- Album Title: Strange Little Birds
- Release Date: June 10, 2016
- Recording Dates: Mid-2014 to late 2015; began mixing on December 1st
- Status: Physical albums have been pressed
- Singles: "Empty" (released 4/20/16)
Making The Album: 2015-2016
In The Studio: Social Media Updates (January - April 2015)
Garbage continued working hard on the new album in the new year, and shared occasional studio updates on social media as they went:
Record Store Day: "The Chemicals" & "On Fire"
The first taste of new Garbage music will come on Record Store Day this April. Regular contributors to the annual music holiday, this 2015 Garbage was set to release two new songs. The first is a song called "The Chemicals," and it will feature co-vocals from Brian Aubert of the band Silversun Pickups. The b-side track was "On Fire" (a title which previously appeared on Garbage's whiteboard in summer 2014), and both new songs would appear on 10" colored vinyl to be released on April 18th.
On April 15th, Garbage released the music video for "The Chemicals." Shirley Manson also spoke to Mashable about “The Chemicals,” working with Brian Aubert, and how Sophie Muller filmed the music video.
I’m loving “The Chemicals.” Can you tell me about your collaboration with Brian Aubert?
It’s something we’ve sort of begun as a tradition from our days of doing duets with people we really love and admire, and this time around we wanted to collaborate with Brian just because we’ve had the pleasure of bumping into him on the circuit. He and I met doing a benefit at the Pablove Foundation a few years ago now, and we just love him. We love his energy and he’s really funny and an amazing talent and an incredible singer. And we love that he sounds androgynous — you don’t know what he is. You don’t know whether he’s a girl or a boy a lot of the time, and I love that.
Definitely a higher pitch.
Yeah he can sound — he actually is an amazing singer. He can do anything, which is actually a kind of annoying thing about Brian [laughs]. But when you listen to “The Chemicals” you can’t really tell who’s singing what part — because I’m female, you’d think I was singing the top line, but actually I’m singing the low part. So we just enjoyed playing around with that. It’s not often you get to do that with a young vocalist.
You’ve worked with director Sophie Muller many times before — since the ’90s. How did the concept for this video come about?
Well a lot of the people in the video are Sophie’s relatives and I know some of them, so we just thought it would be we’ve always been talking about the beauty of small punk clubs. We were sort of rueing the loss of a lot of those clubs that Sophie and I grew up in — that sort of sweaty excitement and the sensuality that comes when you cram people in such a tiny space. And we just thought it would go really well with the track. She had the footage and showed it to me and said, “I’ve got this footage, and if you love it I’ll cut it to ‘The Chemicals,'” and that’s about what she did.
We’re very blessed to be so close with a great filmmaker. We wouldn’t have been able to have a beautiful visual piece to accompany this track without her, so we really are so grateful to her. She’s been such a great collaborator to us and really generous.
So she filmed this independently? Where was this?
Yeah, she shot it in this tiny little club in London, and got her niece and nephew and all their little pals to come over and just let her film them for an afternoon.
It’s very evocative — that’s what I love about it. It just seems to go with all the lyrics really well. We just got really lucky.
Shirley Manson also spoke about Garbage’s tradition with Record Store Day and her opinion on digital music vs. vinyl records. You can read the full interview at Mashable.
On June 2nd, the two songs became available for digital download. You can purchase the songs on iTunes now.
In The Studio: Social Media Updates (May - June 2015)
Shirley Manson Gives Album Update
On June 11, Digital Spy posted an interview with Shirley Manson about the new Garbage album. Though they have since removed the article, you can read it in its entirety below:
Shirley Manson has some good news for Garbage fans – a new album is on its way.
The frontwoman told Digital Spy that the band have been working on a new record for the past 18 months, and it’s set to be their most romantic yet.
“We’ve got a new record out next year. Life is so weird, right? You never know what’s going to happen around the corner,” said Manson.
“It’s almost finished, but just actually committing to ending it seems beyond my band’s ability. There are tiny increments of progress.
“Literally a week out of every month there’ll be a tiny increment of progress. I mean, there’s something wrong with us! I’m not kidding!”
The new album will act as the follow-up to Garbage’s 2012 record Not Your Kind of People.
“I’ve been talking about it, from a lyrical standpoint, being the most romantic,” Manson said of the new album.
“When I say romance, I mean the romance of living as opposed to ‘man and woman get together and make sweet love’ – I don’t mean it that way. It’s a soft record in a funny way, my softest romantic record.”
The singer explained that the band’s sixth LP has been inspired by growing older and the fearlessness that comes with it.
“Your relationship changes with your own life as you get older and it’s so strange to be celebrating our 20th anniversary and one minute you’re young and the next minute you’re like, ‘Wow I’m an adult, this is insane’,” she continued.
“I’ve lived almost half a century and it just changes your relationship to everything in a funny way and how you see things. Once I was so hostile and so fearful that I was really aggressive all the time and now I feel like I’m not scared anymore for whatever reason.
“There’s something incredibly great about getting older that nobody ever seems to talk about, and for me it was [that] the fear dropped away completely and I felt fearless, and that changed everything for me.”
Meanwhile, Garbage are reissuing their iconic debut album this year to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The band will also hit the road for their 20 Years Queer Tour in November as part of the celebrations.
20 Years Queer Tour
On June 8th, Garbage confirmed their 20 Years Queer Tour, hitting major cities in North America and Europe in October and November. In a press release, guitarist Steve Marker talked about Garbage:
Garbage was born out of such unusual elements and unusual circumstances, and we were shocked when the first record became such a success. We’re just as surprised to be here now, intact, so many years later, enthusiastically preparing to get back on the road with that album and all its attendant b-sides and lord knows what else. A big piece of our lives remains caught up in the making of that record, and we know it holds a special place for the fans that have kept us going for so long. We can’t wait. This tour is going to be a blast.
Garbage Re-Release Announced For October 2nd Release
On September 2nd, Garbage made a big announcement fans had been waiting a year for: The re-release of their debut album was scheduled for October 2nd. Garbage was originally released on August 15, 1995, and now it would be reborn with a super deluxe package including dozens of extra goodies.
On CD, you can the 20th Anniversary Deluxe CD package, which includes the original Garbage album as well as a disc full of their b-sides (or as those in the Garbage camp like to call them, g-sides). If you're more into vinyl, you can get the same set of songs in LP form, along with a limited edition 12-page fan-generated zine and an autographed 10x10 photo of the band. It's also 21st century ready, as it comes with an instant download of all 21 songs.
But for those extra ambitious hardcore Garbage fans, you may need to go digital: iTunes has a 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe issue of Garbage, including the aforementioned original tracks and g-sides, as well as 35 remixes, 6 demos, and the special single "#1 Crush." That totals to 62 songs.
When fans pre-ordered the Garbage anniversary collection, they also got an instant download of the "Subhuman" Supersize Remix:
Garbage is certainly generous, and you won't want to miss out on this huge anniversary celebration. The band is currently embarking on a 20 Years Queer tour in support of their Garbage re-issue. Be sure to buy any of the Garbage 20th Anniversary packages - whether on CD, vinyl, or digital. The album came out on October 2, 2015.
Garbage Begins Mixing New Album, Set For Spring 2016 Release
On December 1st, at the end of Garbage's 20 Years Queer tour, the band shared some exciting news about the progress of their new album:
Announcing Strange Little Birds
On February 23, 2016, Garbage announced that their new album will be called Strange Little Birds.
Next up: Revealing the tracklist, album release date, artwork, and lead single.
Strange Little Birds: Release Date, Tracklisting, and Cover Art
On March 10th, Garbage revealed that Strange Little Birds is officially set for release on June 10, 2016. You can see the artwork and 11-song tracklist below; listen and you'll hear what sounds like one of the new Garbage tracks:
Of the above 11 tracks, all but two have previously been revealed throughout the band’s recording process. Nine of those songs appeared on a studio whiteboard pictured in 2014, though some of the titles have changed slightly. “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” was apparently a working title for the album, based on its placement on the whiteboard in the pictures.
The only new titles here are “Blackout” and “Amends.”
It is unclear if there will be any deluxe or special edition bonus tracks. There are at least 13 additional song titles that Garbage fans have known since 2014, so hopefully we’ll be able to hear some of them as well.
Butch Vig Says the New Album Will Need a Few Listens...
On March 15th, Billboard published a new interview with Butch Vig. Although he was mainly talking about a new documentary about Smart Studios (where Garbage recorded their first four albums and where many other bands also recorded, including Nirvana's Nevermind), he also revealed a little info about Strange Little Birds:
I think it’s quite different for us. It’s very cinematic and there are a lot of sonic moments on the record that are not necessarily typical Garbage. We sort of took the rock out and deconstructed the songs, made them more vulnerable-sounding. Some moments get completely crazy, completely blown out. I think it’s one of those records people are going to listen to the first time and go, "Wow, what was that?" They’re gonna need to hear it a couple times to get into it. But we’re really happy with it. We hope Garbage fans will find it as interesting as we do.
Strange Little Birds Press Release
On April 18th, the official Strange Little Birds press release was published online. You can read it in full below:
In the spring of 2013, the members of Garbage — Shirley Manson, Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig — gathered in Los Angeles to start work on their sixth studio album. Except the recording didn’t begin in a studio, per se. It began where so many bands first do: in a basement.
The basement was Vig’s, perhaps one of the least elaborate home studios a multi-platinum producer has ever had. “My home studio is just a room where I watch Packers games,” says Vig. “There’s no sound proofing. It’s just four walls of drywall. So it’s got a bit of a trashy vibe to it.”
It was a fitting launching pad for an album that, over the course of the next two and a half years, would see the band finding a way forward by looking backward, tapping into the spark of their youths to try an uninhibited back-to-basics approach. But Garbage — long known for their meticulously crafted blend of dark, industrial noise, sci-fi pop melodies, whirlwind guitar, and tricked-out rhythms — was going back-to-basics for the first time.
“When you’re a teenager, you’re in a basement somewhere with your band, and you don’t know what you’re doing,” says Marker. “There’s a lot of the teenagers that we were in this record.”
Some will hear echoes of Garbage’s 1995 debut album in Strange Little Birds — including Manson herself. “To me, this record, funnily enough, has the most to do with the first record than any of the previous records,” she says. “It’s getting back to that beginner’s headspace.” In part, she says, that’s a result of not having anyone to answer to.Strange Little Birds is Garbage’s second album off their own label, STUNVOLUME. It’s a return to the freedom they had when working on their very first songs at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, more than twenty years ago, before they’d ever signed a label deal. “It’s so liberating,” says Manson.
Manson calls Strange Little Birds Garbage’s most romantic album. “And what I mean by romance, really, is vulnerability. I used to feel so scared, and I think that was why I was so aggressive — but I’m much more willing to admit weaknesses than I was before.” For her, the retrospective feel of Strange Little Birds is more personal than musical. Each song, she says, addresses “different points in my life between me and a person I’ve loved. They’re hot spots in my life, when I was afraid, or vulnerable, or didn’t behave at my best.”
Lyrically and musically, says Manson, the album is “less fussed over” than any Garbage has made. “We fell in love with immediacy,” says Vig. “The vocals aren’t slick. They have a raw, emotional feel.”
“We felt less limited in what we could try,” says Erikson. “On ‘Blackout’ we were just winging it. We just started playing, following one another.”
“That song started with a jam in my home studio,” says Vig. “It’s got a great ‘80s bass riff. It sounds like Garbage, but we’ve done a new spin on it — some crazy riffs and bits in the bridge.”
From the confessional opener, “Sometimes,” to the pulsing static of the closer, “Amends,” Strange Little Birds is a sweeping, cinematic record of a unified mood: darkness. “There aren’t really any upbeat pop songs,” say Vig. “Even ‘Empty,’ which has a big, anthemic guitar sound, has pretty dark lyrics.”
“I love dark and dismal,” says Manson, who once made a hit single out of her admission that she was only happy when it rains. “I’m aching for some dark and dismal. Because I feel like the musical landscape of late has been incredibly happy and shiny and poppy. Everybody’s fronting all the time, dancing as fast as they can, smiling as hard as they can, working on their brand. Nobody ever says, ‘Actually, I’m lost and I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing with the rest of my life and I’m frightened.’ ”
In the end, though, there’s power in the darkness, as the rhythmic throb and guitar crash of “So We Can Stay Alive” shows. “That song is grappling with mortality,” says Manson. “The more that I see the clock ticking, the more it gives me fuel. It’s a song to all the things that keep you moving forward with passion, all the things that can be used as fuel. All these things you think aren’t good can be used as powerful material to enhance your life.”
"Empty" Is Released As First Single
On April 16th, Garbage confirmed on Twitter that their new single was about to be released:
Ok it’s official. This week you will finally hear the first single off our new record.It’s called EMPTY. And it’s what you want. Trust Me.?
— Garbage (@garbage) April 16, 2016
It was set to premier on KROQ on April 20th:
— Garbage (@garbage) April 20, 2016
Excited for you all to hear our new track but also feel a bit like when you bring your boyfriend home for the 1st time 2 meet your parents.?
— Garbage (@garbage) April 20, 2016
— Garbage (@garbage) April 20, 2016
On April 20th, the first single, "Empty," was finally out for all to hear. It’s an uptempo track that is anthemic in spite of dark lyrics. It starts with a rollicking guitar riff and confessional verses before launching into a chorus that is simple yet infectious and pulsing. “Empty” is reminiscent of Garbage’s earliest songs, and all of their fans are sure to love it more with each listen.
“Empty” sets the tone for Garbage’s forthcoming album. Shirley Manson has called the new music romantic and more vulnerable than any music the band has released, and the band went into it with a similar mentality to what they had when recording their self-titled debut 21 years ago. You can listen to “Empty” below:
Strange Little Birds is available for pre-order on iTunes now, and it comes with an instant download of “Empty.” If you prefer physical, there are CD and vinyl pre-order options available on the band’s official website as well. The album is set to be released on June 10th. Garbage will also be touring Europe, North America, and more starting this spring and summer, so stay tuned for an official announcement soon.