The Japanese House on band names, touring and crafting her debut album

I ventured underground in Edinburgh’s most unusual venue, The Caves, to sit down with 23-year-old Amber Bain, more commonly known as The Japanese House.

Amber is chilling in her makeshift green room in Marlin’s Wynd, a slightly smaller but just as impressive cave, with her incredibly handsome German Shepard Calvin who, Amber reveals, has his own fan-made Instagram page.

After becoming mildly distracted by Calvin’s new insta-fame, we sit down to talk about Amber’s UK tour and brand new album Good at Falling, which came out at the start of the month.


How’s the tour going so far?

It’s going really well. I’m really enjoying it. The shows have been really fun, not that they weren’t fun before, but the crowd’s been a bit more receptive. I got to bring him along [pointing at Calvin], which is always nice.

Does having new music out so recently make a difference to the shows?

I think so and I think people are just responding to the songs on the album way more. I didn’t think that’d be the case, I thought people would still be like, “Play Face Like Thunder!!!” but people don’t even care, when I play the new singles people really kick off.

This tour probably gives you an opportunity to gage people’s reaction to the album…

Yeah! It’s like a live review which it’s nice. I think the people that have heard it like it – well obviously they wouldn’t be coming to my shows if they didn’t like it!

How has Good at Falling been received in general?

From what I’ve seen, and obviously what I’m seeing is probably not a fair review, it’s been good. Actually, I did trawl through twitter the day it came out and I didn’t see that much mean stuff. I guess of the actual reviews that have been done, there were two mean ones but the rest were really nice. It’s weird because obviously all I can think about is the mean ones, which is annoying because there’s so many great reviews!

How long had you been working on the album?

I don’t know, because one of the songs I wrote when I was 16 so it depends when you count starting to work on it. Really, it’s been in the works for years, but I guess it only took a few months to actually put together properly. It’s been finished for ages, I was just doing the last little bits which took the longest because I’m a freak.

A perfectionist! Did you feel the pressure was on for it to be perfect then?

Yeah, but from myself. Not really from anyone else.

So, what does Good at Falling mean to you?

That sentence, when I first heard it, made me really sad. I guess it’s a metaphor for the album – the antithesis between positive and negative and being good at something like falling in love. Falling in love is basically a lack of control and falling out of love and experiencing heartbreak is one of the hardest things and just with failure in general, the hardest thing is, it doesn’t matter about it happening of course crap is going to go wrong in your life, but dealing with it is the hard bit.

When I was writing the album, I really went into myself and spent time alone, and at the time I was in a relationship so I was never really alone and on tour I’m never alone, so I had a lot of time to just think and sort my brain out a bit and I think I did a lot of work.  Then when stuff started happening with my family and with my breakup I was like okay this is what all the work was for. You can be as zen as you want when everything is going right but this is the time when you need to keep up with that stuff – so I think being good at that is one of my goals.

Then the positive/negative contrast of the title is kind of like the music. You Seemed so Happy is this weird little metaphor for the whole album, because it sounds so happy as a song and it’s talking about seeming so happy on the outside but actually being really depressed, and that’s like the entire album.

Was that contrast a purposeful choice?

I’m not very good at doing anything with purpose, things just naturally happen. [laughs] I mean, when I say I don’t do things with purpose I just mean that in the truest way of creating something. I really like pop music and I like listening to major key chord progressions and major harmonies. I’m not really a fan of bluesy grunge chords – I’m bored of them to be honest – I really don’t like that style of music and I’m bored of that kind of vibe, and I think you can express so much emotion and darkness even without music sounding like you’re in a cave smashing an electric guitar against a wall.

I ask Amber if she’s seen the meme of the black house and pink house, and she recalls that said meme has already been used to describe a few of the tracks off the album, particularly You Seemed so Happy.

The Japanese House’s songs are incredibly layered, dense and atmospheric, so I ask Amber whether she builds music around lyrics or writes lyrics for the music she creates.

The process changes, I’ll have lyrics for sections of a song and then work around it and then later with the same song I’ll have music for it and have to write lyrics. I usually write the core of a song, so a verse and a chorus and the lyrics at the same time. Then I’ll write the rest of the music and produce it and then be like “Oh, now I have to write another verse”. That’s the hardest part for me, coming back to lyrics, I can’t force myself to write lyrics. I hate trying to make a song like “Ooh I’ll make it this kind of song”, it makes me cringe, so I have to just wait until I can do it. It’s so annoying for everyone else [laughs] I’ll be in the studio like “yeah, I’m writing” but I’m secretly watching Friends.

How would you describe your music?

I don’t really know, I’m so rubbish at answering this question because I just don’t know. I always say alternative-pop because it’s so broad and to be honest I want the genre of music I play to be broad, I wouldn’t really want to just be in one genre – I’d probably just quit!

I know you probably get asked about The 1975 all the time, but what kind of an impact have they had on your sound and you career, especially with George co-producing the album with you?

We have very similar taste and we’ve known each other for so long – since I was 17 – so they must’ve influenced me in some way. I think it’s a two way street though, I can hear things on their album that sound a bit like something off my album, and I can hear stuff on my album that I’m like “ah yeah that sounds like something they do”. For the amount that we get compared, I would say we are very different. I don’t think we sound that similar, but I think maybe someone who likes their music would like my music.

George [Daniel] is amazing, he’s an amazing producer. I love producing, that’s why I do it, it’s probably my favourite part but sometimes I do just want to run around and be the ideas person rather than the technical person, which I am all the time, so when I do work with him it’s so freeing and he’s just so competent. Working with BJ [Burton] was amazing too, it was nice to have these two different styles of working. I worked with BJ for a bit and then George for a bit and then kinda mashed it all together. I literally sat in a room with two projects and put them together which was super fun. I love those boys [The 1975], I don’t know what my career would be like without them – it’s so hard to tell. Would it be better because I wouldn’t have had a lid on me or would no one know who I am? Who knows!

At this point we are distracted by Calvin who wants to be chased, Amber’s tour manager gladly entertains him so that Amber can answer one last question.

At the beginning of your career there was a lot of mystery surrounding who you were, did you want to be anonymous? And if so, now you’re openly performing your music on stage as you, do you feel any differently about that side of the industry?

I didn’t really ever want to be anonymous, I just didn’t want a press photo taken at the beginning, genuinely because I just hate having photos taken! I think people just latched on to that like, “Who is The Japanese House?!” but it literally said Amber Bain on my Twitter and Instagram and everything else, and it was only like that for the first EP. It was quite remarkable, maybe it’s because I’m using a moniker? I feel like if a guy did that it’s not the same? Obviously now I don’t care, I have no desire for privacy and it’s really freeing. I never really did actually, I just hated photos! I was terrified of cameras. As soon as I went on stage, started going on tour and being asked for selfies actually, as soon as there’s over 100 disgusting photos of you online you really stop giving a shit. The amount of photos I see of myself that make me want to cry – there are some really nice ones too so its fine! As long as there are some good ones I’m okay – when they start all being shit that’s when I’ll quit.

It is interesting that people care so much about putting a face to a name when it comes to music…

It’s weird because it’s one of the only art forms, other than acting, where it matters what you look like. If you’re a writer or a painter no one cares what you look like. It must be something to do with if you’re telling a story then people want to know what you look like, so I do get it.

Before I leave Amber to sign some posters and get ready for the show, I want to ask her about her moniker, as I read somewhere that Kate Winslet had something to do with it…

Yeah, there was just a random story about me when I was a kid and I was recalling it, and then my mum was like, “Oh that was Kate Winslet’s house that we stayed in” and I was like “What?” and she said “Yeah, it’s called The Japanese House” and then I was kind of drunk at the time, as was everyone else, and they said I should call myself that, and I did.

I don’t like the name really, I literally don’t hear the name though, and there’s definitely worse names… like Arctic Monkeys… that’s rubbish. You can literally be called anything, you could be called ‘asswipe’ and it wouldn’t matter…

I’m not so sure, I think that one might have some sort of impact on you career…

Yeah, actually maybe not that… but I’ve got loads of good band names now. I’m kind of pissed off. I’ve got such a good band name but I’m not even going to say it incase someone steals it. It’s so good. Maybe I’ll just change mine…


Amber then really must go and sign her posters as the doors have already opened. She has a US tour coming up at the end of April and a whole heap of festivals booked across the UK for the summer, though she’s not sure which ones she’s allowed to confirm yet. She’s also excited for some tours abroad in the near future to places she’s never been to before, that she’s also not sure she’s allowed to confirm.

You can find The Japanese House’s debut album Good at Falling on Spotify and Apple Music. Follow The Japanese House on Twitter to keep up to date with where you can catch Amber next.

PRODUCTION PRODIGY

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Likkle Jay has been producing since she was a little girl. (Credit: Likkle Jay)

Likkle Jay has had a passion for production since she was a little girl. Now, at just 23-years-old, she is working hard to pursue her dream job.

Hertfordshire based producer Likkle Jay has been creating and producing music since she was a young girl, her nickname sticking with her. She got into producing, or at the time making simple beats, when she was about nine years old. Her dad taught her how to sequence and use software such as Fruity Loops, sparking a childhood hobby and a passion for making music.

Up until she was 16, Likkle Jay was self-taught, practicing and creating with software at home. She then decided to do a Music Technology course, where she not only improved her composition skills but also learnt how to engineer, working on recording, with live sound and learning how to mix and master.

Likkle Jay is passionate about production because of the creative freedom it allows her. “I love being creative and being able to bring an idea to life from scratch” she says. When asked what inspired her to consider production as a career path, she is not short of answers. “What inspired me is the music I grew up listening to. My biggest inspirations include Timbaland, Michael Jackson and Missy Elliot, to name just a few,” says music lover Jay. She is determined for others to be as passionate about her own music. “I love an artist either because their music is unique, because it makes me want to dance or just because it makes me feel good,” she says “that’s what I want to do with my own music.”

In the Grammys 59-year history, only six women have ever been nominated for the Producer of the Year award. A 2017 survey by the Music Producers Guild in the UK found that only 6% of it’s members were women. The biggest issue is that women who work in technical fields, like production, are not seen or recognized nearly enough. “I think it is very important to encourage and support girls to get into the technical side of music,” Jay says, “so many girls have the talent to do so, they just don’t know how to or have never thought about it, as it is such a male dominated industry.”

However, steps are being taken in the industry to encourage and support young girls who want to produce, as Likkle Jay has experienced this year. “I’ve been to a few music networking events this year where I’ve met so many talented musicians, a lot of which are girls! I’ve been able to work with some of them too which has been great,” she says. One particular project has had a big impact on her career and confidence this year. She was involved in Nexxt Step: Women In Music, a project launched by Radio 1XTRA DJ Sian Anderson, managed by Emma Stephens and with Komali Scott-Jones as A&R. The project, aimed at supporting women of colour in the music industry, brought together a small group of 18-24 year olds to create and release an EP. “The EP we created, Behind Every Great City, which I contributed to production wise has definitely benefited my career,” says Jay “I’ve had my first radio plays and even playlisting on Apple Music and Spotify.”

Likkle Jay is planning to continue working hard next year. “I want to work with a lot of artists and really showcase my production more,” she says. In particular, Jay is excited about an upcoming project with singer-songwriter Josh Kai, saying that “it’s definitely one to look out for”.

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Likkle Jay with the girls involved in Nexxt Step. (Credit: Nexxt Step Press)

Visit soundcloud.com/likklejay and listen to Behind Every Great City on Spotify and Apple Music now.

FOUNDATIONS

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Vanessa Reed has been CEO of PRS Foundation for 10 years. (Credit: PRS Foundation)

PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed on her quest to make the music industry equal.

PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed was this year named the third most influential woman in music by BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour Power List, after Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Reed, who has also been inducted into Music Week’s Women in Music Roll of Honour 2018, continues to work tirelessly towards a more diverse and inclusive music industry.

Vanessa Reed joined PRS Foundation a decade ago in 2008 and in that time has had a huge impact on the range of funding available to new talent. As CEO, Reed has made sure that a focus on women in music remains top of the agenda at the Foundation. “Gender equality, and diversity in general, remain at the top of our agenda because we want songwriters, composers and artists of all backgrounds to realise their potential,” says Reed, “we believe that the future success of the music industry depends on increased participation from women and other under represented groups.” Reed has helped position the Foundation as the UK’s most successful funder of new music talent, by increasing the support available to diverse songwriters and composers at vital stages in their careers. “We’ve tackled the gender gap in music by analysing statistics and then doing something pro active about any imbalances,” says Reed, “The answer for us has been targeted funds like Women Make Music and Keychange which have been the first funding programmes of their kind, beginning in the UK and then growing into a global network.” The PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music fund was launched in 2011 to support the development of female songwriters and composers of all genres and backgrounds. The fund aims to increase the profile of women making music in the UK, raise awareness of the gender gap in the industry and ensure that women are aware that support is available to them. “These have resulted in many more women putting themselves forward for our funding and industry leaders joining us in a commitment to changing their own structures,” Reed says, on funding initiatives like Women Make Music.

Vanessa Reed founded the Keychange initiative at the end of last year, which has been a focus for her in 2018. Keychange is a talent support programme, led by PRS Foundation, which invests in women from across Europe. The international initiative has grown to support not only the sixty female artists and innovators who were originally selected to take part, but women across the whole industry.

The initiative was founded in partnership with 7 festivals from across Europe and in Canada, who set themselves the goal of reaching a 50:50 gender balance on their stages by 2022. “It’s a voluntary target, created by our founding festival partners,” Reed explains, “and 150 festivals have now signed up this pledge.” Reed presented the Keychange Manifesto at European Parliament last month, which outlines the current gender gap in music and includes suggestions from the original partners and participants in the initiative on how to achieve gender equality across the industry. “I think Keychange is a useful example of positive collective action stimulating and inspiring change,” says Reed. A year on from the initiative’s launch, it has become clear that the 50:50 pledge model could be used elsewhere in the music industry. “We’re beginning to have conversations with other organisations about how they could be involved and I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t adapt this kitemark to represent new commitments from across the industry, for example, for orchestras, promoters, trade bodies and radio stations,” says Reed, “The way they approach the pledge is likely to vary but the principles will remain the same – aiming for a more balanced industry which will be better for everyone.”

On her accolades this year, Reed is grateful to be recognised for her contributions to the music industry. “Joining the Women in Music Roll of Honour and being selected as number three in BBC’s Woman’s Hour Music Power List have been huge honours for me this year,” Reed says. Reed’s position on the Woman’s Hour Power List placed her above the likes of Adele and Dua Lipa, and commended her for “shaking up” the industry. When asked if this recognition impacts how she views her role within the music industry Reed says, “The widespread coverage of the Women’s Hour Power List has recognised and given profile to my work – as CEO of a charity – alongside global pop stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. This has definitely impacted how I see our potential to influence change and the importance of awards in highlighting different forms of female ‘power’.”

Reed is aware of how important it is for her, as an influential woman in the industry, to be an advocate for women’s rights, “I think anyone who is both in a position of influence and from a group which is under represented in their field has the responsibility to encourage, support and advocate on behalf of others.”

The work Reed does at PRS Foundation does allow her to see the real time benefits of continuously working towards equality. “When I was approached at Keychange events over the past year it made me realise how crucial it is to so many women in music to see that concrete steps are being taken to improve conditions for them and the next generation,” she says.

Vanessa Reed is a role model for other women in the industry. The prestigious accolades she has achieved with her hard work, passion and commitment will keep coming as she continues to influence and educate the industry to be more inclusive.

Learn more about Keychange at keychange.eu and PRS Foundation at prsfoundation.com.

ARE WOMEN IN MUSIC FINALLY BEING HEARD?

OPINION: A look at a year in which the treatment of women has been of paramount importance across the entertainment industries.

WORDS: Luka Kenyon

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Lady Gaga wore a white rose to the 2018 Grammy Awards as a sign of solidarity with #TimesUp (Credit: Christopher Polk)

In October 2017, the hashtag #MeToo went viral when hordes of Hollywood stars used it to rally against sexual assault in the entertainment industries amid a number of allegations against Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. Women’s activist Tarana Burke founded #MeToo in 2006 in order to support sexual assault survivors in her local area, but her slogan was adopted last October by people sharing their experiences of sexual assault on the internet in order to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem.

We began 2018 with the treatment of women at the forefront of our minds, as many allegations against men in power in the entertainment industries surfaced following the accusations made against Weinstein.

By January 1st 2018, celebrities in Hollywood had founded their own movement against sexual assault. Time’s Up was founded in response to the viral use of #MeToo, which had shown how prevalent sexual assault is in the entertainment industries. The creation of Time’s Up was announced in The New York Times alongside a letter received from the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, written on behalf of 700,000 female farmworkers in the US who had experienced assault or harassment. The inclusion of this letter from a completely different industry emphasised that the treatment of women in the workplace is a universal concern.

The issue was brought into the world of music at the 2018 Grammy Awards, where female musicians including Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Cyndi Lauper wore white roses as a sign of solidarity with the founders of Time’s Up.

In workplaces where men hold positions of power, women often find themselves at the mercy of their male superiors. In competitive industries like those of film and music, many women feel incredible pressure to please the men in power so as not to damage their own careers. This is a dangerous dynamic, and one that has led to some harrowing cases of sexual assault over the years, Weinstein taking advantage of young actresses involved in his films being just one example. The lack of gender equality in these industries is at the heart of the problem, as a more equal music industry would challenge this troubling dynamic.

The treatment of women in music is not a new concern by any means. In the 1990s many feminist movements were trying to tackle sexual assault and harassment. The most notable being the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 90s, where girl bands voiced their anger at sexual harassment through punk music. It has been argued that Riot Grrrl were fighting for all women using their music rather than for women in music specifically, but they were definitely successful in bringing attention to the treatment of women. Lead singer of key Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna, is famous for demanding “Girls to the front” at their shows, in order to protect their female fans from being groped by any male trouble makers in the crowd.

Over time, the effort to protect women in music has become much more focused and in 2018 the UK is full of very specific movements that all contribute to the progress being made towards an equal and safe music industry.

Girls Against was founded in 2015 to fight sexual harassment in the live music community specifically. A group of girls between the ages of 15 and 17 started the campaign to raise awareness about groping at gigs, after experiencing harassment themselves at concerts. Girls Against proved that it wasn’t just artists but women involved in all aspects of music that needed to be treated with respect, including fans. The girls gained support from a huge number of bands such as Circa Waves, Peace and Wolf Alice, who spoke out in support of making gigs safer. Three years on, making a concert a safe space is top of most artists’ agenda.

As concerts get safer, so does the environment for young female musicians. Many movements have succeeded this year in creating safe and supportive spaces for young women to create, acknowledging that inequality is the biggest obstacle in the way of making the industry safe and inclusive.

Girls I Rate was founded by songwriter Carla Marie Williams, whose impressive credits include Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Craig David. Williams was inspired to create Girls I Rate because of her own experience of the male-dominated music industry. Girls I Rate host events for young women between the ages of 16 and 25 from all over the UK. From A&R Listening events, where demos are heard by industry professionals, to Songwriting Weekenders, where girls are given the opportunity to perfect their craft, Girls I Rate is succeeding in creating a safe creative space for women and, in time, a stronger female presence within the industry.

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Carla speaking at #GETHEARD2018 for Girls I Rate. (Credit: Girls I Rate Press)

Many women like Williams have realised that it is up to the women who do hold positions of power and influence in the industry to actively campaign for equality, by supporting young female musicians.

It is of paramount importance to recognise the women who are in important positions in the industry in order to encourage other women to get involved. There are many annual events that solely focus on celebrating women in music. Music Week’s fifth annual Women in Music Awards took place in November, celebrating outstanding contributions to the industry from publishers, performers and those working for labels. The awards have been praised for being vital in recognising the contributions of women in music and encouraging progress towards an inclusive industry.

The push for change in the US since last October definitely put pressure on entertainment industries worldwide to make the treatment of women a priority. The #MeToo effect is still in full swing over a year on and can be sighted as the spark for so much of the progress made in the UK music industry this year, as women refuse to be mistreated.

There is a lot more that can be done to ensure that the music industry is a safe creative space for future generations, but many of the initiatives and programmes that have been successful this year are steps towards equality, and therefore safety, in the industry.

SOULFUL: AMAHLA

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amahla is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Hackney. (Credit: Almass Badat)

With the release of her debut single and an array of opportunities at her finger tips in her hometown of London, 21-year-old singer-songwriter amahla is making waves in the music world with her soulful sound and poignant lyrics.

Your single Old Soul is very nostalgic and suggests you fell in love with music at a young age. When did you start singing?

I’ve always sung, I was in school choirs and I loved it. I thought I was Rihanna or Leona Lewis or Beyonce. I don’t think anybody thought it’d be a credible route for me to go down though. I always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t know if I was good enough.

When did you start playing guitar?

I actually grew up playing piano, but I was playing classical music which I didn’t like because I couldn’t sing along. I switched to guitar when I was 14. I learnt 4 chords and then tens upon tens of songs. I feel like my guitar has been around more in my journey as a song writer.

How would you describe your sound?

I think soul or adult contemporary are the closest to my sound. I’ve tried very hard to make it succinct! Genres have changed a lot over time, so I don’t feel like I’m R&B anymore. The British adaptation of soul or adult contemporary alludes to early Adele or Amy Winehouse, which I think is more what I’m like.

When did you start writing your own songs?

When I was about eight, I would take songs and change the words so that they’d mean something different. So I guess that was the first time I realised that I wanted to make narrative to fit my own interpretation of the world. I think I was 10 when I started actually writing my own songs, they were very Destiny’s Child Independent Woman-y!

Who are your musical inspirations or influences?

I feel like there’s been phases. When I was a teenager it was people like John Mayer. I was learning guitar so I was into guitar bands like Green Day and Coldplay. However, people like Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Otis Redding trump anyone else. All of those artists had something to say, their lyrics aren’t just throwaway and they all participated in social justice so they influenced me in a more personal way.

You often speak about being inspired by artists who are politically active, both in their music and in a wider sense. Is this something you strive for?

Since I was a child I’ve always wanted to change the world in some way. I was aware of so much injustice. My parents are immigrants and have had their fair share of struggles and, although I’ve been able to grow up fairly privileged, it is something I’ve always wanted to do. I still don’t know how, but by talking about injustice in my music and using it as a way to explain what’s going on in 2018 or even in 2025, that is timeless but contemporary at the same time.

You’ve had some great opportunities to perfect your craft this year, one of them being your Roundhouse Residency, how have they helped you grow as an artist?

I joined the Roundhouse two years ago as part of a music collective made up of 11 young musicians under the age of 25. It was absolutely brilliant and was made up of people playing so many different instruments. I got to write music with a live band and think about what style of music I wanted to do. I was also at University studying Anthropology, so it gave me an outlet that wasn’t academic and was more creative. The Roundhouse has been huge in building up my confidence and skill for sure. I then applied for the residency which lasts for a year. They are really supportive of all of their resident artists, but I feel like because I’ve been able to create a bit of momentum by myself over the last few months, they’ve been able to help me get to that next step.

A very exciting part of your year must have been receiving the PRS Foundation’s Lynsey De Paul Prize?

I was so shocked! I had to do a video application about why I needed the grant at this point in my career. Most of the money is going to be used on studio time. I’m going to use the rest to make a music video, the visual side of my music is something I’m learning to like! It doesn’t feel essential for me because you can’t see music, so why would you want to do all of this other stuff! But obviously we’re living in a visual world.

amahla’s debut single Old Soul is out now on Spotify and Apple Music.

MEET GRANDMA

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Grace Allen is London-based promoter Grandma. Having just celebrated one year of being Grandma, putting on the likes of Ellie Bleach and Martha Skye, Grace had plenty to tell me about her first year as a promoter when I met her for pizza in a South London pub garden.

The name Grandma comes from Grace’s initials (G.M.A). Although being a typical Grandma is perhaps the complete opposite to her job as a music promoter, Grace is amused by the idea of being a maternal figure to the artists she puts on, especially as most of them are older than her.

An avid gig-goer, Grace was going to shows most weekends between the ages of 15 and 17. At 18, Grace became interested in promotion after helping a friend put on some shows.

“My friend took me under his wing. He showed me the ropes, which was incredibly valuable and gave me my first insight into putting on shows. It’s extremely gratifying seeing people enjoy an event that you’ve put together.”

Despite deciding to study History at University, Grace’s brief experience of promotion left her wanting more and she left her degree to explore working in music. She started putting on shows just a month after leaving her course and was churning out an event every week at that point.

But she didn’t just put on shows, Grace fully invested herself in trying to work in music during this time out, finding time to manage two artists and completing two internships at record labels. She’s now come full circle, returning to her degree this term, with a part-time job as A&R at Slowdance Records.

A vital part of promotion is curating the line ups for shows. A benefit of working alone is that all of Grandma’s shows are authentic to her taste, though Grace can’t deny the endless list of things she must consider.

“I think about which bands would do well in certain venues, because some bands have more support within certain pockets of London. With the other bands on the line up, sometimes it works if each band is different and it’s a showcase of different music, but sometimes it’s better if similar bands are put together, so that the support artists are more likely to gain fans. I’m also more likely to break even if people come to a show because the whole thing looks good!”

While most promotion companies have a team of people to put on their events, Grace reveals the massive task of putting on a show as a one-woman team.

“I’ll book an artist I like for a specific venue and date. Then I have to find the support and organise what kit will be at the venue. I even make all the artwork! I send out advances to make sure everyone knows what time to come and what to bring. On the night I have to make sure someone is on the door and make sure I actually pay the artists. Ultimately, I have to hope people will come and do whatever I can to make sure it’s a great event.”

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Grandma’s success undoubtedly comes from her careful consideration of every aspect of her shows, as she explains the importance of all her events being safe spaces.

“I try to make sure that I support the right kind of people and that I don’t give a platform to people who don’t share my ethos, which is hard as sometimes you don’t realise things about an artist, you just enjoy their music. There is definitely a lot of weight on your shoulders, a lot of responsibility.”

Grandma’s ethos is one of inclusivity, which makes having diverse line ups a priority. Coming from a rock background, Grace admits that a lot of the gigs she went to growing up were very similar looking and sounding, a trend she aims to break.

When Grace started she was adamant that a certain number of female artists needed to be present in each line up, but she soon realised that this was an easy task..

“After a while I realised that I don’t have to fill a quota. There are loads of talented artists who are female or non-binary and it’s really great that there actually isn’t that much pressure to seek them out. There are so many amazing female artists that I’ve put on and that I’m really intrigued and excited by, regardless of feeling the need to like them.”

Grace is truly passionate about showcasing good music, which makes curating inclusive shows easy, as no gender or genre is off limits.

“I’m not sure if I’m specifically giving girls a platform, more than just giving good music a platform and recognising that good music is not limited to just four white boys playing guitar. A lot of music is different and doesn’t fit that stereotype, which is what I’m interested in.”

Although she doesn’t feel she’s been treated any differently and says she has never been the victim of any overt sexism, Grace does notice how male dominated the industry is on a daily basis.

“I recently had an interesting interaction with a guy in a band I was putting on, he said he’d never had a female sound engineer. and a female promoter for a show. There is this constant conversation about female musicians, but they’re probably the most visible women in music. It’s important to recognise women in all aspects of the industry.”

Grace tells me about a fictional book she is reading, in which the music industry is made up completely of men and female artists are taken advantage of, a reality the industry has thankfully mostly moved on from. Grace confirms that the problem today is not that there are no women working in the music industry, but that women are a minority that need representation.

“The majority of my friends who work in music are women. It’s great because we have formed a very supportive network.Women are much more supportive of each other recently, and the people who have helped me and given me a leg up have been other girls, which has made my experience easier than it could’ve been.”

A year on from her first gig, Grace feels justified in organising fewer shows, as she takes more time to curate each event she creates.

“At the beginning, I felt I had to do all these shows in order to prove myself. I did four or five events a month at the start and I wasn’t putting in as much consideration as I do now. Now I do one or two shows a month and every artist I promote is someone that I’m really obsessed with. I’d like to go back to doing more shows, but hopefully with the same consideration I take now.”

Being Grandma has taken on new meaning, and has fulfilled Grace’s desire to work in the music industry more than she imagined it would.

“Trying to work in music was hard to define. I had to ask myself if I was only putting on shows in order to get another job. Initially, I thought putting on these shows would be a great stepping stone. Now, I just really enjoy it and I feel fulfilled, so if another opportunity came along I’d think about it, but it’s not the reason I do what I do.”

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For more on Grace’s progress and to keep up to date with Grandma’s events follow @grandmapromo on Twitter or visit facebook.com/grandmapromotions.

 

WORDS: Luka Kenyon

PICTURES: Matt Merriman