Tamsin Wilson, the British-born front woman of the Brooklyn-based trio Wilsen, prefers to sing at night. “I find something so captivating about the late night,” she tells us while recalling the making of I Go Missing In My Sleep, her third studio album with bandmates Drew Arndt and Johnny Simon Jr. Inspired by a nocturnal ataraxia, she sings of such topics as stars (“Final”), lovers’ hope (“Dusk”), and the coming of day (“Heavy Steps”).
In spite of the introspective quality of her songs, Wilson is an enthusiastic collaborator. A former student of art and music business, she seeks out different art forms to supplement her music, teaming up with digital artist Pierre Schmidt to create the album cover and with Spanish choreographer Yury Yanowsky for the music video to “Final.” Asked about opening up to interpretations of her music, Wilson says, “That’s what collaboration is about: admiring other people’s work. Being in the same room with people whose aesthetic you admire has been the most enjoyable part of building this record.”
Interview spoke with Wilson on the phone before she and her bandmates take off on tour this weekend.
ZUZANNA CZEMIER: I Go Missing In My Sleep is quite a mysterious title.
TAMSIN WILSON: The title was about entering a kind of dream-like state away from the realities of today, which is very much how I wrote the record. After coming home from a long day I had to try writing in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else was asleep. I felt like that was the most creatively free time I had. A lot of the songs are written at those unusual hours and, funnily enough, the final vocals were also recorded in that time of the day. I thought it was indicative of how the whole record came together.
CZEMIER: You’ve previously cited Gabriel Garcia Marquez as one source of inspiration. Where did you draw inspiration from when creating I Go Missing In My Sleep?
WILSON: I’ve listened to a label called Eraser Tapes a lot; I really like what they’ve put out. But I did step away a tiny bit from music while I was putting together the demos and entering the studio. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but I backed away from studio albums and looked towards various other art forms that New York and the internet have to offer. All the wonderful galleries, and books that I’ve been meaning to read.
CZEMIER: Have you experimented a lot with new instruments or production methods in this record?
WILSON: Yes, we did. The guys have become proficient in so many different instruments and we all had a lot of fun experimenting with more electronic production. We had access to some great synthesizers when we were in various studios, so those made their way to the record as well. That was new territory for us. Previously we had introduced some electronic production, but there are definitely more layers in this record.
CZEMIER: So you traveled outside New York to record?
WILSON: Yes. We did two separate weeks: one upstate at a friends house where we brought our own gear and then we did another week just outside of Philadelphia.
CZEMIER: You grew up in London and attended university in Boston. What made you decide to move to New York?
WILSON: As an international student, you get one year to stay after you finish school. I was thinking where I could spend that year, and of all the places, it was New York. I’ve always wanted to come here. It can be equally as fulfilling and difficult a place to live. I think it definitely leads you to experience quite a few more ups and downs than maybe a more common place, which I think lends well to writing. I’d like to move around, but it’s a good place for me right now.
CZEMIER: Did you perform a lot before teaming up with Drew Arndt and Johnny Simon in 2013?
WILSON: I started writing songs alone and when I gained more confidence, I wanted to play them out and explore what that was like. I started playing at open mics in London. When I moved to America for university a friend of mine started a weekly show where people could come up and showcase their material. That’s where I met a lot of people I ended up collaborating with. Playing solo in that setting allowed me to meet people that would come up and say, “Hey, I’d like to play some drums,” or “I think I could contribute,” or “I’d like to record you.”
CZEMIER: Now you’re preparing to go on tour—do you feel like there is a specific audience for your music?
WILSON: It varies from place to place. Each city has a different type of crowd: some are more vocal and some are very passive listeners. We experience a bit of a mix. It’s really fun to meet people along the road and sometimes people who may have come to our shows in the past will come up and say how much they liked it or that it touched them in some way. It’s about performing for these people. But, I think, we actually haven’t found our crowd yet. This upcoming tour is going to be our first run as headliners—maybe then we’ll be able to tell what our crowd is like.
WILSEN BEGINS TOURING THIS SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 2017. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE BAND’S WEBSITE.