Heloise & the Savoir Faire Biography
Fittingly, Diamond Dust is an album concerned with origin stories, a series of myths refracted through the dual speakers of space-station-funk and decade-flexing genre switch-ups. "I became really interested in patterns in the human story -- why do people tell certain stories over and over again? So many religions are based off of the same story, and yet people call their religions by different names," Williams says. Her interest bloomed into a veritable thesis, with Williams embarking on a multicultural survey of mythology, etiology and spirituality. "My intent was to rewrite these human stories from my perspective."
In addition to serving as perhaps the first academic dance record, it is also the process and product of an artist finally, peaceably, coexisting with what she was intended to do. The process of rigorous self-examination necessary to create Diamond Dust brought Williams to the brink of giving up a career – and a calling -- as an artist. Williams’ own socialist origins (and her genetic predisposition to a career in the public service – she comes from a long line of doctors, nurses and public administrators) and her artistic leanings always created a certain level of dissonance; she had always felt uncomfortable with embracing the unbridled artistic ego.
Ironically but not unexpectedly, it was Williams' attempt to exit music through academia that drew her closer to it. She embarked on a lab study to quantify music's effect on the brain, and its employment as a pain analgesic. Amidst coordinating college students and collecting data, Williams had a revelation. “I remember feeling, ‘I don’t want to perform the experiment; I want to be the person making the pain analgesic music.’” Despite her ambivalence at the onset, Williams’ foray into academia resulted in her more fully embracing her music career. “I don’t regret [going back to school]. It was awesome, being told I was good by the grades I received. It's not like [that in] the life of an artist. At the same time, I realized I'm a singer and a story writer, however abstracted, and that this why I'm here.” As a result, woven artfully throughout Diamond Dust are the signs and signatures of someone humming along with the universe.
Conceived and largely recorded in Vermont, Williams wanted to mix and produce the record in her other home, NYC. She employed two different production teams, Shy Child's Pete Cafarella and production duo "Bassy" Bob Brockman and Eric Gorman (Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, TLC ), thereby creating a "dance music record that looks both to the past and the future."
Indeed, songs like "Dance Floor Destroyer" sound like "being slapped around by a synthesizer," Williams laughs, "in the best possible way." "Vibezz," the retelling of the tale of fire-stealing Prometheus, stutters as it builds, sucking up all the air until breaking into syncopated ecstasy. Amongst literal origin stories are the ones Williams herself has imagined. "Oh Pioneer" is a clippedly delivered discourse on immigration and the origin of industry in this country, initially inspired by design titan Karl Lagerfeld, of all people. ("He sort of looks like a founding father," offers Williams.) Clues to Williams own origins litter the sonic fields of each song, with tracks like "Hughes" (named for that original auteur of teenage sexual frustration, director John Hughes), with Williams' dreamy croon lacing the synth loops. "Bottom to the Top," inspired in equal parts by Williams' artistic frustrations and the impending end to the Mayan calendar with a nod to early Madonna, is an "Aztec Diva jam," and represents Williams newfound confidence in her role as artist. "It's about picking yourself back up and realizing that you have to do what your heart tells you to do. It's been incredibly hard for me to do, but you have to follow your gut,” says Williams.
For now, Williams has traded in lab tests for sound checks, but continues to run sonic experiments all the time. “That’s the next move,” says Williams. “To figure out the frequency of really, officially feel-good dance music,” referencing her stint in academia. Except she already has.