An Interview With…Eliza And The Bear

Ahead of their set at Keele University’s annual ‘Woodstoke Festival’, I caught up with Chris Brand and James Kellegher from London-based Eliza and the Bear about all things music, gigs, and Girls Against. Eliza and the Bear are a five-piece band with an uncategorisable genre and a self-titled album that came out in early April 2016. You may have heard their song ‘Friends’ on a Bulmers ad, or caught ‘Lion’s Heart’ and ‘It Gets Cold’ on the radio.

ON… TOURING

The band had finished a UK tour earlier in the year and had already stopped off in Stoke-on-Trent to perform at the intimate venue, The Sugarmill.

CHRIS: It was good … we’ve been there three or four times before. It was part of a huge thirty-date tour over thirty-five days, so a pretty hectic tour; but it was pretty fun that it was busy and people were enjoying it.

ON… FESTIVAL SEASON

 Starting out on festival season at Woodstoke, it is apparent that the event is truly only a stepping off point for many more events that James and Chris couldn’t remember all the names of. These include Gloucester’s Barn on the Farm, Truck in Oxfordshire and Derbyshire’s Y Not.

CHRIS: We’ve got quite a few. It gets to the point where you don’t even know what you’re doing the next weekend; you just take it one weekend at a time. Festival season is kind of like our favourite time of the year; you get to play outside a lot and most of the time the weather is pretty good – most of the time. When you get a rainy one, it puts a right downer on it.

Eliza and the Bear kicked off a line-up of artists including Katy B and Sub Focus after our chat, performing a few songs off the new album and gathering a substantial crowd in spite of the appeal of the fairground rides and headphone disco happening outside of the indoor stage.

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Eliza and the Bear performing at Woodstoke, Keele University, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. 27/05/16. Photograph by Caitlin Abbiss.

ON… THEIR ALBUM AND 2016

 JAMES: Well… [album number two is] almost there.

CHRIS: We spent last year, with our downtime, just writing again. We’re quite deep into writing album two already. We’ll probably be touring at the end of the year; hopefully we’ll get to spread out into Europe and maybe a bit further afield to get out and see new places instead of playing the same ring of shows (JAMES LAUGHS) over and over again.

 ON… SEXUAL ASSAULT AT GIGS

 CHRIS: Definitely… people feel that they’re in a dark place, and crammed together, you feel like….

JAMES: You can get away with it.

CHRIS: Yeah. And obviously you’ve got booze, in some places, and the drugs flowing and that kind of stuff happens; the guys aren’t thinking about the consequences of their actions, it’s all fun to them – but it’s not to someone else. They might be enjoying themselves, but then another person might just be hating life and when you’re in a crowd you haven’t really got anywhere to go.

ME: Does it affect your mentality, not being able to see past the first few rows?

CHRIS: Yeah, especially with our crowds – our crowds are quite young. If we were a metal band and our fans were thirty-year-old blokes… (JAMES LAUGHS) you’d be able to jump on top of their heads… But
it’s even for artists! I remember a story about Florence Welch – she
crowd-surfed at one of her gigs and she was sexually assaulted by a fan. It can
breach that gap. It can be anyone. At the same time, that person who did it
probably thought it was a bit of fun and overstepped the mark, and that’s where the problem lies. It’s like, being aware of what’s having a good time and
what’s too far…

 JAMES: It’s a mental thought process, really. I can’t get my head around it. Where the hell people think they can get away with it is bang out of order, to be honest.

 CHRIS: You wouldn’t do it. If you put yourself in the situation where there were just you and the other person you couldn’t do what you were doing in that crowd and think it was normal, just because you’re in a crowd, you’re in a mass of people… doesn’t mean you can push the boundaries.

 ON… SOCIAL MESSAGES IN MUSIC

 CHRIS: I almost switch off when someone starts – especially in their music – starts pushing a sort of agenda. I always feel like I wouldn’t do it myself; I don’t disagree with it, but I automatically shut off because I start to not enjoy it. I feel like, yes there is a platform to talk about these things, but I don’t like it when it’s in the songs. I like when someone talks about it and makes a statement with the platform that their music has created. When it comes down to messages in the music, I’m not a fan…

JAMES: Yeah. Kate Nash did it.

 CHRIS: Kate Nash went quite into a feminist kind of thing. It alienated quite a lot of people because some people find it like

 JAMES: ‘You will listen to me.’

 CHRIS: ‘You’re wrong, I’m right’ – pointing the finger. But if you sit and talk about it, you can put your point across and listen to someone else’s point, and understand it whereas, with music, it’s more of a one-sided conversation.

 ON… HAVING A ROLE IN TACKLING SOCIAL ISSUES

 CHRIS: Yeah, if you’ve got a platform then speak up for what you believe is right. I wouldn’t write songs about it though, I feel like it’s a one-sided argument.

ON… THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

 CHRIS: With the Internet, it’s a double-edged sword with music. You have the ability to post your music online to a million people in five seconds, but then you also can receive music and dismiss music.

JAMES: It alters everything.

CHRIS: Sales are gone and it’s tough to bring it to money, but bands need money to function; you have to find a new way to make money. It feels like bands heavily rely on touring to survive, and to be able to do this for a living. So that’s something that needs to change but I don’t know how it could. Spotify has tried, Apple Music has tried, there’s various different things that kind of make a stamp on the music industry to make it pay, and also make it pay for artists – but it’s not quite hitting the mark yet.

Interview by Caitlin Abbiss

An Interview With…Black Honey

Two of our lovely reps Alice and Georgia met up with Black Honey before their Manchester gig on their UK tour in October 2016. We talked feminism, their current and future plans and changes they want to see within the music industry:

What have you been up to over the summer? Any particular highlights?

All: Truck Festival!

Izzy: Japan. Japan was massive.

Tommy: I feel like we’ve been doing festivals for months and months and months, it’s been really fun. We’ve been to Japan for the first time.

Izzy: We did Vienna last week and that was wicked. We’ve had so many highlights so you can’t really pick one cause everything feels like a highlight, every shows there’s just like more and more kids coming and screaming along.

Does it feel good to be back touring the UK or do you prefer it overseas?

Chris: I like both.

Izzy: Yeah! It’s a good mixture. We’re at a time now where we’ve done so many festivals that we’re really excited to be doing our October tour.

Chris: I think it’s always really nice to play your own shows because you’re playing to your own fans and they’re way more intense, which is always good fun.

What do you guys have in store for 2017?

Izzy: We hope to get our heads down in an album in 2017. We haven’t got an official booked-in date or anything yet. We’ve got a lot more touring to do.

In terms of feminism, who do you look up to within the music industry?

Izzy: In terms of women in music, I really like St. Vincent. I think she’s a really good example of a woman that’s doing really interesting things at the moment.

Tommy: Courtney Barnett!

Izzy: Yeah, she’s really got something to say! ‘Give me all your money and I’ll make some origami honey’, so good! Patti Smith- classic, all-time hero; PJ Harvey, I’ve seen her twice this summer, I can’t get my head round her still, she blows my mind.

Is there anyone who you gets it right politically or morally within the music industry?

Tommy: It’s a tough one when bands get political. When it works for them it’s amazing but I find that it can be forced. What the Fat White’s do is pretty cool. We’ve played with so many different people over the summer and you know when you remember seeing loads of good stuff but it all sort of blurs into one?

Do you feel like as a band, fronted by a female, that you’ve ever experienced misogyny? Do you ever feel like you’ve been at a disadvantage or do you think its worked as a selling point for you?

Izzy: I don’t think it’s a disadvantage or a selling point. It’s sad that it’s seen as a selling point and we definitely don’t condone that as a thing. To us I’m the same as these guys. They don’t see me differently, I don’t see me differently. But I think I definitely feel I’ve seen misogyny but it’s not been anything that I can’t really handle yet. Everyone seems to have been quite respectable at the moment anyway. Obviously there’s been some funny ones; I’ve been kicked out of gigs before for not having my pass on because they thought I was a groupie.

We saw something you guys tweeted the other day and there were a lot of creepy men prying. A pair of underwear with a badge on it and they were like, ‘I’d love to see you in these’.

Izzy: Oh my god, yeah yeah!

Tommy: That was probably one of the worst things we’ve ever had actually.

Izzy: Then the next guy was like, ‘I’ll buy them after she wears them’ and we were like dude… We just got all our friends to tweet them and be like ‘Creepy!’

Chris: I think the Internet makes it harder in a way because people just write so much stupid shit. They can hide behind the Internet.

How do you think young girls and women in general can be encouraged to become involved to join indie-rock bands when the genre is and has been largely dominated by males?

Izzy: I don’t know, it’s a weird one cause I just feel like I got into music just cause I liked it. If people come and see us and they pick up guitars and want to write songs, whether they’re a boy or a girl, that is amazing. And our mosh pits, we’re really strict with it being a love only scenario so if it’s a circle pit you can run at someone but then go and hug them, like you can’t push each other, that’s not a thing. We’re sort of stressing on the non-violence and I think that makes it more welcoming for girls but we get loads of girls on the front row!

Chris: Mainly girls, isn’t it?

Tommy: I think, although it’s a bit of a cliché now, you’ve seen the festival posters where they cross out all the acts that don’t have women in. So I guess that’s a thing now.

Who do you think is to blame for that? Do you think it’s the festival bookers themselves or just the industry?

Chris: That’s the thing, it’s a weird circle isn’t it. Because you think it’s the festival bookers fault but then if there’s not enough women in music then it’s gonna be difficult.

Izzy: If there’s positive sexism, ‘Oh we’re just hiring that band because they’ve got girls in to even it out’, it’s like what? I know that when I was a kid, I definitely was very intimidated by the prospect of playing music with boys. And when I was really young I never thought I could be in a band with them because I thought they’d be like ‘Ha ha ha! Why do you wanna do it?’ I was brought up in a world where my mum was a massive tomboy, she was a sailor, and so I can imagine for young girls who are looking in and trying to get in to it, it must be pretty terrifying. For me it took some balls to be like ‘Hey do you wanna be in a band?’ when I was like 10 or 12. It should be less intimidating and we hope to sort of break that.

What other issues do you think there are in music? Not just related to feminism but any changes that you’d like to see.

Izzy: I think small bands should get payed more.

Tommy: Yeah there’s a weird like pay-gap, it sounds a bit weird, within music. But you get these superstar artists like Calvin Harris or whoever, who get paid millions and millions and it just gets ridiculous. Which is fair enough, nothing against him. Then you get bands who are like mid-level, like that band ‘Augustines’, they broke up because they couldn’t afford to do it anymore. And they were a pretty big band.

Izzy: Yeah like so many bands that would have done so well can’t because they don’t have the money and record labels don’t invest the time and energy into smaller bands that need the development because money is a big thing. We definitely have seen it, we all work jobs at the same time as doing this.

So the pay is based on genre?

Tommy: I mean obviously our experience is just within this kind of style but I think it’s probably something similar in every genre.

Izzy: I guess like dance music’s trendy at the moment so that’s in the Radio 1 Charts and that’s where people are buying records I guess.

Chris: Record labels are more into investing into dance music because they know it will sell.

Tommy: At the same time we could sit here for ages moaning about not getting paid enough and stuff but it’s just the way you do it.

Izzy: It’s a balancing act isn’t it. We’re quite lucky because we’re quite business-minded so we can just about keep ourselves afloat.

So when you started the band was it with the mind set that this is what you wanted to do or was it just as a hobby?

Izzy: Yeah we were quite determined from the start, whether the music matched our determination is another question but yeah we’ve always been quite driven.

Onto the subject of sexual assault at gigs, did you know about it before our campaign?

Izzy: No! Literally I had no idea what it was. An interviewer asked us about it and I was like I had no idea that it was even a thing that girls got sexually assaulted at gigs because I was quite like daring when I was a kid, I was quite fearless and I would just throw myself into any mosh pit. But I always found that if I got knocked over or whatever, I’d get picked up. Or if someone for whatever reason tried it on with me, they’d fucking know about it, like everyone around me would fucking know about it.

Tommy: I never really noticed it specifically but if you think about it happens everywhere else so…

Izzy: And, just like a word out there, if we ever ever see anything like that or anyone at our gigs ever sees anything like that just tell us and we’ll get them taken out the gig. It really deeply upsets us that this is a thing. I can’t imagine what it must be like for these girls. Cause we can do more than bouncers. We’ll just yeah, fucking knock them out.

What would you say to the victims of sexual assault at gigs?

Izzy: I’d say don’t be afraid and don’t be scared to report it. It should be reported.

Tommy: Don’t be afraid to talk about it.

Izzy: Yeah, talk about it and tell us and vocalize it because I know that a lot of people get so scared about it and they don’t want to confront the issue. Because it’s so complex and intricate that these girls go through these things, like they don’t want to be in court and have to look at that person again or whatever. It needs to be spoken about definitely and if we ever see anything like that…

Chris: Yeah, as a band we fully 100% support what you’re doing.

And what would you say to the perpetrators?

Izzy: Just fucking grow up! Get out of here! Fuck off, get out of our gig!

 

Interview by Alice and Georgia