Interview: Duchess

With acclaim from the likes of BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, South London artist Duchess writes from the heart; creating rich soulful ballads reflecting on her childhood of frequently moving from place to place, her experiences in London, and love and life in general.

Having released her debut EP Early Days back in March, she has now shared a special acoustic version of the collection. With her distinctive impassioned vocals at the forefront, oozing a raw heartfelt emotion, it showcases all there is to love about this upcoming artist.

We caught up with Duchess to find out more…

Hi Duchess, welcome to Get In Her Ears! How are you doing?
I’m good thanks – wish it was a bit more sunny though!

What initially inspired you to start creating music?
I’ve always been around music growing up. My mother would always have the stereo on in the morning with her all-time favourite CDs, from Tracy Chapman to Lauryn Hill, and my dad always played Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs.

What made you decide to release an acoustic version of your EP?
I’m in love with live music and instrumentation, so it was really important to me to have an acoustic version of the EP. I feel it allows you to focus on the voice of the artist and gives you a whole different vibe to dive into. It reminds me of small or intimate shows and concerts with stripped back production.

What other acoustic albums or versions do you love?
I’m a big fan of Amy Winehouse’s acoustic version of Back To Black and ‘I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind’ from Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album. I really enjoyed Summer Walker’s cover of ‘Fake Love’ too! 

What was behind the choice to use guitar for ‘Elephant’, ‘When it All Falls Down’ and ‘Blame’ vs piano for ‘Why Can’t We’?
When I’m in the studio, I love to freestyle and see where the energy takes me, so we will always start with live instruments – I’m just so in love with the bass guitar. It was a bit of a no-brainer to get Fred Cox involved, as he really understands me, and the vibe I wanted to create with this project. He instantly got how we could strip everything back, but still keep it fresh, and it just felt natural that ‘Why Can’t We?’ was just piano.

How has growing up in a big family and moving around so much affected your music and artistic expression? Were you the sole musician/artist, or was music and art a big part of your family life?
I mean moving around a lot isn’t good for anyone, especially if you want to focus on something, so it was unsettling. But, wherever I lived, music was always there with me. I admit, it was hard to really focus on music when there were family priorities that came first, but I’m also happy I’m pursuing music, at this stage in my life – It feels right and I feel ready!! In the family, I’m the main one involved in music, along with my younger sister who often writes with me, but we are all connected to music in our own way

People compare you a lot to Minnie Riperton. Is she an influence and, if so, how? What other artists influence your music, and how?
Wow, I’m flattered. She is an amazing woman and I’m a big fan of her material – one of my favourites is ‘Inside My Love’ – it’s so beautiful. My main inspirations come from all kinds of places – Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Gregory Isaacs, Lady Gaga – the list goes on, but they main thing is they have all showed me to always be me and believe in my message musically.

What music scenes are you into – offline and online?
Shoreditch is cool! There are some really good live and open mic nights if you want to discover something new and fresh. Online-wise, I love to watch other artists livestreams and special projects. I don’t have a particular genre or focus – as long as it’s good, I’ll tune in!

How are you connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
I’ve been doing a few livestreams during lockdown which have been fun. But with social media in general, it’s been really good to connect with the listeners and other musicians. It’s defo sparked off a new wave of creativity in everyone.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists that you’d recommend we check out?
Yes of course! Check out Ray Vela (@rayrayvela) – she’s such a great bubbly character and has such a beautiful tone to her voice which is so soothing. And also Nia Wyn (@niawynmusic) – she’s got such a unique voice and I really enjoyed watching her live. We were on the same bill for a show at the beginning of this year, and she just blew me away.

And what else does the rest of 2020 have in store for Duchess?
Definitely new music which I’m very excited about! I also want to work with other artists more and create together – I’m interested to see what could come from it. And I know it’s probably a while from now, but I can’t wait to start performing live again.

Huge thanks to Duchess for answering our questions! 

The acoustic Early Days EP is out now via Lost Ones Recordings.

Interview: Zebede

South London five piece Zebede were set to take 2020 by storm, but obviously Covid 19 had other plans… However, despite the difficulties of navigating lockdown, they’ve just released their new single ‘Love Me Enough’.

We caught up with lead singer Leah Cleaver to discuss music’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement and what changes we all need to see in the music industry. 

Hi Leah, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Starting from the very beginning, how did the band come together? Did you all know each other from before?
Before I moved to London I was in one of those really tacky uni bands and we all decided to meet up at a party in Fulham. I started talking to a guy called Henry and we became very good friends – we ended up basically getting into bands with each other. He was a drummer and we were doing soul covers and writing a little bit. We had booked this one gig in AlleyCat, which was one of the last good venues left in Denmark Street. It was our first gig in London, and the biggest deal ever. Henry tells us that he has just broken his arm, so I told him that he’s out the band! I was so savage! I already had a replacement as I had been playing in university as part of group work, and so I got in a drummer called Max. He was in the band for a little while. About a year later, Henry got back to me and told me that he had started playing on keys, so the three of us just started writing songs and hanging out for hours and hours. We also needed bass and guitar. In fact, I could have just had bass – you need bass! I enlisted Mike Jones which is just the best name for a bassist. He was so quiet but then he would play and it would be enormous. I had also been watching a guy called Charlie play in class who was just so good. I knew I had to poach him. 

Zebede’s music is a very gentle blend of so many genres, so do you all bring different influences to the song writing table?
100 per cent, we all write the songs together. Sometimes I’ll write a melody and bring it to the boys, or one of the guys will have the chords. To be honest, 80 to 90 per cent of the time we’re all in a room and we all chip in with everything. I love Soul, Motown, Blues, R&B and Funk. Charlie is a massive jazzer – he loves Jazz. Mike is a Motown King, and Max is completely ’90s Hip-Hop. Max is my ‘go-to’ guy; I don’t know what it is about drummers but they’re always the coolest people in the band. Henry doesn’t really have a set genre, but as a pianist he writes very beautiful melodies. We never try to go for a certain genre, it just comes out as it comes out. 

What can we expect from your new single ‘Love Me Enough’?
‘L.M.E’  is the first single which we recorded in the new studio. The song is about the classic thing of you love someone, and they love you, but you have the moments of “do you love me ENOUGH?” It is absolutely crazy and irrational but you get yourself into this wormhole. The song is a complete journey because you can turn it on at 3 minutes and then 3:55 and it will sound like two completely different songs – which we love! Recording this song was like “we’ve paid for this session, a lot of money and lot of great equipment – I want to use everything!” Zebede has been up until now figuring out we want to record, but looking at it now ‘L.M.E’ is like a new start point. 

You’ve all been pro-active in your support of the Black Lives Matter movement across your social media, are you hopeful that music can be a positive force of change?
Yeah, 100 per cent. I feel that people listen to music more than they do to people and it’s that comfort, it is everywhere. I do think that people have these massive platforms now, especially with Instagram being so big. All of our references and all of our inspirations come from black music in Zebede – also generally because all music comes from Blues. right? With us it’s how we feel, and hopefully the rest of the world will feel too. If you feel a certain way you should always write it down, in a haiku or chords and just release it. It doesn’t matter if some artists feel that they can’t talk about these topics because they don’t have a big enough platform. If you have ten people who are following you or like your music, they are going to listen to what you have to say. You just have to say it and put it at the forefront of your art. At the end of the day, I am black and the boys are very freethinking, so our music has these topics. I don’t think we’ll ever not talk about it. 

What changes would you like to see in the music industry?
I would actually like to see women represented better across all genres. At the Brits there was only about four women nominated out of twenty categories and it was like – what are you listening to? We are half of the population! There are so many great women artists who are underrepresented, and I think black and minority artists are underrepresented too. We keep them to their ‘genres’ which is a problem, we label everything. People say “oh, you want to listen to black music? Oh, that’s Hip-Hop or R&B.” That’s not true! There’s some of the biggest in Pop, Techno, Drum & Bass – all kinds of people in there. We need to get rid of the labels. All of the major radio stations and Spotify playlists need to be representing this because they have so much reach. 

Despite the lockdown, what are you all hoping to achieve by end of the year?
I think we want to grow our fanbase and following. We want more people to hear us, but it’s obviously very difficult right not because we’re not gigging. I would love for us to start planning a tour with some of our favourite local artists like Brother Zulu. We love them so would love to plan a show. We just want to release music and just keep releasing. We also want to keep expanding on our message. As each song goes by, we’re figuring more out about ourselves. I want to experience everything with Zebede, so we’re putting that into place for next year. 

Massive thanks to Leah for answering our questions!

 

Introducing Interview: The Frisbys

Having received praise from the likes of Amazing Radio, Gigwise and For Folk’s Sake, South London folk collective The Frisbys create twinkling, emotion-strewn offerings, oozing a sweeping musicality and celestial splendour.

With a new EP set for release this week, we caught up with Nicola Frisby from the band to find out more…

Hi, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about The Frisbys? 
Hi! We are an alternative folk/country band from South London. Our band consists of myself (Helen – vocals, flute), my twin sister Nicola (vocals – guitar), my husband Sam Keer (electric guitar) and three of our friends from university/college – Sal Palekar (piano and violin), Will Cattermole  (bass) and Tom Finigan (dums). We will be releasing our third EP, My Wicked Mind this week and we’re looking forward to hopefully playing live again as soon as we possibly can!  

How did you initially all get together and start creating music?
Although Nicola and I have been writing music together since we were teenagers, our line up as a band has changed massively over the last few years. When Nicola and I started creating music, we were an acoustic duo playing locally around South London with just harmonies, guitar and a flute. Gradually as the years have gone by, we’ve recruited some amazing musicians who also happen to be some of our best friends. Every member of our band is a friend that we’ve met through studying music at college or university. The most wonderful thing is that making music together has helped to reunite us again and I know that both Nicola and I feel incredibly lucky for that.

Your new EP My Wicked Mind is out on Friday – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the EP?
The title of My Wicked Mind stems from the idea that the human mind is just bonkers. I suppose I just find it strange how the mind can create such wonder and beauty, whilst at the same time be capable of causing so much anxiety and suffering. I wouldn’t say that this EP is thematic in its concept, but it is a collection of songs that explore both the inner turmoil and the resolute strength of the human mind. So, for example, the songs ‘I Heard’ and ‘Print’ are almost opposite viewpoints based on the same theme. ‘I Heard’ is a fighting song about pushing through even when everyone is telling you what you are trying to achieve is impossible, whereas ‘Print’ highlights the insecurity that lies beneath. Even if you believe in yourself and the path you’ve chosen, it can be very hard not to let those doubts overwhelm you. Everybody wants to be accepted. 

You’ve been compared to the likes of First Aid Kit and The Lumineers, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Unsurprisingly, Nicola and I have very similar musical influences. Our early days listening to my mum’s Simon and Garfunkel records or my brother’s Nirvana collection has meant that we have a pretty varied taste in music; which would maybe explain why our music can be so hard to fit into one genre. We like everything. As individuals, we all have quite different musical tastes. I recently asked the band to compile some of their favourite artists for a Spotify playlist and it was pretty amazing how diverse some of the artists were. Nonetheless,  there are always points where our influences cross. I would say that, collectively, we are inspired by artists such as Carole King, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles. 

How is your local music scene (in ‘normal’ times!)? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I actually moved very recently and so Covid has prevented me from getting out and about and testing out the local music scene, but before that we gigged a lot in the Croydon and South London area. Some of our very first gigs were gigging in South Croydon and we have a real soft spot for it in our hearts. What we’ve noticed as the years have gone by is that more and more of the venues that we used to play in have closed down and so now it can be quite difficult to find a venue that has a capacity for a band of our size. The good news is that there are some local musicians and venues who are constantly fighting this and putting on some excellent nights of music. I adore seeing live music and I try to see as much of it as I can. I prefer more intimate gigs to big arenas as I sometimes feel a little stifled by the environment. I need to move around and hate being restricted to a seat! One of the best gigs I’ve been to recently was watching Skunk Anansie in Brighton. The energy they created was just incredible and Skin’s stage presence is second to none.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
I think our aim as a band is to make you feel something. Tom (our drummer) has a particular talent for creating set-lists and he always puts a lot of thought into making the set into a bit of a journey. We definitely don’t just have one style that we sit with, we try to mix it up. I love the fact that we can build the crowd’s energy with songs like our recent single ‘I Heard’, only to drop them back down again and make them almost silent with songs like ‘Give in to the Dark’. As horrible as it sounds, I quite like it when people tell me we made them cry! For me it means that we connected with them.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
One of my favourite bands I have found over the last few years is an American band called Joseph. They are a band of three sisters who create the most incredible live sound I’ve ever heard. Other upcoming bands we’d recommend are Theo Katzman (a multi-instrumentalist from California) and FlagTwister, John Lovell, Scott McFarnon, Chloe Ray and Dave Sears who are all local musicians we love to listen to.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I think there are lots of really wonderful opportunities for new bands at the moments. For example, anyone can submit their music to be played on BBC Introducing and there are some fantastic blogs (like yourself) who are out there promoting new music. More affordable music software has meant that it is cheaper for people to create music themselves which is so wonderful, but it does mean that the music industry is very over-saturated. Most bands now realise that they can make music without record companies funding them and so that has meant that it is a much more level playing field. I think it has meant that bands have to work harder to get their music heard and maybe they have to be more creative about how they promote their music, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing!

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for The Frisbys?
We recorded a live lock-down version of our new single, ‘I Heard’, in May and we are currently in the process of creating some more videos for our fans. We were hoping to be playing an EP release party this year and some festivals, but who knows what will be happening on the ‘live’ music front. Hopefully, we will find a way of playing an ‘online’ gig to help celebrate the release, so fingers crossed we can make something happen!

Massive thanks to Helen for answering our questions!

 

My Wicked Mind, the upcoming EP from The Frisbys, is out this Friday 26th June.

Introducing Interview: Clare Kelly

Leeds born ‘Mermaid Musician’, Clare Kelly, has been charming our ears for a while now with the stirring, ethereal sounds of the likes of singles ‘Less Alone’ and ‘Radio’.

Now, with the upcoming release of the empowering ‘Breathe’, we caught up with Clare to find out more.

Hi Clare, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hello and thank you for having me! I’m Clare Kelly, an ocean inspired alt-folk artist from Leeds. I grew up listening to songwriters like Stevie Nicks and Carole King, who inspired me to tell my own stories through music and gave me the bravery to be open and honest in my lyrics. 

How did you initially decide to start creating music?
I’ve adored singing since birth, or that’s how long it feels like to me and I’m sure my family and friends. I’ve been belting out every Springsteen line of ‘Thunder Road’ or ‘The River’ ever since I could speak. I began singing lessons when I was eleven and sang in all kinds of performances through school – Motown, Beatles and musicals like Les Mis and Sweeney Todd. I fronted a band when I was fifteen, which is when I started writing my own lyrics (we did pretty well for kids – interviewed by Annie Mac on Radio 1!). I juggled student and music lives and taught myself guitar while studying Popular Music at Goldsmiths University, to enable me to write and perform solo around London. Since then I’ve been creating on my tod all over the place. 

Your single ‘Less Alone’ is out now – can you tell us what it’s all about?
I wrote ‘Less Alone’ when I got back to Yorkshire after eighteen months on a DIY tour across the US and Australia. Coming home and trying to adapt, returning to the same routines I had before my adventures, was difficult and strange. The song is a reflection on my incredible time travelling and the special relationships I formed with people. I may have only spent a couple of days with some of these people, but they had a huge impact on me and my experience. I felt closer to those people I’d had fleeting moments with than some of the familiar faces I was surrounded by in England. 

We love the dreamy alt-folk vibes of your songs, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Aside from the greats I’ve already mentioned, I adore and take my cues from Angel Olsen, Aldous Harding, Sharon Van Etten… I have too many to choose from! But what connects them all is the emotion they channel into every song. They have an incredible skill in describing a feeling or memory with concise and beautiful words which tend to linger in my mind. When I watch them perform, I see how their music is a continuation of themselves, and I hope that’s how my music is perceived as well. 

Of course, no one’s going to see live music right now, but – in more ‘normal’ times – how is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I miss live music so badly! I would usually be at three or four gigs a week across London. I managed to cram in a load of fantastic shows before the world went wild – over the course of one week I saw Angie McMahon, Julia Jacklin, Fenne Lily, Aldous Harding, Alaskalaska, Hot Chip, Imogen and Brooke Bentham. It was great, those were the days. When I’m in Leeds, I love seeing shows at Wharf Chambers and Oporto – these are smaller venues and their fate is really worrying right now. There’s nothing I want more than to be in a packed-out sweatbox of music lovers again. Shows at smaller venues are such an important support for local bands. It’s a scary prospect for when (and if) they can re-open – for the venues and the artists too. I hosted a Sofar Sounds-esque gig in my flat in South London for my single launch which worked really well, but at the moment we can’t do that either. It’s going to be interesting to see how events adapt and develop in the aftermath of the last few months.  

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
My music is hugely personal and quite confessional – it’s safe to say you will leave my gig feeling like you know me quite well! I find that my songs really enable me to re-live memories, so it’s a really immersive experience for me and I think for the audience. Expect my face to be scrunched up as I project my (‘weird’) vocal straight from my gut, especially at the moment – while I live stream performances on Facebook & Instagram every Sunday from my bathtub! Before lockdown, I had just started gigging with my full band which has allowed me to alternate my sound and given me freedom to play around with the arrangement and introduce a new vibe to my set. 

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
I spend so many hours of the day scouring the internet for new music and welcome all recommendations. I supported Sofia Wolfson in Leeds earlier this year who is from California, and since then I’ve had a few LA based females on repeat such as A. O. Gerber, Allie Crow Buckley and Valley Queen. More local though – I love Katy J Pearson and Prima Queen. 

And how do you feel the music industry is for new artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I’m just going to be really honest here because there’s no point doing anything else! It feels damn near impossible to get noticed – maybe I’m not meant to say that, but it’s such a slog without a label or management to help with contacts and funds; it’s a struggle to even get someone to open an email. It’s harder as a solo artist, without a group of band members to assist with all the admin (and keep you motivated through knock backs and un-read emails). You can play in pubs and bars and self-release records but to get a look into the window in which you can reach that larger audience and secure some great shows, sadly, you do still need a label. Spotify have a monopoly on emerging artists and what they choose is not eclectic enough for the varied genres of music being made. If Spotify doesn’t like you, it’s unlikely new listeners will find your music. It can be soul destroying when you pour yourself into your songs and then you’re constantly selling yourself the best you can, often to no response, and you’re just a drop in the ocean. But of course none of this is new and it hasn’t stopped me yet –  I continue to pour everything into my music because it’s what I love the most. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not performing and I can certainly say I’m learning more about the industry with every project! That’s why Get In Her Ears is such a fab platform for artist exposure – thank you for your fantastic playlists and shows. I’ve discovered some great artists through listening to your recommendations and you can tell that you genuinely care about the music you’re promoting. 

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for you?
I have a new single ‘Breathe’ coming out this week. Strangely, even though I didn’t write the song in lockdown, the meaning in the lyrics are now relevant to our current situation and I’m excited to think that listeners who are isolating will find some comfort in the words that explore liberation and independence. The song is about taking a breath and listening to what your mind wants. I also love the artwork (photos by Anxious Film Club) and there’s an incredible video to accompany the track. After this, when hopefully life has returned to some normality, I’m in the process of recording an EP with my all female band of songs which I’m really proud of. They’re quite angsty and it’s going to be a hoot performing them live. Obviously, everything is all up in the air right now, but I hope the EP will be released before the end of 2020. 

Big thanks to Clare for answering our questions!

‘Breathe’, the upcoming new single from Clare Kelly, is out this Friday 12th June.