Music / Interviews

She Makes War, a unique direction of travel

By laura williams, Wednesday Feb 25, 2015

How’s Bristol life treating you?

Wonderful thank you! I’ve been here for nearly two and a half years now and I can’t imagine moving anywhere else in the UK. (Read Laura’s Bristol top fives here).

Tell us about the thinking behind putting on your own gigs…

It all started because it was impossible to find decent London gigs when I lived there and I got sick of being chucked on to weird inappropriate bills with singer songwriters or having to open a night of band shows because I play on my own. I wanted to run a regular night where I could finally get to headline and play for longer, have guest musicians on stage with me and present other artists to my fans. I also wanted to be in charge of the finances – hiring the venue rather than having to promise a certain number of people through the door, dealing with ticketing and the door person and everything in between so that I could make sure the support bands were paid better than they would be elsewhere and that I could make a bit of money to put the next gig on. It’s worked really well.

What response do you get from people to these?

Since April 2012 I’ve put on 15 “Breakfast With Apollo” community and collaboration shows, 1 album launch, 1 gig where another band headlined and 9 out of the 20 upcoming March tour dates are my own promotions. (Read our review of Laura’s last Breakfast With Apollo gig, here). Comparing these gigs to all the others I’ve been involved with (I played a total of 100 SMW shows last year) I’ve noticed a distinct different in how the audience react. I think that even if they’re unaware of what’s going on behind the scenes there’s a coherent thread running through the nights and a spirit to it all that’s infectious. I put together really eclectic bills and I think fans enjoy that and trust my taste in music; they won’t always love all the other bands but they’re very supportive of them.

Any acts on your hit list to play future Breakfast With Apollo gigs?

There are some artists I’ve come across while touring that I know would go down a storm – La Petite Rouge from Karlsruhe in Germany, Kim Boekbinder and Eliza Rickman from the USA and Birdeatsbaby from Brighton, who are good friends of mine. In the future I’d like to start having bigger bands play them as warmups to festivals or maybe to have an opportunity to try out an unusual twist to their usual setup.

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?

Really think about why you’re making music, and what about it makes you the most creatively fired up. I started performing the SMW material live because it seemed like I should, but it was only when I worked out why I wanted to travel around playing music to people that my live show got good. Also, write and record a few songs before you start uploading stuff to Soundcloud and promoting yourselves on social media – I’m all for documenting progress but I think peoples’ quality control has been severely compromised with too much ready access to these great online tools.

Who’s on your stereo/iPod at the moment?

The Sylvan Esso record is on heavy rotation at the moment along with Gaz Coombes’ Matador and a lot of The Breeders and Elastica. Erica Nockalls’ “EN2” album is a triumph, too.

Tell us about your new material, what direction is it taking?

My new album “Direction Of Travel” is as eclectic as my first two records – melancholy ukulele songs sit next to stompy rock tunes – but the songs are more direct and honest. I feel really comfortable saying how I feel about things at the moment without the need to obfuscate matters. I’m delighted to have two exciting guest vocalists in the shape of Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses, Belly) and Mark Chadwick (The Levellers), there are live drums for the first time courtesy of Clive Deamer (Portishead) and Andy Sutor (Adding Machine), I’m playing bass, guitar, ukulele and keys, and I’m joined by more ace musical guests – Cajita on piano, Simon Goff (Hope And Social, And The Wiremen) on violin, Nicole Robson (Bat For Lashes) on cello, Otti Albietz on acoustic guitar and Mishkin Fitzgerald (Birdeatsbaby) on backing vocals. One of the highlights for me is the string arrangement on a song called “Stargazing” by Andrew Skeet (The Divine Comedy). It’s grungey and a bit orchestral, thoughtful and heartfelt. I’m really excited about how it’s all sounding and looking forward to sharing it with the world.

What excites you most about the forthcoming tour?

Returning to the towns I played with The Levellers last year (read our review of this gig here)  – we played really big O2 venues so it will be nice to be in smaller rooms where I can actually chat to people after the show.

And worries you most?

Transport – I usually travel on trains but as I’m playing with a couple of guest musicians we’re travelling with support band Forgery Lit in a van…I hope someone has good vehicle breakdown skills because I don’t. I also hope to get the word out to as many people as possible about the gigs, there’s no PR involved so I rely on word of mouth.

What can people expect from your next Bristol gig?

It’s another great lineup – The Lasting Days open with an acoustic set, tour support Forgery Lit are up next then I headline with a mixed set of power trio band stuff and solo performances. It’s the first band show of the tour so I know it’s going to be really fun. More info here.

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