She Drew The Gun - Interview
The last 18 months for She Drew The Gun could be modestly described as ‘eventful’. From being signed to James Skelly’s Skeleton Key Records, winning Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition, releasing their debut album Memories of the Future and embarking on their first headlining UK tour, it has been a heady rise into the spotlight and one which you could easily assume was plotted and planned out to perfection. However, the truth is much more intriguing.
She Drew The Gun are a four-piece from Merseyside made up of singer-songwriter and founding member Louisa Roach, Sian Monaghan, Jenni Kickhefer and Jack Turner and we meet them just as they are about to play their headline show at The Moth Club in east London. The venue’s former incarnation was that of a working men’s social club and there is a homage to this in the glitter and tinsel curtains at the back of the stage and former member plaques adorned around the walls of the main hall. We convene in the green room which is a small hall-shaped room upstairs – the only nod to the perceived ‘glamour’ of touring is a small, branded Jägermeister fridge packed with bottles of Corona. This is behind the scenes – the place where make up is applied and vocal chords are warmed up. This is the place were the spectacle is prepared.
Singer Louisa Roach’s remembers the beginning and the plan for the band going forward - something akin to the film Field of Dreams “I just thought that if ‘I build it they will come’ so I created the band name with the idea that a band would come out of it”. This could easily be mistaken for a whimsical almost blasé approach to setting the foundations but in reality it is testament to Roach’s belief in the quality of the songs - a faith that those songs and the collective talent in the band would be enough to create the future they wanted. Indeed, it is difficult to argue with this sense of pre-destination. From Louisa creating the band name, the group formed and She Drew the Gun did materialise “I put it out on twitter looking for collaborations. One by one the band got together”.
Then there’s the story of them entering Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition “we needed to send a video to enter but I thought I’d messed it up. We did a video but we couldn’t upload it so we just sent two old ones. Got on the longlist and then we were down to the last 8. We then performed in front of the Eavis family and other judges and then that was it!” This led to an appearance at Glastonbury festival and a chance to play their songs at an event they’d only previously watched on television “it was amazing and surreal in equal measure”. And did they meet any of their heroes or see anything unduly scandalous backstage “One of us thought we might of walked past Noel Gallagher whilst Jenni fell asleep on the floor at Fat Boy Slim’s private party set. So, no…not really!”.
Now for the record deal. This came about when a friend saw Louisa perform on a BBC Introducing session and invited her to James Skelly’s house to perform a few songs. She Drew The Gun were soon signed to Skelly’s Skeleton Key Records and he was so impressed by what he heard he asked to produce their album Memories of the Future. Louisa recalls thinking at the time “The Coral are one of my favourite bands and here I am working with my hero and it’s amazing. In terms of the recording, the songs were already there but James brought a fuller sound with the production and we had the chance to experiment with all different kinds of sounds”.
The result is a hauntingly beautiful psych-pop album layered with poetic lyricism that draws you into their imaginations and their experiences. The subject matter is varied but always visceral – from loss to love to protest songs to humanistic tales of despair and hope it is little wonder that the critics have been raining down the superlatives. The stand out song so far has been Poem – a track described by BBC Radio’s Steve Lamacq as the ‘most powerful song of the year’. Poem could be the soundtrack for austerity Britain. There is all of the anger of a Sleaford Mods track but there are also other qualities at play. Poem is disarming and deeply compassionate; drawing out our understanding and our empathy. It is also a song that has drawn them into the same problematic and troublesome territory as the Sleaford Mods – namely, the attempt to categorise them as a protest band. However, Roach suggests that there is an inevitability to this when writing music from what you see and experience “When you write music it’s an expression of what you feel and observe but I don’t see an absolute 'responsibility' in the ‘artist’ to only sing or write about political issues. From my own experiences, I am drawn towards that and I’m attracted to it in others. There’s not much political stuff out there. In the charts everything is watered down but now there’s an ocean of music and you need to look and filter through it to find the stuff that matters to you, personally”.
Poem is played and applauded rapturously by the Moth Club crowd. It is performed to an engaged and silent audience that feels the significance of what they are witnessing whilst Roach holds everyone in her thrall. It is something that crowds across the UK are beginning to get used to and inspired by.
SDTG are past the halfway point in their tour now and plan to finish up in their home city of Liverpool – a city they credit with having a great influence on them and a city they see as having a thriving music scene “a lot of bands are doing well and getting signed and making good music and it feels good to be from a place where music is doing well”. Indeed, with Hooton Tennis Club, The Sundowners, Trudy and the Romance, Sugarmen and (of course) The Coral all living and working in and around the city, Liverpool does seem to be in a moment of creative inspiration and innovation. However, it is difficult to ignore the rich musical heritage of the city. From The Beatles to The La’s to Echo & The Bunnymen to The Coral - Merseyside has produced so many great musicians. Some bands have wilted under the pressure of living up to this history but Roach believes it is something to be embraced not feared “It’s good to learn from the past; learn from traditions but make something new out of it. I think we’re in the vain of these Liverpool bands – creating good and deep pop songs. We like to take that formula and do something different with it”.
SDTG finish off their tour at LEAF in Liverpool’s city centre and they see it as a fitting and final flourish to what has been an incredible year and also an opportunity to take stock for the year to come and to plan what’s next “we’re looking forward to coming back home and showing off what we’ve learned along the way. 2016 been so busy. We’ve no manager as yet so we have been working to a DIY work ethic but we’ll be looking to progress in all aspects. Standards go up. Your best song should always be the one you wrote last”.
She Drew The Gun play at LEAF 30 October.