Taliesyn Källström of Estrons on Motherhood and Music

Taliesyn Källström of the band Estrons has written this piece on motherhood and music especially for The Future Is Female.

She is currently on tour (dates here) so unable to make it to More Baby In My Monitors Please: our free panel about being a musician and parent, but please come along and join the discussion.  With Emma Daman Thomas (Islet) and Lisa Jên Brown (9 Bach), hosted by Gwenno Saunders. 14:00-15:00 Peilot, Chapter

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I recently sat with a woman who is the member of an extremely well known band. I'd never met her before, and she immediately opened up to me, telling me she was pregnant, and that she needed advice. It was a surreal experience that a person at such a stage could gain any knowledge about her career from someone like me. Yet there she was, anxious, and hanging on my every word. I told her I think the biggest battle in being a mother in music are the judgements you place upon yourself. My ex, the father of my child used to say I wasn't maternal. I have even had my career choice used against me in family court as a means to prove me as an unfit mother (luckily, the female judge thought this argument ridiculous). 

The number of battles and the anxiety I've had to endure as a parent, knowing I may never be able to take my son to school every single day at 9am, kills me with guilt still sometimes. Routine is what's best for a child; it is a tag line you'll hear often. Children need a reliable and predictable routine, or they are a lost cause. Let me tell you this view isn't based on facts. My son is the happiest and most outgoing two year old I've ever met, and he is also just as well behaved as any other two year old I've ever met.

Dinosaurs tell me, if you want to have the best chance of keeping your son then you need to step back from music, and concentrate on "being a mother". I Googled what "being a good mother" and "maternal" actually mean, and the results are clear. You show your children unconditional love; you give them space to make mistakes; you show them understanding, all of that stuff. There is nothing in there about being there all day every day, or, being a stay-at-home mom, or working a 9 to 5; although the Internet and society is saturated with that view.

On tour recently, while in a service station, I saw an advertisement in the female toilets: “Are you a mother in need of a suitable job? Want to work but don't want to miss your children growing up?” And it hit me that this guilt you feel isn't something intrinsic, it is something that is planted in us, by archaic attitudes that the mothers are the ones who raise the children day to day, and the fathers are alright to work away; they are "providing", they are "role models" for their children.

You get told you're "selfish" being a musician, at least I have been at times; or you see people thinking it, because it's your child that should be your main focus, not your career or passions. But my response to that has always been: why can't you have both? 

The fact is that a healthy apple grows from a healthy tree, and I want my son to grow up feeling driven and inspired by where he's come from and how he has been raised. I've taken him on tour with me and I've taken him to our shows at festivals, and you wouldn't believe how malleable children are when it comes to getting used to environments. He loves it. Kids don't just belong in swimming pools and parks. Did people gasp when a two year old (with hearing protection) was watching my gig from the crowd as my boyfriend held him? No. They said: "Oh, we should have bought Izzy!" And of course, it was officially an 18+ gig, but as I was a performer, I had the permission bring him; and because I was willing to break some rules, people saw that different ways of living are possible, and could actually be really beneficial and exciting.

I think the biggest battle of being a mother working in music, really, is the one we have with ourselves. Ignore impending fears; take everything as it comes; don't be scared to set new precedents; and accept that sometimes, you really do just have to be away for some of the time - and remember if you were male, no one would give it a second thought. Don't be a victim to archaic thinking. I think it's time for change, and I hope some of what I've experienced inspires this within you.

Taliesyn Källström, September 2017

Adwaith put some qs to Lone Taxidermist

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A: How and why did you create Lone Taxidermist?

LT: I had a six-piece band previously in Manchester, after they split I wanted to do something on my own, partly down to my old obsession with one man/woman bands like Scout Niblett and Bob Log 3rd. I’ve always made music or it might be better to say I’ve always made noise. I can’t imagine not doing it. 

A: Your music is very experimental, how do you go about writing songs?

LT:I think the answer is in your question. I experiment. 

A: Do you challenge any political issues in your songs?

LT:Not consciously, but I think certain gripes end up bubbling to the surface, quite a lot to do with equality, gender and the politics of sex.

A: Why the name 'The Lone Taxidermist'?

LT: It’s just Lone Taxidermist now. I got rid of ‘the’ a few years ago because it seemed big-headed and I wanted the indefinite article. ‘Lone’ came from going it alone, even though there’s three of us now, and the prospect of being solo. ‘Taxidermist’ came from me collecting stuffed dead birds off eBay, which I no longer do. The name has less relevance now but I don’t want to change it. 
 

A: What is the best thing about creating music?

LT: That is a massive question! I don’t know where to begin. Erm, there isn’t one best thing but there are lots of little things that add up. Constantly learning, discovering different ways to record and present sound, collaborating with all manner of sound makers who show you new ways and bend how you hear sound.  It’s a form of creativity and therefore a form of cathartic release for me. 

A: Do you think there needs to be change in the music industry? Have you experienced any sexism by performing and so on?

LT:There needs to be many, many changes in the music industry. First of all artists need to be paid properly! We need to have a fairer share of the Spotify cake and yes women are horrendously under-represented, at festivals, in the studio, in production. This is not just in music though, its rife everywhere.  I do experience sexism, but it’s so lateral and subtle you sometimes don’t realise until afterwards. A common one is the engineer asking my bandmates who are both male what the live set up is. But I get it from women as well as men, a lot of the time when I tell people I’m a musician they will ask me if I’m the singer.  Or what really gets me going is if I’m introduced as the singer in my band, which of course I am, but I also program the software, modulate the synthesisers, produce the sound and everything else!

Charismatic Megafauna meets Adwaith

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Dance-punk drum heavy London art band Charismatic Megafauna interview Carmarthenshire band Adwaith.

CMF: How did you meet and why did you create Adwaith?

A: We consist of Hollie (guitar, vocals), Gwenllian (bass, keys) and Heledd (drums). Myself [Hollie] and Gwenllian have known each other since we were around 4 years old. We formed the band around 2 years ago and came across a drunk Heledd at our first gig where she asked us if we needed a drummer. The three of us have been jamming and making tunes ever since. We’ve always been fans of Welsh language music but we formed the band after attending Maes B in Meifod. We saw basically no girls involved in the scene and we thought, “we could do this!”

CMF: How do you write songs?

A: It’s a combined effort between the three of us. Every song is different. Some we come up with the lyrics first and then add music to it, but sometimes one of us will just start playing like a cool riff or a drum beat or something in practise and we just build from there.

CMF: As three young women, how do you approach the question of your image and the messages you broadcast visually?

A: The fact that we’re three young women in a band is unfortunately still quite rare, so image is really important to us because of that. We think it’s really important to show other young women/girls that you can get up on stage with a guitar and still be as cool (if not better) than the guys you have a crush on, hahaha!

CMF: The lyrics of FEMME explain your feminist position in brilliantly direct and straightforward language. How do you carry those values through to your activities and work as a band?

A: We’re all feminists and we believe in equal rights so it’s very natural for us to write/perform in activities that represent this. For example we’ve organised our own ‘FEMME’ gigs, which is us basically putting on gigs with an all-female line-up. Our first night was in The Parrot in Carmarthen and we’re organising more around Wales and hopefully in England so keep your eyes peeled! We hope to inspire young girls by doing this. We want to see more girls with guitars!

CMF: We read somewhere that you’ve been advised to “never change your sound for anyone, keep your originality and not lose your quirkiness or naivety”. How do you feel about that word ‘naivety’: have you followed that advice, or tried to? We ask this in part because a significant element of our own band has been about learning and growing on-stage and in public.

A: I feel like we’ve kept our originality and quirkiness as we have always made music for ourselves and not to impress anyone. In my opinion every band has to go through a stage of naivety, experimenting and finding your sound and most importantly being yourselves on stage. I’d like to think that our stage presence has grown with every gig we’ve done. And with this new found confidence our sound has changed. We’ve gone from three shy girls playing folk music to playing post punk music with confidence.

CMF: On the same theme, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned since playing in a band together? What do you value most about being in a band?

A: The band has made us all better musicians. We’ve learned to not be precious with our work and to get everyone’s ideas involved. The best thing about being in a band is having close mates to jam with whenever you want. We spend so much time together and we haven’t going sick of each other! (yet) (fingers crossed)

CMF: What needs to change in the music industry?

A: A lot of things need to change. We need more women behind the scenes; music producers, engineers etc, these roles are so dominated by men.

CMF: What are you looking forward to? What are you scared of?

A: We’re looking forward for the release of our album, a mini tour hopefully and seeing where the next year can take us. Being fearless has got us this far so we’re trying not to be scared of anything. Bring it. 

 

 

ACCÜ interviewing Kayla Painter

AvR: Greetings Kayla! What is the best greeting in your opinion?
KP: Do you know, I quite like greetings!  'Hello there' is always a good one, but I'm also a fan of the old fashioned ones, 'good day to you' etc.  I'm a fan of the handshake too for first time meetings.  I like a good firm handshake, none of that wet tissue rubbish.

AvR: You released your EP Auriga online and on tape this year. Was your decision releasing it on tape tied in with the concept of the record in any way?

KP: Yes it was actually. I wanted the music on Auriga to be written and recorded and released all within a very short timescale.  I wanted to do this as I felt it would be an interesting exercise to see how it sounded.  It was an attempt to capture things happening over those few months through my song-writing.  I decided to release it on cassette tape as this felt what might be found in a time capsule.  It felt like a nicer thing to hold and look at in many ways; it reminds me of being a child! I know tapes have been making a comeback for a few years now, and the sound of all the tracks work well with the noise of the mechanics of tape players too.  

AvR: If you could ask me to ask you anything, what would you have me ask you?

KP: I would ask you to ask me if you could think of a question where the answer was ‘Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo’. 

AvR: As well as your amazing music, visuals are a big part of most of your live shows, which I feel marry so well with the arrangements and textures of your work. What was it that made you decide or realise that visuals would become such a part of your live shows?

KP: It's to do with me brain, mate. I think visually, always have been a visual person.  Having said that I sometimes feel I can't see that well!  Whenever I write or create music I use visuals to help me get to abstract thoughts in my brain and tease them out in the form of sounds. I think there is a really deep connection between visuals and the music I write, from the beginning of the processes of writing music.  
I started working with a visual artist, because although I have visual ideas I don't always have the skill to execute what I can see in my brain! So we talk a lot about visuals, colours, textures, abstract ideas, and quite importantly what sounds in my set look like and how they should be visually interpreted.  The way I view it is that sound and image are intrinsically linked.

AvR: You are currently Bristol-based. Any interesting new music, artists or venues we should be keeping an eye out for?

KP: Yeh! There's this great DIY label called Liquid Library who is always putting on ace gigs, releasing interesting music (on tape!) and doing great work raising money for charity.  There's Noods radio which is Bristol based - and often has really interesting radio shows from local and touring artists.  - Definitely worth checking them out. 

 

 

Lone Taxidermist asks Charismatic Megafauna some questions

Reverse cheerleading dance-punk band Charismatic Megafauna are closely interrogated by Trifle wielding synth pop artists Natalie Sharp, aka Lone Taxidermist

LT: What other projects / formations are you all doing?

CM: Jenny is an artist and music is an increasingly significant part of her work. She runs a feminist choir on Monday nights, plays in various formations with a bunch of other musicians and bands, and is now finishing a record of songs for voice and drums under her own name. She co-runs a sex re-education project called Bedfellows with two other artists, leading workshops in schools, and events in museums that promote alternative, queer, feminist perspectives on sex education.

Georgia is an occupational therapist and care-coordinator for the NHS, working in mental health and psychosis. She is also contributing to an urban studies class at a university in Bethlehem, looking at mental health and the built environment.

Susannah is a writer and editor. She works part-time as a digital editor in research at a big art museum and combines that with freelance editing work, writing, and other projects that explore her interest in food and radical hospitality.

It’s hard to fit it all in but we try our best and support each other as much as we can.

LT: What was the Glasgow CCA show?

CM: We make stuff in art contexts a lot, maybe because we went to art school and had artist friends, so we started playing in galleries, which has carried on. In Glasgow, we played at the CCA as part of Edge Effects, an event put on by Scottish Sculpture Workshop “that explored the complex co-dependencies between ecological, social, economic, and political phenomena”.

To prepare, we read the Xenofeminist Manifesto together and wanted to create a total environment that approached some of those (huge!) subjects. This resulted in a 3-screen video installation, with projections throughout the venue showing underwater life on Earth, interstellar clouds, and a nauseating virtual reality journey around Google Earth (thanks to Ben Tandy for that). Our friend, artist Alexis Dirks – with whom we’re currently sharing a year-long collaboration which will result in an exhibition in Canada and a new record – made us costumes, as did as our friend and knitwear guru Craig Lawrence, and we made some for ourselves.

We love a costume change.

The gig started with a screening of the incredible Lady Neptune and the Helping Hands videos (by Moe Meade who plays in other bands Dog Legs, Sacred Paws, Bamboo, As Ondas – check them all out). We also filled the air before the gig with some tracks by other friends and bands we know and love. Making and supporting friends, circles, networks and worlds is really important to how we function as a band.

LT: What are you planning on doing for future is female show?

CM: Something spectacular.  A live recording of us with 6 additional female drummers (new friends).  A new video.  And a new song.

LT: Do you change your show much dependent on what space it’s in?

CM: Yes. We always try to think generously and create something new and specific. It’s been a while since we wrote new songs but we’re working on that at the moment (the general election was the last, which birthed our tune Theresa May Not). But in terms of the show, there are so many different elements – set-up, costumes, projections, other visuals like flags and banners, etc. – which change due to necessity and opportunity. Friends approach us and ask to make things for us and it’s always good to find out how to make that work with what we’re doing.

Because we play in very different spaces, from galleries to pubs, we try to get an idea of the audience we’ll be playing to. Then we decide how much we want to make something either for, or to challenge the audience we’re meeting.

And how much we want to challenge ourselves.

We love a challenge.

Kayla Painter interviewing Accü

Composer, producer and sound design artist Kayla Painter speaks to Netherlands born musician and recording artist Angharad van Rijswijk.

KP: Which planet in our solar system best describes your music, and why?

AVR: Probably Pluto, I know it was classified as a planet up until 2006 and then it was decided it was just a 'dwarf planet', having fun with other dwarf planets and its five moons, so it didn't get to be part of the solar system anymore. I choose Pluto because my music and the making of it is about having fun, doing its thing in the distance not dominating any neighbourhood, so to speak.


KP: If you could colonise a new planet what music would you take with you, and on what format?

AVR: Colonising a new planet sounds like hard and lonely work so for that reason I'd take all of Kevin Ayers, Can, Bridget St John, The Incredible String Band and a load of minimal techno. In case the wifi goes down, I'd best take it all on vinyl. 

KP: Any unusual inspiration you'd like to share? Poets, artists, philosophers ?

AVR: I don't know if this would count for an unusual inspiration but for fun I like to visually cut words out of books and collect them together in a load of notebooks. It helps me to think differently, taking me to places I wouldn't normally go. It aids my primal mind of what I want to communicate with myself or to others. I have notebooks everywhere with nonsensical texts inside them, but knowing that they're there ready for me to dive into is very comforting. 

KP: How have women in music stated to turn this show around? Because they/we totally have.

AVR: We are doing so in so many ways - in so many ways that I may forget to mention some important points here - but for me I think it was from being brought up knowing I could be whoever I wanted to be without judgment. To then face the big 'bad' world where some may think otherwise, well, it just doesn't fit in with your core belief, and so the natural response is to push on through. A major part of turning this around in my opinion is discussion and leading by example. Earlier this year I wrote a piece that was published in Wales Arts Review, 'Women in Music Tech; Satirical Sexism Gone Wrong'. In the article I describe my experiences and go on to explain how important discussion is and leading by example, whatever the weather, whatever the gender. It's helped a lot that certain things are much more accessible now than before for women. Things like music technology, platforms for discussion and the growing collective confidence of calling out wrongful behaviour, not just online but on the everyday personal level too. It's turning around but there's still plenty left to turn and confidence is a big part of that.

KP: If you could tour supporting one Spice Girl who would it be?

AVR: Probably Baby Spice, she isn't trying to scare anyone or make anyone feel un-posh or un-sporty. As for Ginger Spice, well she left the band, so she wouldn't be very reliable on tour I don't think. Sorry Geri.

 

Charlie Romjin interviewed by Jenn Kirby

 Here experimental electro-acoustic composer Jenn Kirby has a few words with Charlie Romjin, who has previously played From Now On in her band Thought Forms and now will be playing at The Future Is Female as her solo act of Silver Stairs of Ketchikan.

JK: How do find living an artist's life? (Interpret that as you wish) 

CR: Through the compulsion to make music, I've had more opportunities than I ever would have otherwise - to travel the world, to do things that scare me, to push what I'm capable of and to meet the most amazing people imaginable, becoming part of a wider family who I love dearly. I honestly can't imagine any other kind of life.  The artist's life has also given me the chance to become a halfway decent barista for someone who doesn't drink coffee. (I'm still a terrible waitress, though). Hashtag : blessed.

JK: You use an alias, could you explain its origin and if you see it as an persona, separate from you or are you one of the same? 

CR: Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan is the title of a poem by Richard Brautigan, whose writing I fell in love with as a teenager nosing through a friend’s dad’s book shelf. I wanted to use it for my solo work because then it can be anything - everything that I make on my own. Doesn't matter what style it is, or if I want to involve other people in the performance. I guess it sort of serves as both an umbrella and a comfort blanket. It's me but it's not me.

JK: Do you have any daily artistic routines?

CR: Not really - I should probably get some. I'm very easily distracted. It's something that I keep thinking about getting round to; I know it will be good for me. Whilst writing the last Thought Forms album I had an artistic routine which consisted of chain-smoking and crying and endless cups of tea, which seemed to work out just fine - but I'm looking for something a little more "between 10 and 11, record an improvisation on the instrument of your choice". 

JK: How has your artistic output developed? How do you view your earlier work? 

CR: I made the first Silver Stairs recording and started playing live with it 11 years ago and it's always been a very laid back project that I turn to as and when I feel like it... No pressure, no obligation, always very instinctive and improvisational. This year I've brought it back to life after five years being too scared to do gigs on my own and I suppose the music has developed into something more structured as I've been writing actual "songs" for the forthcoming album; but it's still rooted in letting things flow naturally. Saying that, I recently improvised a live score to a film by Rebecca Cleal and there was no structure to that whatsoever, completely lost in the moment and surrendering to trust. So maybe my artistic output hasn't developed a great deal, but I have and hopefully that can be heard in the music.  

 

 

 

Jenn Kirby interviewed by Charlie Romjin

This is the first in our series of artist to artist conversations. Here Charlie Romjin, who has previously played From Now On in her band Thought Forms and now will be playing at The Future Is Female as her solo act of Silver Stairs of Ketchikan, has a few words with experimental electro-acoustic composer Jenn Kirby. Hope you enjoy!

CR: What was the first live performance that you saw that made you want to make your own music?

JK: I was inspired by recorded music and the act of music-making with friends more than anything else. I listened to music all the time and just wanted to be able to play it all. I spent some time writing bad songs. However, I really sunk my teeth into composing when I did a Masters in Music Technology at the University of Limerick in Ireland. When it dawned on me that you didn’t need to follow the rules of music, I found that freedom really exciting. I had learnt to programme in my undergraduate degree in Software Development, but then I changed from coding in Java to Max and Csound. Making music in those environments is much easier than in Java or C++. Designing my own sounds from scratch and my own ways of performing them was completely liberating for me.

CR: You build your own software and controllers to create music - which of these creations have you most enjoyed using live?

JK: I really enjoy building software instruments. You have full control. If it doesn’t sound good, it’s up to you to make it better. If something doesn’t work as you might want, you can change it. If there are bugs, it’s up to you to fix them. Even if it takes quite a while to build these tools, it’s worth it because of the happy accidents, when trying to build one thing and you accidently build something else, that’s great. I’ve used a bunch of controllers and I am always looking out for old and new tech that I can hack to use for music-making. The controller I use the most, is the gametrak by MadCatz. It was introduced to me by Dan Trueman of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. It is so expressive, I keep finding new uses for it. It feels great as a performer, in terms of agency. Audiences tend to respond really well to it too. Using controllers helps me overcome an issue I’ve grappled with since I began playing instruments – wanting to play everything at once. When I can design how the instrument works, I can maybe play more parts that I might be able to with an existing instrument.

CR: Was electronic music where you started out? What draws you to this way of composing and performing?

JK: I find myself drawn to making all kinds of music. Sometimes that’s contemporary instrumental music. Sometimes, and I’ve certainly focused on it a lot more recently, it’s electronic music. Sometimes I make sound art. Recently, I’ve been doing spoken word. I released a noise EP earlier this year. I tend to just have ideas for music that fits in all different genres and I’m pretty pleased about that. It doesn’t mean I’m good at all these things, but it means I don’t get bored making one kind of music. I think diversity in your own music is a really good thing, it just means that it’s difficult to explain what you do to people. 

I’m not sure what draws me to composing electronic music - I just enjoy it so much. I perform with the Dublin Laptop Orchestra and the Swansea Laptop Orchestra and it’s just so much fun. My music tends to have a lot of humour in it, so I’m usually inspired by silly ideas, or tackling serious topics in a playful manner. Being able to create and play with these ideas and share them with others is great. Sharing your music with other composers and performers who are interested in the same thing is brilliant, and then getting to share that passion again with audiences, that’s even better. In many ways, I couldn’t imagine not doing this. Whenever I take a break, I can’t wait to get back to making and playing again. 

Thank you Charlie and Jenn. Special thanks to Rhiannon Lowe for compiling the interviews.