LOUISE DISTRAS: To remain untied to anything other than myself, because otherwise things go wrong…and a good sleep.
I know that you “don’t feel comfortable addressing politics as a whole” in your music just yet but I’m hoping you can talk a little here about some of your beliefs and politics. You’ve previously mentioned ‘people politics’.
LD: Writing songs is based 100% on desire and as an artist you’ve just gotta go with whatever you’re feeling at that moment in time, otherwise your output is contrived and you may as well just not bother. In that particular interview where I said that, I’d been active for less than six months and I’d gone through a real dark period where I was homeless and some other stuff, so my writing was very introverted and self-analytical at that time as I was trying to figure the world out for myself and trying to make sense of why those things that happened to me. I didn’t feel quite ready to take on the world yet.
My debut single ‘The Hand You Hold’ signifies the end of that period in my life, where I’d figured some of those things out and decided on the action I was going to take to put those things right. There are a lot of things wrong in the world that not many artists seem to be addressing at the moment, here in the UK. It’s almost as if apathy is the new black and music in particular is way too safe and it’s that inaction that is breeding a lot of fear and doubt in the world. For me, the only way to kill that apathy is to make a no holds barred record that’s addressing what’s going on in the world and breed confidence and courage through positive action, rather than write some thirty minute self-indulgent-sob-story. ‘The Hand You Hold’ extends way beyond sexism and media exploitation.
It’s about the simple fact that one human being is not another human beings property or the government’s property and that we are all in control of our own lives and have the human right to live a life free of subservience and exploitation.
In terms of ‘people politics’, I believe that in order to make a positive change in the world we have to start with the way that we treat one another, which is why I wrote another song on my album called ‘Love Me, The Way I Am’. It’s a pop song about honesty, love, compassion and never under any circumstances apologising for who you are. It’s about the crimes of hate that human race commit towards itself because of fear and prejudice. It’s a call for us to embrace one another regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability or disability because no great ideology will ever be realised as long as there are warring factions and we’re still being assholes to one another.
What projects are you currently focused on? Your debut full-length record isn’t far off right?
LD: That’s right, it’s not too far from finished now. Recording my debut album has been my greatest single focus since pre-production started in London in September 2011. I was originally hoping to release it later on this year but there’s been a delay because I have no representation so I haven’t been able to finance its completion, which is why I set up an Album Fundraising Campaign on my website. Luckily I had a really good response from that for which I am eternally grateful. Fingers crossed that the album will be complete by the end of the summer and realistically I’m hoping to announce a release date before Christmas and then release it early next year however I will be touring before and after its release.
How do you feel about the new record?
LD: I’m totally in love with it, obsessed in fact. I’m really proud of my album, of the message it carries and the people behind it. I also feel really privileged of the fact that I’ve made my debut record all on my own terms.
Out of all the songs you’ve written thus far, which one are you most proud of? Is there a story behind it you can share?
LD: It definitely has to be ‘Love Me, The Way I Am’ for reasons which I’ve already explained. I’m totally in love with it. It’s just a great song with an empowering message, and it was really awesome to work with Mick Talbot from Style Council on the recording of it. He put down some really sublime piano and Hammond organ arrangements. It’s totally a pop song.
You’ve been making music for quite some time, before going solo you were in a band called Blockades; in your experience what are some a) important things and b) ridiculous things you’ve learnt about the music industry?
LD: I’ve learned that any band is only as strong as its weakest member, and that you should never under any circumstances have to compromise yourself and your artistic vision in any way shape or form. If music is not the thing that keeps you awake at night and is not your reason for waking up, I’d say keep your day job.
There’s this thing called the 10,000 hour rule, and the music industry definitely doesn’t operate in the way that a lot of people think it does. I became aware of the reality of it all pretty early on, so by being realistic and completely focused on writing songs I’ve avoided becoming jaded. If someone’s motivation for writing songs is money, glory and fame then they should just forget it. It’s real hard work.
I read a feature on sexism in music where you were quoted: “This morning, I received two emails from two men on different levels of the music industry. One from a promoter that considered telling me he wanted to have sex with me a higher priority than actually confirming a gig date and a second from a well-known record producer who suggested I ‘form a band/ join a band of ugly guys who can play’ to make myself look better.” How do you handle these types of things? What advice can you give to other female musicians?
LD: When I started playing guitar I never even considered the fact that I was female to be a problem and I still don’t consider my gender to be an issue now. It’s OTHER people that have an issue with it, so I tell those guys to go fuck themselves and I’d advise any other female musician to do the same.
Never under any circumstances should anyone ever have the right to tell someone how to look, think or feel in order to be creative and that was the whole reason I wrote my first single ‘The Hand You Hold’. Every single day the media rams it down our throats that our validity lies in our youth and sexual appeal, and that we have to look a certain way in order to be taken seriously…and as a result all of that casual sexism has filtered down into everyday life, where young girls and women believe all of those corrupt values that the media enforces resulting in low self-esteem and eating disorders. I want to empower young girls and women (and guys too) to the fact that none of those superficial things matter, and what’s really important is never compromising yourself or your creativity and living your life on your own terms.
Recently you’ve been working with the folks at Strummerville, tell us about the experience. How do they help artists?
LD: I had a brief encounter with Strummerville in early 2011 when they helped me a little with regards to financing the recording of my second EP but that’s about as far as my relationship with Strummerville goes to be honest.
Tell me about the local music community where you’re at. Any local bands you’d like to give a shout out to?
LD: Wakefield is a pretty insular place and as a result of that it seems to have developed its own very particular scuzzy Pavement influenced kind of music that’s referred to as ‘Wakey Pop’ which I feel dominates the music scene so there hasn’t been much room for anything else or the sort of bands I’ve been in. However I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing in my case because that kind of non-inclusion led to me going on tour a lot and operating outside of the local scene in other cities and countries which I feel ultimately is the only way to get good at what you do and build a real audience anyway. There’s a DIY community called ‘The Rhubarb Bomb’ that ties in with that and those guys run a zine and put on a festival called ‘Long Division’ once a year which I think is really cool, and there’s also a rock and metal venue called ‘The Snooty Fox’ which I love, that place has been going for a really long time. There’s nothing really happening in terms of punk gigs, and there’s definitely nothing that even slightly resembles an occupy movement or forum for political discussion, which I find really frustrating.
What does success mean to you?
LD: Success is empowering someone to make a positive change to their own life, which in turn inspires someone else to make a change to their life and someone else’s. It’s being able to live your life by your own terms and still be able to put food in the fridge.
What’s next for Louise Distras?
LD: This week I launched a new web series to preview the brand new tracks from my debut album.
My friend Jason and I had some fun in between recording sessions and filmed me playing the new tracks in the streets of Wakefield and London. The value of music has been lost and illegal downloading has become the norm, so artists are having to find other ways of getting their music out there and this is just my way of getting the new tracks out there in an interesting and fun format on my own terms before the album is released, and consequently put up for illegal download by other people.
In the immediate future its Rebellion Punk Festival here in the UK, followed by lots of touring in the UK, and mainland Europe to promote my debut album before its release which will be early next year. For now it’s just a case of finishing the little bit of work left to do on the album and laying the foundations for its release, I’m really excited for everyone to hear it!
For more Louise Distras.
*Louise live photo by Seraphic