Kris Smith catches up with Bristol singer-songwriter Kate Stapley ahead of shows in London (20 Feb) and Bristol (27 Feb).
What’s happening in the world of Kate Stapley right now?
At the present moment I’m listening to a storm happening outside my house, in the bigger picture I’m working on finishing an album and trying to gig as much as possible as far afield as possible.
You recently had a second release on Bristol’s Breakfast Records, how did the launch go, what kind of response did you get?
It was lush. I put out a double a-side and had quite an intimate 60-capacity release show. It was sold out which I was over the moon about and the atmosphere was really lovely. Had a great response so far from the tracks which makes me happy as they’re my proudest work to date.
Is there an album on the way too?
Yes!!! Long time coming but we’ll get there and I can’t wait.
Are there any themes you’ve found yourself exploring in your current songwriting?
I write very personally and I guess what I’m listening to or how I’m feeling affects it quite a lot so I can never really tell what’s going to come out. I try not to force myself in a certain direction too much. I find it helps me to check in with myself by seeing what comes out, but I always try to have an angle or direction or underlying message in mind. I’m a big fan of layers in songwriting. The most recent material I’ve released is quite observational but I also wanted to have it as open and relatable without sacrificing any integrity or personal catharsis (self-involved songwriters eh?)
You’ve been described as ‘folk’, a label that sometimes gets used lazily for any female singer with an acoustic guitar; you seem to have a stronger connection though and we’ve seen you play folk gigs. How did you get involved?
So I wandered into the folk scene when I started playing when I was 15/16 with my love for John Martyn, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. For me folk music is passing on and telling stories through song and that’s how I find myself identifying within the genre however I’m not sure it always suits me and I like to play about with ‘genre’ according to the songs message. I strayed away slightly as quite a lot of ‘folk’ nights were for folk trad purists. It’s beautiful music I appreciate but it’s not the music I make.
You’re from London originally; from your semi-outsider perspective what are your impressions and experiences of the Bristol DIY scene in general?
Egoless, inviting and encouraging but you need to stick your neck out and make your mark. It’s a small city so it’s easy to get to know people and people don’t have to fight for a platform. I think DIY shows are invaluable as a performer to get you to loosen up and roll with the waves a bit as you have to work harder to sound better.
What else should we be listening to, from Bristol or anywhere else?
HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU GOT?! I share a lot of stuff I like on my Instagram. Currently I’m besotted with Rebecka Reinhard, Dogeyed and Emily Isherwood. My friend PMS Casualty is an incredible poet and DJ. Mouse and Mercy’s Cartel are also making great infectious pop. Slagheap are a great band. My friend Ariana Brophy is a wonderful songwriter and has just launched a fantastic project called FemFolk for non-binary, intersex, trans and female musicians that I was thoroughly recommend checking out.
Are you influenced mainly by any particular tradition or genre; who were you listening to while growing up and who in the last month?
To be honest it hasn’t changed much but I keep it as broad as possible and try to open it up as much as I can. I do love my 60s/70s stuff. I’ve been listening to loads of Self Esteem and Aldous Harding.
One occasional highlight of your set is the song ‘I’m Walking Here’, but it’s not available on your solo releases. Can you tell us about it?
I wrote it a few years ago for a different project when me and my friend Kaeley got catcalled when on holiday. We were in the habit of yelling ‘I’M WALKINN HERE’ as a response. I was on my period and I just got thinking about juxtaposition between the overt over-sexualisation of women and the repulsion and secrecy that menstruation gets treated with. We were out later with my Kaeley’s dad Rod who is awesome. We got catcalled again and her dad joined in and screamed “Hey she’s walkin over here in her high heeled boots and her fuckin baby” (there was no baby) and the song just spun out from there. A friend had just had a break-up after her partner called her inconsiderate after her period leaked onto his sheets, so that’s built in too. It kind of feels like a battle cry and was about me learning not to be afraid to get angry about things and is great fun to perform.
We’re going through a long period of political austerity; is the role of artists one of escapism, or survival and bearing witness, or are there things we can and should still do to resist?
I think we need to keep an open dialogue, look out for our neighbours, use your voice to make space for those who are being oppressed if you’re in a position of privilege. It’s been rough and we need to support each other but when we have the emotional strength engage in those conversations to try and make change.
What’s next for Kate Stapley and what should we look out for?
I’m playing some shows that are all on my social media and I’ll probably chuck a few singles out soon why not!! I love playing live so trying to make sure I dot up as much as possible. Thanks to the Eat Up Collective I’ve done my first few workshops on songwriting for beginners so trying to make sure more of these happen!
Thank you Loud Women you are awesome!
Pics by Ania Shrimpton Photography/Bristol In Stereo used with thanks.
Kate Stapley and band play The Social, London W1, Thurs 20th Feb; and Friendly Records Bar, Bristol, Thurs 27th Feb.