It can be hard if one person has an idea the direction which a song needs to go and it’s being pulled in different directions by the other two. Although it can be difficult it’s worth taking it that way as there might be something there. We experiment, jam a lot, we have a lot of ideas for songs that might work, we try to shoehorn them into a song somewhere.
(((0))): So, firstly can you tell me a little bit about how Sœur came about, I know James you have a bit of history!
Anya: Well we were all in separate bands, me and Tina lived in Worcester. We both fronted our own bands and used to play together quite a lot. Ha, we used to practice in Tina’s dads living room. We started doing covers together because, we were offered a trip to Norway.
Tina: If we played, like, three covers gigs whilst we were there.
Anya: All expenses paid, basically a free skiing holiday. We thought, yeah, we’ll do that! That’s the first time we actually played together but we didn’t start properly until our other bands had split up. I moved down to Bristol to start something new. We got drunk one night and was like, let’s start a band! I woke up the next morning and thought, that’s a good idea. Tina moved to Bristol not long after that.
(((O))): Did you come in later James?
James: Yeah, Maybeshewill played one of their last gigs at ArcTanGent and Anya was working there. I knew, in the back of my head that Maybeshewill would come to an end, as we had talked about it. So I was actively looking for something else. ATG is a great event to network at and Anya was working backstage.
James: You were working the VIP for our show I think?
Anya: Yeah, I was. I remember admiring your cymbals.
(((O))): James, I think she is only in it for your cymbals (all laugh)
James: I was up for anything at the time. After 10 years of doing post-rock it would be quite nice to do something totally different.
(((O))): Something without a crescendo?
James: Yeah, that’s it, I was in a band with another friend of Anya’s called Mari playing in a band called Vault of Eagles so I was trialling the the bands for a while for, I don’t know, a while before realising Sœur was more in keeping with what I am as a drummer. I moved down to Bristol and there we are, three years later.
(((O))): So, you are a little unusual as you’re dual guitars and vocals, did you intend to start like that? Or did neither of you want to play bass?
Tina: No, actually neither of us can play bass! Actually we both thought we would get a bass amp and I ended up never getting one. I ended up with this dirty crate cab and put my Marshall through it. It was bassy as hell. I tried a bass amp next to it and it wasn’t as good. So we stuck that until we got our Laney stuff (Sœur were recently made Laney artists)
Anya: You know a band called Goddamn? Well when I first saw them, they had two guitarists and they were both singers as well, so the idea was already in my head. I never thought it would be an issue, we would, you know, make it work.
James: We don’t miss the bass, all the frequencies are filled out, which is what’s important
(((O))): How do you create your music, do you have a particular process?
Tina: We don’t really have a process, sometimes I will come to a session with a riff, sometimes Anya will come with a riff. Jim’s even come with a riff or a written song.
(((O))): I like the way you said ‘even Jim’.
James: Like, even the drummer!!
Tina: Actually, he’s a better guitarist than both of us!
James: We all sit in a room for hours and hours, we like to see what direction things are going. If it is not going in the right direction we like to try it anyway, as you don’t know, it might work. It can be hard if one person has an idea the direction which a song needs to go and it’s being pulled in different directions by the other two. Although it can be difficult it’s worth taking it that way as there might be something there. We experiment, jam a lot, we have a lot of ideas for songs that might work, we try to shoehorn them into a song somewhere.
(((O))): Do you end up with a kind of sketchbook?
James: Yeah, we do but sometimes we will write a song in two or three practices and that’s it. It’s difficult because there is a lot of stuff just in your head, we record practices but we don’t file anything so we can put things together on a computer, it’s very natural and all done in the practice room.
(((O))): I’m surprised about that, some of your melodies seem very cohesive and almost orchestrated.
Anya: Yeah, well we all write our own melodies and sing, the other person will come along and sing what they think over the top.
Tina: Well it is a bit higgildy-piggaldy!
(((O))): Lyrics-wise, you have mentioned a few things in interviews, but are they deeply personal or maybe you find it cathartic to get things down on paper.
Anya: Well, it’s different, for me I have been writing lyrics since I was very young, maybe 6 years old. During my teenage years it was very cathartic. It was not only a safe space where I could express the darker emotions like anger, guilt or feeling low it was also a way to communicate with myself. Sometimes when I write a song, I go back to it and think, yeah, that’s what’s going on in my head. I can write a song and capture that feeling and then go back to it whenever I want, I am not ignoring it or suppressing it, it’s dealt with.
Tina: I keep a diary, and that’s where my secrets go. I don’t struggle with my mental health that I think a lot of people do. I tend to write about things in the world that I think are wrong. Like ‘Fight’, just being about not thinking about what you are doing rather than a feeling deep inside me. I have my ways to cope and music is not really through my lyrics.
(((O))): Something I was debating about asking about is mental health, it’s been in the press a lot, especially around a few high profile musicians. A few friends have told me that touring is tough, physically and mentally
Anya: I do have my coping mechanisms, it’s been a bit of a learning curve for me, some tours I haven’t coped very well, some tours I have done better. I’m getting there now. It’s something that I am aware of. I’ve started to be more open about it and it’s nice because fans open up and say that they feel the same way. I think they are often surprised that people who are up there looking like they having a great time can be struggling.
James: I have seen a few bands open up around this. A band called Indoor Pets posted on their Instagram after a tour describing how they are going back to their ‘Normal lives’, their jobs and families etc. They made the point that what you see on instagram is not always true. There is a perception that things are going really well
Anya: That’s not just in the band world, that’s just instagram
James: Yes, but bands don’t often open up around what’s the reality. It was refreshing to see a band say that it’s not all a painted picture, and that’s something that you know have to do as a band. Show that you’re, well maybe not rock stars but this is how it is in a band
James: When you are not on tour you are just working, often working two jobs, putting yourself under intense pressure to be able to do it.
Anya: And sometimes you have to put all other aspects of your life on hold.
James: You’re hiding behind a “picture” of what you posted on instagram. The music industry is always putting a lot of pressure for artists to put out things on social media, creating this illusion so that people buy into it.
(((O))): So, talking about social media, is it something that you felt you had to do, has it helped you as a band?
Anya: Well everyone does it, you have to do it otherwise you will handicap yourself.
James: It does feel like a commitment now
Tina: As individuals we are not that active on social media so we have to think, ‘oh, have we posted anything today’ it’s something we have to do.
(((O))): Funny though, as much as things have changed in the years I’ve been listening to music. I still go and listen to bands and go to see gigs because a friend told me.
Anya: Most of the bands I have been into recently though friends or have supported a band we liked.
Tina: It isn’t social media that introduces us to people, that is still friends, word of mouth they use social media to keep in touch and keep up to date with us that way.
Anya: It is a really good way for us to interact with people though, and they feel like they’re more in touch with us, as people. We don’t have to pay promotional companies to plaster posters everywhere, we can post something and people can comment.
(((O))): So, what should we be excited about in 2019?
(All look at each other, quizzically)
James: We’re just trying to expand and build our audience, trying to keep releasing singles, ideally every six weeks. We have festival season coming up, we have quite a few but we’d always like to play more. We’re hoping to get on some support tours, we’re often best when we’re put in front of people who haven’t seen us before, we tend to get their attention and they really like it. Support tours would be perfect, we just need to get out there and network and stuff.
Tina: We’re very DIY, so there’s not much help for us out there.
James: We talked about an album, two or three times, we’re just preparing our minds for it. It’s a bit of a commitment. This will be our third EP but writing an album write now feels like something that should be a lot more solidified together, like a set piece of work.
(((O))): I guess you could argue, an unconventional band and an unconventional process. Do you need an album?
Tina: Well, EPs just do better. It’s a big commitment to do an album and if you do it and it flops, it’s not that it’s it for you but it’s a lot to invest and a lot of people like to be drip fed something every now and again rather than an album every two years.
James: Well, the way our music works, it’s quite varies, we have some weird songs. To have an album which takes you, not on maybe a journey, it’s not prog rock! We’d like to have more than five tracks and to build something together.
Tina: We need more songs first!
James: Yeah, well we spend so much time doing admin and Facebook, we spend more time sat at laptops than we do making music. We work full time so the time we spend as a band, half the time is spent in the practice room and half the time is spent online.
(((O))): So, lastly, who should we be excited about band or artist wise this year? Other than Trigger Thumb (support for the Manchester gig)
James: Well there such a talented band, I don’t know how they have not taken off already, especially in that scene.
Anya: We really love a band called The Guru Guru (https://theguruguru.bandcamp.com/), from Belgium.
Tina: Another band which I don’t know how they haven’t taken off, their first album is really, really good and they have a really engaging live performance.
Anya: There are our Bristol pals, No Violet (https://noviolet.bandcamp.com/) they’re really grungy. The guitarist is a bit of a genius, if you listen you can hear some Radiohead going on.
Tina: There is another band called Buke and Gass (https://bukeandgase.bandcamp.com/) they’re a two-piece, their name is from their instruments, a baritone ukulele and a guitar/bass and some handmade instruments. The stuff they are making now is more electronic.
Anya: Her voice is insane, it is so precise, not just that her tone is amazing.
James: They are like no band i know, their ideas are just really refreshing.
Tina: I described one of their recent singles as Bjork meets Battles! It doesn’t all sound like that but that’s the only thing I could compare it to.
Anya: Oh yeah, CLT DRP (https://www.facebook.com/pg/CLTDRP) terrible name (The name is spelt without the vowels!) I did say, are you sure guys!?
Anya: Annie, the singer is a total badass, she’s Canadian so shes got a really cool accent, almost like Karen O, shouty vocals.
(((O))): Well, that’s all from me
Band: Great, thanks very much.