Garbage's story is one of redemption. When Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson sought a female singer to join their band, they were unprepared for the chemistry they would find in Scottish-born Shirley Manson. They invited her to Madison, Wisconsin where they buried themselves in their studio to make a record that aligned alternative rock, pop, hip-hop and electronic using the time's novel technology. Manson brought a dynamic and fiery personality to the music; a voice balancing restraint and rage while her lyrics vented personal relationships and a complex inner dialogue.

Their debut pop mongrel and its amplified successor, Version 2.0, were greeted with critical applause for its innovation, while globally seizing people's imaginations. Their first two records catapulted Garbage into the foreground of pop culture and worldwide touring. For their third album, beautifulgarbage, they strayed from the palette which made their previous records in favour of a more diverse sound which threaded blues, '60s pop and subdued ballads. It was a myriad of musical ideas which confused some and did not receive the same stratospheric success or attention as its predecessors. The subsequent recording and tour that accompanied their 2005's Bleed Like Me dampened the band's spirit and internal relationships became strained as they found themselves placed under a different record label management who stressed the need for commercial success in a music culture that had been gripped by indie guitar music.

Disillusioned by the industry goals, Garbage decided to park the band to pursue other projects as individuals. Time apart allowed them gave them perspective on their distinctive sound and ability to create something special together. They hit back in 2012 reinvigorated and determined with Not Your Kind Of People - a title that playfully declared their rekindled chemistry and their disinterest of fitting in.

Strange Little Birds is Garbage's sixth album and is as much about the self, as it is about other people. Its lyrics contain a sense of change or internal revolution. With a brooding atmosphere throughout, it details the complexities of growing up and developing an inner resolve. I spoke with Shirley about how she is addressing areas of her life she has purposively avoided before and how its songs are about the worlds inside other people that we will never know about.

When you started bringing ideas together for Strange Little Birds, what were the things you wanted for this record?

It began with Steve bringing in an instrumental that turned into the first song on the record called 'Sometimes'. He played it for me and the boys in Butch's basement studio on the first day of the recording sessions and its mood and the atmosphere set the template for the entire album. It gave the record a very dark and cinematic personality.

These songs are structurally some of your most playful - some take unexpected turns while others are the longest of your career. With Not Your Kind Of People, did you feel you had something to prove as a band after the seven-year break, whereas this time you felt you had more room to experiment?

Yeah I actually think that's probably a really queer way of putting it. With Not Your Kind Of People, we were living on the kinetic energy of getting back together and that gave the album a different kind of thrust entirely, whereas this record is a lot more laid-back in a funny way. There's no real push - the record sets a tone and stays in that moody landscape. I think you're absolutely right, we didn't feel that unnecessary push you feel when you haven't been playing together in a while.

Songs that instantly stand out for me are 'Sometimes' and 'Night Drive Loneliness'. They delve into emotions that are often abstract and feel bigger than us. Do you think you've gotten stronger at articulating feelings that are often difficult to express?

I would hope that is the case, but of course, I can't be objective about my own lyric writing. I did decide, going into this record, that I wanted to explore territories I knew I had been deliberately avoiding for a long time. I wanted to explore these hotspots of mine in my life. I want to grow as a writer and an artist. I want to learn and push myself. Whether I'm successful or not isn't really for me to say, except I know that I feel proud of this record so I would hope people will find some merit in it too.

With these areas you have previously avoided and are now addressing, do you think that sometimes in art comfort can be found in the uncomfortable?

For me and the boys, I know for a fact that we find comfort in discomfort. We have become increasingly frustrated by the fact when we switch on the radio right now all we ever chance upon is pop music focusing on happy, upbeat, hanging in the club banging tunes. We find that alienating and really disturbing. The more happy people try to appear to be, the more anxious we become.

Do you think songwriting developed your emotional intelligence or is it a two-way relationship?

I think it's a two-way relationship to be honest. I think I've always been emotionally intelligent and I've always been communicative. I'm very grateful for that as it's been a very helpful tool in my life. It has allowed me to basically spend my life attempting to connect with people and forge connections. I think it's what makes me good at my job.

You have the ability to reach out and say things that other people may be afraid to say.

I think so. I feel that I am able to speak quite candidly and it doesn't make me anxious or uncomfortable to be honest about my feelings.

In the lyrics on this album, there seems to be a theme of internal revolution or change. The lyrics touch on learning to be okay in yourself when everything is not okay. Do you think the trick in growing is developing self-compassion?

I do think that if you learn to forgive yourself, you are able to move forward in your life which allows forgiveness for others. So yes, I guess my answer is that would that I do believe that to be true but it's a difficult thing to put into practice.

Totally and it's a daily practice. You've been very open about how your perspective of yourself has shifted over your career. You posted messages in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the debut record about how you look at old photos or videos and were struck by how beautiful you were, however, at the time you had a very negative internal narrative about yourself and your abilities. You obviously believe in the ability to turn their life around at any moment?

I do believe in that and that no story is complete until you're in your grave. You don't know how the story ends until your last breath is taken. I always believe in the chance of redemption. I believe in hope and miracles and opportunities. I do believe whole-heartedly in all those things. I felt that that realisation in my life has allowed me to gleam more joy from being in the world, which can be so dark sometimes particularly right now. All of us are really finding ourselves in despondent chaos a lot of the time and it can be incredibly frightening.

What has been instrumental in reaching that headspace?

For me, it was when the band started to fail commercially. We had enjoyed this incredible career trajectory. It was relatively easy and remarkably carefree and then right after September 11th, the music landscape changed entirely. We found ourselves on the outside, having being the zeitgeist golden-children - we were suddenly on the outside. Our sound was considered out-dated after being pioneering in both technology and production. We stopped getting played on radio and stopped selling as many records, we had a lot of friction with our record label. I describe that as the moment of failing. What actually happened for us, as a band, is that we were able to recalibrate and I don't know if everyone is able to do that but we were. We were able to be reborn, in a funny way, as something entirely different without feeling completely married to our past or feeling of stuck in the memory of our success. We were able to start all over again. We had the tenacity and arrogance to do that.

Is it a lovely feeling knowing that you've gone through all these things, with three other people for two decades, and created art out of it?

I don't know if I necessarily think about it in those terms. There's a joyous relief in being able to investigate your internal life through being musically curious. That, in itself, is such a great privilege and a joy.

Can it be intense going into deep feelings and being frank about them while making an album?

You know that's the curious thing about my band: there is no reaction at all to anything I might come up with in the vocal booth! They'll say "That's a great vocal take" or "Well done" but they won't comment or respond on the lyrical content in any way, shape or form. I sometimes wonder if they even tune into it! Once the record is done and we set the song sequence, the guys will tell me I did a good job. At the time we're creating there is no input which I'm actually very grateful for. Ultimately when you're trying to create having a critic's ear is not necessarily the most productive.

Records like yours I think encourage people to stick with artists over time and see where they go creatively, whether it was good or bad. Do you think this sense of relationship with artists/records is being lost today with streaming and downloading?

Well I certainly don't think it's helped it. I think it has encouraged the entire industry to focus on singles and predominately pop-orientated acts to keep throwing single after single out until something sticks without any regard for the idea of a body of songs. We have never done that because we're old-school and love the format of a record. That's how we fell in love with music and that's how we want to present ours. I don't believe it's necessarily for everyone but for us, it's something we pursue we intent and rigour.

As well as that, most bands are not getting the chance to make four or five records like you have unless they do it off their own back.

It's getting increasingly difficult for bands to even make a second record. There's a lot of chance and glory for debut records but then it seems the public move onto the next debut record. There's very little loyalty or interest in seeing an artist's trajectory. I don't quite know where that will go or whether that will cease, all I know is that we are very grateful we came out in the '90s and have had a career with fans who have been loyal to our diversions and mistakes.

The title of the new record comes from a lyric on 'Even Though Our Love Is Doomed' but how does it reflect on the album as a whole?

It speaks of us as a band and our fans. It's a strange juxtaposition with the cover art of the leopard 'G' with claws. It reflects how people are categorized when actually we can so easily be another. We all make mistakes and assumptions about other people that aren't at all accurate. Everybody seems strange to each other, do you know what I mean? Anyone who isn't ourselves seems a little strange - even if we love them, we're close with them and understand them, they still feel a little like a foreign territory.

We'll never know a person fully, no matter how much time we spend with them. We all need to keep parts of ourselves to ourself as well.

Absolutely. The very, very last thing I sing on the record is "I don't know you". No matter how much we feel we know each other, there's always that mysterious, foreign land that exists inside somebody else.

Out of curiosity, what is your favourite bird?

That's an interesting question. Well, there's two birds I'm particularly fond of: the first is the kingfisher only because I was in the 'Kingfisher Patrol' in my Brown Guides and I developed a strange fascination with it as a child! And then the robin because it reminds me of my Mum.

It's a beautiful bird. You probably don't get them over in LA anymore?

We don't but we do get hummingbirds and that makes up for it!

What has been the happiest moment for you making this record?

It's usually when something comes out of me on the spot. There's a middle break in 'Magnetized' that I added towards the very end of the recording sessions. I just went in to try something and the whole thing basically came out as a fully-realised melody and lyric. That felt joyous because it was effortless. To literally open your mouth and let fly whatever is going to come out is really exciting.

Strange Little Birds is out June 10th on STUNVOLUME.