INTERVIEW: Bec Sandridge

Stanwell Park singer-songwriter Bec Sandridge is set to launch her second EP, ‘Lyons and Bees,’ next week (February 22). Ahead of the release, we had a chat to Bec about making the EP, touring the UK and Europe DIY style, sending “thousands of emails” and singing in the shower.

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How long have you been making music?
I have been “shower singing” for a mighty long time, but only started learning guitar in Year 9. I wrote my first legitimate song towards the end of Year 10.

Prior to stepping out as a solo act, you were in local band Mad Polly. When, and why, did you decide to start your own solo project?
I stepped out as a solo artist almost a year ago now. I had never legitimately sang in Mad Polly, and I had always wanted to give singing a go, but never had worked up the confidence to do so; the idea of it was, and still is, mortifying! Mel [lead singer of Mad Polly] was going overseas for a couple of months and I couldn’t bear the thought of not playing music or writing songs for such a long time. Meanwhile my family had placed monetary bets that I ‘wouldn’t have the guts’ to sing in public by myself knowing that I needed finances to go overseas and that afternoon I was offered a show supporting Owl Eyes and Andy Bull at Otis Bar. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity with such pressures; so I kindly accepted the gig offer and attempted to write four songs that afternoon and learn a bunch of covers!

How different is it to have a solo act, as opposed to being part of a band? Was it daunting, to begin with?
Being a slight-control freak, I secretly love being a solo artist. This said, being a lone figure behind a microphone – quite literally projecting your secrets through a set of speakers in front of a room full of strangers and friends – is THE MOST daunting thing I have ever done in my life (thus far). In contrast to a band-setting, you learn a lot about yourself during a performance as you’re concentrating purely on you and your senses/what that song means and meant to you at the time of writing.

How would you describe the music you’re currently making?
Right now I’m obsessed with creating multi-textures or layered vocals which are kind of soundscape-y-esque. When recording, we literally just multi-tracked like 10 harmonies for one track and whacked it all together. I guess sound-wise I love the idea of toying with effects but still attempting to keep a record relatively raw and earthy. Oh and of course thematically most of my songs are little tales of unrequited love, being away from someone you are quite fond of or being unable to obtain something you think you need.

Who/what are some of the major influences you draw from?
I like taking every-day observations or personal encounters or hearing stories from friends and acquaintances when writing. Also poetry. I love prose; I am an English eclectic at heart, secretly. But artists I like also influence what I do; Feist, Laura Marling, Noah And The Whale… Aretha Franklin? (For real).

You’ve toured across the United Kingdom in 2011. How much work was involved, to actually book all those gigs by yourself?
In the UK i essentially did what I do best- go email and Facebook crazy. I quite like the idea of being independent, self-managed, a booking agent and artist all in on; I don’t like being a ‘lazy’ musician. I sent (most likely) thousands of emails to venues, promoters, musicians and friends asking for shows. I wanted/needed to play as many shows as I could to gain a wee bit of confidence and experience seeing as I hadn’t played that many before.

What was that experience like?
It was great (beyond magical). I played with so many talented musicians overseas including Passenger and Stu Larsen and saw and met some great artists including Lucy Rose, Sea Of Bees + BEYONCE AND KE$HA (dayum)- it is such an inspiring gigging atmosphere in the UK.

Would you encourage other local bands to take a similar approach?
I think it’s hard work and quite draining- travelling and playing every night (emailing nearly sent me crazy as I am quite impatient)- but a great learning curve- I definitely recommend trying to play as many live shows (even if it’s just living room shows) as you can. No show or audience is ever the same.

‘Lyons and Bees’ is your second EP. How do you think you’ve grown between the two releases? Are you more confident, or have a clearer idea of what you want to be and sound like?
I think the two releases are very different. ‘What Was Left’ was more a trial and error demo-type release, just sussing out my sound and songs and how people would react to them, I guess. I felt it was a very rushed bedroom type CD. Because I had never sung in front of anyone before, i literally sent my friend (Cal Thompson)/the sound engineer to get some milk whilst I clicked record, sung and played.
This time round for Lyons And Bees I came in the studio with my late-night scribbles and ideas for each song- knowing how I wanted each track to feel and sound. Lyrically, I am more confident in telling what I want to tell (without being too direct and awkward). I am really happy and pretty proud of the new EP; the new songs reflect more of a true, more certain or gutsy ‘Bec Sandridge’ sound.

How long did the EP take to come together? How long have you been working towards this release?
I wrote two of the four songs in the UK whilst away from home and I instantly knew that I wanted them on the next release. And the other two songs I had completed two weeks before hitting the studio, but were long felt emotions that were waiting to get out and be punched into a song or two. Studiowise I had a very tight budget so we recorded over two days and mixed for one; we were working 10am-2am each day.

Tell us a bit about the writing and recording process for the EP.
Two of the songs were written in Austria and half of one in Glasgow, Scotland. Both places I felt at peace and really at home. It wasn’t busy like London so I could think a lot clearer about love and home and certain people, all in perspective. The other two I wrote when at home on my veranda overlooking the sea, at ridiculous hours of the morning. I had been dwelling over some relationships which had been upon my shoulders for quite some time, and I decided to attempt to write love-letters (or just letters in general) to certain individuals. One song is titled ‘I Don’t Want You’ – it’s probably the most direct song on the release.

Any significance behind the title ‘Lyons and Bees’?
Lyons And Bees is the title track of the EP. To be completely honest, I have a mad crush on linguistics- In particular syntax and anything poetic or Englishy full-stop. I like phonetics and playing with how words sound phonetically etc, so it just seemed rather fitting to spell the song how it sounds when it is sung.

You’ve included a demo track as the fourth track on the EP. Why did you make this decision?
I think the demo on the EP ‘Empty Hand’ shows a side of fragility that a more-produced, studio track could not. It was recorded in a little shed in Stanwell Park, which was horrifyingly covered in cicadas and spiders. I like that you can hear the little creatures croaking at the end of the track and  a slight creaking of the door and foot-stomps. It’s 2:47 minutes of raw emotion; there’s more of a focus on lyrics, I guess.

You regularly post short Youtube clips of yourself performing covers, or sharing new song ideas. In the current day and age, is it becoming more important for artists to connect with fans like this? To think outside the box, and keep people updated with what you’re doing?
I think it’s pretty important- I do believe people like seeing, hearing and sharing new things every day as a form of expression or creative outlet.

What’s on the horizon for 2012? What else have you got planned?
February 22nd; EP release and a sneaky film clip to follow. Then an Australian east coast tour in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Byron. Then US/UK from May-July! And hopefully, if ya lucky, I’ll be posting some raw unreleased tracks of some newly written songs (just before I leave OZ in May.

Where can people access your music?
(Australia, UK, US, CAN)
And I’m setting up a Bandcamp- as we speak!


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