Tiny Ruins Transcend Folk, New Zealand and Time Itself on New Album 'Olympic Girls'
Published Feb 04, 2019"It's swelteringly hot here; we're in the future," says Hollie Fullbrook, singer and guitarist of Tiny Ruins, in an Exclaim! phone interview from her hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. "I'm letting you know that it's all okay."
Fullbrook's lighthearted fortune-telling matches the subject matter of Tiny Ruins' third record, Olympic Girls, which centres on the future. Throughout, Fullbrook sings of change and being frustrated by both inertia and mobility. "We were only inches away, still had a long, long way to go," she sings on the title track.
As birds sing in the background, Fullbrook reflects on the last few years of her life that influenced Olympic Girls.
"With my first and second album, I pretty much toured for about three years on my own, and then as a duo and as a trio, and it was full-on. It was self-managed on a little label, so we didn't have a lot of money. And then I came back to land and I revelled in nothing happening and being home and having more of a routine and falling in love and having stability. I think I wrote the songs following a period of great flux, but they were written from a place of actually quite stable happiness."
Where Tiny Ruins' previous releases were minimalist folk, Olympic Girls is a psychedelic-tinged folk-rock record that Fullbrook describes as having "the most strongly band sound." After the release of Tiny Ruins' debut LP, Some Were Meant For Sea, in 2011 (a solo effort by Fullbrook), Cass Basil (bass) and Alex Freer (drums) joined the band. Together, the trio recorded their sophomore album, Brightly Painted One (2014). For Olympic Girls, Tiny Ruins expanded to a four-piece that includes Tom Healy (electric guitar), who is also the record's producer.
"I remember an early conversation I had with Tom, Cass and Alex, and I was saying the things that I love about Brightly Painted One I'd quite like to keep [on Olympic Girls], but there are parts of Brightly Painted One that I wished we had pushed even further and gone more eclectic and explored a bit more out of the boundaries," explains Fullbrook. "The feeling was that I was quite restrained with that album, and they were all like 'Oh, yeah, of course, we thought you wanted to be really restrained,'" she laughs.
"So we were all on this page of 'Let's be really free with how we approach each song.' They're real songwriters' musicians, they want the words to be heard and they want the song to be lyrically and vocally really strong and that's the focus — but I think with this record we instrumentally let ourselves go."
Although the album was shaped by her own experiences, Fullbrook admits that her songwriting is a mix of fact and fiction. She's often driven by observation, and draws on scenes she witnesses and even phrases she hears while eavesdropping.
"I've never really wanted to be a purely confessional songwriter, which I think is really pure and has this beauty to it. But I'm not like that; I'm more manipulative," Fullbrook laughs. "I feel like I enjoy treating a song a little bit like it's a puzzle, and I do like hiding myself in the puzzle somewhere.
"I'm not really someone who likes the limelight, so I feel like that has to do with why I often obfuscate in my songs and don't fully put myself in the forefront all the time," she adds. "I would say that pretty much all of my best and worst experiences and love and difficult times will have made their way into my songs, so they still hold a lot of weight for me."
Tiny Ruins are part of a bustling group of New Zealand artists, including Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin and Aldous Harding, who are making international waves. Fellow Aucklander Lorde (Ella Yelich-O'Connor) connected Fullbrook with David Lynch after Lynch tweeted that he was a fan of Tiny Ruins. Lynch went on to produce the band's 2016 single "Dream Wave." As Tiny Ruins continue to blossom, Fullbrook is thankful for the supportive community the band is part of.
"It is a small scene here in New Zealand, so all of the musicians from all different genres know each other and help each other out and share knowledge," she notes.
"I think with the internet and the way that New Zealand music is able to travel now, like it wasn't able to ten or 15 years ago, there's a feeling that you can do your thing and your music might reach people outside of New Zealand. That's really exciting for a lot of New Zealand bands, and everyone wants that for each other."
Olympic Girls is out now via Ba Da Bing.