Interview: Goodnight Louisa

by Jo Higgs

‘I didn’t want the record to just be like “someone broke up with me, now I’m sad,”’ says Louise McCraw of her outstanding debut album, Human Danger

Even without a full length release in her catalogue, Edinburgh’s Louise McCraw – under the moniker, Goodnight Louisa – has had her name on the tips of tongues, the pixels and paper of press, and the minds of many for years now. From the early days of youth-club camaraderie with indie favourites, Skjør, to the tantalising trickle of singles from Hollow God through to Agnes, it’s all led up to the wondrous release of 2022’s Human Danger

‘I think it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,’ McCraw says of Goodnight Louisa’s sound. ‘I never truly wanted to play guitar, but I guess you never really get gifted a synth for your birthday or anything, and I often didn’t see much beyond the girl with an acoustic guitar trope. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but nothing else seemed an option while I was growing up.’ 

In spite of having plied her trade with the guitar before the big switch to synth, McCraw has an evident mastery of how to produce delightfully layered washes of sound, as she ably demonstrates on each of Human Danger’s eleven tracks. Many formative moments of the album occurred during a retreat deep into Iceland’s Westfjord where McCraw laughs that, due to baggage restrictions, she ‘could only take my Casio and a few pedals, with the pedals sticking out of my hand luggage,’ getting funny looks from folk.

With restricted means came expanded creativity as the ideas bloomed. While the majority of the soundscapes and ideas conjured in the mystical serenity of the Icelandic peninsula were reconfigured over the years since, some recordings remained untouched and are on Human Danger as they were amongst those tumbling landscapes and close skies. 

In the past, McCraw had alluded to the creation of a project primarily based around songs named with ‘old lady names’. Human Danger ostensibly isn’t that, but that is still a project that might be in the pipeline. But there’s some overlap certainly between the two. ‘This project still has a bit of that, you know, Diana, Judith, etc. Agnes was nearly on here too, but I wanted it to be all fresh, unreleased songs,’ she says. 

The release of the advanced single and one of many album highlights, Diana, coincidentally came out in close proximity to Pablo Larraìn’s cinematographically gorgeous ode to the Princess of Wales, Spencer. ‘It was a complete accident – maybe if I’d known I could’ve wrangled something out of it,’ she laughs. ‘Actually, the song wasn’t originally supposed to be about Princess Diana, and to an extent still isn’t. I guess just the way the press treated her ended up summing up what I was getting at, which is mainly just that we should all be nicer to each other. Some people thought that the song was named that ‘cos I was a royalist or something, which I’m absolutely not. It genuinely is just me trying to reiterate that we should all be kinder in life, and I guess that sometimes the kindest people are the ones most ridiculed.’ 

The titular concept of human danger is the result of a lot of hate and hurt seen in life, exacerbated by the tumult of the last few years. Emphatic single, Get Your Hands Off My Girlfriend, details a harrowing account of human danger in action. ‘This guy kept tapping my shoulder,’ McCraw recounts. ‘He was trying to get me to talk to him and I wasn’t being impolite or anything – I was just like “sorry I’m talking to my friend at the minute” and I turned back and then he grabbed me by the back of my neck. I don’t know if he was trying to strangle me or something – probably.’ As a member of the LGBT+ community, she addresses the frequency with which seemingly absurd situations like this occur. ‘If I was talking to a guy or my boyfriend, I don’t feel like that would happen,’ she rightly notes, before highlighting the lack of songs that delve into the objectification and general treatment of gay women.

‘I didn’t want the record to just be like “someone broke up with me, now I’m sad,”‘ she says, tangling humour with sincerity. I wanted to use it as a platform to say something really important to me. I think it’s ignorance that causes things like this in the end. I wanted people to know what it felt like to be in these situations that pop up throughout the album.’

Human Danger is as powerful melodically and sonically as it is lyrically and conceptually. Its reach is far greater than from Edinburgh to Iceland and back again; it is universal – touching upon the bad hidden in so many and witnessed by all. Between disco delvings and dark-wave ditties, synths and vocals meld so smoothly and stunningly; even without the lyrical contexts, it is an inspiring listen – but with these contextualising poetics, it’s just even more so.

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