Quick bit of history first - what exactly happened to Venus In Furs and how did We Start Fires rise from the ashes?
Venus In Furs split because we completely lost all our momentum and our hearts weren't really into it anymore. We were getting sick of the way we'd been tagged as some throwaway Disco Pistol bag of shite and we couldn't really see ourselves going any further. In the last year of Venus In Furs we had that much hassle with band members letting us down that we just decided to call it a day and do something fresh. I hadn't written a song for months cos I was that fucking sick of everything but when we met up with Laura who now plays keyboards for We Start Fires it was so different, we completely clicked with each other and she made me want to start doing stuff again. As We Start Fires stands now we are, me - Becky! - on Guitar and Vocals, Melissa on Bass, Laura on Keyboards and Vocals and Ashley on Drums. We sound completely different to Venus In Furs now although there's still some elements of that in our sound - we're still very melodic, but me and Laura have been writing together a lot which has been ace - it's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off.
Do you get hassle for being a 3/4 girl band?
Well we've only been a 3/4 girl band for like a month! We don't get blatant hassle, I think it's more a case of, if you're a predominantly female band, having to prove yourselves. Sexism is so much more hidden now, it's not as immediately apparent. If we were four boys people wouldn't give it a second thought, they'd just listen to the music. With girl bands it seems to be a case of look first, then if you like what you see, listen to the songs. With a lot of people, girls *and* boys, there's an attitude before you even play a note of "Come on, impress me." - you get scrutinised a lot more, but I think that goes for pretty much any kind of job or situation, not just being in a band. We've never really had any heckling when we play live though. At a gig in Wales we got asked to take our tops off by a couple of 16 year old kids which was a bit weird and frustrating. The gig was supposed to be a night for female artists, so when they said that I was a bit like "What?! Why are you here?!" They just didn't appreciate what the gig was about.
What drives you to make music?
I think the fact that if I wasn't making music and writing songs and playing in a band I’d be completely miserable, which sounds really sad but it's true! I've been writing lyrics and songs for as long as I can remember. I'm enjoying being in a band at the moment more than I have in ages - it's like when Venus In Furs just started all over again! Everyone in the band's so enthusiastic and we're writing constantly and doing a lot of local gigs again, which is something we haven't done for a long time - we're getting back to our roots haha!
How'd you come to get involved in Ladyfest? What was it like playing it?
I think Dave Tinkham from Purr told us about it and we sent them a CD and they asked us to play. It was amazing, we had such a cool time! We set off at about from Darlington at about 5.00 on Friday morning because soundchecks were at dinnertime, which was a wee bit tiring (!) but the atmosphere was so great. Everyone was really supportive and bouncy and friendly and we played really well. On the evening we went to see Katastrophy Wife who rocked like bastards and then on the Saturday night we went to see Electrelane. I wish I could've gone to more of the workshops and seminars but there just wasn't time. It was a really good weekend though - we were staying opposite the Tate Modern so we had a look around all the feminist art and felt very posh and cultured! Ladyfest Manchester's gonna be great this year as well, and then there's Ladyfest North East to look forward to in 2004! It's gonna rock!
Come the revolution, who's first in front of the firing squad?
Not that I believe in random shootings (!) but it would have to be George Bush cos he scares the hell out of me.
How much difference does not being particularly fashionable or part of a scene make to booking gigs and getting press - can you find plenty of people who'll plug what they want and screw the ratings, or is it a struggle?
It's never really a struggle for us to get gigs but certainly getting press is a nightmare. Female bands just aren't the in thing at the moment - the last time they were the bloody 21st Century Girls and Thunderbugs and fucking Hepburn ruined everything! We've never had a problem getting in fanzines and we've had tons of European and American press but it just seems that whether you get in the NME is dependent on whether you're the flavour of the month or not. I hope things will change because it's fucking BORING reading about The Hives, The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Vines week in week out! It's like, they're alright and that but how much more do we need to know about them?! There's a news bulletin in the NME every time the Strokes write a new song.
Who's the least genuine - Fred Durst or Hear'Say?
If you'd said any other girl / boy band I would have said Fred Durst but on this occasion it would have to be Hear'say cos they're fucking awful. Complete puppets - I think Fred Durst at least realises he's a tit.
Do you think music can change things politically, or can it only ever work on a personal level?
I'd like to think that it can change things politically but I think nowadays the sort of music that appeals to great masses of people is so controlled that it's an impossible task. Music can make small political changes but really only for the people who are directly involved with it, not for everyday people. I mean, the whole DIY scene emerged from punk, which is political in itself because it was all about taking power into your own hands. Riot Grrrl changed a lot of things for the females involved in that particular scene but it didn't really work on a broad scale. I didn't even hear about Riot Grrrl until I got into Nirvana. Music can raise awareness of certain issues, but I think it works more on a personal level rather than being a source of social and political change. Having said that, the most direct way of changing things in society is through changing peoples attitudes.
Which albums could you not live without?
- Hole - Live Through This
- Kenickie - At The Club
- Sleater Kinney - Dig Me Out
- The Breeders - Pod
- Elastica - Elastica
- The Lemonheads - Come on Feel the Lemonheads
- Weezer - Pinkerton
Recommend us a fanzine and/or a website - and Justify Yourself.
Fanzine - The Nerve which is the fanzine produced by the Central England Riot Grrrl people. It's really uplifting and inspiring and positive and intelligently written and KICK ASS - I bought a copy when we played with Kirby in Manchester and I've read it hundreds of times! I also really like Juicy, which is a cool sparkly indie pop fanzine and obviously R*E*P*E*A*T cos it's crammed full of ace stuff! The word fanzine doesn't really do it justice because it's so big! It's like a cool, proper magazine without the glossy paper :)
What will the band be doing in the near future?
For the next couple of months were just doing tons and tons of local gigs - Newcastle, Darlington, Middlesbrough, Guisborough - basically to get Melissa whipped into shape and to raise a bit of cash for our next lot of southern jaunts! AND we're in the middle of recording a mini album - we've got three songs recorded so we'll be going back into the studio to finish it off. We're also licensing a few of our songs to a brand new cartoon called Girl Stuff/Boy Stuff which looks like it's going to be really cool. The characters look ace! So it's all good :)
And finally, give us a bit of info on the How to be a Lady e.p - songs, sound, how to get hold of it...
It's a 4 track ep which we released ourselves because when Venus In Furs split we wanted to get something by the new band out there. I've said this tons of times but How to be a Lady is like the point where Venus In Furs ends and We Start Fires begins, it's not as poppy as Venus In Furs but it's still big on tunes! It's quite varied too - there's balls to the wall rawk, if you'll excuse the expression! and lovely acoustic stuff and my attempt at a 60s girl group type song, in the form of 'Hey Tiger'. It's been played on John Peel so it must be fab - I would buy it if I were you! You can get it via the shop on our website www.westartfires.com and there may still be some copies in the Rough Trade shop in London. We're also lugging a box of them around at our gigs, so come and have a chat and sample our wares!
November 8th - The Tap & Spile, Darlington w/ Candy Rag and Beccy Owen (Ladyfest benefit gig)
November 13th - The Courtyard, Guisborough w/ Joe Ninety & My Favourite Co-Pilot
November 16th - The Portland Arms, Cambridge w/ Cosy Cosy
November 28th - The Grapes, Sheffield
December 5th - Bar 36, Sunderland
December 16th - The Talbot, Stoke-on-Trent December 22nd - The Head of Steam, Newcastle w/ The Lollies (Ladyfest Benefit gig)