diary of an alt-pop mother - post no.3.
Did another show a little while ago. I wanted to pull out of it right up ‘til the moment we arrived. Oh dear.
Nerves I guess.
The venue itself was a basic, humble, black box - very much the classic rock venue, smelling of rotting wet beer mats and toilet cleaner now left unmasked from the smoking ban. Our hearts sank as the final band sound-checking rocked out ‘Long Tall Sally’ - and we hoped deeply that they were being ironic. But in some ways the ludicrous booking of us on this bill - if they were actually seriously going to play rock classics - started to make the performance fear inside me, less so. The booker’s necessary hype to get you to commit - losing it’s power.
People trickled in and the first act emerged. Ed. A one man act, winning us over immediately with his apologetic mumbling and fumbling of electrical leads and gadgets. Extracting samples for beats from objects and foot pedals with a sudden burst of washy synth and layers of his own mellow, soothing voice. I shut my eyes and took in the lush soundscape. And felt comforted.
We ourselves had a full band this time, I guess that’s why the nerves were so raw, it was to be something new - new people - yet again - up on stage in front of everyone… humbling… but I guess things can’t become well worn without being new once. Each thing you try has to be at some point it’s debut.
To play the belle of the ball songs in a proper band context has been a desire for a while now - to pull together people and ideas less haphazardly, to create fresh new noise that can be ours to keep. But Mr Rights are hard to come by and … well we have found we are painfully shy.
So this one was the booking agents doing. Three months earlier I was emailed and asked if I wanted to do the gig as ‘a band’ or ‘a duo’ .
“aah…mmm….ahh” I said, the opportunity stood glaring at me “OK then! A BAND!” he says “Are you sure?” I want to say ‘no’ but I say “yes” (‘hell why not’) knowing perfectly well why hell why not…. but the fact I’d made the promise meant I was now forced into doing something about it. Which is good for me it seems.
Over the next few months I asked two drummers, a bassist and three guitarists.
I got three possible “Yes” s hanging in the air as “Maybe no” s - if their usual bands needed them, which they did. And one very enthusiastic “YES I’d LOVE to!” later to become a “Shit, no I really can’t! What gig? Who? I don’t even remember having that conversation, who are you again? Oh ha ha ha well then, I must have been drunk”.
So the ‘London music-scene advice’ to find people to play with you by ‘getting out to pubs and gigs’ was not really… ‘working out’.
But the gig date was getting closer and I was finding that denial was not working either.
So… ending up at a Christmas house-party - wearing my charity shop find - a very bad oversized Christmas ‘band’ t-shirt and leggings - (only to find out once we’d arrived there was actually no dress theme) …but dressed like this - I found my confidence. I felt bold and bad in that kitchen disco jungle of jingle-bell dancers and I started shouting over the music asking random people if they played music and would they play in my band. And voila - I snagged a drummer! An unclaimed drummer! Fresh from three bands in New Zealand. I turned to Father Christmas beside me (Ben in full Santa suit) and we ‘cheers’ ed our glasses to the new year!
Christmas madness over, no more excuses. Lucky T-shirt gone. New year. Closer now. Still no guitarist. Feeling deflated, one week to go. I could do it half assed with just Ben, me and Joe. Couldn’t I? One step at a time? but I wanted a proper guitar thing going, a big sound, loud-ness. I wanted to try it. Try what was in my head.
In my hour of need I turned to Josh.
Yes, my old and trusty guitarist band-mate from Australia! From my old band The Mercy Bell. And he was up for it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want him I just was trying to find new ways like I said, new blood, new sounds and trying to listen to that idea in me, but I know Josh is a great player and we have a well honed music foundation together and and and that he would want to and well he wrote the music to half of my new songs - in my ‘new’ band anyway (!) So when he said he could do it - well, it was a great relief.
I will keep on thinking of what would be best for this new band, keep being brave. I need to make sure I allow myself to feel it is mine, and that that is ok, you know. That it’s up to me.
I am very much showing the fruits of coming out of a ‘long term band - relationship’ - and it feels important to tread carefully. It does not come naturally to me to be ‘in charge’ unapologetically. Our band was very much a democratic band set up, or at least that’s what we intended it to be. In my documentary (the one I’m making about us seven Boucher sisters) - one of my sisters Butterfly - who was bass player in The Mercy Bell (now a solo artist) - talks a bit about it :
Butterfly: There’s elements that I miss of being in The Mercy Bell of that… having these two or three other people that have been through everything with you and they fully understand when times have been bad and HOW bad they were and also the exciting times…the…ah… ….few…of them…? aah… (we both laugh)
Becca: Ah… I think there was two… (exciting times)
Butterfly: but errr …I know the freedom of being able to make a decision MYSELF - I get to make the final decision. Doesn’t mean I don’t talk to anybody, I’ll still talk to two of my great friends <who> I’ll ring up…I’ll even talk to my A&R guy but it’s still my decision at the end of the day. I don’t have to work with other band mates that are indecisive or disagree, you know, it’s a lot harder to go with your gut feeling when you are in a band.
Butterfly: I’d love to see you do something where it is your thing. Where you choose the bloody drum beat that you want and don’t have to feel bad for it! Yeah! I would love to see you do that to see how far you push yourself … it’s even more fulfilling if you make great decisions and for some reason it’s not as devastating if you make the wrong decision.
Becca: Yeah ‘cos there’ll be no-one saying I told you so (if they’ve had to compromise)
Butterfly: Yeah - or “Should have gone with THAT person’s decision”, <instead> it’s like “well, yeah so I made a mistake …whoops”. I’ve made lots.
2013, Butterfly is now not with her (major record) label and even though grateful for all the good during that time - tears of joy and relief and pent up ‘holding it together’ flowed for her at it’s end. For it is too easy to end up in a place where you feel like you are being dragged along by something that some how came to have a life of it’s own - that is not yours anymore - it seems to be about everyone and everything else and you end up trapped and resenting it. My own experience of being signed, having management etc often felt like this. But really in any field - any personal venture can turn out like this, where you feel you are putting your whole heart into it still as it is your baby, but with little sense of authority anymore or freedom…or… nail in the coffin - credit. And so when you are finally ready, you brave it and start again. Tweaking it. Doing things slightly differently this time round.
I was hesitant to work on this new music even with my husband. Because I was scared that this part of my life mattered too much to me - so it just wouldn’t work with him. I would struggle and be mean… because he is my husband, if you understand. Thought we’d argue.
But eventually we said stuff it and did it anyway and I remember in our first rehearsal thinking “Oh I LIKE this!” I think it was that I had him all to myself, focused on something that mattered to us both, getting on with something! Together! I was thrilled!
And we both always try to be on our best behaviour of course. Food. Eating food helps.
We also purposefully decided to uphold enjoyment of it this time as important.
Night of rehearsal, four days to go. The poor drummer Joe had his first true London travel experience of getting to the ‘other side of town’ taking ‘forever’. But once over the thresh-hold we handed him a London Pride and a bowl of crisps and all was well as we crammed together in our lounge and played through the songs with tea towels on the drums and amplifiers turned down to an acceptable, middle-class, leafy street, suburban level.
Our kids came and went - saying hello and asking me for food mid song and I - in response - pointed animatedly towards the kitchen (still singing) suggesting ‘help yourself options’ in between lyrics.
“Well maybe you
and lights are to be turned on
could make some toast?
and floors are to be trod upon
Oh I don’t know ah
my arm is to be held on to
huh? an apple?
to be there for you
(non nod) yeah an apple’s good
and pain is to be trusted..
we’ll eat dinner after we’re finished ok?
And Oh I think I’m wasted if I don’t, if I don’t
I just want to
yep that’s great bub
be happy, be happy…
Ok, anyone for more crisps?
Josh’s array of stringed instruments and electronic boxes were sounding good (and new!) as I encouraged more dirtiness and gave him permission to experiment. And we breathed a sigh of relief as New Joe - temporarily drum-kit-less and rather tall - sat bent over the only drum kit we could get our hands on - a child sized one - and bashed out with ease and energy good, steady beats that made the songs drive along gratefully.
The owner of the small drum kit - a 7 yr old friend of ours - had been more than happy to lend it to us - it seemed he was thrilled to have his drum kit played by ‘a real band’!
It is always nice to be seen as a real band.
I remember going on telly in Australia with The Mercy Bell and them treating us like we were a real band, special you know. Like we were people who deserved the Green Room - full of coffee and treats to eat (and perhaps take home? yeah? yeah?)… so fun. We weren’t often treated like that in any other aspects of our band life and work so we lapped it up. Ah…Channel 9’s Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s Midday show. Highlight of my career.
Back then I did feel like I was in a real band, I was the real deal. This time round I don’t feel like it’s particularly real at all yet. The whole move back into it still feels quite surreal.
Mostly, right now when I finally get to the event - I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I can’t get away so I am forced to become a dancing rabbit, to survive. I instinctively don my old top hat and cane, it feels familiar but not fully me yet. Not quite right yet. A dancing rabbit? Whaaat? No wonder it feels surreal for me if I’m saying I feel like I’m a dancing rabbit on stage….sorry… just go with it. So I do my old tricks and attempt some new ones - ok so I’m not going to be a rabbit now it’s stupid. I’m a singer….
…the sound of the band surrounds me on the box black stage wailing it’s way along to the wrong beats for the wrong songs, we are laughing and driving with nervous energy - the songs to places we hadn’t rehearsed and emotions til then untapped - the sudden howling crunchy guitar and responding thumping drums takes me away from over-thinking and into where I’m meant to be
“for if she has to choose, don’t tell her what to do, for if she has to choose, don’t teeeeeelll her whaaaaat to do”
I want to cry, at the lyrics, at the feeling found from this music and I know it’s what I miss.
In the spotlight of the headlights we had all donned our performing rabbit hats (yes, back to rabbits on road, car coming etc) from our four individual past lives - to distract and dance our way out of trouble to the other side of the road. And it was a wild ride.
The wildness will go but hopefully not completely. Cos I like wild. I like laughing at the seriousness. On stage. Even though it’s still a bit unfamiliar to me, I like it, I like new, it is very much alive.
In the old warren, years ago we achieved a lot, got through a lot, but it got a bit crowded and we needed to leave. In the captivity we had found ourselves in we fought and fought not to be tamed and it exhausted us, we collapsed in our cage. Then the cage door was opened. We were hesitant, sniffing at the ground. Wow this rabbit analogy really has endless possibilities! Josh hopped out (Dale escaped with his rabbit wife ages before - when we changed from our small cage (Aus record label) to our bigger cage (USA Record label) - feeling like it was no place for a family of bunnies to be born) So finally, in London Butterfly hopped out. And I, now able to, free of letting down my other mates, hopped out too.
I ate of the grass for a while, then my husband (my buck) and I travelled back to Australia and had some bunnies (small litter of two - hehe) in our sunny, warm warren for a bit….then I got a bit hungry to run (jump, ah what ever it is they do…dash?) dash with my dashing buck back to wider UK fields again.
But it’s scary and complicated starting off into the wild again, especially with bunnies at your heels tripping you over and asking you for marigold flowers and shit and having bunny tantrums just as you’re trying to get out the warren door clearly in a hurry.
It will continue to slowly evolve, this new music of mine, reveal itself to me, as to what it actually is. And perhaps for now I will just strive to have no definates, no taking for granteds and make sure I keep a certain hold on it, keep it mine.
Harmony, another singing sister of mine - when asked (in an article) what her personal ‘motto’ was - she said “You are the only one who is 100% invested in your career. Don’t ever forget that but appreciate those who invest anything in to it too. “
I quite like that. It shifts it around a bit in my head, in my heart. Authority, blame, power, freedom all so heavily related to expectation. It is wisdom hanging like a carrot before me…. hee hee that really is so stupid… let me chew on it for a while…oh man… and to think I’m a song writer….shameful.
Relevant Links -
Video of Belle of the Ball (us) - performing ‘Further’ - the song I quoted from, at the gig I spoke of - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-86duILS8g
Butterfly Boucher - https://soundcloud.com/butterflyboucher/03-not-fooling-around
Ed (the one man act) - https://soundcloud.com/eddowie/may-for-a-dead-queen-1
Harmony’s band - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bax_aoFIpGs
Ben’s music/soundscape - http://www.myspace.com/mrbenjaminburns
For Belle of the Ball news/shows/recordings/bio keep reading these blogs (psst pass it on) and visit us at :
tee hee xx