I found a YouTube channel by the name of The Cozy Representative last week. And I swiftly devoured nearly all of his videos. He does documentary style pieces around the rise (and sometimes fall) of bands prominent in the late naughties/early tens scene and emo movement. When I was in year six, I discovered all of these bands, how, I can’t remember, and it made me who I am today. I felt like doing a bit of a music documentary on myself for this month’s newsletter, detailing which artists and bands have inspired me, which ones I’ve liked or disliked over the years, and what is happening in regard to my own music.
The first documentary I watched by that YouTuber was on the band Blood On The Dance Floor. The group fell under the genre crunkcore, a term I only learnt through Cozy’s video, and was frontmanned by what I can only describe as a most vile creature. I didn’t think that when I was eleven, though. I thought the band was truly incredible; I bought every album of theirs on iTunes, had a t-shirt with their logo on, and saved every photo I could find of them online. With my year six self singing along to their tunes, which featured very poetic lyrics like: “I want to fuck you hard/ I want to feel you deep/ I want to rock your body/ I want to taste your sweet”, as well as: “These rhymes that I write make you wanna fuck all night/ When we take off our clothes/ She sucks me till it snows/ I’ll fuck her face so hard/ She is my wild card”. The two members of the group were Jayy Von Monroe, the slightly less offensive half of the duo, and Dahvie Vanity, a truly abhorrent villain. With the #MeToo movement and more access for victims of sexual assault and abuse to share their stories, the amount of detailed accounts of this monster’s stomach-turning behaviour that has been exposed is truly sickening. I know I wasn’t the only eleven year old hypnotised by him and his music. He found his niche, knew only children would be impressed with it, and exploited that power for all he could. All of the band’s music was taken off Spotify in recent years, and I’m glad that perhaps other kids won’t fall into the trap that musicians like Dahvie set in the future. But they were my stepping stone into a world that changed me from a pop listener like every other kid who just liked what the adults around them played, to someone with my own tastes and passions.
If you were following bands like Blood On The Dance Floor in those years, you would become aware of others on the famous Warped Tour lineup. They included acts like Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, Never Shout Never, Falling In Reverse, Escape The Fate, My Chemical Romance. All of which were some of my favourites. I was completely obsessed. All the kids around me still listened to the top ten, and I remember feeling so special that I had discovered what I thought to be this underbelly of alternative music. They would be my wallpaper, my Facebook posts’ topics, played through my earphones all day. I would write their logos and lyrics all over my hands at school. I would play their tunes to my peers and love it if they screwed their face up at the sound. I loved that it was my thing. That I was one of the only ones into it in a school in Essex.
It was almost competitive. I had to know the words to every song by every one of these bands. I had to know the name of every member of the groups, the backstory, the gossip. I would watch every one of Bryan Stars’ interviews. He was a reporter who specialised in doing Q&As with the Warped Tour lot in an informal manner. I loved the personality and hedonism and shamelessness of them all. It was so exciting to me.
I think a lot of it went over my head, me being so young. Just like those Blood On The Dance Floor lyrics. I knew they were sexual and obscene, but I didn’t really understand how sexual and obscene. When I watched Cozy’s videos, I started to learn a lot about the bands I supported at that time, and it was quite eye opening. There was a lot of mental health problems and heavy drug use among the band members. A lot of casualty and sadness. I saw my childhood love with adult eyes.
When I was around thirteen or fourteen things shifted. I was quite interested in pop again, alongside the more alternative stuff. I got really into One Direction and Taylor Swift, much to the horror of my year seven self. I loved the band 5 Seconds of Summer, and Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine. I also found a deep connection to American hip hop, with an exciting interest in artists like The Notorious BIG, Lil Kim, Eminem, Tupac and 50 Cent. I still love all of those people, and count quite a few of them as some of my biggest inspirations.
This time was quite eclectic. I didn’t really have one style that I stuck by, like I did with the emo and scene stuff. I was experimenting with sound and getting excited by lyrics. I was opening up.
I discovered feminism around this age, and that got me into the Riot Girl movement. I particularly loved Hole’s music, as well as Bikini Kill and The Runaways. Just A Girl by No Doubt fascinated me; I knew Gwen Stefani as the holler back girl, and suddenly I found this song that aligned with so many of my newly formed values that I played it on repeat. It’s still one of my favourite songs ever. This phase showed me how music can be political. I was also looking into punk a lot, and was inspired by the raw lyricism and sound that had purpose and not just intent to sell. I still hold this value true and to my heart, and wish to carry that on through my own work. I also still feel empowered when I don’t shave my legs for a bit.
Then I discovered the 50s. I loved the sweet and idyllic sounds of the rockabilly music from those times. I loved the cutesy glamour of the women, and the smooth romanticism of the men. Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Frankie Lymon, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles. I was blown away by how fun and listenable every tune was from these times. I adopted the style instantly; started using curlers in my hair, wearing tea dresses from Lindy Bop, started twisting when I danced. I was obsessed with pin up girls, particularly Marilyn Monroe and Betty Page. This was finally music my parents didn’t tell me to turn off or turn down. I didn’t just like the music from these times though; I was inspired by the portrayal of the way of life from then, and the style. It was a new revolution that I could relive through old photographs, films, records, stories, Wikipedia pages. I went to events where everyone had victory rolls and white capris and quiffs. I had old people tell me I looked great. I loved it.
Due to the huge crossover of country music and rockabilly, I also discovered a genre that has inspired and excited me endlessly. It has the worst rep in music, but country offers something so genuine, genius and generous that I can’t help but laugh when people laugh at it. Hank Williams is one of my favourites. I loved Dolly Parton long before I really got into country, I will admit. Her personality and style has always dazzled me. A love a tacky bird. I found artists like Tanya Tucker who I couldn’t believe could sing the way she does. Patsy Cline’s tender vocals and sweet lyrics comforted me a lot. And of course The Man In Black, the legend Johnny Cash swept me away like a tsunami. I was shocked that I didn’t really know of any of these ultra famous and successful musicians, just due to society’s kind of disdain for country. Every Wednesday I would listen to Radio 2’s country hour with ‘Whispering Bob’ Harris. I loved that he had a passion similar to mine for this genre.
I think country showed me how powerful the lyric is, too. Of course, the writing of all the songs I liked before was the main reason I was drawn to it. But country has this edge, this effortless simplicity that goes straight for the heart. It taught me how vital honesty and vulnerability is in music.
If crooner music is for granddads, then that’s exactly what I am. The Rat Pack was on repeat most days, but my favourite of all time is Frank Sinatra. I never feel so in love as when I listen to him. Little 15 year old me really did fancy a bloke who had been dead for seventeen years, and alive for nearly five times the age I was then. But I fell in love. His smoothness, his charm, his charisma; I could only imagine what girls like me were like for him when he was in his prime. A true timeless talent.
I also quite admired the enigmatic presence of celebrities from these eras. I am from the generation of knowing the ins and outs of famous people’s arseholes. Some of my earliest memories are watching news segments on Lindsay Lohan’s, Britney Spears’, Amanda Bynes’ very public meltdowns. I am of the Kardashian generation, where a sex tape being leaked is as normal as an episode of a soap opera being aired.
The celebrities of the 50s and 60s and 70s had a lot of their lives left out of the public sphere. Quite a lot of the personal information on them came out after they died. They were truly famous, as in, inaccessible. They were a face in a film or on TV or on the newspaper’s front page, not an Instagram DM away. And they got up to a lot of crazy shit, just like celebrities nowadays do. But for some reason it seems cooler when you know the biddies buying their records had no idea about their heroin habit or alcoholism or multiple affairs.
Then I found the 60s. Janis Joplin blew me away. I had never felt such connection to a voice. I remember watching a documentary about her and I’ve never been able to shake the sadness of her death away. Stevie Wonder taught me what bringing life to music meant; what true passion was. Billy Holiday showed me that sadness was tender and melancholically beautiful. I’m still jealous I never went to Woodstock and that I never took acid with The Beatles and that I never saw basically every band this decade offered live. My style shifted at this stage too. I started to fashion my hair in a huge, blonde beehive and wearing a-line dresses. This was also inspired by another musician who will forever be in my highest regard.
With her tatted arms, ratty and sky tickling hair, thick makeup, cockney accent and gorgeous talent, this woman blew me away. I couldn’t believe modern-pop’s times allowed such a 60’s rawness to be featured. Every person of every age that I knew had a love for Amy. She almost seemed like someone you knew from school, or from the pub, or something. She felt personal. Her life story fascinated and saddened me, and her music touched a part of my soul that needed it as I was growing up. She is a true star, in every sense of the word.
I also loved Indian classical music and hippy kirtan for a while. It was played in the house and aligned with the yoga lifestyle I was journeying into. I started to really fall in love with playing western classical music on the keyboard too, so I went through a spell of listening to a lot of that on my headphones. Alessandro Deljavan’s album of Chopin’s waltzes is still one of my most played albums ever. I must’ve racked up thousands of hours on that one. I really recommend it.
But the one artist who has smashed my ear drums the most is someone who entered my life at exactly the right time, with exactly the right words. Living my nitty-gritty lifestyle that I did when I was seventeen, I was in desperate need of a voice that would carry me through it all and also embody a time in my life that changed everything and will always be remembered as some of the best. And that voice was Kae Tempest.
They brought to life everything that inside me desperately called for air, and they breathed in almost a little too much as I couldn’t really listen to anything but their albums for months on end. I devoured every single, every featured, every YouTube video, podcast, interview and exploration and every book of theirs too. Unlike a lot of the artists I have mentioned, there wasn’t much on Kae’s life to really be read about. I felt like I’d gone back to that enigmatic veil that the artists of yesteryear had, and I loved it. I didn’t need to know what they did every Tuesday when they were bored. I just needed to fall into their music and work head first and learn what I did on a Tuesday when I’m bored. It was like being told about myself by someone who doesn’t know I exist. It was like fireworks meeting MDMA meeting a good shag. It is the reason I’m doing what I do now. They are that reason. And unlike most of the artists I’ve always loved, who are majority brown bread, I got to see this tempest in real life. I got to watch them perform their poetry book Running Upon The Wires after it came out, getting even a few words and some eye contact when they signed it for me after the gig. I got to see them doing their album The Book Of Traps And Lessons live when it was released. I got to be humped against the barriers at Boomtown as I sang every word to every track they performed in 2019. It was a current love that didn’t need Wikipedia to make it real. I can’t wait for a life of going to see them do what I admire so much. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to do so.
After I finished college, and totally rinsed Kae’s music, at the end of 2019, I kind of hit a wall. I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to anymore. Nothing really reached out to me or grabbed me by the ears. I felt a bit stranded. This lasted for a few months until a new bubble of excitement popped.
Again I revisited times before my own. I started getting into rock and grunge from the 90s. Marilyn Manson was my favourite artist ever when I was around 13, another cunt in the long list being exposed for the arseholes they are, but I lost touch with the heaviness of this genre for years. I came back to it at this point. Nine Inch Nails became a frequent audio visit. Alice In Chains were looped over and over. I started to get excited by music again, finally, and I also started to feel restless that I wasn’t making my own.
I didn’t know where to merge my musical lusts with my poetic ones. I started posting on this website and sharing videos of me performing my poems on Youtube, as well as publishing my first ever poetry collection, but something was missing, I’ll admit. I needed to make music. But how?
One of my best friends just happens to be a bloody musical genius. He would argue with that statement, but it’s true. I knew us together would make it work. I knew we had the relationship where trust was already established and musical interest shared, as well as many of the same inspirations. I knew the words would be my thing, and the music his. Thankfully he was completely on board, and the wheels started rolling.
We met up a couple times to discuss ideas and calibrate what exactly we would do, then left those sparks to fester for a few months. Once I moved back to London I started going to jams and an uncontrollable fire to perform was lit. One friend who invited me to these jams, and his friend who he was already going to them with, felt the perfect additions to the band. They both accepted, joined, and they blow me away every time we rehearse. As me and my other friend had already formed a skeleton for the set, it meant we could welcome them both with confidence rather than prematurity. The wheels started rocketing.
We are now fitting in rehearsals for every week, or every two weeks, but no more than three. We have five songs we are working on and a drive that is making it the best it could ever be. We have the goal to get a gig by the end of the year, no less, but plenty more if possible. And we want to start recording our pieces soon so we have things to share.
My dreams are coming true, and I get to do it with three humans who inspire, love, and encourage me. I couldn’t ask for more. PLEASE WATCH THIS SPACE. Music will be there soon…
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Love Is Blind by Eve – I adore female rappers. They take something which can easily be thought of as so masculine, and it is certainly an arena dominated by men, and take it by storm by offering new perspectives, flows and talent. Eve is one of the best, and this song showcases her storytelling abilities as well as sharing a feminist point about women being in abusive relationships, by telling the tale of a friend being beaten by her partner. I love how Eve takes the opportunity in this field to take the fattest swing, by both inspiring women to be strong, and men to be tender.
Book: A Truth, Has A Smile by Bill Dury – Bill is an absolute legend, and his fantastic and unique collection of poems in this book is really inspiring. He writes like no other could, as well as dresses, speaks and lives! He’s a cool and kind man, and his poetry is both personal and widely accessible. He read me one about his dad in the smoking area of a venue in Dalston before, and we both cried. It is certainly one for the collection.