In the relatively short time since her debut LP ‘Dreams from the Factory Floor’ was released, Louise Distras has been an unstoppable musical force, deeply carving her name in the punk family tree. A socially-aware, mordant and acerbic songwriter is never NOT needed, and in this assertive firebrand from the north of England we have just that. If you’re not listening yet, you should be and will be.
So let’s start with a bit of background stuff – what made you want to pick up the guitar and sing songs?
Well I was a total mosher at school and I got bullied, so I used to bunk off and hide in the fields where I’d play my friends’ guitars, smoke cigarettes and listen to music. I learned the chords from a punk t-shirt I saw in a shop, then my friends showed me some power chords, so from there I figured I could play every Nirvana song. All of a sudden there was more to life than being bullied and pissed off. I guess you could say punk rock saved my life!
And what was the first song you learnt to play?
Papercuts by Nirvana
Knowing you’re understandably not a huge fan of being labelled a protest singer, how would you describe your music style?
It sounds like Slayer meets the Bee Gees! But seriously, the protest singer tag is a label that I don’t understand because I’m just passing on my human experience. So ask yourself why a woman saying what she thinks is considered a protest in the first place.
Tell us about life growing up in Wakefield. Did your surroundings contribute to your goal as a singer-songwriter?
My childhood was no different to anybody else who comes from a working class single parent family in a small nowhere town. We didn’t have any wallpaper on the walls and my greatest ambition was to be a mermaid, not a rockstar.
You ran away from home at 16 years old. Do you think having to grow up so quickly forced your eyes open to the social issues that you often write about?
No, it was the other way around. I grew up quickly because of the things that happened to me and that’s why I chose to leave. I’m not singing about social issues, I’m just singing about life and that’s an experience we all have in common.
What motivates you most to write songs?
I just love writing songs, playing them live is pure joy and it’s such a thrill to not get booed off stage.
You released your first download single ‘The Hand You Hold’ on International Women’s Day. Is this something you like to actively celebrate every year? If so how?
I celebrate it every day by just getting on with it!
You’ve worked alongside some of the biggest names in punk and rock and roll which must be incredible. But if you could have anyone make a guest appearance on a record of yours, who would it be and why?
It’d have to be Lindsay Buckingham, especially now that he’s not in Fleetwood Mac!
Tell us the best and worst things about being a musician in your opinion.
There is nothing bad about being a musician. It’s a complete honour and a fucking privilege. I’ve got no complaints!
You set up a very successful pledge campaign to raise funds to record your latest album – how did you find the response to it? Do you think kickstarter campaigns are a positive step for the music industry, in particular new artists?
I think when you have a combination of mass youth unemployment, welfare cuts, the harsh cost of higher education and the closure of grassroots music venues you end up in a situation where the privileged few are hijacking the arts because they’re the only people who can afford to do it. If you look back through music history all the greatest songs were written by working class musicians on the dole – The Beatles, The Clash, Black Sabbath and Oasis to name a few. So once you lose those working class voices, it means the fight isn’t there for everyday people. You end up with a gentrified pop culture, you end up with Mumford and Sons, it’s not a good thing! So I think crowdfunding is great because it gives the power to the people. It’s a great feeling to share the journey of creating art with the people who care about it the most.
Despite it being easier for bands to get their music out there today, it would appear that the industry itself is tougher than ever to break into. Why do you think that is?
It’s all a bit confusing really. I try to ignore all that nonsense and just concentrate on writing songs.
So you have a busy schedule coming up, but have you planned beyond this album and tour? What can we expect from you next!?
The plan is to release the new album sometime after the summer and then hit the road hard, write some more songs and then do it all again!