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Interview: She Drew The Gun

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The National Student speaks to Louisa Roach from She Drew The Gun in the middle of their headline tour of the UK. Originating from Wirral, on the opposite side of the River Mersey to Liverpool, she’s looking forward to playing the 6music festival, which takes place in the city at the end of the month.

Image by Paul Hudson via Flickr

Louisa explains how the recording process of her latest album Revolution of Mind differed from 2016’s Memories from Another Future and how the songs evolved from rough, home recordings rather than going into the studio and building the tracks from scratch. 2018’s record “was quite different from the first one. [With Memories] I met James Skelly from The Coral […] we started writing together and then that turned into the first album. We’d record the guitar and vocal and build the track around what I had. This time I made demos before we went into the studio”.

Both She Drew The Gun studio albums incorporate spoken word and spoken word influenced lyricism. This is also an element the band weaves into live sets. Louisa delves into some of her inspirations from performance poetry and the world of hip-hop:

I think 2 Pac would probably be my favourite rapper from back in the day […] And then with spoken word I guess in recent years, Kate Tempest and artists like Toria Garbutt; I listen to that".

She Drew The Gun are taking fellow associates of the Liverpool scene, Man And The Echo with them on tour. Louisa describes the support band as similarly political in approach with musical influences from Talking Heads.

The lifestyle of a touring musician, however, was not the career path Louisa originally envisaged and she discusses figures and moments that motivated her to become a songwriter for a living comparatively late in life: “I’ve always loved music and there are certain things that I remember that really inspired me to pursue it, one of them is when I heard Working Class Hero’ [John Lennon] for the first time". Lousia also mentions Malvina Reynolds who "was a folk singer who decided to pursue music in her 50s [...] she became a protest singer. I’ve just decided I don’t care what age I am, I’m just going to do it.

This naturally leads the conversation towards what Louisa did before she got involved in music professionally with She Drew The Gun:

I had some jobs that I didn’t like, and there were times when I didn’t have a job […] After I had my son, I did an access course, then I went to university to do psychology. They invited me to do a masters. Then I started writing songs […] I just got into the habit of writing.

Louisa's university education seems to have had a positive impact on her approach to songwriting. She says that she “just read a lot of interesting stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise, like philosophical thinkers". In particular, she mentions how she "liked the critical side of psychology, criticising psychology as an institution. I got drawn towards sociology […] Psychology can tend to look too much at people at an individual level and ignores power structures that are operating on individuals".

Even writing essays seems to have been beneficial in helping Louisa craft the compelling narratives that find themselves all over She Drew The Gun's two studio albums - "It was a bit like a song really, it’s got a beginning, middle and an end – it’s there to persuade someone. I think doing those things helped me to become a better songwriter, helped me to be a songwriter even.

Bands don’t tend to emerge from a way with words alone though, and Louisa praises Liverpool for nurturing up-and-coming talent, “there’s a lot of bands in Liverpool at the moment”.

She also mentions She Drew The Gun’s own record label, Skeleton Key Records, as important for the local scene: “Not everyone’s got an album out yet, but there are plenty of bands with a bit of a buzz around them”. According to Louisa, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts does a lot of good work too and encourages musicians from many different countries to start bands in the city.

As for dream collaborations, Louisa has a surprising but very definite choice; there is little hesitation before she settles on “Yoko Ono […] I don’t know, I think she’s the person I’d like to do a collaboration with most. She did pretty good stuff with John [Lennon] as well”.

We close the interview by talking about the political message of the latest album and what Louisa thinks it is important to “resist”, which as well as being an anchoring concept on Revolution of Mind, is also the subject of a forthcoming spoken word piece she will likely work into the band's live set. "Looking after your own state of mind is part of resisting what’s going on all around us at the moment is the first one. I think for a start you’ve got mental health, which is a bit of an epidemic at the moment […] People are struggling, and I don’t think that’s down to individual problems. It’s hard at the moment".

Lousia elaborates on why she thinks people seem to be becoming more isolated and unwell as a result; she specifically blames government policy, "I think austerity is a tool; it’s not a necessity, it’s a political choice. I think you’ve got to resist the narrative that comes out of the media […] I think the media is a massive part of the problem. It’s too easy not to care and to kind of be a bit like, ‘Well as long as I’m all right, it doesn’t matter about anyone else’.

Louisa adds that, for her, resistance is essentially about “not just going along with the flow of the information you receive, but stepping out of that and saying – what’s going on?

She Drew The Gun are on tour across the UK. Their latest album Revolution of Mind is out now on Skeleton Key Records.

SJ Presents: She Drew The Gun on Thursday 21st March @ Church in Dundee, 8pm. Tickets just £5 which includes a FREE Sailor Jerry cocktail! Tickets available here.

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