The Walls Are Way Too Thin - EP
In late 2019, Holly Humberstone left her beloved family home in Lincolnshire and moved to a dingy flat in London. “All the walls were completely damp, the fridge was full of mold, there were mattresses with full-on nasty stains on them, and there was broken glass all over the floor,” the singer-songwriter tells Apple Music. “It was the worst thing possible. And I was like, ‘What have I done?’” Such grim surroundings inspired the title of The Walls Are Way Too Thin, but also forced Humberstone to escape, shuttling each weekend to visit friends studying in Nottingham, Newcastle, and Manchester. Then, as she journeyed back to the capital after nights out, she’d start writing. “I seem to write the best stuff when I’m hung over, maybe because I can’t overthink it,” she says. “I’d go into the studio and it would be my only constant, familiar place to work through all of the confusing stuff that was going on.” The result is an EP on which Humberstone navigates the dizzying change of your early twenties, from homesickness (“Please Don’t Leave Just Yet”) to helping your best mate through a breakup (“Thursday,” “Scarlett”) and realizing you’ve outgrown your own relationship (“Friendly Fire”). Yet The Walls Are Way Too Thin—influenced by ’80s pop and artists including Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and Prince—is more upbeat that the subject matter that inspired it. “I wrote really happy-sounding songs about really sad things,” adds Humberstone. “Maybe that was part of the coping mechanism.” Read on as she walks us through her second EP, one track at a time.
“Haunted House” “We were told that we had to leave our childhood home. This house is the only place I’ll ever consider as my real home. It's so quirky—it’s this really old house in the middle of the countryside that I think my friends at school were terrified of. But I feel so safe there. I feel it's raised me in a way. An elderly family member had also died. I just felt all of the really sacred, precious things from my childhood were slipping away from me all at once. I was so emotional writing the song—it just felt like I really needed to write it. Writing it helped me to understand that change is really hard, but it's really necessary for us to evolve and to grow.”
“The Walls Are Way Too Thin” “Going into the studio and making sense of everything that was going on was my salvation. The flat where I was living in London was the worst of the worst. I wrote this with [frequent collaborator and songwriter/producer] Rob Milton in Nottinghamshire and it was such an amazing excuse to leave London. Like a lot of the songs on this EP, there’s quite a depressing meaning behind them, but it was important not to make it sound depressing. This was written over a long period of time, and I remember being just obsessed with synth for ages. I wanted to write stuff that sounded fully ’80s: cheesy cringe music.”
“Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” “I wrote this with Matty Healy in between the lockdowns in 2020. The 1975 was such a huge musical influence for me—Matty wrote the soundtrack to my teenage years. I hate writing with new people, it’s my worst nightmare, but he just created such a comfortable, chill environment. I wrote this when I was living in London and I didn't have any friends. Every time I'd go and visit people or someone would come to visit me, it always felt like I couldn't really enjoy it because I was thinking, ‘You're going to have to leave soon. I'm going to be on my own again.’ I would do anything to make them stay. I wanted to mirror that in the production. I wanted to make it really conversational as well and have the lyrics almost like a phone call.”
“Thursday” “I was thinking ‘I'm on Fire’ by Bruce Springsteen with this, with that driving kind of rhythm. I was writing about my friend Scarlett, but also dwelling on my own experiences with having somebody break up with me and feeling completely rejected. This song was written a couple of months before ‘Scarlett’ and it was when she was in the midst of the breakup. It was really hard to watch her being in denial about everything. She would do anything for this guy and he was just completely uninterested. I really like the lyrics in this one—they’re so relatable.”
“Scarlett” “This song is different from the other tracks, because it’s like, ‘Actually, I’m so much better off without you. I’m not dependent on anyone.’ I wrote this when Scarlett was starting to feel hopeful and see herself the way that I had been seeing her the whole time: as her own person without this relationship. The sonics and the production of this song just felt uplifting to me and like the high point of the EP. I think Scarlett feels quite empowered by it.”
“Friendly Fire” “My relationship—like a lot of people’s—broke down during the pandemic. It was my first proper relationship and I really cared for this person. But, especially with being really busy with my music, I didn’t have any spare emotional energy. I wrote this song a few weeks before I ended it, and it made me realize what I needed to do. I often just feel really confused about stuff and I find that writing a song helps me to figure out what I need to do. The message is: ‘I really care about you. And I'm really sorry if, somewhere down the line, I break your heart. It’s nothing personal, it’s my own issues.’”