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Courtesy of Waterbaby

You need to hear Waterbaby, the sister duo making ethereal avant-pop

We catch up with the duo to discuss their debut album 22° Halo, their London upbringing, and lunar folklore

Sung upside down with back-to-front microphones, on broken pianos and a wrecked laptop, Waterbaby’s debut album 22° Halo is a celebration of all things weird. “It’s our primal scream,” they confess. “It’s our electronic orchestra, composed in the dark. It’s music for outsiders, freaks, lone wolves and anyone who doesn’t fit in.” Named after the optical illusion when a ring of light appears around the sun or moon, the 10-track album is a window into the duo’s alternate reality, where folklore and mysticism blend together to create a kaleidoscopic dreamworld of experimental electronica.

The sister duo, made up of Martha and Jessica Kilpatrick, have been quiet forces in the London underground scene for some time, making otherworldly avant-pop that combines folk, kraut and choral music with surrealist VHS videos made in the sanctuary of their home studio. Growing up in south London, they look back on their upbringing fondly, describing a creative atmosphere, with days spent singing in Southwark Cathedral Choir or experimenting with recording ideas onto cassette tapes. 

These formative memories inform much of the duo’s artistry as Waterbaby; they have an almost telepathic connection, describing themselves as “Thelma and Louise with synths”, while DIY and lo-fi visuals feel joyfully theatrical, the sort of whimsical playfulness that only comes from a lifetime of tight-knit kinship.

Celebrating the release of their debut album, we catch up with the duo to discuss their London upbringing, their favourite soundtracks, and lunar folklore.

Congrats on the release of 22° Halo! Can you talk us through some of the inspirations?

Waterbaby: The blackbird who sings on our rooftop, the angel Ariel from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, the free-from poetry of Shuji Terayama’s film script, the kaleidoscopic magic of Kenneth Anger, the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a tarot reading in a candle-lit pub, the sun, the moon, duality and a fierce desire to go in your own direction.

What inspired the name of the album?

Waterbaby: We were recording vocals in our kitchen, chanting with the window wide open. It was the middle of the night and the world seemed to be asleep – except there was a big bright full moon high in the sky. Around the moon, there was a ring. So that night we chanted ‘are you hearing me caller’ over and over right up to the moon. The next day we looked up what a ring around the moon meant and saw it was called a 22° Halo. It’s an optical illusion that can appear around the sun and the moon. In folklore, it symbolises an approaching storm. We immediately knew it was the name of the album – from dawn to dusk, birth to death, a spin cycle, it seemed to say everything that the album was. Since then, we often see 22° Halos, but if you aren’t looking up, you tend to miss them.

How would you describe the dynamic between the two of you?

Waterbaby: Like Thelma and Louise with synths.

What music did you listen to growing up? Has growing up in south London affected your sound at all?

Waterbaby: We’ve always loved soundtracks, so a lot of the music we grew up with came from films. Our parents used to say that they watched Twin Peaks when we were young and the music must have seeped into our subconscious. We remember once going on a family road trip in France and being followed in the car by a mini-tornado. We only had two CDs in the car that trip, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and John Martyn’s Solid Air – so the memory of driving alongside a small tornado listening to this music has left its stamp on us.

We are children of the universe, I don’t know how much south London has affected our sound. Growing up we would often escape through art into alternative realities or climb up into our dreams. Saying that, we’ve always loved sirens and drones, so I’m sure the city has left its sooty print – the spirit of London punk definitely lives on within us.

What’s the most recent note from your notes App?

Waterbaby: Dust
Collide into you
Left in orbit
Blood test: it’s all gone back to normal

What’s your favourite cornershop snack?

Waterbaby: Solpadeine and Lucozade.

The last meme you saved?

Waterbaby: We don’t have any memes saved, so we got ChatGPT to write a haiku instead:

Memes they come and go,
But I’m floating in daydreams,
Unaware, adrift.

What’s the most recent picture/screenshot on your camera roll?

What are your star signs, and are you typical of that star sign?

Waterbaby: Jessica is Sagittarius and Martha is Aquarius. We are fans of the zodiac, mainly for the stories and feeling connected to the stars, although you can probably read signs into anything if you are looking for them. The power of symbols can show you things hidden inside, can open doors and lead you to places you want to go, but it’s always you who gets to choose.

What’s your ghost outfit?

Waterbaby: Probably The Twins from The Shining.

Do you have any shows lined up for the rest of 2023?

Waterbaby: We are celebrating the release of 22° Halo with the premiere of a special A/V show on June 8 at IKLECTIK in London. It will be the first screening of our full feature film that we have made for the album, and we will wear the visuals like a cloak – we have RSI and square eyes from the editing. You are cordially invited.

22° Halo is out now

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