Originally from Exmouth, Devon, Fritillaries are a Bristol-based folk duo featuring Hannah Pawson and Gabriel Wynne. We last featured them towards the end of last year when they released their single ‘Working Late‘ which tackled the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK. They also announced a name change having previously been known as Rainy Day Woman and Hannah touches on their choice of name when talking about their new single below, referring to the ‘planting Fritillaries and waiting for them to grow’.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the duo now have a debut album lined up for July via Pear O’Legs Records prior to which we have the pleasure of sharing their new single ‘Unearthing’ which is released today and can also be heard on our Mellow Folk playlist. It’s accompanied by a beautiful video by Giulia Franchi which captures the very real story behind the song that Hannah expands upon below. The song is very central to who this duo are and I can see why they chose Giulia to work on the video. Featuring the very characters who inspired a song in a video can be tricky and can easily fall into the contrived but, like their music, the video has a very organic real feel, something that also comes across in their music which I can really connect with. The whole video has a beautiful earthy tonal quality that really captures the very essence of the song and this duo so well. The decision to record as a four-piece with musicians Andy Hamill on bass and Kit Massey on violin just tops it all off perfectly. This is an outstanding single and bodes so well for their forthcoming album.
Hannah on the song and the video
In April last year, my mum sent me a poem she’d written. It was set on a Monday in the back garden. As she unearthed a sixpence in the soil, images of her childhood, her father’s childhood, and the Saxon burial site she’d visited near to his childhood home also came to the surface.
There was something else about the poem that caught me, a word with lots of ‘i’s and ‘l’s, beginning with ‘f’. I turned it over in my head for a while, thinking there was something special and lyrical about it. I found a melody, with words coming quickly and the poem’s refrain – ‘now I sow Fritillaries’ – working perfectly as a chorus. Later, when we’d decided we needed a new band name, my mind again turned to that refrain.
The idea of planting Fritillaries and waiting for them to grow began to take on more and more significance for us in our writing and composing for this album. Gabriel and I have played in a duo together since 2013, after 7 years we dropped our day jobs and gave music our all in early 2020, only for this to be quickly interrupted. These songs have felt like they’ve been underground for a long time, waiting to come up. I feel grateful about every step in this process, including the hard ones. Things need time to lie fallow and often grow when you’re not looking.
We didn’t decide to make a music video for Unearthing until very late in the game. After a day filming some four-piece live videos (which will be released with the singles), we started talking with Giulia Franchi, our videographer, about Unearthing and how central it feels to the whole album. I explained how Unearthing reflected on the elements of ourselves that are intentionally and unintentionally passed down to us. These elements had started to feel like complicated root systems, like threads I could gently unfurl and tug to see where they came from. For me, Unearthing celebrates these threads of creativity and connection to the earth but also touches on the threads of trauma and pain. This felt particularly relevant to me in my recovery from a period of poor health, suffering from (hereditary) endometriosis and a mixture of difficult mental health issues during the loneliness of lockdown. However, during lockdown, I fell in love with gardening and I started to feel rooted in a love for the earth that my mum, her father and his father all felt.
Speaking to Giulia that night, the idea for a video quickly took shape. My mum kindly agreed for the video to focus on her, even though she’s pretty camera shy. We filmed the video in my grandparent’s house, somewhere I haven’t been able to visit much in the last 2 years, for obvious reasons, but which holds precious memories for me. My grandma (a music teacher) taught me piano as a child and we used to hold Christmas concerts in the living room with the family. There’s a picture of Gabriel and I as 16-year-olds playing to my parents and grandparents in that house, a few feet from where we were filming.
Gabriel on recording
Recording the album forced questions about conviction versus flexibility. On the one hand, we have firm ideas about what we do and do not like in recorded acoustic music, and we wanted our album to be an expression of this vision. We like musicians playing in a room together and the sound of acoustic instruments. As a listener, I like being able to close my eyes and feel like I can look around the stereo field and see the magic of music-making, happening in real time, slip ups and ad libs included.
On the other hand, music-making is about listening and communicating, and the last thing we wanted to do was shut down the ideas of our collaborators. Ru Lemer, our producer, has a diverse musical background and different musical sensibility to our own. He offered expansive sound scapes: a different size, scale and splendour, like Kang and Kodos (the green bedomed aliens in The Simpsons) offering Homer, Marge et al. a glimpse into their ultra-advanced techno civilisation.
The conversation between these different approaches is a huge part of the album’s sonic identity. There are moments of warm, sparse, crackly-microphoned intimacy set alongside brooding, unknowable, soaring synth spaces, and much in between. I think there’s magic in both.
Unearthing certainly sits closer to our original vision. It was recorded live as a four-piece, with Hannah and I joined by Andy Hamill on bass and Kit Massey on violin. We were all looking at each other, and I think the take we ended up going with was the second. Andrew Marlin’s two 2021 instrumental albums – Witching Hour and Fable & Fire – have been a big influence. Marlin’s mandolin and Christian Sedelmyer’s violin spend a lot of time in unison, to the point where they sound like one voice. We wanted to bring some of this to the instrumental sections on Unearthing. Andy and Kit both brought an enormous amount to the project, and we feel enduringly lucky to have recorded with them, and to have them joining us for four special tour shows (London, Birmingham, Bristol, Exmouth) in late summer.
The only parts not recorded live were the backing vocals from John Blek and Anna Colette. We’ve been lucky enough to support John twice. His most recent album On Ether & Air was on our hard rotation when touring last summer, and he was kind enough to lend us some time to chat through the process of making an album and, later, some beautiful harmony singing on this track. Anna appears throughout the album: she’s a phenomenal Bristol-based singer-songwriter who we’ve got to know over the last year or so. Her singing on ‘grasp the hand of remembering / Unearthing the places that we hide’ is one of my favourite moments from this song.
Find out more about Fritillaries here:
They also have tour dates lined up from April through to October and will be making a number of festival appearances including Gate to Southwell and Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. Full details can be found here: tour/
Pre-Order the album here: