By Steven Farkas on April 2014 at via Email
Louise Distras is a relatively new voice in the UK’s acoustic punk scene, but she is already collecting praise like kids used to collect Pokemon. Ahead of the release of her new double A-Side single, Love Me The Way I Am / Bullets she kindly took some time out of her hectic touring schedule to answer some of our questions.
So you’ve got your new single & video coming out on 12th May. Tell us a bit about the song and why you chose it to be the next single?
‘Love Me the Way I Am’ to me, is the most important song I’ve ever sang because it was written for one of my friends, who attempted suicide shortly before coming out to his parents. He survived to tell the tale and is now happy. Anti-Gay laws and homophobia are having a dangerous impact all over the world. The ILGA listed 82 countries with criminal laws against same sex relationships. The fact that it’s a crime to be in love and that there’s people being murdered, imprisoned, persecuted and young LGBT people facing fear of rejection from their families and bullying from their peers is abhorent. Everybody deserves to live a life without prejudice and deserves to be loved for who they are.
And the video? Who did you work with and what’s the overall concept?
The video is a visual representation of living under the thumb of intolerance and fear, and a celebration of love.
I worked with an amazing director-producer called Louise Cowley, and DOP Esther Vardy with whom I also worked with on the Shades of Hate and Stand Strong Together videos.
How do you feel about videos? Do you see them as an opportunity to add a visual element to your song, or just a necessary tool in the current musical climate?
Music videos are a great opportunity to add visual artistry and plant seeds.
You’ve got a number or Euro dates coming up, some with Kevin Seconds, how did that come about?
I was asked and I said yes.
How do you deal with being on the road? Are you able to write while on tour, or is it more about getting out in front of fans and then just taking it day by day?
It’s not being on the road that I struggle to deal with, however being at home gives me the opportunity to write, so it’s swings and roundabouts. I dunno how writing on tour works out for other people, but for me it’s not something I’m able to do or wish to do.
Can you tell us about the best (or oddest) experience you’ve had on the road? If yes, please share!
Ok, the weirdest and greatest experience I had recently was in Canada when we were on this two day drive from Vankleek Hill to Thunder Bay. A fair chunk of the drive involved driving right up through Ontario by the side of Lake Superior. At one point, to the left of the van we could see the Sleeping Giant at the other side of the lake, and to the right we could see a rainbow. Then we saw another rainbow, so we saw a double rainbow. Then the van drove right past the end of the first rainbow, which was so close I could’ve put my arm out of the window and touched it. So, you heard it from me…the end of the rainbow really does exist.
I’ve read in previous interviews that you maintain control over everything you do, which must be brilliant, yet exhausting. How did your fiercely DIY ethos work with Street Revolution Records with regard to the release of ”Dreams from the Factory Floor’?
Sure and I don’t understand why anyone would do it any other way. Street Revolution was inspired by Joan Jett and Blackheart Records.
Do you ever envisage having to start bringing people on board to help? Touring managers for example?
It’s more about working only with people who I trust and are in a similar kind of headspace. Those kind of people are very few and far between.
Q. Where did your first connection with punk rock come from? I understand Nirvana was an early influence, but how did you first discover them and then how did that take you back to first generation UK punk stuff like The clash and the Sex Pistols?
For sure, Nirvana were my first and greatest influence and if it wasn’t for Nirvana I would’ve never picked up a guitar. I became a fan of other bands like Mudhoney, The Pixies, Melvins, and Pearl Jam through Nirvana.
When I was a teenager I used to swap mixtapes with friends at school, so they were my lifeline to new music because my family was really really poor.
Your songs are both intensely personal yet eschew the spirit of 1st wave punk rock. Did you set out to create a particular sound, or did it simply drift towards that because of life experience and the music you were listening to?
Neither. I was actually listening to a lot of ELO when writing Dreams from the Factory Floor, but when I was writing that record I didn’t even realise it at the time because I wasn’t writing with the purpose of making an album. Then I met producer Steve Whale and it all just kind of happened and we brought it all together. I’ve always loved punk rock, but I also love pop melody. So I guess I’m going from one extreme to the other, then sometimes in between. One thing I do know is that it’s never been my intention to imitate the past, and lyrically I always wanted to dig deeper than shoes and sex. Dreams from the Factory Floor is the record I always wanted to make and I feel so lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity.
Did you gravitate towards punk rock because it, probably more so than any music movement before it, features a strong female presence? Definitely not as many as there should have been, but icons like Poison Ivy, Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene, Debbie Harry and Wendy O Williams played a massive role in defining that scene?
No. I gravitated towards punk rock because I’m an outsider and punk rock showed me that there was a better world out there that I could create for myself on my own terms. Poison Ivy, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry etc and even the riot grrrl movement was all before my time. I grew up without a female role model, and I only learned about new bands through mixtapes. Perhaps one of the reasons Nirvana had such a profound effect on me is because Kurt was a feminist in a sea of macho lad bands. The fact that I grew up without a female presence, I think ultimately laid the foundation for the driving force behind what I do.
You emancipated yourself at 16 – what drove you to what some might describe as such a drastic step? And where did you go, both in literal terms – moving and living wise and emotionally after you made this decision?
Because I was a punching bag and I’d had enough, so it didn’t feel like such a drastic decision at the time. It was liberating and more of a relief to get out of there. I stayed on floors, sofas, in sheds, tents and spare rooms, wherever really, until the person putting me up got pissed off with me and kicked me out. A couple of times I was lucky to get into sheltered housing and my last stay recently led to me having the same place to come back to now when I’m not on tour. During that period of time-emotionally, I think was fine or at least numbed out to the point of being fine, and it was the best decision I ever made. However the whole experience opened my eyes to the way that the system treats young people, and if you are someone who comes from poverty or an abusive background or both, you are automatically at a disadvantage because there are more obstacles to overcome so it means your entire future is at stake. Once you are trapped within the confines and the cracks of that system, it’s very difficult to get out because it is working against you rather than for you-one way or another you are still being abused whether it’s by your family or by the system. Punk rock gave me an opportunity to get out.
Do you feel like ‘Dreams from the Factory Floor’ tells the story of a past or current version of you?
Both, and sometimes it’s as though it was some kind of premonition. It depends what frame of mind I’m in.
You’ve been involved in a number of campaigns, vocally supporting pussy riot, work with the Sophie Lancaster foundation, as well work with organisations on International Womens day, which are all immensely important causes. Can you explain a bit about how you balance the highlighting of social & political messages with being a musician?
Well, when there is something or someone in your mind and your heart that you care so much about, it’s really difficult to achieve any kind of balance towards the situation, and it becomes impossible to keep quiet about it.
You have a lot planned in 2014 already, where do you hope to be come the end of this year?
I really hope I’m lucky enough to still be writing, releasing music and touring. I just take it one day at a time.
What are your thoughts on the follow up to ‘Dreams From the Factory Floor’? Are you already writing and planning for this?
The music press has generally been very supportive of you, making comparisons to the likes of Billy Bragg, Joe Strummer and Frank Turner. What do you feel about these kind of inevitable comparisons that the press will always make about you and your music?
Well, for a start it’s pretty obvious to anyone with half an ear that my music sounds nothing like Frank Turner, Billy Bragg or Joe Strummer. The truth is I’ve got no interest in being compared to other people, or being labelled as a protest singer, and I’ve got zero interest in what other people think. I just want to be left alone to do my own thing.
Finally, I know it was your birthday recently..how did you celebrate?
I spent the day travelling and had no intention of celebrating it, however when I arrived at my destination I was given a surprise birthday dinner with lots of balloons and cake. What started out as a totally rubbish, boring day was made into one of the greatest days ever by the people I care about the most, so I feel very lucky and grateful to have experienced that.
Louise Distras’ new double A-Side Love Me The Way I Am / Bullets is out on May 12th via Street Revolution Records and the video for Love Me The Way I Am can be viewed below: