Hailing from Wakefield, Louise Distras used to play in The Blockades, a hard punching outfit. Then the went solo. We did have a previous interview but it went off date and re-did the whole thing. Just because. Also because she was heavily armed. But seriously, she’s been doing loads of stuff, armed with only a guitar and a powerful voice.
Without any further ado, here’s the q and a with Ms. Distras. Enjoy!
Stream – ‘Black on Blue’
1) You used to be in a heavy outfit (The Blockades) and now you’re doing acoustic stuff. How did this change come up?
To cut a long story short, my band split up because the other guys weren’t on the same page as me. I felt like I was at a massive crossroads at that point so I packed up and moved to Shoreditch in London for a year so I could get a change of scenery and re-assess my life.
I used to drink in a pub called The Flowerpot and through that I was introduced to the whole folk punk scene and artists like Chris TT, Beans On Toast and Frank Turner. I went to a couple of Frank Turner’s gigs and I just thought to myself ‘sod this, if he can go solo after his band splitting up then so can I’, and that’s where it all started really.
2) First EP, 3 songs, new EP, again 3 songs. Any tendency you’re adopting? Would you go for a full album or do you prefer these short bursts?
A lot of people have asked me if I’ll be doing an album any time soon and the answer is no, not yet. The reality is, is that it’s only been six months since my début EP was released and even though it may feel like I’ve been around longer, I’m still pretty new on the scene.
I’ve written tons and tons of songs but I don’t want to give everything away just yet, so the three-song formula is working pretty well for me at the moment. A few labels have approached me about releasing an album but it hasn’t been right, I don’t want to sign with a label just for the sake of ‘being signed’. I tend to follow my gut instincts so if I put out an album I’ll do it when the situation feels right.
3) Do you have a particular favourite between all your songs?
I love all the tracks I play but it’s really hard to pick a favourite. I love them all for different reasons whether it’s because of the lyrics, the sentimental value or just because it’s fun to play live. I’m enjoying playing my track ‘Blue On Black’ the most at the moment, so I guess you could go with that.
4) There seems to be a spot of difference between Spiders and Heartstrings on a handgrenade, not only in production (crisper) but also in the sound, one song even sounds quite fun (‘Blue on black’). What pushed you to change?
When I recorded Spiders it was literally just a case of ‘Hey, here’s my shit – like it or don’t’ and it was just something I recorded for myself and I wasn’t aiming to get any kind of attention from it at all, so I guess that’s why it’s so bare. In retrospect I do kind of wish I’d had more fun with it and added some extra layers but I think that the reason why people loved it in the first place was because it was so sparse, so it was kind of more attention grabbing that way – especially with me making the transition from fronting a band to going solo.
With Heartstrings On A Handgrenade I wanted to build it up a little more and have more fun with the tracks, so I called in my friend Ben Peel (Wool City Folk Club/Thee Deadtime Philharmonic) to produce and record it. There’s a great energy on there and we had a lot of fun making that EP and I think that comes across when you listen to it. My sound is maturing and becoming more focused as time goes on so I guess that’s the main reason why the two EP’s are so different.
5) Taking into account the current folk scene, what do you feel distinguishes you from the other musicians?
That’s a pretty tough question. The first answer that springs to mind is maybe ‘coz I’m a girl’.
To date, I haven’t come across another female artist similar to me. The girls I’ve shared the stage with so far tend to have more of a sweetness to their voices and their songs, and a more polished sound in more of a Laura Marling sort of vein.
My style is more aggressive and gritty – more rough and ready. So I think that makes me stand out because it’s usually the last thing that the crowd expects when a female artist walks on stage. I think it’s a good thing.
6) How did the Strummerville thing happen? Congrats, by the way!
I was having a bit of a dilemma last year with my old label because they weren’t helping me progress so I emailed Strummerville for some advice. I got an email back from the director and she said she really liked my stuff and invited me on board. Joining Strummerville has helped me a lot and their DIY platform has given me an invaluable tool in helping me get more exposure so I’m grateful to them for taking me under their wing and helping me get out there more.
7) You’re quite active on Twitter and Facebook, has social media in general been helpful to further your career and get your music across a bigger audience? If so, what are your thoughts on Spotify and Bandcamp?
Yes definitely, for loads of reasons. You can do everything on these sites – you can check your stats and find out how much feedback you’re getting (what you’re doing right or wrong), you can cross promote with other bands and the media which in turn broadens your network, and you can send people at the other side of the world your tracks in the click of a button.
I think it’s important that all musicians engage in social media and take advantage of all the free promotional tools on offer and it’s become an integral part of building a ‘fan’ base (I hate the word ‘fan’). I like Twitter the most because it’s the quickest way to communicate with people across the globe. If I wasn’t on Twitter I wouldn’t have started chatting to people over in Australia and I would have never sold any of my EPs and developed a following over there.
Spotify and Bandcamp – I think Bandcamp is wicked. When you sell your own music through iTunes it takes a while for your royalties to come through, and even then there’s no guarantee that you’re going to receive the right amount of money and that you’re not being ripped off by your distributor somewhere along the line. Bandcamp is cool because it’s totally D.I.Y. You can keep a count of every track you sell and the money goes straight into your pocket.
I think at this sort of level, Bandcamp and Spotify are great promotional tools because the most important thing is getting your music heard and it makes the dissemination of music so much easier. The downside for musicians is that unfortunately it’s now a case of trying to get your music heard in an over saturated market.
Everyone’s in a band nowadays and people are getting new music rammed down their throats all the time because of sites like Spotify and Bandcamp and people become less inclined to check out your stuff because they think it’s going to be ‘just another shit band’. Finding a decent band is like finding a needle in a haystack.
8) You’ve mentioned several times on Twitter that you long for the time of having a bass player and a drummer. Would you go back to the sound you had in Blockades or will you continue your new acoustic style?
Sometimes I do miss being in a band. I’ve got a lot of great memories from my time fronting Blockades but I’ve forged more great memories and friendships since I’ve gone solo. I’ve got fewer things to worry about now I’m on my own. There’s no politics and everything I do is all self contained plus my sound is a lot more focused now that other people aren’t fighting for creative control.
I think that eventually I will put a band together for my acoustic music but when I do, it’ll be on my terms and rightly so.
I very much doubt that I’ll go back to the sound that Blockades had because I’ve matured in myself and as a songwriter now and I’m really happy with the direction I’m going in.
9) Besides Frank Turner, who you’ve mentioned as an influence, who else made you want to pick up a guitar and play?
Frank Turner wasn’t really a musical influence, it was just that transition he made after Million Dead that inspired me to pick up my acoustic instead of trying to put together Blockades mark II.
I first picked up the guitar when I was around 12/13 years old after hearing Bleach by Nirvana. Kurt Cobain is my biggest influence and if I’d never heard that album I would have never picked up the guitar and I would have probably ended up having a silly corporate career or something.
10) What’s coming up for 2011?
2011 is becoming a bit mental at the moment and new stuff is being announced all the time so the best way to keep up to date with that is to check out my Facebook music page and my website which is http://www.louisedistras.co.uk
I’ve got my new EP Heartstrings On A Handgrenade coming out on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and Spotify on the 2nd May, so at the moment I’m heavily promoting that and the EP launch with stuff like this and a load of gigs.
I’m heading down to London to play a couple of gigs for Zac from Special Needs the week before the launch too so I can spread the word down there.
I’m playing a few festivals over the summer – you can catch me at Rock & Rail, Strummercamp, Rebellion and Norwich Punk House Crawl which is going to be awesome.
Plans for a single, video and some merch are in the pipeline as well as another split EP which I’ll hopefully be recording with a London artist in the summer. I’ll probably release another EP before Christmas, and as well as all that I’ll just generally be doing a load more gigs and just be generally trying to get my music heard a lot more. Like I said, things are changing all the time so it’s hard to say where I’ll be in six months time but the busier I am with music, the better.
11) Physical media – yes or no? If so, what’s your weapon of choice: vinyl, cd, tape, wax cylinder, etc?
I’m a vinyl junkie. If I had the money I would probably release all my records on Vinyl and include a free download voucher so whoever bought it could have some sexy vinyl as well as something for their iPod – best of both worlds.
Thank you very much!
Here’s our reviews of Louise Distras‘ EPs:
Spiders. Heartstrings on a handgrenade.
Website. Twitter. Strummerville. Spotify.
About the author: I’d try being more DIY but I’m a sloppy slob.