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

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Image by Nick Wesson

Beth Jeans Houghton’s new record under the Du Blonde moniker, Lung Bread For Daddy, is a deeply personal and vulnerable collection of songs which articulates the relationship between the personal and political, vignettes that capture incisive aspects of these uncertain times. Beth cut her teeth in Newcastle a decade ago, writing mesmerising songs that culminated in debut album Yours Truly Cellophane Nose, before releasing Welcome Back To Milk as Du Blonde in 2015, a more abrasive affair.  Beth is a thoughtful, engaging presence when discussing the inspiration behind the new record. “Historically I’ve only really written about romantic relationships, naturally those were at the fore when I was younger. When my first record came out I didn’t know if anyone was going to listen to it so it was just whatever I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, when you have an audience you sort of start subconsciously worrying about their expectations, and that can be really damaging. For a while I struggled with writing songs for this record – I find sitting down and writing a song very difficult in any case – but I just got to the point where I thought I’ll just write exactly what I’m feeling, and that is when Holiday Resort appeared. It was very natural.”

The song is, she says “very much about being in your late twenties in 2018. I have no money, no pension. I thought I was failing but I know people in their thirties who are doing the same thing, it’s a generational thing, it’s not just because I didn’t finish school or go to university.” 

These timely feelings of frailty and impermanence colour the tone of Lung Bread For Daddy both in a societal and personal respect. Musically, it is where Beth’s two previous records meet, a perfect marriage of their confessional lyrics and garage rock sensibilities. Other highlights include RBY, a song concerning grief, which marries moments of painful plaintiveness with joyous guitar breaks. Closer On The Radio has inflections of country rock, whereas Acetone incorporates elements of 70s glam rock. It’s a diverse collection of songs held together by Beth’s very clear lyrical and thematic vision.

“When I was growing up, I always thought that I would find that one person, and a lot of break-ups have really affected me over the years. What I realise now is that it’s not the be-all-and-end-all if a relationship or a job or a friendship doesn’t work out, and it rarely does for anybody. Just because something has longevity doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Adapting and welcoming change has been a really positive thing for me.”

Adapting and welcoming change has been a really positive thing for me

She vibrates with enthusiasm when speaking about the team of people working on the record and forthcoming tour, having recently signed to Moshi Moshi records. Beth (who identifies as non-binary) touches on the endemic nature of the way female and non-binary musicians are treated within the music industry. “There have been so many times when I’ve been really pushing for an idea in a song and I’ve been accused of being too emotional – when you bring somebody’s sensitivities in the conversation it completely invalidates the argument – so the more passionately I’ve pushed for things the more it feeds into this two-dimensional character they have created for me.” Self-sufficiency is key on this album, Beth played most of the instruments and produced the record. “When I was at school I was told I could be a singer or a musician,” she notes, “it was always the guys who were encouraged to do the more technical stuff. Your genitals don’t impact how well you can use a computer.”

A true polymath, Beth also masterminds visuals for music videos and created the album’s artwork, an arresting self-portrait: “It’s a self-portrait I took of myself when I was really depressed – in my art I’ve always portrayed myself – I worry about it being really narcissistic, but I don’t want to paint from anyone else’s photograph because that’s plagiarism, but also it was really therapeutic. The picture I’ve used for the artwork was drawn around a time I felt suicidal. I was given medication, which I’ve always kind of resisted but in that I realised that most of my depression was chemical. A month later I looked back at the portrait I did when I wanted to die and then I looked at the portrait I made after I started taking medication and I noticed such a difference. The portraits were an incredibly cathartic process for me. It normalized vulnerability for me. We learned from the generation above us that you don’t take medication, you don’t see a therapist…I wish I had people talk about it more when I was younger.”

The visual landscape Beth has built up reflects the creative vision around the album perfectly. “So many misinterpretations of my music project this idea that ‘it’s a ‘strong woman’ making rock music’. I mean, I’m not, and the whole record is about vulnerability. Why do women have to be filling this boss role to be valid?”

In light of making a very vulnerable introspective record that speaks to the issues of our time, Beth considers how this has informed her current mindset: “In spite of anything negative I’ve said I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life, I love going to work every day and doing what I’m doing and I’ve never felt more free in that than I do now.”

Lung Bread For Daddy is released via Moshi Moshi records on Friday 22nd February, Du Blonde play at The Cluny, Newcastle the same night.

 

 

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