Derry’s Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK,
is currently on a United States tour.
By Colleen Taylor
Bridie Monds-Watson never goes anywhere without her notebook. At the young age of 19, Monds-Watson, or SOAK as she’s more commonly known in the artistic world, has traveled all over the world sharing her idiosyncratic music—the fruits of those well-traveled notebooks. SOAK’s creative process is never put on pause. Even when she’s busy touring, she’s always processing, creating, writing. “Now that I’m on the road all the time, I’ll write on my phone and draw and do things like that all the time,” Monds-Watson explained. With such consistent productivity, it’s no surprise that at 19, the young Derry native already has three critically-acclaimed EPs, several single releases, and most recently, the culmination of all her hard work, her first full-length album, “Before We Forgot How to Dream.” The album has already been tagged by many as yet another bullseye for the young artist. Everyone seems to be in agreement: SOAK has done it again. In the following weeks, SOAK will be sharing her album with American audiences as part of her international summer tour.
You might remember SOAK from my previous praise in this column. Her early work in the EPs “Sea Creatures” and “Blud” blew me away with their unique identity, their freshness. From the first time I heard Monds-Watson, she struck me as the antithetical teen star. Her music is subtle, tragic, raw and stylistically exploratory. “Before We Forgot How to Dream” is no exception. It troubles the status quo—topically and musically.
Monds-Watson describes her album like a diary: “It’s a collection of songs I wrote since I was 14,” she said. “When I felt like I needed to talk about something, I’d go into my bedroom and I’d write down everything I was singing, everything I was trying to work out.” It’s fitting then, that SOAK’s vocals are noticeably young in sound, while being paired with sophisticated melodies and beats, not to mention smart, mature lyrics about the hardships of adolescence. The album signifies the apotheosis of three years of careful work while still reflecting that self-identified status of a teenage diary. The 14 tracks are both youthful and wise simultaneously. She sounds like a young girl singing the music of a well-rehearsed artist at the peak of his or her career—which, in a way, describes just what SOAK is.
SOAK is known for her quiet, acoustic songs, but some of my favorites on “Before We Forgot How to Dream” are the ones with a strong beat. “Garden” is likely the most upbeat on the album, and I’d say one of the best too. It shows the other side of SOAK’s theatrical mask, and it suits her. “Reckless Behaviour” is another standout not only for the fact that it’s a great alt-folk song in and of itself but also because it reveals the audible evolution of Monds-Watson’s artistic formation. Her voice reflects growth here, a mix of smoky verses, high notes and beats. But don’t let me misguide you—there’s unavoidable darkness in these songs. For instance, “Reckless Behavior” offers the following haunting metaphor to illustrate the turnover from youth to adulthood: “We are reckless, ready for apocalypse. / We are golden, until the very last falls.” “B a noBody,” the keynote lament of the album, seems to be a fan favorite. It’s vulnerable, ghostly—audible pain and confusion. It’s exquisite, if scary. The song, between its dual, echoy choruses and its high and low notes, encompasses—for listener and singer alike—all the pain we associate with the confusion of teenage trials.
You can’t quite say SOAK is “beyond her years” because she writes so poignantly about her specific point in life. And yet, her musical intelligence would match that of someone three times her age. As “Before We Forgot How To Dream” evinces, SOAK holds a special, if paradoxical, place in the music industry. Behind the mic, Monds-Watson is of, as well as far beyond, her age group.
SOAK is currently busy promoting her transatlantic album release. I spoke with her while she was on the road to her next gig in the UK, and she was—unlike her music—reserved, guarded. Luckily I’ve watched enough interviews with the young singer not to take this personally. After all, to get at the depth of this young woman’s complex artistry, one should turn to the music itself, where she is in her element. Nonetheless, she gave me a bit of insight into SOAK on a day-to-day basis. Monds-Watson loves to keep in touch with her fans via social media. She says it’s a way to “make sure people know you’re there.” Her fans are very important to Monds-Watson, and she makes a point of going out after her gigs to meet everyone. She remembered her previous gigs in the U.S. fondly and found her New York audience to be a friendly one. Any time off she gets (which is little these days), she spends with her family or friends, or, as she told me, “in her room,” her original recording studio.
I think SOAK is rather excited about her American tour, despite her cool and calm exterior. “It’s weird to think your name has gotten all the way to America,” she said. The idea is not so strange for the music critic, however, of which there are many singing her praises across the pond and here in the States as well. No doubt after her North American tour, there will be even more to praise.
SOAK will be hitting both East and West coasts on her tour, and stopping by all the major Eastern cities. She will be in Boston on tomorrow night, Friday, July 10, Philadelphia on the 11th, D.C. on the 12th, and finally, at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC on Tuesday, July 14. Check out “Before We Forgot How to Dream” and get tickets for the tour at: soakmusic.co.uk