Interview: Sit Down

We’ve been massive fans of Brighton duo, Katie Oldham and Greg Burns – aka Sit Down – for a while now; the intensity of their thrashing garage-punk sounds completely blowing us away on each listen, and their sheer dedication to their craft (Katie even makes all their stage outfits) marking them out instantly from other bands.

Now, following last year’s immense EP Cheap Luxe and singles ‘Take A Seat’ and ‘Knives’, they’re back with a gritty new offering. Accompanied by a gripping video set in the French Alps, ‘Teeth’ is out now.

We caught up with Katie to find out more about the new single, their thoughts on the music industry and what 2019 has in store for Sit Down…

Hi Sit Down, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about how you both initially got together and started creating music?
Haha, it’s a funny story actually. I was at Uni and just tentatively dipping my toe into making music – joining some music societies and uploading some acoustic covers on YouTube and stuff. I was incredibly shy and was just secretly trying to start creating what I’d always dreamed when these music students reached out to me and said they’d seen what I was up to, and was wondering if I’d be up for fronting their indie/electro band. I was over the moon, and as soon as I met up with them we clicked instantly. The funny thing is, after about a year of jamming together, they finally admitted to me one night that they’d actually just sent the same identical message to the hundreds of people in the music society and I was the only one who replied! But I do believe it was fate, because I was best friends with them all through Uni from then on, and Greg and I were inseparable; firstly starting our own acoustic/folk duo, then moving on to the heavier stuff we always dreamed of making.

We’re loving your gritty new single ‘Teeth’! What’s the story behind the track?
We actually wrote the song about two years ago, when we were both going through some heavy shit at the time. I was really struggling with depression, yet still desperately yearning to make music and progress, but the two were fundamentally incompatible. I’d force myself to go to practice, but I’d sit behind the drums without the strength to lift the sticks. It felt like a curse that wouldn’t let me do, say or achieve anything except wallow. And I think I realised that the only way to get through it was to face it head on and face the worst my brain was trying to convince me of. Sonically, the song seems to be of two very different styles, which represent the duality of depression – the sad lonely isolation of wanting to be better, as reflected in the verse “I’m trying to be a bigger man / but I just feel so small / I’m trying to feel better man / but I don’t feel so strong”, and the fiery frustration that comes from the anguish of being trapped in a sadness that’s trying to push you to extremes. “I’ll throw myself into the ocean / and wash up upon the beach / stick a knife into my ribcage / and I’ll tell you how it tastes”. But ultimately this isn’t a song about self-destruction, it’s about catharsis. The chorus ends – “But it’s too hard to take it easy / so I grit my teeth” – because I knew I was stronger than the depression, and I was going to grit my teeth and find my way through. Which I did, and I think that’s an important message for anyone going through a similar thing to know. And also not to be ashamed of the dark thoughts that cross your mind when you are depressed, because it’s not your fault.

And the gripping new video was filmed in the French Alps – that must have been fun! How did that come about?
As the song is so heavy, in terms of sound and sentiment, we wanted something to balance that to create a more light-hearted interpretation. We wanted to focus on the theme of being pursued by something you want to escape and outsmart. So, after watching Spy Kids one night, we came up with the idea of two rival spies set to target one another. It just so happened that it was my parents’ anniversary and they had planned a family ski holiday to celebrate, so we thought what better way to make the most of that then to set it in the French Alps! It was very serendipitous, and definitely not something we could ever afford in a million years, so we had to nail it in a couple of days, haha. The single flaw I guess is that neither of us can ski for shit, so with our ‘high speed ski chase’ we had to improvise a little….

We’re big fans of your immense, raucous sounds, but who or what would you cite as your main influences?
The Garden, The Kills, The Voidz, Ho99o9, Grimes, Deap Vally, Electric Wizard, Promiseland… 

You’ve previously supported the likes of Drenge, as well as playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds festivals, but is there a particular show you’ve played in the past that stands out as a particular highlight?
I think it’s gotta be Leeds Festival. We’re still so new and playing Reading & Leeds was such an unbelievably big jump (which I’m not sure we’ll be able to live up to for a while, haha), and the first day at Reading we were just destroyed by nerves. The staff and stage crew were all amazing and so hospitable, but there was just this insane amount of pressure not to mess up, as well as having a bunch of cameras all pointed at you and knowing if you swore you were gonna get blacklisted and not broadcast! But all the stressful stuff was done at Reading, so Leeds was just pure enjoyment. You could even see it with all the other bands. Backstage at Reading everyone was very quiet and keeping to themselves, not really drinking. Backstage at Leeds everyone was laughing and all mingling together, getting pissed in the rain and swearing their hearts out on stage. It was such a welcome relief and, even though there weren’t really that many people in the crowd, everyone just had such a good time!

You’re currently based in Brighton which is well known for its array of new bands and artists! Are there any in particular you’ve come across recently that you’d recommend we check out?
I think the best band in Brighton right now is Clt Drp. They had a brief hiatus while their singer Annie went back to Canada, but I feel like they’re gonna do some really cool shit this year!

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
You know, we spend a lot of time thinking about this. I think for young DIY bands like us, to think of the music industry as one singular thing – like one building you need to get the key to – is just not going to help you. The industry is so monstrously huge and multi-faceted that there’s no one size fits all solution to ‘breaking through’. And NONE of it is what it looks like on paper, and there’s a LOT of people who will cash in on your naivety. In Brighton, there’s bands that can have gigged solidly for like seven years and put out three albums, but are still unsigned and can’t get on festival rosters. Then there’s bands that seemingly pop out of nowhere with thousands of likes and are headlining European tours without ever having released a single. And you think HOW?! It’s mind-boggling to try and wrap your head around it, because there’s so much secrecy around it too. Essentially, it just comes down to who you know. Some acts just know someone who knows someone who puts them in touch and starts dropping their name into the right conversations and voila. That’s not something you can replicate without those hookups, and you can’t bog yourself down trying to keep up with it.

Having started completely clueless and now entering our third year, we have learnt so so much and we’ve come to the point now where we’re stepping away from trying to be acknowledged by the places we all seem to be desperately competing to get the attention of, and focusing on the smaller scale – what we want to make, how we do that, who we want to hear us, and how we make that happen. There are bands on minimum wage jobs paying thousands to companies that say they ‘might’ get them on a big Spotify playlist, and it’s kind of soul-destroying. We always make sure we’re constantly observing and watching and learning whilst cultivating organic relationships and connections. Bands at this level are kind of being encouraged to spend all of their time and energy on licking industry ass, but we’d much rather have full creative control of what we do and actually communicate with the people who take time out of their lives to listen to our music and come to our shows. A lot of people think we’re probably stupid for doing that at this critical point, but… fuck them. We make punk music, we’re gonna do it our way, and we’re gonna make it work.

It’s that time of year when we’re just starting to hear about all the various festival line-ups… which ones are you particularly looking forward to?
Kylie Minogue at Glastonbury is all I care about right now. Primavera kills it every year, but… they don’t have Kylie, so.

Finally, what else does 2019 have in store for Sit Down?
Collaboration. We’ve been so precious about it just being the two of us, ever since way back from when we first met. But we’ve finally started to realise we can’t let that inhibit us in making what we want to make. You’re gonna start seeing a lot more than just two faces on the stages we play. And we are so so excited about it.

Massive thanks to Sit Down for answering our questions! 

‘Teeth’, the new single from Sit Down, is out now. Catch them live at The Windmill Brixton on 22nd February, with Pussyliquor, Petty Phase and Crack Foxes.

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