Guest Playlist: Julie and Joanna from SelfMade

SelfMade is a platform that explores the unseen sides of the music industry through discussion, performance, art and zines. With a strong focus on women in music, their goal is to celebrate the work of DIY musicians and to create a supportive space to explore the realities of getting a music project or career off the ground. SelfMade is organised independently by artist, Joanna Bain, and musician/label co-founder Julie Hawk (HAVVK) in collaboration with a collective of Irish musicians.

Tomorrow, 25th May, SelfMade is hosting a Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music event (sponsored by IMRO) event at The Tara Building in Dublin. The two-part event will look at mental health in the Irish music scene and the challenges affecting developing musicians in their professional and personal lives. Featuring a workshop lead by psychotherapist, musician, researcher and BIMM lecturer, Aoife Ruth, in collaboration with Wyvern Lingo’s Caoimhe Barry, the event also sees an evening panel with a line-up of Irish artists, including Maria Kelly, Michael Pope (Le Galaxie) and Paddy Hanna, who have all used their creative work and social platforms to highlight career-related mental health and anxiety.

Ahead of the event tomorrow, SelfMade founders Julie and Joanna have chosen some of their favourite tracks that help them to process, wind down, blow off steam or simply kick-start a bit of self-love.

Read about their choices, and listen to the playlist below!

Joan Jett and the Black Hearts – ‘Bad Reputation’
This is reserved for when I need a true kick up the ass and a reminder that other people’s opinions can not topple my own sense of what’s right or who I am. Also a very good one for abolishing pre-gig nerves.
(Julie)

Scarlet – ‘Independent Love Song’
If I want to sing along at top volume in the car, this one is near the top of the list. Another old song (I still have the single on cassette at my parents’ house), but it has this incredible explosive anthemic chorus that’s a joy. It’s aged pretty well too, and every now and again it turns up in a bar or on a TV programme and it takes me right back.
(Joanna)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Maps’
This song reminds me to love myself. It’s such a unique love song because it’s about reminding someone of their true value and that they are truly loved by someone. And to me, it’s even more powerful because it’s coming from Karen O, who is a huge hero of mine as a performer.
(Julie)

The National – ‘Daughters of the Soho Riots’
That crackling, lo-fi intro, the monotone vocal; the beautiful subtlety of it. I love everything about this song. Matt Berninger writes these incredible lyrics that convey a sense of time and place and a feeling without ever saying anything overt. I’ve always loved the line “I don’t have any questions, I don’t think it’s going to rain / You were right about the end, it didn’t make a difference”. It’s a masterclass in understatement and it brings instant calm.
(Joanna)

Jose Gonzales – ‘Crosses’
I’m a very sensitive person and I definitely get triggered by sad music, which can be great sometimes. But Veneer is one of the only albums I can actually work to or really sort out my thoughts to. There’s something about the sense of space around his voice and guitar that leaves room to think and process, rather than dwell on emotion.
(Julie)

Jose Gonzalez – ‘Heartbeats’
This whole album, Veneer, is an exercise in restraint – beautiful, intricate guitar playing and gorgeous melodies. If I want to wind down in the midnight hour I dim the lights, pick up a book, and set this to play in the background. This song in particular though, there’s something so tranquil but so melancholy about it; it makes me stop and breathe and just enjoy its loveliness.
(Joanna)

Robyn – ‘Every Heartbeat’
Probably not the most uplifting Robyn track but for me, it’s my ultimate ‘blowing off steam’ anthem. There’s something about the repetition and the builds in this song that keeps me grounded. Really good for running, trying not to focus on stress or bullshit, or mustering up the mood for a night out.
(Julie)

Bon Iver / The Staves – ‘Heavenly Father’
There’s a video floating around the internet somewhere that features Bon Iver performing this song live – a cappella, with the Staves, at the Sydney Opera House. It is one of the most beautiful bits of music I’ve ever seen or heard, and have listened it to death. If I want to be transported, I put this on loud and just listen to the layers of harmonies and the wall of sound they produce. Incredible.
(Joanna)

Maria Kelly – ‘Dark Places’
This song is just such a comfort. It is such a generous example of someone saying “hey, we all go through this sometimes and it’s not shameful or the end of the world”.
(Julie)

Radiohead – ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’
I was obsessed with this song and its video as a discerning 8 year old when it first came out, and it’s remained a favourite. I love that unmistakeable guitar line, and there’s something about that gradual build and release at the end of the second chorus that brings a feeling of total peace. I remember crying in a field when I heard this live for the first time over a decade a year or two ago in Lisbon – but I wasn’t the only one…!
(Joanna)

Huge thanks to Julie and Joanna for their choices! Listen to the playlist below, and find out more about SelfMade here.

 

INTERVIEW: Le Butcherettes

When I speak to Teri Gender Bender – front woman of Le Butcherettes – she’s in the van with band mates Alejandra (drums), Rikardo (guitars) and Marfred (bass) on her way to Kansas. Later that evening, the band (who are based in El Paso) are supporting riot grrrls L7 on their current tour, and naturally, Teri is in high spirits. I’m in high spirits too, as I’m talking to the woman who I saw dominate the stage at Hackney’s Moth Club at Le Butcherettes’ headline show a few months ago. Her voice and her presence are a formidable force, and I’m pleased to hear that off stage on the phone, her energy is just as prolific. We talk about the band’s new album bi/MENTAL and their recent support slots with Bikini Kill in LA, and even manage to conjure up a voodoo Beatles collaboration….

Hello Teri! I saw you play with Big Joanie at Moth Club in Hackney a few months ago. Talk me through how that went and how you came discovered them…

I wish I could say that we’re in the know, but I have to give the credit to the show’s promoter. He hooked us up with a great new discovery. They blew my mind, holy shit! They were amazing. Putting that all aside, they’re not just talented – there are many super talented people out there – they’re genuine sweethearts. We shared a dressing room with them and they were very self aware and conscious of space, and we’re the same. We always try not to be a burden, so we were both really shy together, and we bonded over that. It was really sweet you know? “We were like cool, we’re weirdos too, yay! You like pizza, I like pizza!” It worked out beautifully and I saw that they’re playing with Bikini Kill in London soon too, which is fucking awesome.

It is, I’ll be there to watch them! You recently supported Bikini Kill in LA too. Please tell me in as much detail as you can how the gig went…

It was like a dream come true. It felt like winning a Grammy. It was a pretty emotional day as it was, because it was our guitarist Rikardo’s birthday. He was turning the big ’29’ so that was pretty symbolic, it was his birthday and we got to spend it at The Palladium, another great venue that we really love and are big fans of, we’ve seen a lot of great shows there before. And to top that, we were opening up for one of our favourite bands ever. Someone once asked me if you could organise a festival who would you have as the headliner? And I was like “Bikini Kill would be my headliner!” They’re also super sweethearts. They came in to say hello and treated us as their guests, so in that sense it felt like home, very Latino, very welcoming. Some bands are shy, and I know I have been before. But when you get a little older you’re less shy, and you take things less personally. Sometimes people might just be having a bad day and not want to talk you know? I used to take that personally, but the end of the day it’s not about me. Everyone has their own movie going on, you know?

But yeah, Bikini Kill are sweethearts and they were very, very welcoming. Such a breath of fresh air. And their set was amazing, holy shit! They played ‘Double Dare Ya’ ‘Tammy Rae’, ‘Suck My Left One’, ‘Rebel Girl’ of course! They essentially played almost all of their songs off the two records they put out, and the EP that was produced by Ian MacKaye from Fugazi. There were loads of people in the crowd too, I ran in to Henry Rollins, and Juliette Lewis was at the show so it was really cool. There were a lot of people who I would say are usually introverts that came out to go and see them.

That sounds amazing! I can’t wait to see them at Brixton in June. You have a very strong performance style and you seem fearless on stage. Who inspired you as a performer and a front woman?

It’s basically this never-ending love/hate relationship between me and my Mother. I say that because she’s the “real deal” artist of the family, and when I was little she was basically putting her career in theatre on hiatus just to be able to be a stay at home Mum with us. But over the years, she took that out on us. So there was this relationship of “damn, I am guilty because she’s the real deal and she knows it, I know it”, so it’s this angst of me just trying to scream all of that desperation on stage trying to get rid of it. And also to get rid of the wrong-doing that’s been done, you know? For me it’s my therapy.

It helps to have other women Pioneers to open up the past as well, like Alice Bag, Kathleen Hana, Tobi Vale, Karen O and Mon Laferte. Mon Laferte is also fearless off stage. She’s had politicians who want to take pictures with her and she’s been put on the spot by them, and she’s had the guts to be like “I am not going to take a picture with you”. Especially in Mexico, the politics can be very corrupt and messy, so just hanging out with one of them can have you end up on someone’s hit list. So to say no to a Politician is to basically get your name on a hit list. But she’s a badass, she still said no to them and she still continues with her art.

But my Mother, she’s an unlimited source of inspiration. Even though we’re sometimes at one another’s throats.

Congratulations on the release of your third album bi/MENTAL. I read that you felt comfortable working with Producer Jerry Harrison because you were able to be “vulnerable and in-your-face at the same time” – that definitely comes across in the songs on the new record, but can you elaborate on that a little more? Did he leave you to your own devices or did he play a bigger role?

I think it was a combination of everything. When you mentioned about be left to your own devices, that’s something I’m definitely aware of when I’m working with a new producer. When you have your original idea and you’re working with someone new, because it’s always been myself in the past or another member of the band so that there’s always a comfort or a shoulder to lean on, you know? But I felt like it would be great to work with Jerry. He was number one on my list because I’ve always admired his work with Talking Heads, but I’m also a big No Doubt fan, and out of the songs he put out with them, ‘New’ is one of my favourite songs and he produced that.

The fact that he was open to producing for us – and that he’d actually heard of our band – was like “Oh shit, I’m not left to my own devices then!” So from the beginning when we just had a phone call I was shaking! It felt so “Ooooh the mystique!” because we hadn’t met face-to-face before. Then his wife was on the phone and she was great, saying she couldn’t wait for pre-production to begin and she invited me to spend that time with them in their home. They were very welcoming, they had me in their home before we started work in the studio, and I got to see the process of how they live and they welcomed me to be part of their family dinners in the evening. I was living in a home full of love, I felt like the family cat you know? Like when a cat relaxes and their tails gets kinda curly? That’s what I felt like, a relaxed little cat. Being able to relax and explore the songs together and just be part of a family. They had no reason to do that either, it could’ve been all just via email you know?

That’s really generous, and great that you felt relaxed. I know you’re an advocate for being open about mental health, and I think that comes across on the themes and lyrics on your new album. Without being too invasive – are you able to tell me why you think it’s so important to be honest with yourself and with others about your own trauma, and the emotions that come with it?

I think it’s important – at least for me – it’s definitely helped. But some people don’t feel comfortable talking about it, and that’s okay too. It’s okay to hold on to something for a long time, eventually the time will come when you want to talk about it. It’s hard to know if there will be someone to hear you out. You’re never alone though, and I try to tell myself that. Just opening up a dialogue is very healthy, which is something I wish I had when I was younger at school when I had all these questions about why I was feeling this way, or why do I have the urge to cut myself and think these horrible thoughts about myself?

I remember when someone would try to open up about it, at least in Mexico with the Catholic Church – we’d be automatically expelled or put in for psychological testing with such a rude manner. There was no tact, it was like “we better evaluate her because she might be a threat”. So maybe a little empathy and dialogue are what’s needed. With mental health in general though, sometimes people don’t want to take care of themselves, period. They’re dealing with over stimulation constantly. A breather would be good. I feel sorry for kids at school now, I remember when I was barely going in to high school when MySpace was becoming a thing, but I cannot imagine being around [social media] now during pre-school or even kindergarten.

It must be a bit of a minefield trying to grow up nowadays.

Collaboration seems important to you – you worked with Alice Bag & Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte on your new album, and you work with members of the Mars Volta in your other project Bosnian Rainbows. In your mind, what makes for an effective collaboration? Who else would you like to work with in the future?

What makes for an effective collaboration is just the wanting to and the will power to do it. There are many times when people say “Yeah let’s do this!” and I’m guilty of it myself, but then dead air…you see the inactivity or you keep pushing it for later, later…that’s what kills a collaboration. For me, I’m attracted to individuals that are like “Shit, let’s do this now, I don’t care where the fuck we are! We’re gonna make this work”. Where there’s will, and want, and desire to do it then hell yeah – we’re in! So luckily all of these individuals that we’ve worked with have had that and the appreciation do it, you know? Why would you want to work with someone that makes you feel shit, right?

There are many, many talented people out there [that I’d collaborate with]. I say this time and time again, but there’s this great artist called Natalia Lafourcade from Mexico and Vanessa Zamora who is a great folklore/pop star, and a great shredder and songwriter. Also Selda, she’s an OG from Turkey, the list goes on! The Beatles, well Paul McCartney…maybe do some voodoo and get the whole group back? Some Voodoo Beatles?

I think you just found the concept for your next record…

You’re returning to London on 9th July to play the Boston Music Room. What are your anticipations for this gig?

Well, hopefully that some people go! We’ll be playing the new songs off of the new record. I take things one day at a time really, but hopefully when the time comes, that everything goes to plan, that we get there safe, that everyone going to see us gets there safe. The cool thing about it – here comes a sales pitch for our shows – is that we never really know what’s gonna happen, we fucking roll with it. It’s a real kind of feeding thing, a give and take situation, that’s why I’m hopeful that people are going because it’s a two-way street. I feed off of the people the band feeds off the people, we feed off each other. It’s like a feast! We’re all just eating!

It’s going to be a banquet, I can’t wait! You’re on tour with L7 now, so tell me as much detail as you can about how excited you are to share a line-up with them…

It’s show number 6 or 7 with them, but it’s been so chill. Another example of great talent and great people who are fucking inspiring and their fans are really sweet to us. It’s been amazing. Our set is about 30 minutes, so it’s really nice to have some chill time afterwards, because when it’s our own shows we have to basically leave right away because it’s curfew!

We played one show with them in this really old and rustic theatre, which I loved! I felt like there were at least a couple of ghosts there, so that was a highlight for me. I love ghosts, who doesn’t right? Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a ghost? I mean, not a demon, just a ghost. But there were a couple of ghosts in that theatre for sure.

Sounds spooky…What artists are you listening to at the moment. Who would you recommend?

Blood Orange – Marfred & Rikardo put it on when we drive, so we’ve all become fans. I’ve kind of been on a repeat too, going back to the classics like Talking Heads, but my biggest obsession that’s been taking up 80% of my listening time is Ariana Grande! I wish I could say something underground, but I went to see her recently and it was insane how she’s only like, 5″ tall and that voice comes out of her! You can see the pain and grief in her eyes.

Good recommendations. Finally, do you have any advice for any woman or non-binary person who’s contemplating starting a band?

My advice – and I’m sure you hear this all the time – is don’t feel like you’re a burden. I feel like that will hold you back. I’ve missed out on so many beautiful friendships and possible songs and ideas only because I thought I was a burden. I felt like I started late, I was 17 when I started a band but I wanted to start a band since I was 6! All those years – from age 6 to 17 – that’s so many years of fear! I wish I’d started earlier. I mean, there was a band who opened up for Bikini Kill on their other LA date that were 10 years old! When I saw them I was like “damn!” and I was so inspired. They’re definitely not having any fear of being a bother or holding back, and that’s so great.

I feel the same about writing, you know? I’ve always wanted to write books, tangible things, because songwriting can be kind of abstract. I wanted to be a tangible “real” writer but my teachers would get frustrated with me because of my language impediments and I felt like I was being a burden on them so I gave up. But it’s never personal, that frustration you know? Sometimes it’s projection. It’s scary sometimes, but you have to just get out there!

Huge thanks to Teri for answering my questions. Catch Le Butcherettes on their upcoming UK tour (dates below)

9th July – London, Boston Music Rooms
10th July Brighton, Green Door Store
11 July – Cheltenham, 2000 Trees Festival

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something – ‘Helen is A Reptile’

Having captivated us with the kaleidoscopic sounds of their last EP Someone Else To Blame, as well as completely blowing us away on numerous occasions with their immense live show, Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something have now shared a magnificent new single.

Drawing on the subjects of OCD and suicidal ideation, ‘Helen Is A Reptile’ describes a human lizard hybrid realisation of dark thoughts that can creep through victims’ minds and taunt them when they’re most vulnerable. Written after Jemma had been experiencing days of insomnia, the track is propelled by a primal, whirring energy as immense swirling hooks accompany their raw, impassioned vocals.

A soaring slice of sparkling psych-rock with shades of ‘70s glam, ‘Helen Is A Reptile’ oozes all of Freeman’s trademark hypnotic majesty, creating an other-worldly sonic delight, whilst drawing attention to the extremely pressing issue of mental health.

Featuring Wendy Rae Fowler and Martina Ziewe, and directed by Black Triangle, you can watch the new video for ‘Helen Is A Reptile’ here:

Buy ‘Helen Is A Reptile’ for what you can afford on Bandcamp now. And catch Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something live for the single launch, along with GIHE faves Scrounge and Eyesore and The Jinx, tomorrow 2nd May at The Windmill Brixton.

And, not only is ‘Helen Is A Reptile’ a treat for the ears, but it’s accompanied by an utterly unique, handmade lathe cut vinyl. There are only 55 copies of the vinyl and each one has been individually hand cut by 345 vinyl in Brighton. The covers are all unique and each have a piece of lino flooring from the video set attached. On the other side, there is a unique lino print designed and printed by Jem and numbered by hand in their South London home. They will be available only at the launch party and 10 will be held back for a special silent auction online, the winners to be announced on Friday 3rd May, all proceeds will go to charity Music Support UK – a charity supporting those in any area of the UK music industry suffering from addiction, emotional and mental health issues. All details of how to get involved in the auction below:

  • There are ten 7” singles available to buy online via this blind auction.
  • The ten largest bids submitted to the auction will be the winners.
  • You can only bid once in this auction, but if you’re interested in buying multiple copies please  also say how many you’d like to buy at the price you bid. If your bid ends up in the top 10 we’ll try to accommodate your request for multiple copies, subject to availability.
  • Auction begins at midnight on 2nd May and ends at 23:59 (UK time) the same day. Bids received outside of these times will not be entered into the auction.
  • Send your bid to us in a private message via the JF&TCS Facebook page. All bids received via other means (public comments on fb posts, email, other social media, carrier pigeon) will not be entered into the auction.
  • Bids must be placed in £GBP.
  • JF&TCS will keep the retail price of the single to cover manufacturing costs (£10), plus P&P expenses from each winning bid. The rest of the money bid will be donated to Music Support UK. 
  • All bids placed are binding commitments to pay the price bid for one copy of the 7” single. Please don’t bid more than you’re prepared to pay.
  • Winners will be notified as soon as possible via email after the auction ends. We’ll also send you a PayPal invoice for the amount bid so you can pay for your 7”.
  • The names of the winners will be published by JF&TCS in a FB post as soon as possible after the auction ends, once sales have been finalised (unless you prefer to remain anonymous – please let us know if so). 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

FIVE FAVOURITES: Sarah P.

Sarah P. (former front-woman of Keep Shelly In Athens) has shared her new EP Maenads with the world, and it’s a record that openly explores the theme of female power in all its magic, strength and “imperfect perfection”. The record is a triumphant return for the artist, who has been busy championing public conversations about mental health through the creation of her monthly zine EraseRestart, which aims to wipe out the stigma that surrounds it. 

We caught up with Sarah P. to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five artists or albums that have influenced her songwriting technique. Check out her responses below…

1. Sad Lovers & Giants – Les Années Vertes
This record is everything to me. Pure 80s sound, conscious-but-mysterious lyrics, eerie vocals. I’ve always loved the “hopeless romantic” vibe of the post punk-scene. Les Années Vertes is a classic, timeless piece of art. Even if the sound is now considered vintage, the lyric themes are easy to connect with. This album is a manifesto for the youth – I believe every generation can relate to it. I put on this record when I need a push in my life. It makes me feel powerful and confident. It takes me back to being a suburban teen with dirty converse shoes trying to grasp from the complexities of coming of age. And whenever I’m playing it, I think of this awkward child (that grew up to be an even more awkward adult), her tough years and how she overcame the hardships.

2. Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth
I guess I’m naturally attracted to haunting melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and quirky vocals. This is my favourite Nine Inch Nails album and one of my top records of all time. I remember listening to With Teeth for the first time and being genuinely impressed by the arrangements and how every sound is right where it belongs (pun intended). Also, it’s safe to say that NIN are the most amazing band I’ve seen performing live. The production of everything they do is so detailed-oriented and perfect, and always leaves me in their awe. ‘Right Where It Belongs’ is perhaps my most favourite song in the world. It’s so raw, authentic and honest – a truly inspiring composition. Most of the things I strive to be, I’ve learned courtesy of NIN and With Teeth.

3. Tim Buckley – Goodbye And Hello
When I was around 6 years old, my dad made me a mixtape and included ‘Phantasmagoria in Two’ on it. Boy, didn’t I fall in love? I asked him “who’s Tim Buckley?”, he showed me a picture and I was ready and committed to get married to him. Dad told me that Tim Buckley had died, but that didn’t matter, because he was set out to be my forever crush. An angel for me – a tortured soul, regardless. Goodbye And Hello is too pretty to be man-made. Vulnerability was Buckley’s strength. ‘Pleasant Street’ is a truly moving song about addiction, but there are far too many gems in this album. Buckley wrote from his heart – he never took a vocal lesson or cared for chords and song structures. To me, he’s one of the greatest artists to have ever walked on earth.

4. Anne Clark – Joined Up Writing/The Sitting Room
POETRY! Anne Clark, the ultimate siren – she’s so intense. ‘Our Darkness’ is obviously her most popular song to date, however the whole record is pure beauty. She’s one of the most fascinating artists, I’ve ever come across. I love how committed she’s always been to her artistry. I point that out knowing how tough the industry is with women who are not making what they like to call “mainstream music”. But Anne Clark is a true badass and never shied away from speaking truths on her songs. Beautiful arrangements, leaving room for majestic spoken words that make you shiver.

5. Dionysis Savvopoulos – Vromiko Psomi
‘Zeimpekiko’ is one of the songs that makes me very emotional. My parents played it every time they had their friends over – it brings back memories of their parties at home, the smell of cigarettes and whiskey, the breeze coming in from the open window, the muffled sound of philosophical conversations, music and the sounds of cars passing by. I’ve reconnected with this record while in Berlin – away from home. This record was released two years before the fall of Greece’s military junta. Savvopoulos was jailed twice during that time – the song ‘Dimosthenous Lexis’ is about him in jail thinking how life would be if he got out of jail (apparently, not too bright, because democracy seemed like a dream at the time). In times where fascism slips through even the tightest layers of our societies, it’s important to look back and learn from our recent history. Democracy shouldn’t be taken for granted and neither should artistry and talent that’s bold and brave to address topics
that our societies may not be ready to hear about.

Follow Sarah P. on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: George Geranios

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Dish Pit – ‘1000 Ways To Die’

Forget your ‘Bucket List’ – Montreal punk trio DISH PIT have shared ‘1000 Ways To Die’ – a track which riotously explores the many reasons why millennials might be down in the dumps. The release precedes the band’s May UK tour dates, which include a slot at The Great Escape Festival this week.

Having met in the dish pit, washing dishes and wiping away greasy leftovers; Nora, Jack and Brianna came together as a band under the moniker, and moved into an apartment together in Montreal. Wedged between a porn studio and a music studio – it’s no surprise that their sound is as chaotic, unpredictable, and as filthy as their surroundings.

“This track is meant to be an exploration into why everyone my age is seemingly depressed” says vocalist Nora. “’Is it the hormones in our milk or video games?’ is implying that it could be a chemical, or lifestyle thing.” Whatever the reason, Dish Pit’s new track is a temporary, riotous remedy for millennial angst. Listen to ‘1000 Ways To Die’ below and follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Dish Pit UK Tour Dates
15/05/18 Thomas Street Manchester
17/05/18 The Ferret Preston
18/05/18 East Street Tap The Great Escape Brighton
24/05/18 The Amersham Arms New Cross London
25/05/18 The Exchange Gin Festival Bedford
29/05/18 The Salty Dog Northwich

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Introducing Interview: Megan Airlie

Having just released her stunning new single ‘After River’, Scottish artist Megan Airlie tackles the issue of mental health with her sweeping, emotion-strewn vocals and twinkling, finger-picked melodies.

We caught up with Megan to find out more about her journey with music…

Hi Megan, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
I grew up in Glasgow which has a pretty predominant and flourishing music scene. You do need to go on the hunt though to find music that isn’t, as a friend calls it, “skinny white boy guitar bands”, but there is definitely a wide variety of great music happening here. I’m currently only performing solo around Glasgow, my voice and my guitar. Soon I would like to build up to being in a band again on my terms. But I write all my own tunes and pull a lot of influence from the ‘40s-‘60s

What initially inspired you to start creating music?
I would never tell anyone as a child, for fear of embarrassment, but I’ve always wanted to perform in some way. I looked up to my aunt a lot who was in a band in the ’90s and I thought that was the coolest thing ever, so I taught myself how to sing and play but didn’t really write anything until I was 17.

Who would you say have been your main musical influences?
Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin and Etta James were always the people I would aspire to perform like. I take a lot of influence from the ’60s folk scene as well.

We love your beautiful new single ‘After River’. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write it?
I had not sat down to write or felt the need to write in a long time before ‘After River’. It came out during a very dark period and when my mental health was at its worst, so I thought best to hold myself up as much as a could and release something out of me that needed to be said. I find it easier to talk about things through writing it down and putting it to a melody than just saying to folk “I feel terrible”. I don’t think I could have written about anything else at that time.

 

Do you feel the music industry could be doing more to support mental health issues?
Totally. But every industry could be. I actually feel more unity and support when it comes to mental health discussion in the music scene than anywhere else. There is a lot more understanding I find. But we should always be attentive and we should always open up a dialogue about it.

And what advice would you give to other musicians struggling with their own mental health?
When in doubt, write it down. Get it out and take time to process. Everything slows down a little when you put pen to paper.

And what does the rest of 2018 have in store for Megan Airlie?
I’m currently preparing for future single releases to come out in the next couple of months, and getting back into recording soon with Scott Flanagan who recorded my single ‘After River’. A lot of exciting stuff!

Huge thanks to Megan for answering our questions!

‘After River’ is out now Bloc Music Records.

 

Interview: Bloom Twins

Teaming up with charities to raise awareness of pressing issues is not a new concept for the Bloom Twins. 2015 saw the twins joining forces with UNICEF, covering John Lennon’s iconic ‘Imagine’, in a campaign for children’s rights across the globe. And Bloom Twins are once again combining action with harmonies with their latest single ‘Talk To Me’, in which they raise awareness of the importance of talking about mental health – an issue which has affected them both personally.

Nicky Lee-Delisle caught up with the Bloom Twins to find out more about the latest single, and their experiences of mental health issues.

“We wrote ‘Talk To Me’ four years ago” the twins tell me. “One of our friends died from anorexia… Her grandmother died and she was the closest person to her. At some point she stopped talking to anybody and letting anyone in. Passing away from Anorexia was the consequence of not talking to people, and that is what the song is about. The whole idea is focused on talking to people and letting people in.”

The video for ‘Talk To Me’ is a harrowing race against time in an engulfing city landscape, reminding the viewer to take direct action in reaching out to those who need it before it is too late – “We tried to think about it, about what our friend was going through”, Bloom Twins explain. The lyrics are a genuine, heartfelt plea to open up about any troubles ‘Talk to me and speak your mind / I’ll stand beside you’. Songs are a powerful medium in conveying messages, with Anna and Sonia determined to use their platform to create positive change: “The song is about what we went through during that time, and urging those in similar positions to just to let it all out. Talk to people…”

Another platform for change that the twins speak passionately about is the poisoned chalice which is social media. “We wanted to make a change, we didn’t want to make it just about the music. We want to be a part of things which we are thinking about. Something we are striving to deliver. Right now everyone is so into Instagram – how you look and where you go. It’s not about what you’re doing anymore”, Sonia muses, “What I don’t like about social media is that people compare one another, but then we go against that. I find it stupid that people make jokes about others (on social media). Maybe that’s why people have issues talking about mental illness”. However, the Bloom Twins hope that their single will go some way in turning the negative side of social media on its head via their hashtag campaign #holdyourfriend. “That’s why we started talking to strangers (via social media) saying ‘do you want to be a part of it?’. I know it seems like we’re just promoting ourselves, but I was surprised how many people wanted to take part.”

Reaching out via social media is one way of being there for those who are in dark places, but what about those who we encounter in our day to day lives…? “I would say treat them normally”, Anna advices. “Don’t be like ‘oh that person is depressed, I need to be super-nice to them’ – never act too obviously that they are depressed.”

“I would spend more time with that person” adds Sonia. “Then at a point where that person would feel more comfortable with me I would say something like – ‘you know what, I’m going through bad times too!’”

The music industry itself is notorious for taking its toll on the mental health of those involved, and as much as popular culture feeds off the concept of the ‘tortured poet’ musicians are three times more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than any other profession. The Bloom Twins moved over to London from their homeland of Ukraine at the young age of just seventeen in order to pursue their career in music, so what advice do they have in negotiating such a cut-throat industry? “It is very normal within any creative industry to feel down and feel like you’re not needed from the beginning. You feel like everybody is telling you ‘no’. You need to believe in yourself and it’s fine to feel down. Write a song whenever anything happens, let it out.” Although journeying through the music industry can be gruelling, the music which has been created as the end product can go far in the healing process for anyone who suffers from mental health issues. “Music holds a special place for us, listening to our favourite songs provides an escape. People tend to close inside of them off, and the only thing they can do is plug in those guys (mimes putting on headphones).”

Catch Bloom Twins live at Nambucca on 16th February for The N7 Sessions. And on 17th May at Camden Assembly for MaDa Music Entertainment.

Nicky Lee-Delisle
@Nicky__Lee