Issue 45 playlist: autumn

 Illustration:  Chrissy Curtin

Illustration: Chrissy Curtin

Come and have a sit down. Why not rest your head for a short while? We’ve compiled a suitably dreamy playlist for our autumn issue to accompany you through the darkening days of the season. Slow your pace and let the likes of Bat for Lashes, Aretha Franklin and School of Seven Bells soothe your soul. There, that’s a bit better already.

Take a listen to our autumn playlist here

Delia Derbyshire: our woman who changed the world by Stealing Sheep

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Ahead of their Wow Machine event, part of The Hexagon Experiment at The Great Exhibition of the North 2018, Stealing Sheep tell us about their enthusiasm for electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire

We first heard about Delia Derbyshire when we worked with the radiophonic workshop on a live score for a 1970s animated sci-fi film, Fantastic Planet. They shared stories about her work in the BBC workshop and sent us some of her unheard foley recordings [the sound effects added to media in post-production] that were found in her attic.  

Delia Derbyshire was an early pioneer of strange electronic music. She recorded “found sounds” during late night Abbey Road sessions. She cut up these tape loops meticulously to create rhythmic patterns that would now be categorised as minimal techno. She tweaked the “found sounds” with analogue effects pitch bending and tuning the sounds to create melodic movements in the music. From what we gather, she was always trying to find human qualities from the machines. Her mathematical brain aided this cut-up tape method. 

Our method of writing music is very similar, it’s just that now this method is emulated by software – we do endless late-night sampling and programme the sounds to the keyboard, setting arpeggiated patterns and sampling each vowel or cowbell note to make interesting musical sounds. We can really appreciate how laborious the work Delia did must have been. Her looped compositions are so simple sounding but host a multitude of technical skills. We feel a special alliance with Delia’s approach because of her commitment to creating organic ‘emotional’ qualities.

We’ve enjoyed listening to Delia’s tapes and have resampled her foley in our work using her techniques. We programme the electronic drum kit with her ‘explosion’ fx to replace the kick drum and use ‘tree falling’ as a loose snare, ‘gunshot’ to create a cool off-beat and a ‘car engine’ starts with her bar to create groove. It’s interesting to approach music like this. 

Delia’s influence is not just musical though. Her presence as an influential female electronic artist is very close to our hearts as we are always seeking female role models and idols that give us courage to do the same. Delia was highly creative but also very conflicted through her life. She was never recognised for her work during her lifetime.

Our WOW MACHINE involves her machine samples, creating organic rhythmic loops that are symbiotically synchronised to choreographed dancers. The music is thematic and vibrant but also goes to deep mysterious places, the dancing is robotic and unifying. It’s an emotional journey but also a visually fantastical one. We have referenced Delia Derbyshire as our pioneering woman through history but also taken a lot of inspiration from Kraftwerk and are hoping that as a female-powered techno electronica outfit we’ll reveal our own kind of magical mystery tour.

The Hexagon Experimentwhich is presented by Brighter Sound, is part of The Great Exhibition of the North 2018. Six free Friday night experiments at venues across Newcastle feature live music, conversations and original commissions from pioneering women at the forefront of music, art and science. Wow Machine, Stealing Sheep’s tribute to Delia Derbyshire takes place on 31 August. More details here

Issue 44 playlist: late summer

 Illustration:  molly egan  

Illustration: molly egan 

No matter where you are, whatever the weather, there are certain sights, smells and sounds that always conjure up those summers that seemed to last forever. This playlist celebrates those songs that pull you back through the past. It’s the soundtrack to staying out in the park till sundown, sitting out chatting with your friend into the early hours, perhaps a gentle doze in the sunshine. While the heat of summer may be beginning to die down, they’re the kind of memories that last forever. 

Take a listen to our late summer playlist here

Issue 43 playlist: Identity

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Illustration: Fern Choonet

How much of our identity was forged in our teenage bedrooms, leaping around and singing along to music turned up way too loud? Music remains a way of escaping the humdrum of everyday life, a way of helping us out figure out who we are and who we want to be.

From angry punks to disco divas, our Identity playlist celebrates the musicians and pop stars who refuse to conform, and who encourage us to do the same. Take a listen here – we hope that by its end you’ll join us in shouting out, as instructed by Gloria Gaynor, “I am what I am”.

Listen to the Identity playlist

Oh Comely loves Lucy Dacus

 Photo: Dustin Condren

Photo: Dustin Condren

Lucy Dacus is a performer of substance. Her lyrics are heady with the heat and rage of teenage diaries and her live performances are whirlwinds of guitars and bittersweet words of loss, love and the day-to-day dramas of life. She’s touring the UK with her second album Historian, a lush follow up to her debut Nonbeliever. Check her out in Bristol, London and Brighton this week.

How would you compare your two albums? The first one feels like a specific time and place. I remember singing on those songs – and I'd never heard myself singing to a band before. So, what you hear is also the first time I hear myself sing to drums. We did it in, like, a day. So I had no adjustment, that was my first recording experience. It was very fresh and I guess people have responded to that. Thing is, since the writing process is so elusive to me, I can’t really pin down how it happens. Everything past that first moment of writing lyrics is intentional. Once I’ve realised the message, I can see where it came from and what it will be, but in the moment I can’t really see what it is. I like the shift of this album though, they’re kind of like, the heavier, louder songs. So just pushing people to expect something a little bit different, less sweet from me especially live shows.

Do you enjoy touring? I love touring! I love being there in the moment, the only thing I don’t love is what isn’t there – my friends and family, and my house. But love that I get to read more than when I’m home. Because when I’m home, it’s all about connecting with those people and catching up. And trying to make up for lost time and all of the disconnects that inevitably happen. But touring is one of the best parts of the job. I don’t drive, but I like the act of travelling, I like seeing new places. In fact, in Europe it's even better because it feels new, and much shorter distances. I love touring Europe because every night is a different language whereas in the US, some cities look really similar. I know I am gonna be on the road from noon to 4pm between these cities in like two months and who knows what I'm gonna do during those hours. I can fill it with the reading and no one's going to require anything from me during that time and it's built in alone time.

We’re also avid readers, what’s your current pick?  Well right now I’m reading Susan Sontag’s, Regarding The Pain of Others. She’s great, I’ll read literally anything she’s written. I bought it yesterday at this place called Broadway Books. It’s so great, I bought five books. Why is it that British editions of books are better looking than the US editions? Why do you guys just have better taste? But I think what has influenced me a lot when writing this album is Anna Karenina, it has these two character who are grappling with life and death. I love characters, poetry and watching movies, these things all help me. I think external things help you to each inside.

What kind of child were you? Very dreamy. I was kind of too creative for my own good. My parents had a rule when I was young, that I could never say that I was bored. They taught me that the word bored was like a curse word. Like the equivalent to legitimate curse words so I had to find ways to not be bored because I would be punished by having to draw. They’d be like; "you can’t be bored, sit in the corner and draw your favourite animal." Which is hilarious punishment within itself. And I still feel that I don’t get bored, ever.

How do you feel about giving a lot of yourself? You’re writing about you, your life and real relationships. When I'm writing, I'm not giving myself to somebody else I’m just giving it. What I'm saying is what I am saying to myself. And that is step one, is to give yourself to yourself. That’s the most important thing and beyond that, sharing it is separate. I think it was more of a pull from the community that I grew up in. Asking me to play shows. I had friends in bands who just wanted to hear it. It actually took people telling me, like ‘you should do this, I want to hear it.’ And that’s why I think children’s programmes are so important like creative programmes that say; ‘what you make matters’.

What advice would you give to young women who want to be sitting in your seat right now? I don’t want to say anything too cheesy but don’t get caught fulfilling other people's dreams. I've had to learn recently that a lot of people want to do music and a lot of people want to be in the limelight and just want an audience and think they know what that looks like and what that feels like. Your journey is different to anyone else’s and also if it's your work, it's your work. Don’t be bugged down by industry people or your own band. Especially men, but people in general: don’t let people live out their wildest wet dream of being a rockstar on your belt. I've dealt with that a couple times over now. I’ve had conversations with people asking what going on or asking for change and then if people can’t break out of their expectations then you can’t carry that weight around and I can’t so specifically if I’m talking to ladies, that’s my advice.

Give Lucy a follow on Instagram, @lucydacus.

Issue 42 playlist: the joy of spring

 Illustration:  Rachel Heavens

Illustration: Rachel Heavens

Spring is here – finally! Celebrate by plugging into our latest playlist – an ode to the season. We're dreaming of life amid Les Fleurs with Minnie Riperton or Grazing in the Grass with Hugh Maskela. And a shopping mall now covered in flowers a la Talking Heads? Yes please. You can take a listen – and get lost in a world of birds, bees and blossoms – here

Oh Comely issue 42 – spring – is out now. Order a copy here.

Issue 40 playlist: morning rituals

Who needs coffee when you can plug into our latest playlist? It's inspired by morning rituals, full of the tracks that help us get up and go (although coffee is useful for that too...). Take a listen here

 

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illustration: stephanie handley

Our midwinter issue is inspired by patterns. You can pre-order a copy here

Issue 38 playlist: Passages

illustration: ellie walker

words: marta bausells

It takes skill to accept the passage of time with grace. Perhaps it takes a lifetime. That invisible, abstract force we hear of but don’t fully grasp as kids. "Time” seems so elastic, huge and slow during childhood, but suddenly speeds up like a slingshot that’s suddenly let go, and it can and will catch you off guard.

The passage of time can mean ageing, or regret, wisdom or wonderment. It means Angel Olsen singing about memories, upon a love ending, wondering whether it was real at all or just a wildcard in waiting for something better. And it means the literal – but for that no less sublime – coming of age depicted in Boyhood, soundtracked so memorably by Family of the Year. The sitting inside, paralysed by your own thoughts, of Youth Lagoon. The existential Let the Mystery Be from the title credits for post-apocalyptic show The Leftovers (which we strongly recommend). The watching of someone's death, like in Death Cab’s classic I Will Follow You Into The Dark. Or, yet, asking a new city, or country, to be kind to us as we make changes and life shifts under our feet getting us ready for the new.

The playlist for issue 38 compiles artists talking about time passing in their own ways; and it is a good soundtrack, we hope, for time-passing on many a rosé-tinted summer evening.

Take your time over the playlist here.

Issue 38 of Oh Comely is on sale now! 

Issue 37 playlist: Touch

words: Marta Bausells

illustration: Jisun Lee

 

Quite a few of these tracks are songs of the effects of human touch on human skin – understandably a popular subject among songwriters – expressed in all styles and periods, from funk to electronic. From the brilliantly straightforward ode to self-love and pleasure in I Touch Myself to the invigorating Obedear, where Purity Ring sing of walking barefoot on mountains and the touch of the shale on the toes, we are in a sensual mood.

And, because it’s summer, we’re throwing in Tal Bachman’s “touch smell sight taste and sound” and songs of beaches and pools, though they aren’t always what they seem. It’s 2017 and even summer tunes have a bit of a dark side. Join us in celebrating touch – from that of a loved one, to that of the sky, the sun, or the water – as well as the absence of it (in Solange’s weary vindication) and the longing for it (we couldn’t help ourselves and we included Mariah). Have a great summer, full of all the right touches!

Take a listen to the playlist here

Issue 34 playlist: Comfort songs

words: Marta Bausells

The songs we come back to are like old friends – they can be quirky, loud, make little sense, but they’re always there to lift us up. The songs chosen for this playlist are some of the comfort songs of Oh Comely’s team members. Each for a reason, they soothe us, bring us up and assure us everything is fine just the way it is – and we hope they’ll do the same for you in this colder, darker season. 

Some are celebrations of life and friends, others laments of heartbreak, other declarations of intentions like Billie Marten’s “I want to see things I’ve never seen, quietly happy and live by the sea”. Some are 90s hymns to self-assertion like No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak,’ shouts about when to draw the line like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, or roadtrip memories like Jeffrey Lewis’s ‘Roll Bus Roll.’ Others are sensational new songs we can’t stop playing, like Solange ripping her heart out and singing “sometimes I don't wanna feel those metal clouds” and Frank Ocean beautifully declaring an open, non-possessive love. 

The common thread is acceptance, peace within the chaos. We’re here now, and we’re not supposed to be anywhere else. As you refocus and think of the year ahead, snuggle up, light a candle, turn the music up, and relax. You’re home.

Wrap up cosy and plug in to issue 34's playlist on Spotify

Meet our new music editor

Photo: Irene Baqué

In issue 33 we say a sad farewell to the wonderful Linnea Enstrom, who has left Oh Comely to start a creative writing course in Sweden. We're delighted to introduce you to Marta Bausells, who will be taking on the role of music editor. To get to know her a bit better, we sat her down for a little chat...

Hello Marta! Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I'm a freelance writer, editor and curator. I was born and raised in Barcelona. I started out by writing about music and culture at the same time as I studied politics. At the time, I thought they were two separate things and that I'd have to choose, but I later realised that culture is intrinsically linked to society, politics and social action. I then worked for a newspaper there, where I was lucky to report on all sorts of topics – social issues, environment, foreign news – before I moved to London four years ago.

I love that my work has allowed me to learn and explore all sorts of subjects and ideas. I always wanted to go back to writing about culture, though, and I eventually landed a job on the Guardian’s books desk, where I hosted discussions about books, created a series about books set in American cities, chatted to book-lovers around the world daily, and discovered the wonders of the literary internet. Currently, I’m really enjoying working with Literary Hub on covering books from this side of the Atlantic. 

I also do lots of other little things, like a collaboration with Subway Book Review (check it out!), which means I stop book-carrying strangers on the tube and chat to them about what they’re reading! It’s magical. No matter the subject, what I love the most about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people and share their stories. I can't wait to go back to writing about music!

What was the first single you bought? 
The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe'!* It caught me at the exact target age, and everyone at my school was crazy about them for a year.

*If by bought you mean copied on a cassette tape and passed on among friends countless times (oops). But I'm sure I ended up buying it too! 

What was the last gig you went to? 
Well, this is a bit random – but it’s the truth! It was this Catalan guy called Ferran Palau. I had gone back to Barcelona for a few days, it was the end of the summer and it was starting to drizzle (that sticky, humid end-of-summer Mediterranean rain). One neighbourhood was celebrating its yearly festivities, which means the streets are beautifully decorated by neighbours and there are gigs in almost every little square. I had just discovered this guy’s music a few hours earlier in the car, with friends – and there he was. One of those serendipitous musical moments.

What song will always get you up and dancing? 
Anything by Queen. I have a special weakness for 'Don’t Stop Me Now'.

Vinyl, CD or download?
The day I actually have space in the house and money to buy many of them, I’ll go back to vinyls – which is how I grew up listening to music. In the meantime, I’m a Spotify and downloads gal. 

Who, dead or alive, would you most like to interview? 
Frida Kahlo. I visited her house last year in Mexico and I was like “can I just move in here now?”. I would love to have been around her energy when she was alive, even if for five minutes. I am so inspired by how, despite being in horrific and crippling pain, she got up every morning, kicked ass and made the most amazing art – and lived her life in her own terms. 

And if I might cheat and add a couple from the realm of the alive, right now my musical dream interviewee would be Solange – what a queen! I’d love to interview Michelle Obama once she leaves the Oval Office and gets to talk more freely. And Tom Hanks, always. 

Outside of music, what else do you like to do?
Like I said, I love reading. My bedroom is ridiculously full of 'to-be-read piles' – it’s almost like I live around these book towers, and not the other way around. I also love film – I ran a film club with a friend for a while – good television and storytelling podcasts. I used to feel stressed-out or guilty about how little time there is to follow everything, but now I don’t mind being behind on TV shows or anything else. There’s this growing backlog of great culture waiting for me when I get home! What’s not to love?

Let us know a secret...
I don’t like chocolate… (!)

 

Find out more about Marta on her website, or follow her on Twitter

Culture Monday

 Georgia O’Keeffe,  Abstraction White Rose , 1927.  Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2). Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of TheBurnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation ©Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927.

Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2). Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of TheBurnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation ©Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

The nights are getting longer and the days cooler so even more good reason to throw yourself into all things cultural. To inspire you, here are our pick of events happening this week, ranging across art, film, music and books. One strong piece of advice, if you can get yourself to London - don't forget to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition before it closes at the end of the month - as the curator told us in issue 30, it's a once in a generation chance to see the artist's work in Britain. Enjoy! 

 

Art

Georgia O’Keeffe @ Tate Modern, London (Until 30 October). Read our interview with the exhibition's curator in issue 30

Jeff Koons @ Newport Street Gallery, London (until 16 October)

Lie of the Land @ Gallery 40, Brighton (until 22 October)

Girl Town @ St Margaret’s House, Bethnal Green, London (until 1 November)

 

Music

Wild Beasts @ The Junction, Cambridge (10 October)

Sussex Songfest @ Snape Maltings (15 October), featuring issue 33 interviewee Anna Meredith. 

Hackney Wonderland @ various venues, Hackney, London (15 & 16 October)

Mystery Jets @ Coventry, Cambridge, Bath, London (11 to 15 October)

 

Film

London Film Festival @ various venues, London (until 16 October). Our associate editor, Jason, recommends: 

  • American Honey, directed by Andrea Arnold @ Odeon Leicester Square (11 October)
  • Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt @ Embankment Garden Cinema and Hackney Picturehouse (12 & 13 October)
  • Prevenge, directed by Alice Lowe @ Haymarket and Picturehouse Central (13 & 16 October) 
  • A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante @ Curzon Mayfair (11 October)
  • Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré @ Prince Charles Cinema (14 October)

The Greasy Strangler @ general release (requires a strong stomach!)

Books

London Literature Festival @ Southbank Centre, London (until 16 October)

Birmingham Literature Festival @ various venues, Birmingham (until 16 October)

Waterstones presents Vivienne Westwood @ St James’ Church, Piccadilly, London (14 October) 

 

Workshops 

Plant Life Drawing @ Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London (11 October) 

Wool weaving workshop @ Wool BnB, De Beauvoir Town, London (12 October)

 

Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Issue 33 playlist: Dark Magic

 Jinnwoo, featured on this issue's playlist, created this exclusive illustration for us. Read the story of how he sees his music before it's written in issue 33, out on 13 October 2016.

Jinnwoo, featured on this issue's playlist, created this exclusive illustration for us. Read the story of how he sees his music before it's written in issue 33, out on 13 October 2016.

Sounds seem louder, more eerie, in the dark. The crackling footsteps against a dirt track, a rustle in the leaves. Lullabies. Creaking doors. But darkness brings out the stars too. Milky pools of moonlight filtered through a forest.

The songs chosen for this playlist have grown out of darkly magical places. Like watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer with your friends, hoping to get a glimpse of Spike. Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ hasn’t earned the epithet “supernatural brag song” for no reason, whereas the beautifully creepy ‘Willow’s Song’ from The Wickerman stirs images of cult-like disappearances, orgies and fire. ‘Silent Shout’ by electro duo The Knife is simply what darkness would sound like if it had a sound. Bassy and brooding.

So get your freak on with our issue 33 playlist and plug into Spotify here.

Culture Monday

With the aim of brightening up your Monday, we bring you a selection of delightful cultural offerings for the week ahead. Diaries at the ready...

Art

- Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond @ Wellcome Collection, London (15 September to 15 January 2017). Read our feature 'Putting Pen to Paper' in issue 32 of Oh Comely.

- Prints Charming @ Hamilton House, Bristol (14 to 19 September)

- Hurvin Anderson: Dub Versions @ NAE, Nottingham (until 18 September)

- Maria Lassing @ Tate Liverpool (until 18 September 2016)

- Metamorphosis @ Morley College, London (until 22 September), featuring Oh Comely contributor Eleni Kalorkoti

 

Film

Station to Station @ Hoxton Square Bar, London (12 September)

London Fashion Film Festival @ Courthouse Hotel, London (14 September)

 

Music

Sunflower Bean on tour @ Bristol, Brighton and London (13 to 15 September)

 

Books

In Pursuit of London @ Waterstones Piccadilly, London 

 

 'Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond' opens at Wellcome Collection on 15 September. Photo: Lara Watson

'Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond' opens at Wellcome Collection on 15 September. Photo: Lara Watson

 

Events

Roald Dahl Day @ nationwide (13 September)

Estuary Festival @ Various venues, Essex (17 September to 2 October)

D.I.Y. Art Market @ Copeland Gallery, Peckham, London (17 September)

Open House, London (17 & 18 September)

 

Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Culture Monday

Each Monday, we bring you a selection of the best cultural happenings, compiled from the suggestion of the Oh Comely team and our readers. We hope that our tips will inspire and entertain - do let us know where you've been and what you've seen. 

  Ragnar Kjartansson,    The Visitors    ,  2012   Nine channel video, colour, sound. 64 minutes Commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík. Photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel video, colour, sound. 64 minutes Commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík. Photo: Elisabet Davidsdottir

 

Art

Ragnar Kjartansson @ Barbican Art Gallery, London (until 4 September 2016)

- Resident @ City Gallery, Peterborough (until 28 August)

- Fashion on the Ration @ Imperial War Museum North (until 1 May 2017)

Music

- Bath Folk Festival (until 16 August)

Green Man Festival, Brecon Beacons, Wales (18 - 21 August 2016) 

Film

- Nomad Cinema showing films including Casablanca, Orlando and, yes, The Goonies @ London venues ranging from Coram Secret Garden to Queens Park

Books

- Edinburgh Book Festival, Scotland (13 - 29 August), including Lionel Shriver on 20 August (read our interview with her in Oh Comely issue 19)

Workshops

- Flower press printing and woodcarving workshops @ Farmopolis, Greenwich Peninsula (13 August)

Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

In Conversation with: Folk Starlet Billie Marten

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Billie Marten started quietly recording songs on YouTube at the age of eight. With no intention to promote herself, she just wanted to make sure her Grandparents, based in France, could hear her voice once in a while. It's funny how these things work out. 

At twelve, her cover of Lucy Rose's Middle of the Bed attracted thousands of views, catapulting her to the fame she never asked for. Now seventeen, she's released two acclaimed EPs, fronted the BBC Introducing stage at Reading, and been nominated for a prestigious BBC Sound of 2016 award. 

Writing about how the little things can be big things, she pens lyrics about how quickly you can lose yourself in a crowd and the torture of getting badly sunburnt. When we meet, she's just finished her prime spot at Citadel's Communion Stage, where she celebrated the tenth anniversary of the label alongside Matt Corby and Lianne La Havas.

It's boiling, and she's giddy from potential heatstroke and the hugeness of it all. "It's new for me", she laughs, "this support from complete strangers. It's so wonderful, but also feels very silly. I can't quite believe it." With her gorgeous debut album Writing of Blues and Yellows hitting shelves on September 23rd, we suspect she'll need to get used to it. 

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How are you balancing world domination with your A-levels?

I'll let you know when I get my results in August! The school have been really great, and they've let me do three A-levels instead of four. I'll usually have Monday mornings off, which is ideal as I'm normally coming back from a gig or something. I guess you just have to sit down and do it. Everyone has things juggle in life.

Do you come from a musical family?

Music is probably the thing that binds us all together. My parents and older Brother play instruments, and my Uncle is in a band. We used to play together quite a lot, and from an early age I couldn't wait to join in. 

Do you remember the first CD that you bought?

God, no. It was probably in a car boot or something. 

Do you still get nervous on stage?

Yes. Have you seen my knees?

Do you have any rituals that help get you in the headspace to perform?

I like to read beforehand. It's important to do something normal amidst the chaos.  

How about with writing? Have you always written your own material?

Since I was ten or eleven, yes. I love English Lit, so I used to write tiny poems and little stories and turn them into songs. Sorry, I'm going to have to grab one of those beers and put it on my face. I'm melting!

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That looks so good.

Take one, seriously!

What time did you wake up this morning?

My alarm went off at 8.15.

What did you have for breakfast?

A bowl of crunchy nut, and a croissant. 

Cats or dogs?

Cats. 

Town or country?

Country. I come from a tiny city (Rippon, in North Yorkshire), with only 10,000 people , so it's basically a town with a token cathedral. I was born in the countryside, though, and am very thankful to have moved back. It's so tranquil and beautiful. I love it. 

Who inspires you?

Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush. And John Martyn, who is just the God of all things. 

Where do you like to escape to, when things get loud?

Good question. Probably to the rapeseed fields outside my house, although it's the wrong time of year for that at the moment. Or to a little seaside town, because they're the absolute cutest. I've never been, but I'd love to go to Iceland. I want to end up there, hopefully. I'm going to try and befriend Sigur Ros after this. Maybe they can whisk me away. 

All images: Lubna Anani

Pre-order Billie's beautiful album here

Oh Comely at Citadel: Talking Songwriting & Spice Girls with Rukhsana Merrise

Describing a subject as effervescent is up there with the very worst of interview cliches, but Rukhsana Merrise is exactly that. Commanding centre stage at Citadel last Sunday, she belted out choruses with grace and wisdom beyond her years, encouraging the audience to love themselves and stay away from bad people. 

Offstage, she's warm and familiar. She laughs with her hair thrown back, makes jokes at her own expense, and rolls her eyes into the back of her head with comic disdain. As she twirls around dramatically in her satin cape and breaks into an impromtu rendition of Madonna's Vogue, I realise I've found my new favourite singer-songwriter among the grass. 

As her label celebrates its tenth birthday, we sat down to chat about tour snacks, Spice Girls and September Songs: the critically acclaimed EP recorded from her childhood bedroom in four short weeks. 

You have such a wide range of influences. Did you grow up in a musical household? 

My Mum did that thing where you play classical music to your bump in the hope it will make the child smarter, and she exposed us to everything and anything. It was a typical Black household in that we were always listening to reggae and R&B, but we also loved Leo Sayer and Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell. Joni is just perfect. When I got into Joni I realised I could write about anything. London also inspires me. It's such a melting pot that it can't not influence your art in some way. 

Do you remember the first album you bought?

Nirvana. I bought it in a charity shop for £2, purely because it had the artwork of the baby swimming with his willy out. As a teenager I was just like: "What the fuck is this?! I'll buy it". My first single was 21 Seconds by So Solid Crew. That combo sums up the conflicts of my personality perfectly. Part rock, part grunge, with full-on grime thrown in. 

 

I was amazed at how quickly you put together your EP "September Songs", challenging yourself to write and release a new track every week for four weeks. That must have been such an intense process. 

You could set a dinner table, and if the guests don't show up on time you'll start fussing over whether the napkins are folded properly. If you do something last-minute, you don't have the time to live with it. I was becoming an artist and I was finding myself and my sound, and I didn't want to put anything out that wasn't authentically me. At the same time, I had ninety recordings stored on iTunes and every night I'd sit and think "You've got to come out one day. I promise I'll share you.". September Songs was my way of putting fire under my own ass, saying "Ok. Let's go."

It's a really organic process. Not everyone would do it that way. 

Thank you. Yeah, it all took off from that. I got spotted by Communion and before I knew it I was saying yes to tours and meeting people from all around the world. I couldn't ask for a better label. They get me, and they allow me the freedom to take my time. I'm working on the album right now, and it's very nearly there. 

I wanted to ask if you had any rituals that help you get in the zone before you write or perform...

Conversations inspire me to write. You can spend weeks trapped in your own head lost for answers, and then a snippet of something someone else says spells it out. I've been known to snap my fingers and say "There's the answer to the question!". Performance-wise, I spend every moment before I go on trying not to wet my pants. I'll have a couple of Beers to calm down, and I always chew trebor mints.

It's weird that you say that, because I develop a compulsive tic-tac habit when I'm nervous. 

Yeah, man! It's the menthol. It's calming. Other rituals? Nah. Apart from meditating. I got into it when my Dad passed away about three years ago. He had cancer and I looked after him throughout, so once it was all over I felt very imbalanced. I needed to re-centre after all of that frantic running around and sadness so I tried it out and loved it. It's so calming. 

I want to do a quick fire round. What time did you wake up this morning?

10.38 am. 

That's very specific. 

Yeah, I was supposed to be collected at 11am and I woke up like "Shiiiiiit." I had exactly twelve minutes to get dressed. 

Did you have breakfast?

No, I didn't. I had a coffee. 

Dogs or cats?

Cats. I've got two, Snoopy and Tinkerbell. 

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?

The Spice Girls. 

Excellent choice. What's your favourite Spice Girls song? 

*Breaks into song* I wannnaaa make you hollerrrr! Holler, Holler, Holler, C'monnnn! I drive everyone mad on the tour bus with it. 

Which Spice Girl is the best? 

As Tomboyish as I am, Emma was my favourite. I love Baby Spice. She always had all the best ad-libs. 

And fluffy pens. 

Yes! And the best hairstyles and bobbles. Cute little skirts and tops. I like Posh as well, because no one else did and she got a rep for standing around doing nothing. But just look at Vics now. Go on, girl!

Do you have a favourite late night tour bus snack?

Digestives. 

Plain ones or chocolate? 

Plain. All the way.  

Yes! The plain ones are woefully underrated. 

Exactly. Thank you! A chocolate digestive is like "Hey, pass the wet wipes! I'm everywhere! I'm melting!". Everyone complains that I choose the most boring, tasteless snacks, but to me they're perfect dunked in a cup of tea. I love digestives. I hand them out like a Nan. 

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

The Mad Hatter, because it would be a mad hatters tea party. Tim Burton, so I could inherit some of his craziness and use it to inspire me. And my Mum, so she knew it was real and that I wasn't just going off on one. And because she's amazing. She's such a strong woman. I always run to her immediately. It's boiling. Shall we get a beer? 

All images: Lubna Anani. 

Rukhsana shares more insight in the pages of our upcoming Letters Issue, in stores on 11th August.

Her label, Communion Records, are celebrating their tenth anniversary. Find out how you can join in the celebrations here, and keep an eye on the blog for more Citadel coverage coming very soon.