It’s a big fat day for music today, and yet another LOUD WOMEN premiere for you now – from the wonderfully-named bigfatbig and their single ‘So Bored’. This lo-fi empower-pop banger gets it radio debut today on BBC Music Introducing in the North East, and we suspect we’ll be hearing lots more from this band this year.
We caught up with front-woman Katie and guitarist Robyn to find out more.
Tell us about the new single!
‘So Bored’ follows the narrative of a relationship gone stale, and plays with the idea of complacency and becoming too comfortable. It actually stemmed originally from a one-sided friendship in which we felt we were putting in way more than we were getting back from. The frustrations and anger that can arise from those types of situations can be pretty detrimental to a relationship if they aren’t manifested in a healthy way, and songwriting has always been used as a cathartic process for us. I feel like dealing with the situation after having written this song allowed us to do so with a much clearer perspective, and almost close that chapter of our lives.
We opened our debut live show back in November with So Bored and it’s really seemed to resonate with audiences ever since. I think because it’s so short and punchy, it must be pretty easy to get on board with – and an easy sing-along chorus never hurts. We’re always thinking about what’s next (literally, constantly) so wanted to strike whilst the iron was hot, so to speak. We’re very lucky in that our session drummer, Joe, is also our producer, so knows the songs inside out. We’re also very lucky in that he’s a wicked producer, and our best mate. All 3 of us lean far more towards the creative and performance side, and find the production process a bit daunting, but he makes it dead easy. We were very aware that So Bored is way pop-punkier than our other songs so really wanted to capitalise on that, particularly in the vocals and guitar tone department. We won’t lie and say it’s anything else than what it is, which is a release of pent-up frustration, and I think that’s been captured perfectly.
How’s the NE scene right now? Any new NE bands we should check out?
My goodness, the North East music scene is THRIVING right now. I think it’s a really exciting place to be, probably because Sam Fender has put us back on the map by pretty much taking over the world. We’re really, really lucky to be mates with loads of these exciting musicians, which is mint when you respect what they do so much. I think it’s specifically a great time to be a woman (never thought I’d say that) in our scene, people seem to be finally taking notice. Some of our favourites are:
Martha Hill, Mt. Misery, Faye Fantarrow, Ghost Signals, Kay Greyson, Fever Days, Club Paradise, Me Lost Me, Elizabeth Liddle, Deep.Sleep, St. Buryan, Cortney Dixon, Many Moons, Tall Shaves… could go on foreeeever.
What’s the 2020 plan for bigfatbig?
We are three very busy ladies this year. Somehow, we’ve blagged slots for This is Tomorrow, Stockton Calling, Hit the North and Heelapalooza festivals, with some other shows dotted all in between (check our socials for the deets!). We definitely want to put out another two tunes before November too. We’re really, really lucky to have been heavily back by BBC Music Introducing in the North East this year and are one of their official 2020 tips – which is a total dream – so hopefully we’ll be working with those guys a lot too. We’re working on booking some shows around the country really soon, so if you see us playing near you, come say hi and get noisy with us.
We really want to keep the ball rolling for as long as possible, so this won’t be the last you hear from us this year.
We are delighted to bring you today the premiere of ‘Bruised Fruit’ – the new single from NI Music Award winners Sister Ghost!
The single will be launched this evening at an exclusive, limited-capacity in-store show in Strange Victory Records in Belfast.
We caught up with the band for a quick chat…
What’s ‘Bruised Fruit’ all about then?
The first draft of this song was very personal, and all about my first encounter with being a victim of the ‘blurred lines’ around consent as a teenager. It later morphed into a wider concept of feeling bruised in toxic relationships, whether that be romantic or platonic. I wanted the metaphor of a bruised fruit, like an apple that’s been dropped and hit the floor and it leaves that mark nobody likes, to represent how it felt to be used by someone; the mark is left on you and it’s up to you to see the mark as a lesson to not be bruised again or the bruise shows your resilience to come through a toxic experience.
Tell us about the recording of the song
So the music for this final version of the song was co-written with my awesome producer Cahir (of NewPagans and one of my fav bands from NI as a teen – FightingWithWire!) and it was so great to work with him on that. I record my demos that I send Cahir, in my attic in my flat in Belfast, which my Da and I converted into a sweet little space – it’s my favourite place to create everything from collages to tarot readings on the full moon. I record all my songs as demos on my laptop using my Focusrite interface, LogicPro X and my beloved Telecaster guitar (bought in 2006 with money I saved up from my first job at 15), my bass and a crappy old SM58 microphone for the vocals. So once I finished the demo for Bruised Fruit I sent it to Cahir and he loved it and wanted to try some ideas with it. We then re-recorded an updated demo, sent it to my band and then recorded it fully in a practice space in an old mill in Belfast. It works well having him as a producer because I have a big respect for him and his back catalog and he totally trusts my vision, gives me space and gets what I’m going for. Plus, because both of us are straight-talking Derry folk, we can be very frank with each other and nobody gets annoyed haha!
How’s the NI scene right now?
I recently posted online about just how much our scene here has changed since I was in the only all-female band in NI between 2011-2013:
“Remember when there was only one all female band in NI or like 2 women playing loud music here? Glad that’s over.”
Because it’s true now that there are so many more female-identified artists playing loud music here; many of which came through or met at Girls Rock School NI! It goes to show that feminist communities do help to empower, diversify and change music scenes for the better. Now it will no longer be a marker of difference / an ‘oddity’ to be a ‘loud woman’ or be in an all-female band here, it’ll just be the norm. That was my dream goal whenever I set up GRSNI in 2016 anyways and I am proud to see that it’s starting to take shape!
What’s next for Sister Ghost?
We just got finished touring Ireland with PetrolGirls which was amazing! They were so lovely and so badass. We’ll be playing some shows in the north of England including Manchester and Liverpool, at the end of April / start of May and I’m so excited for that because I’ve never played there with any of my bands before! This summer we’ll hit up some festivals and in the Autumn we hope to play some shows around London. I’d like to have another single in the summer and again in the autumn, with plans to finish and release the album “Attics” in 2021!
Well LOUD WOMEN also hopes to be seeing them in London in the Autumn … [strokes imaginary beard teasingly…]
Kris Smith catches up with Bristol singer-songwriter KateStapley 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.
Interview by Tony Rounce, photos by Keira-Anee and Neil Anderson
It may have been all quiet on the DOLLS front of late, but Jade Ellins has not been resting on her laurels. Currently in two active bands, the duo’s charming, affable front woman took time out from her ever-busy schedule to tell our Tony all about herself, and to bring LW up to date with what she’s been up to recently…
I suppose the first question that everyone would like an answer to (myself included!) is what’s become of DOLLS?
Well it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster as Bel had to go back to Spain last year. However, we will be releasing our 2nd EP this year, hopefully in the spring. We recorded it with Margo Broom producing, and it’ll be coming out with the same team who released Pop The Bubble – I can’t wait! I’ve been writing too, and working really hard on new songs that I think are really strong and I’m so excited for people to hear them!
You’re still in two top notch bands that we know about, in Abjects and Big Sea Creature. Obviously BSC is an outgrowth of the late, lamented Long Teeth, but how did the hook up with Abjects come about?
I got a message from Kelly Chard of We Can Do It, saying that Abjects were looking for a bassist and would I be up for a jam – so I said yes! Then Noemi (Abjects) got in touch, we had a jam and that was it! I enjoy playing with the girls so much, and think their songs are fantastic!
How does being a part of a bigger band (as you are with BSC and Abjects) differ from being its lone frontsperson for you?
I generally feel a lot more relaxed at gigs if I’m not fronting, and I love supporting front people and getting to watch them on stage. I feel like when you front a band you give all your energy to the audience and it feels very personal, almost like a form of therapy. There is nothing quite like that feeling. With fronting though you feel the highs and lows of performing a lot more. I love doing a mix of both, as they are very different experiences.
What and who inspired you to aspire to a career as a musician originally? Were your family musical/supportive/influential, for example? Did you see someone on TV and think ‘I Want To Be Them?’
Both my parents are musicians, so I was always encouraged to be musical from a young age. I started piano when I was 4 and could also hold a tune, so luckily I got my parents musical genes. I feel so fortunate that I get to earn a living out of music, as well as be creative and write my own music. Thanks Mum and Dad for pushing me to practice when really I just wanted to play Barbies all day!
Your favourite and most influential singles/albums are?
Made in Japan – Deep Purple
To bring you my love – PJ Harvey
Push the sky away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
And your favourite five most influential artists?
First record you bought? And the most recent one?
First record I think was ABBA Gold and honestly I mainly listen to music on Spotify now. My partner Sam loves listening to records so I listen with him, lately we have been listening to ‘Be the cowboy’ by Mitski which I have been loving!
First band you saw? And your most recent one (that you’re not a member of, obviously…)
My first band was Bjorn Again, I loved ABBA when I was 6 (and still do!) and recently I saw Mango at their single launch, which was ace!
And your most memorable gig to date with any band you’ve been a member of?
Long Teeth’s final gig was a really wonderful evening for us, I honestly felt like I had to prepare emotionally for that gig for about two months. When I was there I was like right let’s do this! It brought me such happiness to be able to play those songs for people again and to remember our lovely Al. I also loved the DOLLS EP launch at Rough Trade. It was a Monday night at 6pm, and I thought ‘Oh it will be a small crowd’. I could’ve cried when I came on stage and saw it so full! (TR – having been present at the show I can happily confirm this to be true…)
You play guitar with DOLLS and bass in every other band I’ve seen you with. Which is your preference, and which came most naturally to you in the first place?
I started guitar lessons when I was five so I have been playing guitar for a really long time now. I started on double bass (I know I’m 5 ft 2 and I only got to play a half-size) then naturally moved onto bass guitar. I guess guitar will always be my first calling, but I love the discipline of bass and crafting functional parts. I also seem to get asked to play bass in bands way more than I do guitar. Bassists always seem to be the ones that are in demand.
As a songwriter, what part of writing comes easiest to you, lyrics or melody? And how much input do you have to the creative input of a band like BSC, where you are not the main or sole songwriter?
I find coming up with the guitar riffs/chords the easiest. I write lyrics with Sam, and he always helps me come up with melodies. With bands like BSC and Long Teeth, Sam writes the core of most songs and we add to it. Sometimes I might heavily influence a song with a bass line but I’m also happy to support Sam’s ideas.
You’ve already played for and with some notable names outside of what we think of as the DIY music scene. Is there anyone special on your wish list that you’d like to add to your CV?
I would like to support Nick Cave and the Pixies, please!
Has there ever been a time in your life when you have considered an alternate career path?
Yes! Being a musician is tough and not always the most stable of careers. But it’s the only thing I really love doing so I keep on going.
What do you do when you’re not being Jade the professional musician (assuming you have time to do anything else…)
I watch a lot of films and TV, if I’m honest. Characters I see in shows inspire a lot of my songs. I also make an effort to be social, as I feel like when you are writing and working from home you can become bit of a hermit and slowly become more and more uninspired.
Do you think it’s getting any easier for women in music, now that there are more bands out there comprised predominantly and/or exclusively of women/womxn? Both at the DIY level and in general?
I think at a DIY level definitely. There are so many female fronted nights in the UK, which I think is brilliant. I think at a professional/mainstream level it has definitely got better, but there is still some work to do. I can think of some incredible female singers, but when it comes to instrumentalists I can struggle. I find there are very few female guitarists I can show my young female students for inspiration. I’m hoping this will change soon.
Any closing advice for those who aspire to the life of a singer/writer/musician?
I think my main thing is don’t become too complacent. It’s very easy to get a tiny bit of success and think ‘woo I made it!’ and then become big headed and very quickly realise the success isn’t growing as quickly as you think. Being hard-working and polite is also so important!
Our favourite punk witches DreamNails are kicking off 2020 with their hotly-anticipated first studio release, ‘Text Me Back (Chirpse Degree Burns). And it’s sounds amazing! A perfectly captured punk parcel giving us a tantalising taste of what’s to come from their album this spring!
We caught up with the ‘Nails (Janey, Lucy, Mimi and Anya), on the road today heading off on tour …
We are mega-excited to hear your first studio-recorded release! Tell us more.
This summer we took a Dream Nails holiday up to Liverpool to sit in a hot studio with Tarek Musa from Spring King and lay down ten beautiful tracks for our first full-length LP. It was a magical, albeit intense, process and we’re really proud of what’s come out of it!
Congratulations on signing with Alcopop! Records. What made you feel they were the right match for you?
They really respect our DIY ethics, the importance of our connection with our fanbase and respect us having 100% creative control. We just clicked! We love some of the bands signed to Alcopop! like HappyAccidents, Peaness and Cheerbleederz so it’s nice to get an invite to the punk family dinner table.
So the hot gossip is that ‘Text Me Back’ was inspired by two of the Nails being ghosted by their Glastonbury festival crushes … what messages would you like to send those heartless ghosters now?
One says: “Thank you for being our completely oblivious romantic muses. What can we say, we’ve learned and grown but sometimes even now when our phone bleeps, we jump out of our skins.” The other says: “Mate you were off your nut.”
You’re off on a megatour with Anti-Flag, and have an album on the way … any more exciting plans for 2020 you can tell us about?
Antiflag is awesome, we’re currently in Lisbon about to go and sample some nata. Then we’re going to Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and some other cool spots. We will be embarking on a headline tour running up to our album launch show in London on April 23 at Oslo, Hackney! Catch us all around the UK!
Now you’re starting to break through the DIY ceiling and share your witchy pop with a wider audience – what advice would you give to fledgling DIY bands who want to follow in your footsteps?
When you commit to being in a band, commit to regular rehearsals. Once you unlock that magic, you’ve got to keep the momentum going! And get some merch as soon as you can. Our Hex the Patriarchy patches are pretty much the only way we can pay for our rehearsal studio in the first place!
Catch Dream Nails on tour:
JAN (supporting Anti-Flag) 08 Lisboa, Portugal – RCA Club 09 Madrid, Spain – Caracol 10 Vitoria, Spain – Kubik 11 Zaragoza, Spain – Sala López 12 Barcelona, Spain – Estraperio 14 Milan, Italy – HT Factory
10 Cardiff, UK – Wales Goes Pop! 11 Leicester, UK – Shed 23 London, UK – Oslo – Album Release Show 24 Bristol, UK – Louisiana 25 Reading, UK – Are You Listening? Festival 26 Southampton, UK – Heartbreakers
From her first award wins back in Australia to her critically acclaimed ‘Where I Go To Disappear’—the introspective album we’ve all grown to know and love—Georgi Kay has only leapt from strength to strength. With a sound defined by her love for bass, synth, vocal chops and looping electronic beats, Georgi’s music takes negativity in the palm of its hand and moulds it into something fresh—something positive and new.
In the light of her recent release of ‘Lone Wolf – Reimagined’—a fresh take on the much-loved ‘Lone Wolf’ from her debut album and the spark of a chain of exciting things to come—we sat down with Georgi to discuss the importance of message, her new place at the heart of the LA creative hub and her never-ceasing gratitude to fans.
If we move straight in to discuss your latest release—after over a year since the release of ‘Lone Wolf’, can you tell us a little more about the creative process for your latest release, ‘Lone Wolf – Reimagined’?
I was looking for a new place to live and I came up with an idea—between my last album ‘Where I Go To Disappear’ and my next album, what could I do to give back to my fans for being super patient and loyal? What could I do in the interim? I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being able to recreate something that moved you so deeply and I know that Lone Wolf in particular for a lot of my fans, family and friends was a song that really moved and resonated with them. So I thought, why not, instead of just producing a remix, branch out and try something new so it hardly sounds like the original at all—a completely new experience but holding onto all the same stems of the song, just manipulated and reconstructed.
Then a mutual friend put me in touch with CD Player who’s based in Brooklyn—a fantastic producer who works with a lot of analogue synths and looping sequences. He also travels a lot and collects field recordings of life happening around him wherever he is and weaves this into his music. We also found we are one of the same mind so it was really easy and fluid conversing and bringing the song into being. So it was really cool to hear the same song but with this new magic to it—like I was experiencing the song for the first time. There are three others in the works but I don’t want to give those away quite yet!
Can you tell us a little more about the narrative of the original track?
I’ve always been quite an independent, solitary individual and only child. I also have an extremely hyperactive and over-driven imagination so I’m able to build entire worlds in my head so I think that’s why I’m so attached to the creative realm of life—writing short stories or poems, gaming or working in film or music—anything you can create from scratch. So for music in particular, ‘Lone Wolf’ was the first song off the album that I felt—in a similar way to this landscape—was desolate and vast. What would loneliness feel like? What would it look like? How can I create this landscape and paint it with sound? No matter how many wonderful people we have in our lives, they will never fully understand where we sit, where we come from. Only we can 100% relate to ourselves. Everyone feels this way from time to time and I think it’s quite fascinating to realise we all feel that together.
You have spoken about the importance of message within your music. How does the message behind the music drive your tracks and how does this translate into live performance?
As ambiguous as I may be or symbolic in my writing, there’s also this distinct directness—like saying I’m a ‘Lone Wolf’ for example. Other songs have different messages, mostly introspective and using what we see as negativities to form something positive. They’re often subtle, unassuming messages pushing us to take what we perceive as negative, see it as a positive and don’t just wallow in it. Don’t keep it in, let it all out.
Live music is one of my many forms of therapy—it’s very cleansing as an actual ritual or practice to be able to go out and release any tension or build up emotion and allow the audience also to release. You’re basically using each other to expel the toxins and giving each other love back and forth. I think ultimately the goal through my music is to always feel like you can just ‘be’. Not be anything in particular—just be. We’re so focussed on trying to be something. I like for people who are hearing my music for the first time to feel understood, related to and empathised with—to feel comfortable and like they are in a safe space. In this day and age, there’s judgement on every corner you turn and it’s very quickly made without knowing the full context or story.
Back to you as an artist, what is your driving force and what inspires you in everyday life?
To constantly create. Whether it’s music or art, that’s my drive. And not really planning where it’s going—just letting it fall into place, letting it flow naturally. While it can actually sometimes be a fantastic catalyst to create the unknown and unexpected, a lot of the time it’s best to let it just play out. To make room, make space for new ideas.
What influences your songwriting style and production process?
I don’t really listen to music that much. I don’t like to be influenced by external forces. Not because I don’t like it but because it’s only natural that once you listen to something so much it’ll start to bleed into you and you start to emulate something in a similar vein. That’s my fear I guess—to make something that’s already out there. When I was younger, my Dad was very much into music and he would play a completely eclectic blend of various artists from all different genres and different generations. He would play it during our family breakfasts on the weekends and I think that unknowingly influenced and inspired me a lot.
Florence and the Machine and Lorde are actually really good examples of artists who write in a modern, poetic way—everything is intentionally said and I think that’s a slightly more androgynous way of writing and one I relate to. It has no face—it’s just ambiguous and symbolic. When I was younger I listened to a vast array of artists but they all tended to roughly stick to similar pop constructs and I think that heavily influenced my writing at the start. Then when I went back to London when I was 19, and experienced Garage, Deep House, Tech House and an eclectic mix of electronic genres, that opened my mind a lot to all these new electronic textures and patterns. So when it came down to production I blended all of this. Sci-fi and horror films also play a huge part in my visual influences and sonically, very dystopian sounds with a pop element, a groove so it juxtaposes a darker lyric.
How did you find the community surrounding you as you emerged as a young artist onto the scene and how important have you found this as a female musician?
I don’t think I was every really perceived as a female—I’m not overtly feminine nor overtly masculine, hence the androgynous delivery of song. So I never found myself really treated as a woman—just an artist. An over in Australia, our performing rights association were a huge help and were with me from the very beginning of my career, ever since I won my first award (The Western Australia Music Industry Award for Song of the Year). I also met a lot of individuals who were wonderful in building me up. But overall, I’ve never really felt accepted in the music society and I can also get quite bored of the music community. A lot of it can be fickle so it’s why I’ve often kept myself quite hidden. I found it quite difficult to make genuine groups of friends—individuals, absolutely, because that’s where I thrive. I want to make sure everything I do is intentional, is genuine and sincere. There’s something very important in learning to say no in the musical community: in knowing what you like and don’t like and staying true to that. So I’ve tended to navigate the scene in the way I personally found I could thrive—in this comfortable loneliness, a solo strength.
How has moving to and establishing a solid, supportive community around you in LA affected you and your direction as an artist?
Just through playing shows and meeting other people. The community itself can be a little exhausting but individuals are most important. I’ve met some incredible people, all from different walks of creative life, but all from my kind of tribe and a lot of collaborations have happened or are in the process of happening. Collaborations with fashion or other kinds of visual art have also been really fun and rewarding. Because there are so many people here in LA in entertainment, it’s such a creative hub. You do have to sift through to find your people, but when you do it’s worth the journey.
From moving to LA to moving from the back to front seat in production, can you tell us a little more about your journey within the world of production? How did developing your production skills influence your sound and direction?
When I first started writing music I was just an acoustic singer songwriter and over the course of several years I met various producers who opened my musical eyes to more ambient, electronic and industrial sounds and I was really fascinated by that. I’d never tried that much production myself, being encouraged to work with a producer. Then when I moved to London, I signed with a major record label who I was with for 3 years and was put in hundreds of sessions. In these sessions I just got to back-seat drive a lot of the production. I always knew what I wanted—just not how to get it. So I just learned like that, watching these guys construct music out of zeros and ones. I learned my favourite sounds, my ways to start writing—often starting with a bass because I’m very bass driven—what DAWs and software I prefer.
Then when I moved to LA, I had this interim waiting for my visa where I was bursting at the seams with all this possibility and when this creativity was finally released it began to sound like what we hear on ‘Where I Go To Disappear’. Then I met who was to be my co-producer and mixer for the album (Steve Rusch) and he was the perfect creative individual to work with.
Looking ahead, what can we expect from you in the months to come?
Firstly, there’s this reimagined EP I’m working on with CD Player which features Lone Wolf and three other fan favourites off the last album. That will be in 2020 and I’m very excited for that. It’s just a thank you to fans for all their support and patience. I’ve been doing a lot more merch too and I have some big things coming with that. I’m also working on my new album, also writing a sci-fi novel, also working on digital art in a dystopian realm. So working a lot in multi creative avenues and I’m having a lot of fun. I’m also planning a US tour for next year so a lot of good things to come!
An interview with artist Maedb, founder of $exquisite, by Ngaire Ruth – legendary feminist music journalist, and Maedb’s mum.
Working towards making the unconventional, conventional, the invisible, visible: Maedb. She’s a writer, poet, performer, curator and the producer of $exquisite events – a night of stigma-defying art, activism and glamour from artists, performers and comedians who work in the sex industry, which aims to bring the audience and artist closer through performance, debate and Q&A discussion. The next is on 15th November, at London’s Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.
Why did you decide to work with multidisciplinary arts and sex workers?
Well, I’m an artist – poet and theatre maker – and knew I wanted to curate a cross-arts night. It was only in discussion with a friend – a full-service sex worker and human rights law student – that I was informed of a law passed in the states, FOSTA-SESTA. This prohibits sex workers all around the world who work online, and the bill was passed with the view to stop sexual exploitation but has in turn prohibited sex workers working safely. It has shut down various sites sex workers use to work safely online and feeds into algorithms designed to silence sex workers on Tumblr, Instagram and other social platforms. This is really dangerous and prevents workers from screening their clients and could even potentially push sex work into the streets. I was shocked that no-one was talking about it, at least in my circle. So, I thought it would be really cool to create a celebratory space for sex worker artists, to build a community and have conversations.
You’ve pin pointed a feminists’ armour: female friendship and support – which seems especially key for isolated online sex workers. Events like $exquisite give sex workers an opportunity to share their art, but also where they can meet other sex workers, creatives and have some kind of camaraderie, fun and friendship. It’s really important; did you consider that at the time?
No, I didn’t. I do think it is important to mention that issues that exist within and for the sex worker community certainly expand that of those who work online – of which I am learning about now. But, in regard to camaraderie, fun and friendship – no I didn’t expect it. I really just was focused on creating my first event and set on getting to know the women first. I guess it is just an amazing by-product, and one I definitely want to build on. In the future I am planning to start a collective, so a community can exist beyond the events.
What was some of the feedback you got from the first event?
Many people approached me afterwards and presented good feedback. But I was most shocked by those of my university friends, who said that the event had opened their minds and changed their views on the industry. Some said it was a journey of education and were pleased that there was a space to speak on such ‘taboo’ topics. I think it’s really important that the night remains a space where people outside of the industry attend. I want creating conversations, with a view for it to continue beyond the event, to be a strong focus. That way we can make a ripple effect.
So, you have performances – what sort of things have you had before and what can we expect?
We try to have a consistent mix of different art forms, and primarily focus on poetry, theatre, dance and comedy. I think the event lends itself well to cabaret and burlesque so we will be seeing a bit more of that this time, alongside some drag.
So what about sexuality, are you an intersectional feminist? Do you believe that using your sexuality as an object is empowering?
Different things empower different women. I simply can’t say that it is empowering, or I would be speaking for everyone. I don’t think we have the agency to speak for every woman. The best I can do as a feminist is to support other women. Patriarchy has and will continue to divide us; I don’t believe you are a feminist if your feminism is exclusionary. And, furthermore, I don’t agree with the assumption that sexuality is an object. I’m not quite sure by what you mean, but if you mean to make money. I don’t think it is empowering, I don’t believe in a ‘happy hooker’ narrative to defy stigma. I think it is work, and sometimes it is shit, but having stigma and a society that isolates you is even shitter.
And, do you have men coming to your events?
And, do they behave themselves?
Yeah, and I think there’s nothing wrong if men want to come
and enjoy themselves. It’s a safe, powerful and feminine space. It’s always a
celebration and never an exploitation.
What do you think you’ll do next?
I would love to start a community where we will have monthly meet-ups. I think sex work can be really isolating – the stigma can destroy lives. Some people can’t even be open with their friends or family, as the judgement can often be so harsh. So, I really think it’s important that we have spaces where we can just make friends and form our own families and even debrief about our days. It’s just a job. Society makes it a label.
What about helping people develop their art?
Yes, I would love to eventually programme workshops where
people can develop their craft. I remain in contact with the artists throughout
the creation process in the lead up to events and am there if they ever want
feedback or a second eye.
Do you think you’ll come across stigma when applying for grants or rehearsal spaces? If so, what’s your argument? In the past, feminists have, for example, picketed Soho saying sex work is demeaning to women.
I think that type of feminism is very exclusionary. It’s one type of middle-class, white, feminism that cannot speak for everyone. A lot of women who enter sex work are generally working-class women and it’s a very small minority that enter it with a “Hey I wanna have sex and get paid for it” mentality. The bottom line is that people need to make money, pay their rent and we are all victims of capitalism. Survival sex work and sex work are two different things. But most people enter it with a view to make money and I don’t think you are a feminist if you put down another woman for doing things you wouldn’t do.
A lot of people fall victim to sex trafficking, or, begin sex work because of poverty or abuse. Arguably it’s not a choice, even when empowering as financial independence, or enabling the pursuit of further education, but a result of a patriarchal society in which women are de-humanised. Bringing it out into the open is a most brilliant way to make the invisible visible.
Yes! If we decimalise sex work, it will certainly cut down sexual exploitation. Decriminalisation equals regulation. The more something is pushed underground, the further room for misconduct. The more it is pushed into the darkness, the more room for those entering underage or trafficked. Currently the law in the UK states if two or more girls are working in a location, it is a brothel and therefore illegal. But if one works, it’s okay. Tell me how on earth can that be safe?! If it is legalised it allows for monitoring, screening and ultimately safety.
Have you considered giving money to any charities related to sex work?
Yeah, so at our next event we are hosting an ‘afterhours’
pop up strip club which will take place after the art section of our night from
11pm-2am. This is in collaboration with East London Strippers Collective to
raise money for United Strippers of the World and United Voices of the World
Union; who provide legal advice and action for sex workers.
Is there anything else you want us to know, is there any way we can get involved?
We would love to have your support, come and listen to what sex workers have to say and join the conversation. All the money raised will go back into $exquisite, we hope to eventually programme a sex worker festival where we can further support sex workers and sex worker artists. Share some love with us on Instagram, we just want to build an online platform and a real-life community.