As if forming a band alone these days isn’t already complicated enough the current pandemic emergency status is another challenging issue. In our ongoing Artist Encounter series we ask newcomers from NBHAP’s personal ‘to watch in 2021’-list about their struggles right now, how they adapt to the new situation and what they are hoping for in the future. In this edition we connected two of our favourite new guitar band leading ladies – Luxembourg’s Jana Bahrich from grungy two-piece Francis of Delirium and Jenna Kyle from London-based shoegaze shooting stars Bleach Lab. In the wake of their upcoming EP releases we invited them to our digital video call room to talk about songwriting, role models and how to keep your creativity in these weird times.
► Check out all editions of the New Artist Encounter right here
Did you two find the time to listen to each other’s music – What’s your impression of it?
Jenna: I listened to all your stuff yesterday while I was making brownies and I loved it. It’s so cool, your voice is so amazing and it’s totally my vibe.
Jana: Thank you so much. I have to return the compliment. I mean, your voice … wow. Sometimes you have this clear and pristine voice and it’s good but it doesn’t always keep you throughout the song. But when I listen to your voice I simply don’t want these songs to stop …
Jenna: Awww, that’s so sweet.
Although your music sounds a bit different there are similarities. You both seem to be influenced by different shapes of 90s independent rock. Jana’s sound is more grunge-infected while Jenna heads more towards shoegaze territory. What are your influences here?
Jenna: I listened to a lot of stuff along the lines of Mazzy Star. I’m very much into harrowing female vocals. I take most of my inspiration from that field. Artists like Joni Mitchell or – more recently – Julia Jacklin. These are role models for me.
I can assume that Jana’s role models might be different ones.
Jana: Yeah, there are less female role models to choose from, apart from Hole and Kim Gordon. (laughs) When I was younger Pearl Jam had a lot of influence on me. I remember seeing the music video for Jeremy and was blown away by it. I thought this was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I watched their Pinkpop live show all the time and was really fascinated by Eddie Vedder. My musical partner Chris actually went to high school with the guy that produced Pearl Jam’s Ten album so we bonded over that fact. That might have shaped the grunge foundation of what we are doing.
2020 was quite a year… well, easily said. How did it feel for you and your career?
Jana: Looking it where we started the year and where we ended it, it was a pretty exciting year considering everything else that happened. We released our first song Quit Fucking Around without any expectations. ‘Here’s a song and that’s it.’ Then the song did way better than we thought, we signed to a label and Free Trade booking. The main reason why I love doing music is playing shows… it’s on an equal level of excitement for me like writing the music. I love putting my whole body into it; the whole physical aspect of it. That’s also why I love the guitar so much as my instrument of choice.
Jenna: At the beginning the year was quite hard. We had just started to make moves to perform live before the virus hit us all. We’ve been building towards it for quite some time. In that time we needed to find way to keep things going and keep ourselves motivated. We released lots of stuff so it was good to focus on that. We continued to write and kept working together via Zoom. It wasn’t easy but we managed to face these challenges and overcome them.
Besides that whole pandemic thing what were the toughest challenges for you to get your careers started?
Jenna: I mean there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of similar bands that might release music that’s quite similar to yours. So you need to think about more interesting way of presenting yourself and your music. We’re still quite new to the game so it might me too early to tell.
Do you feel a lot of pressure when it comes to this ‘You have to do something different’ thing?
Jenna: We try to avoid that. We do our best to stick what we are best at. Our main thing is: we need to love the music. Everything else doesn’t matter.
Jana: We released nine or ten songs last year and we simply continued doing that. Still, there was a time when I didn’t find anything to write about. We couldn’t play songs and usually that’s where I get a lot inspiration from. Just watching other people play always excited me and inspired me to do new things. Finding inspiration in that Corona time is the most challenging thing for me. Sorry for bringing the virus back into conversation. (laughs)
Nah, totally fine. You’re not the first person who’s addressing that issue. You need to have input and impulse from outside in order to create art. We can’t just have songs about sitting at home and watching Netflix, right?
Jenna: Well, wait till you hear our new stuff. (laughs)
The reality of Zoom writing sessions
Did the absence of live shows made you learn new things you didn’t have on your radar before?
Jenna: Yeah, we had to adapt everything to online, obviously. We do all of our songwriting over Zoom. We meet there quite regularly and try to work on structures and ideas. We recorded a lot of demos but we don’t know yet how they will sound once the demos are ready. I had to buy a lot of home studio recording equipment in order to make it work. But we’re lucky to be able to record things from home now. That allowed us to continue creating music.
And it also helps to keep the band spirit alive …
Jenna: Yes, we do have Zoom drinking nights every now and then and we have a fix meeting every week. But it’s hard and everytime you’re planning something it feels like it gets destroyed last minute by the virus, politics and stuff.
Jana: We were three days away from going to Paris and playing there and then everything shut down.
Jenna: Oh no. You’re kidding!
Jana: Yeah, that was a bummer.
Jana, you are actually allowed to play a Francis Of Delirium gig in Luxembourg soon, right?
Jana: Yes, it’s 100 people in a 1000 people venue. I think everybody will be tested like guinea pigs before and after the show. Our Covid numbers are quite low right now, so fingers crossed for this one to happen and hopefully other cultural institutions will follow that.
There are moments of doubt for every aspiring musician, I think; moments when you’re ready to give it up. What helps you in such moments?
Jana: I remember the night before we released Quit Fucking Around and I had such a huge breakdown, thinking ‘Oh my god, this is trash, it’s embarrassing and nobody will listen to it.’ But then I thought I invested so much time and energy in it I should give it a try at least and see what happens. It’s realizing your brain can be quite stupid sometimes and overshadows your body which usually knows what’s right. Moving forward with love and passion is always better than moving forward with fear.
Jenna: I agree with Jana. We also worked very hard on our music and there’s so much love and affection for it and by now we luckily have that attitude that goes ‘If they don’t like it, well screw them!’ (laughs) We reassure each other and that usually helps us.
Having band mates really help here, indeed. Would you consider yourself as the leaders of your band?
Jana: We definitely work really collaboratively. But in terms of artistic vision it’s probably me who moves it forward but it works quite democratic.
Jenna: I think we all put an equal amount of effort into it. The songwriting is split four ways, almost exactly actually. Everybody brings in ideas and then we develop them and bring it all together in the end. That process is really benefiting and it keeps us all motivated, knowing that we all work together on this.
What advice can you give to musicians that are starting new bands these days in terms of getting the right amount of confidence?
Jenna: I put a lot of my confidence from the guys in the band. They know the industry, they work in the industry. I bring the creative side; they do the ‘official’ stuff. For anyone starting out my only advice would be to go for it. It’s better than keeping it to yourself.
Jana: What helped me was being really active in the local scene. That’s a bit easier in Luxembourg than other places since we’re so small. You go to two shows and you’ve already seen the majority of the local music scene. Everybody knows each other which really helps once you start playing shows. Building a community of artists around you that support you really helps to boost confidence.
Well, that part is currently not possible. And so is planning at all, right?
Jenna: We had so many goals and once we got closer to gigs it always became quite clear that they won’t happen. We’re not able to plan right now in England but at least we can plan the releases.
Those missing live shows can also benefit the music in some way; it shifts the focus towards it.
Jenna: At the moment we’re relying very heavily on those online streams. Right now a lot of people are at home, they have the time to listen to music so that’s pretty great obviously. Apart from that we’re just holding out for being able to play again.
Jana: I’m feeling your struggle. All our songs are written to be played live. They feel better live since you can give everything physically. Our music feels better in a concert setting so the current situation is harming us a bit.
Jenna: Writing and recording music together is our anchor right now. But we don’t know how these songs will feel once we’re back in a room together and start playing them since they weren’t written that way. We’re looking forward to that surprising moment.
In search of creative input outside of music
I didn’t ask you to prepare questions for each other but in a funny coincidence you actually did, right? So feel free to ask them right now.
Jana: Yes! I love a good ‘first meeting’ story so I was wondering how your band got together.
Jenna: Josh and Frank – our guitarists and bassist – already had a project with another band elsewhere. And I think things didn’t work so well there so were looking for a new singer. I know Josh from college when we were much younger and I was studying during that time. He simply asked me whether I got a bit time to bring things into the band and I was totally up for it. We met up in London for practicing and it went really well from there. But that was a long time ago.
Jana: When exactly?
Jenna: I think the first ever proper Bleach Lab formation was four years ago. But that was a very early incarnation of the band. And how about you two?
Jana: Chris’ kids went to my school and one of my friends was jamming with them all the time. They started playing pubs and I remember seeing it in my friend’s Snapchat and being very jealous of it. Then we started playing together with his kid and he joined us occasionally. We played a lot of covers but once I turned 18 I felt the need to start my own project. It felt really natural to ask Chris to join me.
But he’s more a background guy, right?
Jana: Yeah, he lets me do all the interviews. He really loves to support people but prefers to work behind the scenes.
Jenna, you got a question?
Jenna: Yes, I had a good one – what are three things that inspired you to write music over the past year?
Jana: That’s a tough one. I’ve been trying to read a lot more to keep me inspired. Going on hikes also helps. I also got my driver’s licence recently. Making art and looking at other people’s art is also very helpful. Making our music videos is something that also excites me. Just creating art outside of music and then stepping back into music really helps.
Jenna: Good points. For me going outside also helps me a lot. When I’m down in Brighton I love to go to the sea. That really helps me and I got a deep connection with it and I think you’ll notice this in my songs. Creating art definitely helps. I also had a lot of time to think and reflect over the years like many of us. And that gives me new ideas on what to write about.
Jana: Does writing feel like an intentional thing for you or is it more a subconscious feeling?
Jenna: I’ve got to be in the right mindset. I need to have an experience that makes me want to write. I can’t write a song in five minutes if somebody ask me to. What about you?
Jana: It feels really subconscious for me. A lot of the stuff we’re releasing right now comes from jamming around and “word vomiting” if you like to call it that way.
What artists inspire you these days?
Jenna: I actually had a roundtable discussion on that album the other day – Adrianne Lenker with songs + instrumentals. It’s simply beautiful and I think it might inspire my writing for the next time. I’ve watched interviews with her recently and I love the way she talks about her writing process. It’s just amazing.
Jana: There are these videos of her busking when she was only 19. Did you see them?
Jenna: No, I don’t.
Jana: They are wonderful and there’s a reason why every musicians is obsessed with her right now.
People are really longing for this raw and unfiltered attempt towards music she represents.
Jenna: Big Thief got that live feeling on their studio recordings and that’s something many bands would love to capture, especially right now.
As we already said: Making plans is tricky these days but what are you looking most forward to once that Corona thing slowed down.
Jana: I just wanna go out and dance. I’m the worst dancer in the entire world but it’s my favourite thing to do. And I would love to do that during shows, maybe a Dua Lipa concert or something.
Jenna: Let’s just erase the whole year. We’re allowed to. Let’s just pretend we haven’t aged during that time.
Bleach Lab will release their debut EP A Calm Sense Of Surrounding on March 19, Francis Of Delirium just released their new single Let It All Go and are planning to drop their second EP Wading on April the 2nd.