As we get older, friendships get more complicated. It’s suddenly not about sitting together during lunch and wandering aimlessly at the mall—it’s about somehow scheduling that regular phone call or making plans to get dinner weeks in advance. This question of whether a friendship will dwindle or evolve isn’t something Rain Phoenix and Kirk Hellie have had much trouble with. Having met in 2009, the longtime collaborators are now entering a new phase of their friendship together as Escape Artist Lovers.
Their first encounter, arranged by Rain’s brother, defined music as their common ground. Kirk was getting an early listen of Rain’s forthcoming album with her previous band, papercranes. She recalls him as this “cool musician cat,” while Kirk recalls his initial reaction to Rain’s powerful vocals. Being each other’s newest musical confidants, they found themselves helping one another to write and produce solo projects as well as playing in bands and touring together.
Despite their close continual collaboration, Rain hesitates to share feelings of intuition about Escape Artist Lovers. “I never really know what’s going to be in my future,” she says. “I just roll with the punches...I always hoped that Kirk and I would fully collaborate as writers and producers and sing together. But I had no idea what the music would sound like.”
With some newfound free time during the pandemic, the duo were able to thrust their creativity towards a project that shared both of their voices. “There was something about the two of us committing to Escape Artist Lovers together,” Rain shares. “We were both going to call our different qualities to make this project as good as it possibly could be to us. Once you get that intentional about things, there’s an alchemical response to that, I believe.” In between chuckling at each of Rain’s jokes, Kirk hops in, “It’s just added another dimension to how we connect. We already had a strong connection before we actually wrote together, and we both are really enjoying it.”
As they continue to establish their indie sound and add new layers to their musical journey, Escape Artist Lovers remains an evolving friendship. By pushing each other, the two have continued to grow closer. Even in the occasional moment of sonic discord, any friction between the pair quickly gives way to growth.
As Kirk gushes about Rain’s commanding voice, she continues to sing his praises, “I’ve never met anyone like him,” she says emphatically. “I feel like I could never work with anyone that’s not that incredible.” She smiles and pauses for a moment to think. “After meeting Kirk, I was like, ‘Well I can’t go down from here.’ So hopefully he’ll keep working with me until I’m dead.”
Photographed by Bil Brown
Written by Cerys Davies
'Follow The Leader' Video Directed by Geoff Ryan