Louise Distras has been called “The new face of acoustic punk in the UK” with press likening her to fierce frontwomen, Brody Dalle and Courtney Love. She’s independently released two EPs and is set to release her debut full-length later this year produced by Steve Whale (The Business), engineered by Pat Collier (who has worked with bands such as X-Ray Spex) and with guests including UK Subs’ drummer Jamie Oliver. Very vocal about what she believes, Louise was recently featured in an article on sexism alongside artists Kate Nash and Rose Elinor McDougall (The Pipettes). Louise has given ConversatiosWithBianca.com an exclusive (full band) track – Shades of Hate – to debut from the as yet to be titled record to accompany the following in-depth chat. Louise talks about the music industry, sexism, activism and her local music community.
I’ve read your comment in a previous interview that hearing Nirvana’s album Bleach at 13 changed your life; how so?
LOUISE DISTRAS: If I hadn’t ever heard that album and the track ‘Papercuts’ I would have never ever picked up a guitar. At that point in my life ‘Bleach’ was the most visceral record I’d ever heard and something about it just completely resonated within me. I remember thinking that it sounded like someone was screaming and scratching at the walls in attempt to escape from their own prison cell, and I remember that’s how I felt too. ‘Papercuts’ was the track I liked the most so it was the first song that I learned to play on guitar followed by ‘About A Girl’. I grew up listening to ELO, The Bee Gees and Queen so I loved the pop melody and I still do. Nirvana turned me onto Punk rock and a lot of other cool bands like Mudhoney and The Melvins and showed me that writing songs was a way of making me believe in a better life for myself. Some people say that Punk is dead, but I’m a big believer in the fact that as long as there are kids out there that pick up an instrument and shout about what they think is wrong with the world, Punk will never die.
Who have been the biggest female role models in your life musically and otherwise? How have they inspired you?
LD: For me it’s quite a strange question to answer because I never had any kind of role model or anyone to inspire me whilst I was growing up, and I definitely never received any form of encouragement. Plus a lot of things passed me by as a teenager including riot grrrl and I think it’s because of the fact that I had no access to MTV2 or the internet and no money to buy records with, because I ran away from home shortly after I left school at 16. I was drifting for a long time afterwards and I couldn’t even consider spending the little money I had on anything other than food and rent, my life was only ever about survival. From a very early age I wasn’t ever consciously exposed to anything other than my own jaded and nihilistic youth, I had to figure everything out for myself. I was always been told that there was something wrong with me and that I had to be like somebody else, so I only ever wanted to be able to have the room to just be myself.
What were things like for you like growing up?
LD: Like I said, it was only ever about survival. I didn’t tick any boxes in order to receive any help so I fell through the cracks of the system, so I had to bring myself up. Thatcher completely destroyed the North of England in the 80s and as a result of that there are still very limited opportunities for people in which to find work or better themselves, so it was a tough place to grow up being in that situation. Wakefield was and still is a very aggressive place to live, because there’s nothing to do except drink beer and fight one another but there is also a measure of apathy equal to that rage – I talk about that in my song ‘Shades Of Hate’. It’s not an uncommon story, there are a lot of people out there that are still falling through the cracks of the system. It’s the most vulnerable people who suffer because of the governments decisions, we are effectively paying for our own poverty. You either sink or swim, and in order to swim you have to be exploited. Music gave me a reason to swim on my own terms.
What was your first introduction to the punk community?
LD: It was around five years ago when I was around 19/20. I was on tour with my old band and we met a really cool band called Helsinki Seven who we became great friends with, I guess it’s because we both came from small towns and we were broke and always had to figure out ways of doing things ourselves so we just started trading ideas/contacts and it all started from there really.
How did you first come to performance?
LD: From the moment I picked up my first instruments (the recorder and violin) when I was six years old. In terms of a band gig (again it was as soon as I knew a few chords), I was 13 and the gig was in a real crappy pub called The Tut N’ Shive in Wakefield one Sunday lunchtime. We were only in there because they served underage kids alcohol.
Why is music important to you?
LD: Music is my saviour. It’s the only thing that ever keeps me awake at night and the only thing that gets me out of bed in the afternoon. It can make us feel happy or sad, it can empower us and give us hope. It’s a way of changing the world around us for the better. It’s a very powerful force and I believe it can definitely change the world.
What’s something else that is really important to you? What significance does it have to you?
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