Following a huge year which saw their debut album receive massive critical acclaim, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald caught up with She Drew The Gun’s Louisa Roach to discuss their rise.
Any afternoon spent listening to BBC 6Music recently will present several opportunities to hear She Drew The Gun’s fuzzed up, pulsing cover of the Malvina Reynolds’ US folk classic No Hole In My Head. The song, added to the reissue of last year’s brilliant Memories Of The Future album, sees Louisa Roach and the band in undeniable form, and its heavy rotation on that channel is a sign that the Liverpool four piece have, as they say, arrived.
It’s noticeable too, for any regular listener to that station, that as with Hooton Tennis Club, the presenters have recently dropped the suffix ‘from Liverpool’ when mentioning the band. A significant sign of ‘acceptance’.
It’s been a journey to remember already for Louisa Roach, the band’s songwriter and central figure and as she sips her tea one sunny afternoon in The Brink, there’s an air of relief to her. She appears to feel happy with how they’ve got where they’ve got, and for her particularly, the pressure has been lightened lately with a manager coming on board.
The past 18 months have seen the release and critical acclaim of the album, near constant live work and writing. A demanding process for a writer and performer who up until six months ago was handling the management side as well. Up to here, it’s been an exhausting and relentless process. She’s resolute and upbeat about the future, though, and excited about the next steps for her and the band.
“I haven’t managed to write much for a while, cos we’ve just been so busy, I’ve always managed the band on my own, and even though I’ve had loads of help, when the album came out, everything suddenly got busier, and I was still in that game of what’s the next move? what happens next? My head was jam packed with it all. Then for the last few months, a manager’s come on board and that’s taken a weight off me, so now I feel I’m in such a better place, and I can start writing and working on new ideas.”
The effusive support from the BBC is worth noting, not only in terms of airplay, but the band has also just returned from their first US trip, to SXSW, where they played a BBC Showcase. Texas, it seems, warmed to their charms…
“It was really good, it was great not knowing who was in the room, cos it was full of industry people. They can be quite sterile those sort of gigs, but they were really sound, wanting to speak us afterwards. They don’t hold back with their appreciation of the songs, which was nice”.
A full headline tour began the day after they returned from Texas. From Athens to St Albans. Just recalling that gig brings a rolling of the eyes. “Yeah, that first gig we were totally jet lagged, we had two changes on the flights, and we didn’t know where we were, it was good though.”
No strangers to a heavy workload, the success the band are experiencing is certainly no overnight affair. The story started a good few years back with a collection of Roach’s ideas and poems. Years spent trawling the acoustic sessions and open mic nights, guitar over the shoulder, and a headful of wordplay, saw her honing her craft and shaping ideas, finding herself as a writer and performer. Its been a slow, gradual but determined journey since then. Assured, but not rushed. Confident, but not forced.
Roach is a poetic thinker, she seems to see the world first and foremost in terms of how she can express her feelings about what she sees. She’s happy to let these lyrical pieces find their own feet. They may become songs, or they may work better as spoken word pieces.
Recently, they’ve begun to appear as part of the live set, interspersed with the songs. Louisa sees this as an interesting and important part of the creative process, and listening to the album, it’s clear that she’s a writer with a natural gift for crafting the words into observations on the human condition.
“I’ve started putting poetry in between the songs in the set too. Just trying to break it up, trying to do something different. It’s an always evolving thing, the live set, and we try to keep it different, so that people go away thinking that it wasn’t just a gig. There was something else too. It’s great seeing the poems grow into songs, as a process. It comes from when I did all those gigs round town, and it was a good way of standing out as a singer no-one knew. It made people listen.”
While Roach’s lyrical gift shines throughout Memories Of The Future, the crossover between poetry and song lyric shines at its strongest on the song Poem, a song of disappointment and despair in the cruelty of the times, the brutality of the everyday experience and the search for some reality, some hope. The search for truth. We all know the search. Perfectly poised, simply structured, it’s a harsh, defiant and visceral depiction of the zeitgeist.
“It starts with me asking myself what I want to say, and with something like Poem, it’s firstly about me trying to work out what I think is going on. It’s hard times, and it’s really tough for people. I just tried to go on a little journey in my head, to try and piece it all together, to try and make sense of it. It just felt like people seemed to be going along with it, and not acknowledge that there is so much wrong.”
“It could all be so much better, life could be so much better for so many people. People seem to connect with it though, and to me, people seem to be more open to talk about politics than they were before. It started as a poem, though. I just thought it would work as a song, half spoken, almost rapping it, and it just grew from there, like a lot of the songs have.”
And so, over time, She Drew The Gun built a reputation for these intuitively composed, and perfectly arranged songs. The key, the answer to why so much attention has come their way is not only in the songs, it’s in the band’s sound, it’s in their love of the live experience, and their willingness to learn not only from each other, but from simply getting out there, in front of willing eyes and ears and doing it. It’s in their innate strength, both musically and personally.
It’s not always easy to break a new band in a strong scene like Liverpool has, it takes the right attitude, the right amount of drive, and plenty of it. Scenes can be insular, cliquey and make it difficult to find your place. It takes insistence, tenacity and a strength of belief to beat the stifling limitations of Liverpool’s village mentality.
“You can definitely feel like an outsider, but you’ve just got to keep chipping away at it. I like being the underdog, being an outsider. It kinda suits me and makes me stronger. I’ve always felt like I’m in a stronger position when I’m the underdog. It’s a positive thing for me, I suppose.”
The band certainly find it easy to find fans and make friends, and the next step, that of signing to James Skelly’s Skeleton Key records, seems fated. Meant to be. Having one of The Coral, a hero to them all, at the helm behind the desk for the album gave Roach and the band a sense of freedom and the confidence to relax in the studio; to work without pressure. At least, that’s how it feels to the listener. As big fans of Skelly, signing to the label must have felt like some sort of arrival; a destination reached. Skelly has the right ears for songs like these, and bringing the right vibe to the album. His presence at the desk, brought the simplicity and space in the sound which Roach’s writing needs. There’s a lot of room in the sound, no clutter. It feels like it was a fun process.
“God, yeah, signing to Skeleton Key was a massive move for us. It was a lot fun recording it. We just started with me and the guitar, we’d start with a beat, put the guitar and vocals down, and then found our way with it. We’d just experiment with different sounds, pedals or whatever, and see what happens. James is really easy to work with, we didn’t have loads of time, but we worked quite quickly when we were in the studio. He works quite quickly, James, he doesn’t mess around. It worked really well for us, though……we’ve started getting some ideas together for the next one already. Me and Jack are working on some stuff, and we’re really looking forward to recording it.”
So, the journey has been long but pleasant, winning friends and influencing all the right people along the way. They’re in real good company with their GIT Award nomination, and the choice has truly never been so difficult. With a world of acclaim landing at their feet, we feel sure much more awaits She Drew The Gun. Much, much more. Pretty soon, they’ll need no introduction at all.
The GIT Award 2017 takes place at Constellations on May 13. Tickets are available here.