Every Monday we will be bringing you interviews with unsigned UK or Ireland artists for Independent Music Monday. Recently we caught up with unsigned Bristol based band Soeur to find out more…
Who is in the band, how did you meet, where are you from and how did you come up with the band name?
[ANYA] Me (Guitar/Vocals), Tina (Guitar/Vocals) and Jim (Drums). Tina and I both grew up in Worcestershire, we met at a jam night about eight years ago. We both fronted our own bands in Worcester, our bands would gig together a lot and we both practiced in Tina’s Dad’s living room for years. We never actually performed together until we got offered a free skiing holiday in Norway so we blagged a 3hr covers set. It wasn’t until our former bands split up and I moved to Bristol that we got drunk and actually decided to start a band. I met Jim, by chance, at ArcTanGent festival and it just happened to be that his band of 10yrs was about to call it a day and he was on the hunt for a new project to get involved in. The band name was just one of the many ideas we had, we stuck with it because we wanted something that reflected the great sense of unity we get from music.
[TINA] Anya, Jim and me. Anya and I used to live in Droitwich/Worcester and so knew each other through the music scene. We both fronted our own bands and used to gig together quite a lot. Coincidently our bands broke down roughly at the same time and so when Anya moved to Bristol she convinced me to join her and start a band. Jim met Anya at ArcTanGent a few years ago and his current band were breaking up too so we nabbed him.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
[ANYA] I grew up listening to all the records my Dad owned, he’s responsible for the foundation of my musical influence, always explaining to me the meaning behind lyrics and the way in which music was shaped by its era. As a kid, I remember listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Nirvana, Radiohead. When I was three and couldn’t sleep one night, I watched the entire of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ live tour and became obsessed. I was fascinated by the performance, the power of her presence on stage, and the way she would talk about channeling her emotions through music. Now, my music taste is massively varied but the bands that I feel have influenced our music most are PJ Harvey, Nirvana, Shellac, Queens of the Stone Age and more recently, Idles, Tigercub, Yonaka, The Guru Guru.
[TINA] I've had so many musical influences over the years and wouldn't say that my style is down to anyone in particular. I try and get something out of anything I hear and just want to make music that makes you feel something. As a child, I was very much into pop, rap and rnb, Destiny's Child was one of my faves and so I like to think I keep a pop edge to the stuff I write. But my Dad would play everything from The Planets - Gustav Holst, to Buddy Holly to Led Zeppelin and everything in between. Today I like to listen to a wide variety of stuff. I love classical musical, still love pop (the good stuff), love the scene we're in so am constantly keeping up to date with the amazing current bands at the moment, Yonaka, Idles, Demob Happy, No Violet, Marmozets to name just a few, but also love to listen back to classics. Everything I listen to must influence me in some way I guess!
How would you describe your sound?
[ANYA] We usually go with “Pop songs drenched in grunge heavy noise”, essentially we like to write short, catchy, pop songs that people can relate to but with a heavy, angsty, riffy edge. The three of us have very different musical backgrounds and influences (though there are some obvious overlaps) and I think that creates a really nice push-pull effect when writing, which naturally sets us apart genre-wise. We love to play with intricately intertwined vocals, switching up harmonies and creating rhythms that both syncopate and synchronise in a matter of seconds. I think it’s fun to win over our more pop-y fans to the heaviness and vice versa.
[TINA] Interesting, catchy, heavy pop songs.
What is your latest single called and what was the influence behind it?
[TINA] Usually Anya and I have different perspectives on what we write about so it’s nice not to be completely opposed this time. ‘Do What I Want’ for me is about finally choosing yourself after putting someone else’s interests first for so long. As a general rule, it’s good to be kind, to compromise, to be accommodating; but if not checked, especially if it’s not reciprocated, resentment creeps in and things start to get nasty. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back at a previous relationship, the resentment was real and it turned me into a right little witch, I was out doing whatever the hell I wanted in spite of how I felt. Relationships aren’t always straight forward though, and the song reflects that. We explore feeling torn, do we ever really know what we want?
[ANYA] I think I started writing these lyrics at a time when I was beginning to explore polyamory. I became very frustrated with some of my relationships, particularly when I felt the other person wasn’t being honest with themselves or with me about how they truly felt. The whole song sees me setting myself rigidly in my ways after having felt compromised for a long time. I basically thought I’d finally figured out what I wanted and that anyone who wanted to be with me either had to align with that or leave me be, essentially abandoning any sort of compromise. It touches on the concept of toxic monogamy and challenges the idea of ownership in relationships, “I won’t be your babe, won’t be your slave”, for me, means that being with someone doesn’t mean that they own me, it’s not my job to meet their every need (nor is it theirs to meet mine) and not doing so does not indicate that I’m inadequate or that they’re too needy and vice versa. Ironically, the song swings back round at the end, saying “but I will if you want me”, which kind of resembles the fickle nature of my thoughts on the subject at the time. Until that point, I felt that the song had this empowering certainty to it but that in actual fact, it was perhaps a defence against a deeper insecurity and the longing to be loved.
[JAMES] ‘Do What I Want’ has become one of my faves, even in the early writing process I felt quite excited about it. For me it has almost every musical element of what we’re trying to achieve when we’re writing songs, catchy pop melodies, harmonies all over the place, beefed up guitars and a tempo that makes you feel energised. It’s not your usual layout for a song but I can’t help but enjoy all it has to offer. It’s also great track to walk to if you need to be somewhere important, haha! Everyone needs a good walking song!
I think we chose it as a single because it stands out as a track that might grab people's attention. We want Soeur to be heard far and wide and a song like this is a great introduction to the wide palette of music we have to offer.
What’s your local music scene like?
[ANYA] Bristol is awesome for music. When I first moved there, about four years ago, I realised quite quickly that there was an amazing community surrounding the DIY band scene, I spent weeks going to gigs all most every night and made so many amazing friends. I feel like, as a band, we don’t quite fit snugly into a specific scene but instead exist on the fringes of a few different ones, which means we get to play shows with so many different kinds of bands, which we love.
[TINA] It's great, Bristol is such a great city for music. The few music venues we have left, mean that we get to play gigs that are the right size for us and that makes us able to develop as artists. Thekla was under threat of having to close down recently and won it's fight so it's also nice to know that people are looking out for these venues that have made Bristol such an interesting place to live in in the first place.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
[JAMES] At the moment we’re trying to write as much new material as possible, just write write write, even if it’s shit, just get it down and out of you so you can keep moving forwards. We’ve had loads of ideas and parts of songs floating around on our phones for ages, we recently set up a sort of basic recording studio in our rehearsal room so we can actually demo songs properly rather than using our phones to record certain ideas. It’s already massively helped with the whole process of writing music. I think we wrote a brand new song the other day in the shortest time ever! Well... a new record time for us anyway! For example ‘Do What I Want’ probably took 6-7 months to finally class it as finished. Usually someone comes along with a riff or a brief sort of outline of an idea and we just work hard together and let the song go wherever it goes, morphing this idea into various forms, it can take months if we’re not all happy with it but recently it’s just sort of flown along.
[TINA] So the EP ‘No Show’ set to be released later this year has been written and recorded for what seems like an age to us now. It really reflects where we were as a band. We got into the habit of spending a long time on songs, trying to be perfectionist about them, but not being able to find perfection because we 3 as people are so different. At times, our individual compromises are what makes Soeur sound like Soeur. It’s got a little bit of us all in every song. The journey of the band has been really interesting to watch and it’s really cool to hear the different influences in this EP, especially because I feel in the last few months, our writing has become a bit more focussed and is becoming a bit more realised. We’ve got a summer of festivals including Boomtown, 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent and hopefully will be releasing an album at some point next year.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
[ANYA] I’ve always been a sucker for Steve Albini, ‘Rid of Me’ and ‘In Utero’ are two of my all time favourite albums, working with him would be a bloody dream.
[TINA] Loads! Buke & Gase, No Violet, Yonaka, Anna Calvi. We can dream!
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
[ANYA] We were supporting Demob Happy at House of Vans in London a while back, it was literally the first song of the set, I was head-banging and got my hair completely tangled up in the headstock of Tina’s guitar. I was yelling at Teen just to yank it out which, to be fair, she was trying to do but we ended up having to play the entire last section of the song in tandem. If it wasn’t so funny I would’ve been way more embarrassed.
[TINA] Once Anya and I collided and her hair got stuck in my headstock mid song. It would not come out and we had so much of the song left to go so I had to stop playing hold my guitar and rip her hair out of it!! It was pretty rock n roll.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about your band?
[TINA] That they won't regret it if they come and see us live.