Introducing Interview: Sophie Mahon

Set to release her debut album in October, Suffolk-based artist Sophie Mahon left the Royal Navy to pursue her love of music back in 2013, and hasn’t looked back since.

Inspired by the life and films of Humphrey Bogart, and with musical contributions from the likes of Emily Dolan-Davies (Bryan Ferry, Kim Wilde, The Thompson Twins), Martin Dobson (Eurythmics, Jimmy Sommerville and Siouxie & the Banshees), Bogart’s Eyes showcases Sophie’s unique ’80s inspired allure and poetic songwriting. Latest single ‘In A Lonely Place‘ offers a swirling synth-pop anthem, propelled by a shimmering energy and heartfelt emotion.

We caught up with Sophie to find out more…

Hi Sophie Mahon, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m 28 years old and I live in Suffolk. I have a band called Sophie Mahon & The Ready Mades, which has an ’80s inspired New Wave/Art Rock kind of sound. We’ve been going for a few years now and are slowly getting a name for ourselves around the area. I take inspiration from books, films, poems and art generally, when writing lyrics, and I am influenced by many things sonically but mainly the New Romantic era of the Eighties.

How did you initially start creating music?
I discovered Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music while waiting to join the Royal Navy, when I was about 18 years old. I then started learning a lot about music – listening to a lot of different bands from the ’80s, eventually teaching myself guitar, kidding myself that I was just doing it to occupy my time until I went to training. I went and did six months training with the RN before realising life’s too short to not do what you enjoy, so I left and went to music college. The rest is history. 

Your new album Bogart’s Eyes is out in October – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the album?
Bogart’s Eyes is exactly what it says on the tin really: it’s inspired by the 1940s icon/legend Humphrey Bogart. I got into his films a couple of years ago and got a big hit of inspiration, writing a song for each film I watched. I admire his acting hugely and just him as a person; he was a kind, gentle, honest and colourful character; I wanted to show the other sides to him as well as the hard boiled, cynical tough guy he is always remembered for. The idea of the album is from a fan point of view – the way you feel when you discover something/someone new for the first time, who has a profound impact on you, and the way it takes over your thoughts. Like with the track ‘Casablanca’, it’s “easy to enter but hard to leave” – the intro and outro join up, so before you know it (if you leave the album on loop) you find you are back at the start going around again. Each song is connected to a film in some way and takes inspiration from either a quote, a scene, a character or even a dream you have because of it; covering feelings of loneliness, love and longing as it goes along. I have aimed for it to be like a Film Noir take on ABC’s ‘The Lexicon Of Love’.

You’ve been compared to the likes of The Human League and Roxy Music, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music, David Bowie and Duran Duran I would say are my main three musical influences, with other odds and ends added in between. They are all very unique, without being afraid to experiment and explore whenever they write something new. I think I admire them so much because they manage to bring something almost high brow to the mainstream, and dabble around the edges of it, without compromising on their own principles. They introduce their listeners to new things because of their lyrics and ideas, whether that be books, films or other music. And I think that is a wonderful thing. It is also the way they keep artistic control over all aspects of their brand and music, from album artwork to fashion. It’s a lot of extra work, but it pays off dividends when put alongside the music – it adds to that sophisticated escapism that they provide, which I wish to emulate.

In ‘normal times’, how is your local music scene? Do you usually go to see lots of live music?
It’s pretty good around East Anglia. I am very lucky that I have Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Norwich not too far away, all of which have decent music scenes and very supportive venues. There is also the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket which is a great venue too. I mean at the moment, like everyone else, I haven’t seen a lot of live music recently but I did a lot before the pandemic. I try to go see live music often, whether that’s a friend’s local band or an artist I admire.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
Just good music to escape into and tap your toes to, or even dance if you feel that way inclined! My band and I aren’t the shoe-gazing types – we like to dress up and really give all we’ve got. That’s the thing with this industry, all you owe the audience is a good performance, so I will always give that. If the audience themselves want to get out, dress up to the nines and drop the weight from their shoulders, I hope we can provide a lovely space for them to get lost in.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
To my shame I don’t know many – I tend to explore backwards listening to albums and bands I keep meaning to listen to. The newest bands/artists I listen to and I like are Christine & The Queens, La Roux and The Weeknd. There was a very wonderful band I discovered at a festival, called ‘Her’s’, and they were quirky and warm, but unfortunately they both were tragically killed in a traffic collision a few years ago. I still recommend you check out the catalogue they left behind, especially the song ‘Harvey’. The only other artist I would recommend, and I am biased because she is a dear friend of mine, is Lucy Grubb. She is a country/Americana artist, but her lyrics are witty and – even if you don’t like that kind of thing – Lucy will win you over. She is a lovely mixture of Paul Simon and Johnny Cash.

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 would say it’s very, very difficult unless you sound like something that has been successful before, but then you will get dropped very quickly. It’s a very hard thing to judge as record labels (mainly big ones) will only take artists if they have done the leg work and have achieved a certain amount of followers/listeners. I suppose I have learnt a lot from artists from the ’80s, so I have a skewed/old fashioned way of seeing it, but it is very clear that labels aren’t willing to take the risk anymore on new artists, unless they are a sure thing. They certainly wouldn’t give them time to develop as artists, like labels would have done a few decades ago. I mean the industry obviously has changed a lot, which is understandable, but it is more about quick money than finding an investment. Don’t take that as a total rant! As that’s more at the top end. I would say there are many very lovely people around who are there to support new artists, especially local radio stations and BBC Introducing – without them it is hard to make that first big leap and that makes all the difference.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Sophie Mahon?
Now my first single ‘In A Lonely Place’ is out, the next thing is a gig supporting The Wendy James Band (Transvision Vamp) on August 27th at the Norwich Art Centre. Then the second single ‘Bogart’s Eyes’, complete with a stop-motion animation music video is out on 3rd September. The band and I then have another gig at The Empire in Great Yarmouth on 9th September, and then, finally, the whole album Bogart’s Eyes will be out on 1st October! We may also have a very exciting gig after that on 2nd October but that is still being sorted…

Massive thanks to Sophie for answering our questions!

Bogart’s Eyes, the upcoming album from Sophie Mahon is set for release on 1st October, and the title track will be out on 3rd September.

Introducing Interview: Versari

Following the release of their second album, Sous la Peau, last year, long-standing French post-punk trio Versari have now shared a new four track EP, consisting of three different remixes of their single ‘Brûle’.

Propelled by dark bass hooks and a swirling eerie atmosphere, the original captivates the ears with its bewitching majesty, whilst the remixes all differ with their own unique grace. On the EP, the track has been revisited and reimagined and includes remixes by artists including Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Einstürzende Neubauten, Wire, Erasure) and Erica Nockalls (The Wonder Stuff).

We spoke to bassist Laureline Prod’home to find out more…

Hi Laureline, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I’ve been a bass player for 25 years already! Music has always been a part of my life and I started playing in a band when I was 17 years old, in high school (I was playing the guitar and singing). When I was a kid I wanted to play drums (my first love), but I finally started playing guitar and singing because my dad had a folk guitar. He writes his own songs and we always sang at home. So, it was the most natural way for me to make music. I discovered the bass “by accident” a few years later when I joined the band Candie Prune (a Riot Grrrl band) which was looking for a bass player. I gradually fell in love with this instrument, and it is a story that lasts. Then I had my band The Dude – we did two tours in England in 2005-2006, including an opening act for the band The Others; what good memories! I also played with Howe Gelb’s band Giant Sand for four years. I was able to live from music for a few years but it’s very difficult, even in France and even playing in several bands at the same time (which I still do). So I went back to school and I earn a living now as a clinical psychologist, while continuing to play music of course!

How did you initially decide to start creating music, and how did you get together with the other band members to form Versari?
Oh, it’s a long story – playing music, playing in a rock band, has been my dream since childhood! As far as I remember, I never dreamed of anything else. Regarding Versari, I first met Cyril in 1997-1998 when I was playing in the band Candie Prune and Cyril was the drummer of Sloy, also a rock trio. We had the same tour manager and we often played together, sharing the same stage. We quickly became good friends – we had the same musical culture, the same influences (Jesus lizzard, Shellac …) and we still are, 25 years later. In 2000, Sloy split and Cyril started to play with Theo Hakola. The funny thing is that Theo Hakola had just produced the album of the band Les Hurleurs, which was Jean Charles Versari’s band… I went to see them play in Rennes (where I live), and the bass player was playing in both bands. When he had to make a choice, Theo no longer had a bass player and Cyril asked me to join them. That was in 2001 and I’m still part of The Wobbly Ashes (Theo Hakola’s band), but Cyril left the project in 2007. At the same time, the first Versari album was released and they asked me to join them: that’s how I really met Jean Charles and that’s how our beautiful story started. Then we became a trio, it’s the ideal formula I think and I’m really glad that we found each other.

You’ve released a four track EP featuring three incarnations of your single ‘Brûle. Can you tell us a bit about each of the remixes and the decision to put them together in an EP? 
Well, we gave carte blanche to the artists who wanted to remix each of our tracks. And these three are so amazing and different – not only from the original but also from each other – that it would have been a shame to keep them, selfishly, all to ourselves! It’s an exciting and surprising experience to let other people give in to their imagination by appropriating your music, which then takes another form and lives a whole new life. In fact, it doesn’t belong to you anymore and I find it very poetic. These remixes are creations in their own right, all three of them – they really deserve to be heard and to live their life. I would add that it allows us to make the pleasure last and that’s always worth it!

We love your gritty post-punk sound, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
As a bass player, I was certainly influenced by women who played bass in rock bands, maybe even unconsciously. I think of Kim Deal from the Pixies or Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth – two bands that I love and that I listened to a lot. But I was rocked by many influences, from the Velvet Underground to The Cure, through to David Bowie, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Joy Division.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
With Versari, we never cut the contact during this cursed period. It was very hard because we were about to leave for a tour in the USA at the end of March when the confinement fell; we had been working on this tour for one year and our disappointment was immense! On the other hand, we continued to hold our rhythm of rehearsals, namely a weekend of three days once a month approximately. Our album was released at that time, in April, so the communication was already on the way – to keep the contact with the public, there are social networks, fortunately! But as far as this part is concerned, I am really a dinosaur, though fortunately Jean Charles is there – he manages these much better than me!

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, throughout these strange times? 
I have always been impressed by the fact that human beings are capable of giving and being the best and the worst. And this is exacerbated in times of crisis. This strange period has concentrated all this paradox. What I mean to say is that what helped me to keep some hope is to see the solidarity and the strength with which some people fight to help their neighbours and to find solutions to support those who need it. It helps to keep hope in a possible future in these difficult and anxious times.

How do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
On the one hand I think it’s much easier to get known than when I first started out, twenty five years ago. Thanks to social networks, anyone can film themselves singing in their kitchen, or record a song with their band and even shoot little videos and broadcast them. But at the same time, there is such a quantity of videos and musical projects that, paradoxically, it is much harder to stand out. There used to be “niches”, networks that helped artists make their way in this or that musical genre. Now, I have the impression that despite the great diversity that exists, what is finally audible is very formatted. I’m not sure if it’s easier in the end…

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming bands that you’d recommend we check out?
I would advise you to go and listen to other bands from Rennes, like the young Guadal Tejaz, or The 13th Hole (not as young!), which are part of the family of bands that rehearse at the Balloon Farm studio where we recorded the Versari album. There is also Lighthouse, Laëtitia Sheriff and Frakture …

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Versari? 
We just released the four tracks with the remixes and the video of ‘Brûle’. And then we have some concerts planned, in France and in England: we are booked in London at The Dublin Castle on 13th November with 1919… We hope there will be others, after a year of frustration and disappointments, we are so eager to play our album live!

Massive thanks to Laureline for answering our questions!

Versari’s Brûle EP is out now. Listen here.

Photo Credit: Renaud de Foville

Introducing Interview: Alice Mary

Following her last single ‘Too Much’, London based artist Alice Mary has now shared the second of four singles to be released this year. Reflecting on the mix of feelings that can overwhelm the mind after a break-up, ‘Mystery‘ offers a jangly slice of swirling indie-pop. With shades of the uptempo danceability of the likes of Blondie, it showcases Alice’s sweeping vocals alongside funk-tinged hooks and a scuzzy energy.

We caught up with Alice to find out more… !

Hi Alice, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m a singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist and I make indie pop music which combines my love of classic pop from the ’80s and ’90s with modern production and introspective lyrics.

What initially inspired you to start creating music?
I started having guitar lessons when I was eleven – I would bring along tapes and CDs of songs I wanted to learn and my teacher would work them out by ear and teach me how to play them. It sort of forced me to develop a music taste because I had to bring something every week to learn and luckily I lived in a house with three older siblings whose record collections I could raid! Then, after I’d been learning for about a year, my teacher said “I think you should start writing your own music now”. I wasn’t very good and I thought you had to be good at playing music before you were allowed to write it, but he just gave me the permission to go ahead and start. After that I never really stopped writing music!

You’ve just released your twinkling new single ‘Mystery’, can you tell us a bit about this? Is it focused on any particular themes?
The lyrics are about this back and forth I do in my head where I can be a bit all or nothing. It’s looking back on a break up and thinking – “I have to completely forgive this person and be their best friend”, or “I have to hate them and we’ll never speak again”, or “am I still in love with them?”. I could get stuck in this black and white thinking and struggle to make decisions, but I am a bit better at seeing the nuance and the in-between solutions now! After all the back and forth in the verse and pre chorus the clarity comes in the chorus: “I don’t really like you, you’re just what I’m used to / I’m happy that we’re done, I just miss having someone.”

We love your shimmering, heartfelt dream-pop sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Hmmm, so many! For these latest songs probably St Vincent, Prince, Radiohead and Joni Mitchell.

You’ve previously charmed us with your beautiful live set at The Amersham Arms a few years ago – but can you tell those who may not have had the pleasure of seeing you what to expect from your live shows?
I have two different kind of live shows – one with a bassist and drummer where I play electric guitar and sing and have some electronic sounds I playback on an iPad, and one where I play and sing solo with special arrangements on the acoustic guitar.

And, although we are still far from ‘normality’ at the moment, do you have any plans to gig in the near future? And if so, where/when?
I feel like I’m not supposed to say this but: I haven’t missed playing live that much! I’m wondering if when I start to do it again that’s when all the pain of missing out on it this last year will hit me, but I don’t know. I find playing live very stressful and although I enjoy it once I’m up there, all of the organising and psyching myself up beforehand is quite hard. All of that is to say I don’t have any gigs booked and I’m quite ok with it! If I get offered anything good (and safe!) I’ll go with it, but I’m not making any effort to book anything right now.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
Instagram! I’ve been lucky to be quite creative during the last year and have enjoyed sharing my experimentation via videos on my instagram stories. I also joined a Facebook group for women and gender minorities working in music production called ‘2% Rising’, which has been great for learning and sharing ideas.

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, throughout these strange times?
I started having Zoom piano lessons a year ago and I’m still learning now – I love it and I’m so surprised! Not being able to play the piano was always a secret shame of mine, but now I can and it’s given me so much confidence in myself.

How do you feel the music industry is for new artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
The music industry is still a complete mystery to me, and I think that’s by design. There are amazing people who aren’t getting noticed and not very good people who have managers and agents. It’s a business, so they play it safe because they don’t want to lose money. So in answer to your question: yes, it is hard to get noticed by gatekeepers in the industry, but do we even need them anymore when you can reach fans directly through social media? That’s its own kettle of fish – it seems almost completely random to me what gains success online, but in a weird way that has helped me because I feel free to just try anything. There isn’t one way to find success, so you may as well just try things out and see who connects with it – if no one does, then try something else!

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists that you’d recommend we check out?
I always want to shout out my friends, so I have to say: Hayley Ross, Semi Precious and James Chapman And The Blue Moon.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Alice Mary?
I have a re-release of an old song coming out for Bandcamp Friday in September. Then two more singles coming out in the autumn, and some recording this summer which I’m excited about. I’m also hoping to produce and mix some other artists.

Massive thanks to Alice for answering our questions!

Listen to Alice Mary’s new single, ‘Mystery’, here:

Photo Credit: Ben Peter Catchpole

Introducing Interview: The Bug Club

Following support from the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley for debut single ‘We Don’t Need Room For Lovin’, Welsh trio The Bug Club have now shared recent single ‘Check Mate’ ahead of the release of their debut EP Launching Moondream One later this month.

Delivering their uniquely uplifting, frenetic brand of garage rock, The Bug Club provide the perfect soundtrack to these increasingly sun-filled days. Propelled by a vibrant, driving energy, ‘Check Mate’ oozes a playful sense of euphoria as gloriously scuzzy hooks race alongside blissful harmonies.

We caught up with bassist and vocalist Tilly to find out more…

Hi The Bug Club, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Hi, thanks for having us! We’re a three piece based in Caldicot, South Wales. Dan is actually from Kidderminster but the rest of the band is based in Caldicot so we just say that. I (Tilly) play bass and vocals, Sam plays guitar and vocals and Dan plays drums. My favourite colours are orange and green, Sam likes orange too and Dan likes yellow and blue. Our special skills are: I’m good at losing things, Sam’s good at guessing the time and Dans good at getting his car stuck in the mud. 

How did you initially decide to start creating music together?
Me and Sam weren’t enjoying Uni so we decided to pack it in and start a band. we have been playing on and off since school but our shit time at Uni really gave us a kick up the arse to start doing something we actually wanted to do. Sam and Dan attended the same Uni so that’s how we drafted him in.

You’re about to release your debut EP Launching Moondream One at the end of this month – are there any particular themes running throughout it? 
We decided to name the EP after the last song on it. Ben’s (Mr Ben and The Bens) art is really cool so we thought it would be good to give him free rein and let him do whatever came to mind when he heard the words Launching Moondream One. I guess the theme stemmed from there and became quite spacey. 

We love your jangly, uplifting garage-rock sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Ideal band/musical scenario at the moment is Patti Smith and Jonathan Richman on lead vocals, Peter Paul and Mary on backing vocals, Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, rhythm section from the Violent Femmes and they only ever play ‘It’s Only Life’ by The Feelies.

You’re from a small town in Wales – in ‘normal’ times, how is the music scene down there? Do you get the chance to see much live music? 
There’s a bunch of good bands but it’s too small for any venues so we all just go to Newport, Cardiff and Bristol. We’re sandwiched between all those places so we get to see a load of bands when we’re not skint.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
We’ve been laying pretty low and luckily managed to record between lockdowns to get this EP done. The connecting will hopefully start happening now the world is feeling better. Marc Riley has been really great to us though and has showed some strangers our songs which we are eternally grateful for!

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, throughout these strange times? 
We have quite enjoyed being able to write a bunch of stuff with no real reason or aim of doing anything with it. There is only so many times a walk to the old windmill stays fun though so.. Beans on Toast, the hit live Saturday morning TV show is our new favourite thing. It’s made by a bunch of the people involved with Bingo Records and has no business being that good and funny. Go find it on YouTube!! 

How do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I like to think that if you try and make stuff that you think is good, be nice and when you’re ready try and reach out to people that you would genuinely like to work with, then things will probably work out alright. If you want to get noticed that is. I think being in a band feels mostly the same at whatever level you’re doing it at. You’re playing the same songs with the same people so don’t put too much time into the other bit. But who the heck am I!?

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming bands that you’d recommend we check out?
There’s so many we love at the moment I can’t think on one we wouldn’t recommend! Also with the lack of gigs lately I’d happily watch any person make any noise for about £6 at the moment. Melin Melyn, HMS Morris, Potpourri, Twin Stranger and Sub Cultures will all blow your dick off though. 

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for The Bug Club? 
Well we’re hoping to retire off the earnings from this small EP and live expensively in Devon perhaps. But Plan B is to release another something later in the year and play live as much as possible until then! Our biggest dream is to go to Margate and play a big gig with everyone at Bingo Records, that would be heaven. We can only dream.

Massive thanks to Tilly for answering our questions!

Mastered by Eddie Al-Shakarchi, Launching Moondream One, the upcoming debut EP from The Bug Club, is out 30th April via Bingo Records. It will be released on a 7” orange vinyl and comes with the added extras of a comic book, a packet of ‘moon dust’ and secret bonus downloads that differ with each copy.