It’s easy to get instantly lost in the simple, weightless vocal harmonies that open Sophia Hansen-Knarhoi’s beguiling EP, Wildflowers. Effortless melodies rise skyward, propelled through space by wistful guitar motifs and lilting arrangements. I am captivated by Hansen-Knarhoi’s voice, whose velvet timbre and vintage texture imbue each passage with ageless reverence. Moments small and large punctuate the sonic landscape, turning a four-song release into something sweeping and cinematic. Wildflowers is a gorgeous surprise.
Wildflowers is out now on various digital formats and can be heard via Sophia Hansen-Knarhoi’s Bandcamp or wherever you stream music.
“Disguise” started as a demo I made during lockdown. Two of my friends, Liam, Julia, and I, set each other a challenge to write work on a song for a week and then share what we came up with, our ‘work in progress’ at the end of that week. What I showed them was the barebones of what “Disguise” became. It’s beautiful because both Liam and Julia ended up either playing on the EP or helping with engineering. I usually really take my time songwriting, sometimes writing one song spanning a few months, but it was interesting to see how my writing approach changed when the time constraint to show something was in the back of my mind. I found that I created in a more structured way in this environment; it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of process. From the demo that I created for this challenge, I expanded the arrangement and widened the experience of the different elements. All up, there are 22 different vocal tracks layered, which help to create this ethereal sound. “Disguise” explores our tendency to project our love onto somebody we know doesn’t have the capacity to return it and how we hold on to a safe yet false sense of identity through these relationships.
“The Sea” was the last track I wrote on the EP. I couldn’t sleep one night, so I drove down to the beach. I had been sitting with this strange feeling I was trying to pinpoint. When it suddenly came pouring out onto the page, I realized I was trying to find that connection between my childhood self and me. Writing “The Sea” was the first step in bridging that gap. Something I really love about how this song has been received is that everyone seems to have a very different way of connecting to it. I find that one of the most fascinating parts of songwriting is that it can grow and mold to whatever shape the listener hears. I believe those shapes become a part of the song’s existence. One of my favorite things about this song musically is the way that the vocal layers come in. I was very inspired by folk/gospel vocal arrangement and used a very simple melody in order to leave room for the harmonies and lyrics to shine through.
What I Knew
I wrote the first half of “What I Knew” the night of a breakup. I was shattered. There’s a voice note on my phone of the first demo of it, and I’m sobbing throughout it. It’s quite funny to listen back to now. This track is what set the ball rolling for the idea I’d had in the back of my mind for years of releasing a body of work. It was also one of the hardest to get right, arrangement/production-wise. When working with Jono Steer, who mixed the EP, there was a lot of taking parts out and putting them back in. I eventually realized this song works best when it’s really stripped back so we can appreciate the intimacy and fragility of the vocals. The second half of the song moved from this freeform section to a more stable pulse, and with this, the lyrics become more hopeful. I wrote the second half of “What I Knew” six months after the breakup once I felt the clarity I needed to complete the story.
The title track, “Wildflowers,” began as an instrumental piece I wrote for a contemporary dance choreographer, Hope Keogh. Something about the way the dancers moved to the music began to inform how I would arrange it for the EP. I think in a way the harp replaces and emulates the dancers, and the lyrics and melody fill the song with a sense of release, which was something that I wanted to hold onto, as this is what the dance piece evoked in me. I love collaborating with other art forms; as I started my music career composing for dance and theatre, it informed my process and approach to creating.