Sonya Aurora Madan is the vocalist with UK band Echobelly who first came to prominence in the early ’90s.
Their first EP ‘Bellyache’ (released on the independent Pandemonium label) was soon followed, in 1994, by their debut album, ‘Everyone’s Got One’ (released on their own label, Fauve). The LP topped the independent charts in England, prompting former Smiths frontman Morrissey to pay Sonya a visit to encourage Echobelly to open for him on his US tour.
With their instant pop sensibility and unique voyeuristic outlook, it was no surprise that the band managed to smartly bypass all the pitfalls laid before them by an over enthusiastic music press and end 1994 with a Top 10 UK album and an undeniably successful world tour.
Madonna offered Echobelly a cool million to sign with her label, Maverick, but the band turned down the offer and opted for Sony’s smaller, more personal label, 550. Their next album, ‘On’ (produced by Shaun Slade and Paul Kolderie), made No. 1 on the indie charts and was an altogether different creation to ‘Everyone’s Got One’, sounding more accomplished and confident.
After more extensive touring, Echobelly’s last LP, ‘Lustra’, was released on Epic in 1997. After well-publicised label and accountancy problems, Echobelly set up their own and released ‘Gravity Pulls’ and a greatest hits collection.
Q. How did you come to meet Alan Wilder?
A. I was introduced to Recoil through a call from Mute asking me if I’d be interested in doing a collaboration with Alan. It was kind of strange because a couple of days earlier, I had been in a recording studio where one of the assistants was raving about working on a couple of Recoil tracks. When I asked him what the music was like, I remember him saying “dark … special”.
Q. What did you think of the tracks Alan asked you to put lyrics to?
A. I like the idea of working with artists who use different sounds to our own, and I really liked the music that Alan sent me. There was one track in particular that I had ideas for early on – it reminded me of a book I’d read years back, called ‘Rogue Male’.
Q. How did you actually work together on the Recoil project?
A. We spoke on the ‘phone a few times about what we liked and what we saw until eventually I went down to Alan’s castle in the country. I had to smile – what a place! After a few hours, everyone seemed happy with what went down.
Q. What did you think of the result?
A. I first heard the mixed version of ‘Don’t Look Back’ when I came to stay for a lost weekend shared at Alan and Hepzibah’s home. I listened while the sun was out, before friends came to stay, and after a few Moskow Mules …. it was a pleasure.
Alan Wilder: “I only discovered Sonya after I was asked to review a single from their LP ‘Lustra’ for Time Out magazine. Something struck me about her voice which I felt wasn’t being fully exploited within the Echobelly production. She also has a great melodic sense and I thought it would be interesting to hear it in the context of something quite far removed from Echobelly. She features on the ‘Strange Hours’ EP but as far as I’m concerned, her track is no less important than any of the others on the LP. In fact, for a long time ‘Don’t Look Back’ was intended to be on ‘Liquid’ but for reasons of overall balance, I decided it move it to the EP. I asked her to come up with a vocal that centred on perhaps a darker theme than she would normally have been used to and I’m really pleased with the results. ‘Don’t Look Back’ contains a kind of restrained energy and leaves you with a really uplifting feeling – due in most part to Sonya’s soaring ad libs towards the end. The sentiment of the track also fits in very well with the overall theme of ‘Liquid’ and its position as the final track on the single EP seems to compliment this even further.”