INTERVIEW: Dilettante | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A melting pot of ideas, genres and inspirations, Dilettante is the freshest pop aficionado gracing the circuit. 

Multi-instrumentalist Francesca Pidgeon brings her quiver, filled with each of its distinct musical arrows, to Bobik’s on Thursday 13th October, where a tour of musical experimentation to celebrate her new album, Tantrum, begins. “We’ll all be exceptionally giddy and excited, despite how stressful the live experience can be. Almost every song has looping in it and if you get one detail wrong in a loop, you have to live with or fix it! It’s a lot of mental gymnastics as I try running around trying to play every instrument onstage! There’s nothing more fun than when it works though, plus it’s a whole lot cheaper than employing six saxophonists and 12 backing vocalists!”

As the musician elaborates deeper on the musical tapestries that would make up the evening, she alludes to the five guitars (three electric, nylon and acoustic), bass, drums, three alto saxes, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute, cello, three synths, piano, trumpet, trombone and violin plus three loop pedals that make up her collection, claiming an addiction to learning new instruments. Although Francesca wryly puts this obsession down to a sense of megalomania, it is a clear testament to the artist’s unyielding passion for the craft. 

It’s so exciting to start making sounds. Being totally self taught at everything means I approach every instrument with naivety, just making noises I like the sound of, never worrying too much about the ‘correct’ way to play them.” 

I tend to think of my stuff as alternative music dressing up as pop songs, it’s not quite either

This passion for evolving and growing, pushing herself with new tasks and challenges, is an active mindset the artist understands, as she deliberately tapers a sound distinctly hers. Despite studying avant-garde composition at university, Dilettante’s new album is delightfully accessible, fun and free. Finding flavours from across the spectrum, there’s something both tangibly familiar and somewhat alien about the sounds of Dilettante. “Where previously I may have tried too hard to just be clever, something my co-producer really helped me with was giving me a license to write pop songs! The music I love is basically pop songs with a bit of edge. They’re not reinventing the wheel but they’re putting a new spin on it (pun intended) which in a way I think is a harder line to tread. I tend to think of my stuff as alternative music dressing up as pop songs, it’s not quite either.” 

The songs in Dilettante’s oeuvre do exist in that space between pop and alternative, but there’s more nuance than those labels may suggest. With her earliest memories being soundtracked by Sinatra, Billie Holiday and the Ink Spots, there is a purity and heart to her harmonies, instrumentation and chord sequences that feels hand picked from the 40s. Further down the timeline, the influences of the Pixies, Deerhoof and Fiona Apple make a resounding impact, the latter of which can be heard most prominently through the honest, truthful writing. “Fiona Apple was the first artist I heard absolutely laying her soul bare and the vulnerability made me fall in love with her. Listening to her and falling for the rawness of grunge is what stopped me becoming a Micheal Bublé tribute!”

Dilettante launches Tantrum at Bobik’s, Newcastle on Thursday 13th October.


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