A Day in the Life of … MOLOTOV JUKEBOX

 a.k.a gyp-step shambolotov! Recorded by the fantabulous Natalia Tena


 
12pm:

Our guitarist Adam throws down £40 in my lap, (I’m wearing a one piece red panda outfit, he is wearing black) ‘I’ll give you £40 if you punch me in the face, go on!’ I spend the next hour trying to take a running jump into his face with my fist but can’t do it. We find this very funny as does Lauren, my flatmate grinning asleep on the sofa and Sam, who has entered in a full penguin outfit. Our manager Sirius arrives to get us all up and ready to move this undisciplined chaos on the road because ….

 
2pm:

WE HAVE GO TO WALESFOR A FESTIVAL!!! Sirius says he’ll drive. When we finally manage to get into the car, I sprawl in the back. We stop to get cider, hummus, Boursin and baguette (standard molotov snack) at Tesco, then I pass out.
 
6pm:

I wake up just as we arrive. Sirius informs us that we’re no longer staying in the promised country manor; we’re in tents … kill me now! This festival, ‘Landed’ is new this year and run by an amazing specimen of man, Aubrey (or Brie as I like to call him). He apologizes for this mishap but, luckily, the tents are BEAUTIFUL! Angus, Tom and Adam finally arrive and I throw at pot noodle at them to celebrate. We all settle in as Brie hands us the local cider, (actually) called orgasmic cider and we all look at the sheep, lambs and hills surrounding us, approve highly and continue drinking.


 
10pm:

It’s nearly time! I smoke and feel cold and tired, WHERE IS THE ADRENALINE?! Max eats half a burger and starts to feel terrible, but Sam devours the rest and says its fine. Tom is worried he’s completely out of tune and asks me obsessively for an A (everyone has to tune to me as my accordion is out of tune, not only with the world pitch, but itself!) We walk on stage and I start doing star jumps in order to be able to brave the chill while wearing a little red number. We do a line check which brings the crowd in. Suddenly … WHERE IS MAX!!?? The drum stool most definitely is not seating a Max…..THE BURGER!! I start telling the crowd that they have to dance or find the entrance of this festival immediately and f*** off, which strangely makes audiences warm to you! Tom wants yet again another A (IT’S FINE!!!) Sam is about to go look for Max when…. HE APPEARS! We can finally begin!

There is something to be learned about doing gigs at the end of your physical tether; you’re just trying to get through and you realise how much fun you’re having and how easy it is to talk to the crowd and make jokes when something goes tits up, (like when we threw in some chord clangers or Sam suddenly slipping out of tune he’s doing his violin solo!) and you realise that the audience can enjoy the show all the more for these little moments. Still …WE SMASHED IT!!! The tent was heaving by the second song and by the end all the boys’ shirts had sweated through. Sirius was joyful we had a new song ‘Don’t Panic’ which we dedicate to him trying to manage this band of individuals with a penchant for being unmanageable. Applause, encore, repeat.


 
Midnight:
We assemble to have our post drink/cigarette on a dishevelled quad bike. There is nothing like that moment of stopping after that gig, putting down the weight of the accordion and just breathing, not talking and sitting on anything. All step to campfire where I get so sleepy; my throat and limbs hurt but more smiling banter takes me into my dreams to the sound of Dub-Step, the festival season has started once again…!

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Rebelle meets … Natalia Tena

Today, the final instalment of the Harry Potter saga hits UK cinemas. While it may be a sad day for Potter fans, out of the ashes of J.K Rowlings worldwide phenomemn rise a bundle of stars ready to light up British cinema. One of these is the awesome Natalia Tena!

And what’s not to love about Natalia? Enthusiastic, upbeat, quirky, witty, hilarious and bags of fun, the English actress has got quite a bit in common with her Harry Potter character and, much like Tonks, the hugely talented Tena has a few tricks up her sleeve! As well as acting, (this year she’s also starring in films ‘You Instead’, ‘Bel Ami’ and HBO’s fantasy-drama series ‘Game of Thrones’) she’s also got one hell of a voice and can bash out a tune on accordion with plenty of gusto, both of which she does frequently with her band ‘Molotov Jukebox’.

In an interview for NOIR magazine, I chatted to the lovely Natalia about Harry Potter, filming at festivals, the ideal recipe to a rocking Gyp-Step band and doing sex scenes with ‘Twilight’ hunk Robert Pattinson …

 

Hi Natalia! How did you find filming The Deathly Hallows: Part 2?

 Well, it felt like part 1 and 2 were the same as the filming ran into each other. Overall, I spent all the times I wasn’t filming laughing at everything funny Lupin had to say and generally catching up with the banging Potter cast and crew!

 How did you feel about what happens to Tonks in the final film?

Obviously loved it, every actor likes the idea of a death scene! I like the fact she shoves into minimum time all the big phases of life – love, birth, death … done!

There’s a big battle scene at the end of the film, did you get to be part of the action?

The battle scene was epic due to the fact that such an integral set had been demolished like a titanic car crash; that was a bizarre sight! I wasn’t really part of the action this time, shame because I thoroughly enjoy prancing around shouting and imagining random things in front of a green neon screen!

What’s been the best thing about being part of the Harry Potter phenomenon?

Firstly, getting to meet its crème de la crème crew and cast. Secondly, owning a wand and shouting in Latin and getting paid for it, and thirdly, meeting kids that actually believe you have magic powers and threatening to turn them into frogs if they don’t do their homework!

You’re about to make lots of Robert Pattinson fans very jealous in the upcoming Bel Ami! What can you tell us about your role and getting ‘down and dirty’ with Rob?

Basically I play a syphilitic prostitute inParisat the turn of the century! Rob and I used to be good mates for a brief period before he shot to Vampire fame. I remember him taking me out for drinks before going toAmericato film it, saying “yeah, going to do some Vampire movie, see you when I get back.” Little did he know how huge it was going to be! Seeing him again was great and I always find sex scenes very funny! You’re there making sex noises, thinking about the fact that all the crew are respectfully trying to do their job delicately to not make it hard for you … it makes me want to crack up every time! It’s about as sexy as watching paint dry. The daunting bit; knowing that lots of people (including my Dad) are going to see it!

You also star as a rock chick in You Instead set at T in the Park, can you tell us about your character Morello?

Morello is the lead singer of a fem-rock band The Dirty Pinks and is feisty, cynical and funny yet vulnerable. She’s been working hard to make her band get somewhere and thinks very little of Adam Elva, the lead singer of a rival band, to whom she gets handcuffed in a strange twist of fate. But love can flourish between all sorts of unlikely people and they realise they have a connection that is above their antagonistic banter!

How did you find shooting over four days of intense guerrilla style filming?

Literally, it was exhilarating, exhausting, hilarious, adrenaline-fuelled madness! I reckon I can speak for everyone in saying that that Monday morning wrap held such HUGE sense of achievement, it felt monumental! More than anything, it had to do with the cast, crew and director we had. Every single person there made it possible and David MacKenzie is a relentless man! Extreme acting was very much the consensus of the project: there was lots of improvising, we had the script as our anchor but from there we messed around, seeing what each moment had to offer, and we had thousands of extras in festival party mode to play with!

Tell us about your own band, Molotov Jukebox. How would you describe your sound and how do find combining music and film?

Basically, it’s Gyp-Step; a well aimed throw by its individuals and their relative musical styles into a melting pot of chaos, stirred with love, garnished with loud shouting and strong looks, then served warm with massive smiles. Definitely 6 of your 5 a day, fantastic for every muscle used in contagious dancing! With regards to combining, one the best things in life is finding a synergy between the things you love in the hope that they can work together and bring out the best in each other, for your career and more importantly for you those you love.

 

NEXT … Natalia shares A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MOLOTOV JUKEBOX!

Gemma Cairney’s guide to Glastonbury and other festival faves

Although the British weather would often have us think otherwise, summer is  finally here! And it just isn’t summer without the inclusion of a music festival or two; standing in a muddy field listening to our favourite bands seems to have become part of the fabric of British summertime. When it comes to music, festivals, fashion and style, Radio 1Xtra presenter Gemma Cairneycertainly knows her stuff! As the BBC’s roving reporter for Glastonbury she has guided us through three years of the legendary festival and has also presented alongside the equally stylish Miss Chung on T4’s ‘Frock Me’. Outside the studio, she also works as a stylist and has performed her magic on Florence and the Machine and the Pigeon Detectives.

I asked the lovely Miss Cairnet to share her finest festival moments and her top survival tips!

You’ve been the BBC’s roving reporter at Glastonbury for the past few years; what’s it been like working at Glastonbury?

Mind-blowing! Glastonbury is the father of British festivals and you can feel that in its air. You feel free to do whatever you please and no one will judge you. Nowhere else in the world does it feel so good to be so dirty (in the muddy sense of course). To be asked to illustrate this magic via the TV is a true honour and the only telly job I’ve felt truly represents everything about my real personality. There, I’ve talked fashion, walked a tight rope, screamed, danced hard with the joker and kissed Florence Welch on the lips all with a camera in my face!

What’s been you’re most memorable festival experience?

Well, all of the above were pretty poignant but I think being unofficially recruited (or so I thought) to be my friend’s backing dancer on the Pyramid stage – one of the main stages – one year at Glastonbury in exchange for a ticket. When she asked me, I really thought she meant just ‘sort of’ jump around in the background whilst she sang. But before I knew it, in the lead up to the festival I was attending dance rehearsals and getting fitted for a skeleton outfit! I am no trained dancer, but I learned my steps in time. It involved a lot of shuffling and my body shaking with laughter. That was during my many years of ‘The Blag’!

Who has been the best live act you’ve seen perform, and who are your festival favourites?

I feel guilty to keep referring to Glasto because many other festivals are dear to my heart, but my favourite is Jay Z, who left me a startled, awe ridden, hip hop obsessive when he performed – amongst the controversy – in 2008. You could feel the crowd’s anticipation: ‘Will it work? Won’t it?’ and despite his presence when you saw his face for the first time on stage you could feel his nerves. He aced it and the excitement was INCREDIBLE!

Other festival favourites include Vampire Weekend (my friend cut her lip open last year at Latitude because we were dancing so hard).Florenceand the Machine is just illuminating every single time. (I think it’s because she’s an actual mythical fairy that lives in a tree). Oh and I had the most amazing summer in 2006 where I saw the Strokes three times at three different festivals and fell utterly in love. Oh and that same year I saw Regina Spektor and found her wonderful too … this is a dangerous question; I could go on FOREVER!

Do you have any advice for our readers when it comes to surviving a weekend at a music festival – what are your Do’s and Don’ts?

DON’T wear anything to tight and constricting – you’ll want to roll around.

DO seek out the alternatives to the headliners that persuaded you to get tickets in the first place. There is a lot to be found in comedy/poetry tents.

DON’T believe you’ve fallen in love in two days; it’s likely the ‘free love’ has taken over.

DO meet some of your best friends of the future.

DON’T shoot your load and get too trashed the first night, I know it’s hard, but the hangover WILL leave you feeling guilty.

DO eat some good food. Festivals aren’t talked about because of food, but I’ve got amazing memories of oysters in the woods, amazing Thali, and ostrich burger.

Gemma Cairney will be bringing us all the inside action and gossip from Glasto when she reports live from festival for the BBC this summer and you can catch her show on Radio 1Xtra weekdays from 1-4pm!

LADY GAGA: The World’s Most Controversial Fashion Icon

Rebelle ponders the merits of the fashion tour de force known as Gaga.

It’s hard to believe that a mere three years ago the majority of us had never heard of Lady Gaga. That was before Just Dance conquered the airwaves and paved the way for the eccentric singer’s complete domination of the music world; armed with her catchy, electrifying brand of pop and uncompromising outfits, the industry didn’t stand a chance against the pop and fashion behemoth known as Gaga!

Now, just turned 25 and boasting an estimated sale of 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide and over nine million followers on twitter, the extent of Lady Gaga’s influence on contemporary pop music is undeniable. Last year, Forbes magazine named her the 7th most influential women in the world; after all, she did manage to raise £250,000 for the victims of the Japanese earthquake within 48hours via the social networking site. But with Gaga, it’s never just been about the music.

For the Born Again singer, fashion is as important as her music and when it comes to her overall creative aesthetic, the two are inseparable. On the strong influence fashion has on her work she’s said, “When I’m writing music, I’m thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It’s about everything altogether – performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it’s everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the superfan. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us.”

In our current digital age of media intensity and public scrutiny, image is everything and for Gaga fashion plays a key role. Since her 2008 debut public opinion of her music, persona and fashion sense has been divided with some praising the style maverick as a role model, trail blazer and fashion icon. Many see her ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ approach to fashion as inspiring; her avant-garde wardrobe of latex, lace, studded bras, lobster hats, bubble dresses and butcher block couture (that meat dress designed by Franc Fernandez which was named Time magazine’s Fashion Statement of 2010) pushes the boundaries of fashion and suggests empowerment, freedom and self-expression to her gargantuant fanbase of “little monsters”.

Yet to others Gaga’s flamboyant attire is ridiculous, attention seeking and utterly pretentious. The last is a fair point: its quite difficult to arrive at the 2011 Grammys encased in a giant egg designed by Hussein Chalayan and carried like a roman emperor without appearing a tad ostentatious …well, she had to top the meat dress somehow! While it peeved off quite a few of the other celebs in attendance including Beyonce who chose to tred the red carpet like us common plebs, Gaga’s mad entrance was the talking point of the awards show and grabbed global headlines.

 

While I’m not always completely enamoured with some of her more outrageous fashion choices (i.e. the meat dress) she does keep things very interesting both on and off the red carpet. That’s the thing about Gaga; while she may have borrowed a lot from previous notorious fashion divas like Madonna, Grace Jones, Isabella Blow or Roisin Murphy, her eccentric fashion statements are something new. The designer Hussein Chalayan has said, “I think what she’s doing is a regurgitation of the past, but it’s fresh packaging.” And he’s right – Gaga has blown new life into the fashion industry and when it comes to her contemporaries, she remains the most extreme.

While most female performers would keep the statement outfits for concerts or music videos (a concept Gaga has revoloutionised with other female singers like Rihanna, Katy Perry and Beyonce quickly following suit) Gaga has taken these extreme fashions out of the arena – and off the runway – and transferred them not only to the red carpet, but to the street as well. As fans, the press, and the paparazzi are completely obsessed with her, every time she steps outside is a photo opportunity, be it shopping, checking into a hotel of getting off a flight, all of which she uses to her greatest advantage.

So, when it comes to fashion, the international pop sensation holds an incredible amount of influence within the industry. And on June 6 the fashion elite will make it official: Gaga is a fashion icon. Love her or loathe her, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced last month that she was being given the prestigious award, with the council’s president Dianne Von Frustenderg lauding the eccentric singer’s avant-garde fashion sense. The decision came just weeks after she lit up Paris Fashion Week on the Thierry Mulger catwalk for the label’s creative dirctor and Gaga’s very own fashion director, Nicola Formichetti.

                                        

The award is another marker of the power Gaga weilds in the fashion industry, with the world’s top designers falling over themselves to submit their own fantastic creations for her to wear. She persuaded Giorgio Armani to abandon his traditional style to create the sparkling orbit dress which she wore to the 2010 Grammys.

Other contributers to her no-holds-barred wardrobe include Valentino, Giorgio Armani Prive, Jean Paul Gaultier, Francesco Scognamiglio, Miuccia Prada, Phillip Treacy, Theirry Mulger and Gareth Pugh. Some have been wonderful; her pretty Thierry Mulger origami dresses and her McQueen dress and armadillo shoes, and some suitably outlandish; her Phillip Treacy lobster hat … and her McQueen armadillo shoes!

                      

But sometimes it doesn’t quite work. While Gaga is famous for her stylised image, at some point it seems too calculated, too contrived and over-conceptualised. It must be fun to delve into a designer dressing up box of weird and wonderful creations; to wear what you want, however outrageous and get away with it, but while being fun and flamboyant, its not an easy style to emulate. 

For Gaga, that’s probably the point. She wants to be remebered as much more than a talented singer/songwriter; she wants to be seen as an artist and the more surreal the clothing, the stronger that image becomes. She seems to have created a fashion all to herself; its Gaga and its completely unique to her. She may not always look that classy or stylish but she always advocates doing your own thing and not caring about what anyone else thinks, especially is the look you’re going for is surreal and sculptural! 


So how will she keep pushing the envelope in more daring outfits? Maybe the most shocking thing for us to see her in would be jeans, a baggy T-shirt and trainers! She might be trying too hard to be original these days but lets face it, the world would be a much duller place without her. Love her or hate her, in her own way Gaga has established herself as a monster fashion icon, and who knows, one day she might even become a trendsetter. We could be taking our lobster hats off to her before we know it!

 

Jessie J ‘Who You Are’: Album Review

Despite all the hype and promise of her chart topping Price Tag and her stomping debut single Do It Like a Dude, Jessie J’s album Who You Are proves a slight let down! ***

Stomp, stomp she arrived … after years grinding away in the industry, Jessie J’s solo career was launched last month amidst a frenzy of publicity, heralding her as the next big thing in British music for 2011. With a BRITS Critic’s Choice award under her belt, she stormed into the charts with her debut release Do It Like a Dude, placing at No.2 and Price Tag gaining the No.1 spot for two consecutive weeks. Justifiably, her album Who Are You was hotly anticipated, so much so that her label brought the release date forward four weeks to coincide with the all the media attention, but would it be able to live up to the with the severe hype surrounding it?

Jessie’s first offering Do It Like a Dude had certain a Marmite effect, but from the first airplay I was definitely a fan, drawn in by the single’s edgy, infectious vibe and Jessie’s undeniable confidence and swagger. Much like the rest of the nation, I was really excited about this brand new hope for British RnB. The media, the record label, even Jessie J herself seemed to be promising us a new Katy Perry/Rihanna of our very own, with incredible songwriting skills and a platinum gold singing voice. Then came Price Tag; still fun and infectious but edging a little more towards frothy pop than I would’ve liked. Still, it claimed her a UK No.1. Maybe the album would have more of an edge?

Sadly, no. With all the buzz off the back of her award and chart success, the album really needed to be an instant classic or a major game changer, but with Who Are You Jessie gave us neither.

Most of the tracks sound like fillers, and the whole package seems incredibly rushed, no thanks to the early release date. Jessie’s vocal talent is undeniable, but she tries too hard to impress; in tiresome vocal showboating she flies up and down her scales and performs crazy vocal gymnastics with scatty tics ruining some very good songs.

At some points it gets a little screechy and painful – the title track Who Are You and acoustic ballad Big White Room would be truly magnificent if she played them a little more straight, rather than going “K-k-k-kwazy” experimental on us. For such a gifted singer, it is unfortunate that some of her pitches could make your ears bleed!

Her impressive voice gets swamped in dull, simplistic and generic production, given an US-style gloss that, in an attempt to make her more marketable, sadly makes her less original. Mama Knows Best has a Christina Aguilera-esque burlesque brass to it, Abracadbra, while catchy, is Katy Perry and I Need This is very Paramore. Having spent years writing songs for other artists (most notably Miley Cyrus’s succesful Party in the USA) it was going to be a bit tough for Jessie to find her own sound, and this seems like a bunch of first songs from four or five different artists.

While the album was sold on her songwriting ability as well as her voice, she doesn’t produce much world-changing material on this front either, preferring a more commercial, diet coke ad take on love and her main messages seem to be about ‘staying true to yourself’ and ‘following your dreams’.

That being said, I loved Who’s Laughing Now where Jessie pokes fun at school bullies who have come crawling out the woodwork now she’s found her slice of fame. Her writing is cheeky, relevant and fun; “Oh Jessie I saw you on Youtube/I tagged us in photos from when we were in school” while her singing remains quirky, even though it still edges on annoying. Her voice has been given a transatlantic twang, which is a shame as she sounds most distinctive when there’s that English accent creeps like; afterall, it worked for Lilly Allen.

Still, this is just the start of the 22-year-old singers career and, all things considered, her album is still very impressive for a debut and will undoubtedly sell by the millions. Compared to other British singers who have been spat out of the Simon Cowell reality TV talent show machine in boring, identical, generic pop moulds a la Alexandra Burke and Cheryl Cole, Jessie J is a fresh, fun and exciting prospect for British music, who’s at least trying to do something a little different. Based on the album, she may not know what type of artist she is yet, but she has plenty of time to figure it out. Once she does, the results will be startling and as an artist, Jessie J will be unstoppable.

Diagram of the Heart interview

This London-based electronic pop duo are set to be the next big thing in 2011.

The first signing of Sony’s relaunched label ‘Deconstruction Records’, Kye Sones and Anthony Gorry have spent the last 12 months earning their stripes on the festival circuit, where their mix of classic Indie rock/pop and epic synths driven by an electronic heartbeat earned them a legion of fans. With their singles chart debut If I Were You set to hit the airwaves later this month, I caught up with their sexy frontman Kye to explore the inner-workings of Diagram of the Heart in an interview commissioned by NOIR magazine.

How did Diagram of the Heart come together?
We met on Myspace. At the time I was working two jobs, one of which was chimney sweeping (yep they still exist!) I’d spend my evenings writing songs and performing wherever I could. I was looking for that unique sound, which I found when I started working with Anthony. I liked the music he was making and we clicked musically and creatively.

What bands/musicians have strongly influenced you?
We both have lots of similar musical influences. Anthony comes from a dance background and listens to all kinds of music. I grew up with the Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson and was heavily influenced by Oasis and Blur in the Brit Pop explosion back in the 90’s and also love my dance music. We both love good songs regardless if they’re rock, pop, dance, dubstep or indie. 

You must’ve been psyched to be the first signing to Deconstruction Records!
Yeah, it was a no brainer really. Mike Pickering (our label boss) told us he was resurrecting the label and we jumped at the chance to be part of it. The music decon put out in the 90’s was iconic to that period in time and that’s what we are hoping to do with our album Vital Signs now.

How do you det on with the legendary Mike Pickering?
Great apart from when we talk football! He’s been an artist, a DJ, a label boss and has had massive success in all those areas, so if he gives you advice you listen. I think it’s really important to have great respect for the people who handle your carrier and we both have a massive amount of respect for Mike. He’s been with us every step of the way. Mike also looks after Kasabian and Calvin Harris; two of my favourite artists, so we know we’re in a good home!

Do you prefer working in the studio or performing live?
Live for sure! There’s nothing better than seeing a crowd jumping up and down to your songs. The most exciting thing for us when making the record was visualising how we were going to take it out on the road. We have three other guys that join us on stage; Mad Max on bass, Chris Haddon on guitar and Grant Kershaw on drums. We’ve got great band chemistry.

 

What was your festival experience like last summer?
Amazing! We had an early slot which meant we had to work extra hard to get people in our tent. The festival crowd is our perfect audience – people who are there just to have a good time and let loose. Supporting Calvin Harris at Ibiza Rocks and playing the iTunes festival in Camden’s Roundhouse were definite highlights! Kelis was also a great support slot at gay pride in Manchester. We had a good following there after we supported the Scissor Sisters at the Manchester Apollo a few months previous.

What can we expect from your album Vital Signs     
We didn’t want any fillers so we wrote 30 songs and picked the best. There’s tracks for big nights out and we end the album with Why Does It Hurt? It’s a perfect chill out for the morning after! We wanted to make an album that takes you on a journey and makes you feel a mixture of emotions … like a good DJ would.

Diagram of the Heart’s Vital Statistics:

Their music is “euphoric, big room sound with one foot in the warehouse and one foot in the charts.”

They can’t stop listening to “Alex Metric & Steve Angello’s track “Open Your Eyes”, Magnetic Man, Temper Trap, Mike Snow and Kasabian.”

They chose Diagram of the Heart’ “because our lyrics are heart-felt and emotive and there’s a strong beat throughout our music, like a beating heart!”

If I Were You is out March 13

The World’s an Oyster for Pearl and the Puppets


Last November I caught up with Katie Sutherland (aka Pearl of Pearl and the Puppets) , one of Scotland’s most promising singer/songwriters of 2011. Here’s what I learned about the girl who’s set to play a massive part in your summer soundtrack …

I meet Pearl in the bar of Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End where she used to gig occasionally (“just over in that corner,” she points out with a nostalgic smile, despite the fact that it was just over a year ago.) Back then she says just a few people turned their heads to give her acoustic folk-pop melodies some much deserved attention. As sweet and breezy as they are infectious, Pearl’s songs are currently causing a quite a stir in the industry – she counts Elton as a big fan, (so much so they’re on a first name basis).

Right now, she’s teetering on the brink of something big; her career is projected to go stratospheric later this year when her debut album is due for release, but for Pearl (aka Katie Sutherland) it can’t come quick enough!

Pearl during a gig at Glasgow's Oran Mor

She arrives for our interview looking warm and cosy in a furry Cossack-style hat, with ear flaps down as a barrier against the bitter November weather. She’s spent the night before supporting the Hoosiers at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh and is due to perform for Children in Need in two days time, before heading back down to London to open for the Hoosiers at another gig. Not bad going for the 23-year-old from Kirkintilloch, who only started performing in 2007.

A career in music wasn’t always on the cards for Pearl who, barely three years ago was working in Woolworths while studying primary teaching at Glasgow University. “It was weird,” she says of her whirlwind assent to becoming a professional singer/songwriter. “All of a sudden I was leaving uni to sign a recording deal within a month!”

Despite having played in a school orchestra and learning piano at an early age, Pearl first picked up a guitar when she was 19 and taught her herself how to play. She quickly began writing songs, which she then played at various open mic nights across Glasgow and posted on MySpace, but it was a chance encounter with her future best friend and London flatmate, Jeni Raskin – who at the time worked as a scout for Polydor Records – that placed Pearl’s foot securely on the ladder of success.

“It really takes one person in this industry to start a buzz,” says Pearl. “Jenny saw me at a show, and then she had her boss from London come up to see me play.”

After being ferried back and forth between London and Glasgow to meet with various labels and publishers, Pearl signed a management contract with Twenty First Artists, the company that was established by Elton John, and is also home to James Blunt and Lily Allen. As well as being a fan, Elton is also a bit of a mentor, “I was so nervous when I first went to meet him I got drunk on champagne and an empty stomach! But he’s such a nice guy – he knew five of my songs by name! He’s really committed to artist’s and is so supportive.”

Pearl was soon signed to US-based Universal Republic, after bosses flew from New York to see Pearl perform at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. Since then, she’s spent her time writing, gigging and recording while commuting between Glasgow, London and Yorkshire to work on her debut album. At the moment she’s working with Elliot James in London, who has previously collaborated with the Kaiser Chiefs, and also Steve Chrisanthou, the man behind Corrine Bailey Rae’s debut album.

Her debut single, ‘Because I Do’ will be released next January, yet the track already holds a special significance for Pearl, as it’s the first song she ever wrote. “It was written years ago about my current boyfriend, but before we started going out. I used to see him asleep on the bus, with his face pressed against the window and thought I really like him! It’s all about that initial feeling.” 

While other girls her age were fans of the Spice Girls, Pearl grew up listening to The Cranberries, The Cardigans and The Beatles, and describes her sound as others have; musically she’s akin to Feist, while vocally, she’s been compared to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan.

Despite strong backing, Pearl is being catapulted into an industry already teaming with talented female singer/songwriters, but she remains hopeful that her knack for creating catchy, quirky and jaunty folky-pop tunes, together with her growing experience and exposure – she’s already supported Elton John in front of a 25,000 strong audience – will allow her to carve out a career doing what she loves.

Such is her conviction, she’s had her moniker tattooed onto her left wrist, as a reminder of who she is and, hopefully, where she’s heading. On spotting the elegant “Pearl” tattoo, I’m curious where exactly “the puppets” came from. Apparently they became an addition her moniker after she was mistaken for Meatloaf’s daughter, Pearl Aday, and subsequently added to a line up of heavy metal bands at London’s Barfly. 

While she may be being groomed for stardom, Pearl/Katie is just like any other girl and possess a certain weakness when it comes to her wardrobe. “Right now, I love wearing jumpsuits on stage because they’re easy to move around in and put me in a total comfort zone!” She then proceeds to wax lyrical about her favourite Alexander McQueen jumpsuit, making me green with envy!

Yes, one of the biggest perks Pearl’s recent success is definitely the designer freebies! “We’ve got this deal going with DKNY,” she euphorically reveals. “My favourite festival outfit was a DKNY dress I wore on the main stage at Rockness this summer. It was covered in sequins and made from silk in amazing rainbow of colours.

“I got this amazing black coat as well – it had gorgeous waistcoat style body, with cool buttons and a massive cape! It’s funny, though, how you can get away with stuff in London but not up here. I swear every time I turned a corner in Glasgow there’d be someone going “Nananananana Batman!” behind me. But I still loved it, then two months ago I lost it on a train now its gone forever, but I’m hoping they might send me another one for Christmas!”

So now we know what to get the girl who already has an amazing record deal, famous fans and a glittering career ahead of her, and while the covetable designer coat is at the top of her Christmas wish list, undoubtedly a chart topping debut album as ‘Pearl and the Puppets’ is what Katie Sutherland will be hoping for in the new year, and there’s a good chance she could end up with both!

Original article published in http://issuu.com/noirmagazineuk/docs/noirmagazine3 p. 37-9

Faithless Interview: Sister Bliss

KEEPING THE FAITH

While the clubbing landscape may have changed since their ’97 debut, Faithless have maintained an enduring global fan base thanks to the eclectism that characterises their music, which incorporates diverse elements from the three founding members to create a unique mix of synth, hip-hop and electronica. As one of the world’s greatest live dance acts, Faithless continue to produce exhillerating and original anthems, through the blend of skills and styles amassed by the production powerhouse team of Sister Bliss and Rollo Armstrong, coupled with the intelligence and integrity of Maxi Jazz’s lyrics. For Bliss, they symbolised a rebellion against “the more disposable, trashy side of dance music.”

Read on as the world renowned DJ describes her experience as part of the phenomenon that is FAITHLESS ...

After 15 years as Faithless, how would you describe your relationship in and out of the studio?
It’s a very meritocratic relationship – we all play to our strengths which means there’s no ego’s battling for control in the studio. There’s a great balance between because we respect where each other is coming from and we all share a great sense of fun and purpose. Me and Maxi share that ‘on the road’ life with the live band, so we have that intimate knowledge of each other that only those who’ve shared a tour bus can know!

What initially got you into Djing and how was Faithless formed?
I fell in love with dance music and wanted people to hear my records so I started djing in Birmingham where I was at college. When I came back down to London in the holidays, I met Rollo through a mutual friend Ben Langmaid, who also introduced us to maxi (Ben is now one half of ‘la roux’).

There’s a lot of different elements that go into Faithless – how do you collaborate and who brings what to the mix?
I write the music, Maxi writes his lyrics, Rollo fiddles with everything and then we produce the music together. We all have overlapping musical tastes; Maxi brings his love of hiphop to the mix, Rollo and he also share a great love of reggae and soul, while I bring my encyclopaedic knowledge of house music to the table!

Faithless play the iTunes festival

Faithless has always stood slightly outside the mainstream – do you think this has helped you be more creative and experimental with your music?
We’ve always made music to please ourselves first and foremost, and faithless partly formed in opposition to the more disposable trashy side of dance music; we were frustrated with the lack of decent lyrics in club records. In Maxi we found an artist whose voice and lyrical agenda worked within an electronic musical template, and his talent and open-mindedness allowed us to explore all kinds of musical genres across our various albums.

What can fans expect from your latest album The Dance Never Ends?
The album is a very celebratory album; it was made in a very positive state of mind. We had come to the end of our record deal and decided to release the album ourselves, so we had a great sense of freedom to make the album how and when we wanted. The Dance is also a metaphor for relationships – those we have with ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us, “the dance of life” if you like. It’s probably our most electronic album with an eclectic mix of music from the more club orientated tracks to the more melancholy, ambient sound.

God is a DJ: Bliss in Newcaste

What are you trying to get across to your listeners through your music?
Maxi is a practising Buddhist and this informs his whole perspective on life and his lyrics. The cornerstone of that belief is the understanding that to be happy you must practice compassion towards yourself, your fellow humans and your environment. Life is subject to the law of ’cause and effect’ so everything you believe, think or do is a cause from which you reap an effect, be it positive or negative.

I think you can raise people’s awareness through expressing yourself and your feelings about the state of the world, which isn’t something much mainstream music achieves but it is possible to create great, experimental music with a message. For me the music has to convey emotion and a sense of drama, as well as trying to be a step on from previous records.

How do you psyche yourself up before going on stage and how do you get the crowds going?
We’ve been blessed with some amazing and loyal fans that always show us a lot of appreciation. Sometimes it’s good to imagine they’ve all come to see someone else though, so you go out in battle mode! That’s something we’ve learned from playing festivals, where people might be there to see another band so we have to win them over. No matter the gig, there’s never room for complacency!

Bliss in Berlin

How do you decide what to wear when you go on stage?
Usually I go for monochrome clothes with a good structure, as love to look strong, angular and sharp on stage. On this tour my friend who’s a stylist has helped to find some great pieces for me, maxi and the whole band to wear, so there’s cohesion visually. I try to wear pieces that aren’t in the shops, so scour graduate fashion shows and check in with PR companies who represent some amazing up and coming designers.

Who are your style icons?
Bjork and Grace Jones are two legendary artists who have their own unique and amazng style whilst being absolutely themselves. I love Chloe Sevigny’s style too- though i could never pull it off!

Who has influenced you musically, and which acts do you admire now?
I’m a fan of 80’s synth pop, which I think is probably at the heart of my influences: people like the Human League, Thomas Dolby and The Art of Noise, to name a few. Right now I admire electronica artists like Bonobo, Caribou, The XX and Four Tet but I also love revisiting classic albums from artists like Kate Bush and David Bowie.

How have you found combining music with motherhood?
The early mornings are tiring but I couldn’t imagine it any other way! I just have a lot of help and support form my partner, our parents and my amazing nanny. I try not to take on too much work so I can have some quality time with my son and family. Music has enriched my life so much I hope it brings the same pleasure to my son.

You’ve spent the last six months touring, what’s been your most memorable gig?
Our first tour of South America was pretty memorable! The last show we did in Mexico was off the hook, especially as the mixing desk kept blowing up, as did a generator! The whole thing was hanging by a thread but the crowd went insane once we managed to get the power back on! We’ve never played there before, so it was truly wonderful for a first show in a ‘new’ market.

Bliss rocks a sea of fans in Santiago

To read the original editorial version of my interview with Sister Bliss written for NOIR, visit http://issuu.com/noirmagazineuk/docs/noirmagazine3 and jump to page 87-88
All gig images are by Damon Hope (www.faithless.co.uk)