After the release of Wyldest’s second album, Monthly Friend, Zoe Mead found herself at something of a crossroads. Having made their debut album Dream Chaos as a trio, circumstances had shifted Wyldest into a solo project and Zoe decided to take on all responsibilities, writing, mixing, and producing the entire thing herself as a show of empowerment both for herself and in the face of wider societal constraints. While the music spoke for itself, the ramifications of that journey resulted in both a burn-out and a conundrum. She had proven that empowering yourself as a musician – especially as a woman navigating the music industry – was both important and achievable, but she also knew that she needed a reset, to take a step backwards to be able to move forward again with purpose.
That journey comes of age in the form of Feed The Flowers Nightmares, Wyldest’s third album, released this summer via Hand In Hive. Made alongside Luciano Rossi (Idlewild, Dama Scout), Feed The Flowers Nightmares is a celebration of collaboration, a collection of eleven songs that redefines the Wyldest sound into something altogether darker and more sophisticated.
Initially worked on in her home space, amid isolated lockdowns and a heavy load of self-doubt, the songs that make up Feed The Flowers Nightmares began as a series of iPhone sketches that Zoe then worked into a series of songs during a short burst of sunrise sessions. Around this time Zoe happened to meet Luciano for a coffee and he convinced her to send him what she had been working on, despite her uncertainty. Needless to say, he loved what he heard and the seed of collaboration was quickly sown. Soon, the pair got together at Luciano’s studio to work on a song and see where it took them. “It immediately felt like an epiphany moment,” Zoe says. “We wrote the song that's now the title track. It existed as a very bare, minimal version and then it became the version it is now in just half a day. It all happened so quickly.”
Though Zoe initially felt like she was turning her back on the proclamations she’d made when making her second record, that cross-examination of herself and her practice became the album’s beating heart. “It's about the process of feeding that little creature inside yourself and also being able to push a reset button,” Zoe explains. “I think I would have imploded had I tried to do another album completely on my own. So it became about enjoying the process and not putting all this unnecessary pressure on myself to do everything all the time.”
Another benefit of this blossoming was the tools Zoe suddenly had at her disposal. Though she had learned to work within the constraints of her home setup, her demos were imbued with a scrappiness to be fixed later on in the process and it became a barrier to her creativity. Luciano’s studio offered something completely different, however; a meticulous space that Zoe ideas could immediately come alive within.
Self-described as her “doom pop” record, on Feed The Flowers Nightmares Zoe takes her love for Death Cab and combines it with an appreciation for contemporary composers, from Jon Brion and Library Tapes, through Mica Levi and Johnny Greenwood. And so, opening track ‘Everytime You’ll Be Mine’ is weighty and atmospheric, the cinematic nature of the song immediately setting the tone for this new chapter of Wyldest. Elsewhere,‘The Best Is Yet To Come’, a striking three-minutes that begins as a stripped-back guitar-and-voice ballad before electronic drums suddenly enter, shifting the track into a beautiful instrumental soundscape, while ’Abilene’ leans more heavily into the pop territory, the scattered percussive beats and Zoe’s bold vocal conjuring something equally memorable and endearing.
Thematically, Feed The Flowers Nightmares is informed by Zoe’s navigation of the past couple of years, but is more directly inspired by the way we treat and look after ourselves. “What I mean by ‘Feed the flowers nightmares’ is to literally ensure that you regularly ‘feed’ yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” she says. “Feeling like you’re being held together by string is not a way to explore creativity or life in general. Momentum needs to be fed and nurtured, or it will just stop.”
Taking inspiration from Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lazarus’ poem, which outlines how we’re all constantly dying and being reborn throughout our lives, the album is a layered and impassioned reaction to losing yourself but finding a way to pick up the pieces, to having the courage to start again. You have to take that darkness – all of your nightmares – and find a way to let them go. Feed them to the flowers to allow yourself the chance to grow again.
“This album was my attempt to feed myself. To fully enjoy the process, explore, learn, collaborate and alleviate self-pressure. I felt like I would never write a good song again, so collaboration with Luciano – along with a bunch of very talented pals – was just necessary,” Zoe explains. “Sometimes things happen in life that force us to change, but this is good. Our eyes become wider and we are being reborn into something better.”