sounded similar. However, I don't really know. I'll have to spend some time in Tokyo for the next one. What we come up with might be drastically different. =)

PopMatters: I think it's appropriate that your band name consists of contradictory terms -- loud whispers -- because there are a lot of interesting contrasts at play in your music. For starters, the sound feels completely organic, even though there are a lot of electronic elements to it. And despite the easy-going, chilled-out vibe of the music, there's actually a great deal of complexity at work in the compositions. What was the tone you are trying to set on Suchness?

Sonya Westcott: Honestly, it's those contrasts that you mentioned that I had hoped would come across. Music with as many electronic elements could arguably come off sounding cold, emotionless, sterilized...but I don't feel that with Suchness. Also, I love the myriad sounds that you hear after repeated listens that you may not have noticed the first time.

PopMatters: It's also fitting that the Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello has a guest spot on the album. How did you bring him on board for Suchness? And was it just a happy coincidence that he appears with you, in light of the seemingly similar ways both groups work?

Sonya Westcott: Needless to say, Ayumu and I are huge fans of Dntel, the Postal Service, James Figurine. I had worked with Jimmy before, contributing vocals for a James Figurine track. Also Arthur & Yu did a song, "The Distance" on Dntel's Dumb Luck. For "Glossolalia", we knew that we wanted it to be a duet, and we both immediately thought of Jimmy. So I just asked. I'm so happy he agreed to do it.

PopMatters: Do you have plans for a tour and, if so, would playing together live be a totally different experience for you?

Sonya Westcott: We don't have any immediate plans for a tour, but that being said, it's not necessarily out of the question. I would love to reunite with Ayumu, get some folks together, and play some shows. Perhaps we could do a few performances in Japan. I'm sure the experience would be different, having never played these songs live before and having to figure out how to do that, but it's a challenge I would gladly explore.





Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.