Rachel Austin stretches the borders of experimental folk and grungy pop, reflecting the influences of her childhood home in the mountains of Virginia. She splits her time between Oakland, California and Belfast, Northern Ireland. With a voice that soars “like an earth angel” (Hot Press Magazine) and song writing that is “at once haunted and uplifting, yearning yet triumphant” (Daily Mirror), Austin adds junk tremolo guitar to create a sound compared to that of Regina Spektor, Jeff Buckley, Diamanda Galas, and Woven Hand. In her live performances, she weaves these vocals and songs together using simple voice and loop station arrangements and electronic material to make playful yet bold statements.
Rachel Austin writes songs that keep forming, shifting, changing even in their stasis and form. Like, you know, every time you play a song you find something new in it - some new twang to the strings, new note to hit, some different aspect to the lyrics you never felt before, or a reaction from the audience you hadn't seen in the past.
The diverse list of artists with whom she has shared the stage and supported shows the variety and strength of her work: Florence and the Machine, Kronos Quartet, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Foy Vance, Duke Special, Eleanor McEvoy, Devon Sproule, POD, and Steve Forbert. She recorded her Age Trilogy (2010-2012) with Brian Beattie (producer: Okkervil River, Daniel Johnston),drummer Dony Wynn (drummer: Robert Palmer, Robert Plant), and Declan Legge (producer: Soak, Jealous of the Birds). She has spent the last few years playing on the avant garde circuit whilst honing her electronic composition skills at Mills College, Oakland and through composing and performing for dance.
For Winterspring, Austin will be promoting her new EP, Learning, but never knowing. The EP takes the form of an art book and short film in collaboration with printing artist, Amira Hegazy, visual artist Sholeh Asgary, and filmmaker Tim Estep.
Described by The Irish Times as 'a bit of a wonder' Hannah McPhillimy's debut E.P 'Seeing Things' was launched in 2013 to a series of sold out shows across Ireland. Wielding a janky ukulele, a casio keyboard and of course, her ‘showstopping voice’ (The Irish News) she was booked for performances on RTE's Other Voices Music Trail and SXSW, as well as appearances alongside SOAK, Gungor, Foy Vance and Irish Super Group The Gloaming.
In the years following, McPhillimy forged a number of memorable collaborations - performing with electro-synth outfit Go Wolf across North America and creating a song-cycle for The Guardian endorsed novelist Jan Carson - before turning her attention to her second E.P ‘Wind Machine’. A storm of strings and brass, McPhillimy’s brand of soul-searching, indie pop was developed and recorded in an entirely analogue studio by Julie McLarnon (Neutral Milk Hotel, Fionn Reagan) and drew the attention of BBC 6 Music Recommend’s Steve Lamacq.
In 2017 she was accepted onto the University of Michigan’s prestigious Masters course in Composition and has spent the last year working under the tutelage of renowned American composers Kristen Kuster and Evan Chambers. In this period McPhillimy has become attached to a variety of musical projects – developing choir piece ‘Examine The Wound’ with poet Akosua Afiriyie-Hwedie, arranging works for new music ensemble Front Porch, as well as writing her first work for orchestra, which will be premiered at Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, in February 2019.
Despite her deep respect for the Classical tradition, this experience has only served to reenergize her devotion to her first love - writing pop songs. She is excited to return her focus to her center of gravity in the coming months, and with a few more tools up her sleeve. Along with the emotional vulnerability and catchy melodies that mark McPhillimy’s previous releases, you can expect expanded instrumentation, a playfulness with form and cross-genre influences from her new material. Her debut album ‘On Hold’ is planned for release in Summer 2019.
"...Austin’s blissful voice soaring like an earth angel and a sense of liberation that recalls the late Tim Buckley. Glorious stuff." - Hot Press Magazine
"There are moments that she hits the heights of a trilling Jeff Buckley." - News of the World
"Austin’s voice... is like an extra instrument that plays perfectly. Really, though, it’s the writing that makes the songs work so well, without wanting to state the obvious, at once haunted and uplifting, yearning yet triumphant." - The Daily Mirror
"Austin's voice wails and wanders like its own instrument... dipping and soaring with dizzying variety... her writing is honest and heartfelt."
- Golden Plec
“Supremely talented” - Rigsy, BBC Introducing
"A real talent" - Ralph McLean, BBC Ulster
“Quietly captivating” Culture NI
"Music...both stunning and moving in equal measure." - Chordblossom
"McPhillimy's vocal talents hit home time and again" - Brian Coney, The Thin Air