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Being Your Own Universe: a Lady Bird Q&A

Having performed extensively with the likes of Kent compatriots Slaves and garnering a hefty live following over the last few years, Lady Bird released their long-awaited debut album, WE, last week. 

On the surface, the LP’s eleven tracks offer a traditional cloud-of-chaos approach to their delivery, reminiscent of their London punk forefathers. However, as WE progresses, we are privy to a more considered, introspective edge to this angst. An edge that sharpens into it’s most poignant on the album’s starkly vulnerable title track, on which Alex is armed solely with his voice and an acoustic guitar.

Along with Don and Joe, Alex turns his attention to questions both big and small on WE. With topics covered throughout the tracklist including – but not limited to – a flawed education system, our relationship with existence and, of course, mullets.

You have quite a cannon of tunes in your discography prior to the release of your debut. How does the Lady Bird of WE differ from the band who released Social Potions EP?

Alex: We’ve grown up a few years of course! We are more considered and rounded people now I would say. We’ve all been through a lot and have had to grow and develop as people. Social Potions to me sounds very innocent now, we’re not the same people or even the same band that we were when we wrote that. At the time I think we wanted to put ourselves in a box, to play a certain style. Now I think we’re more explorative, we wanted to branch out into other things to more accurately encapsulate the music we listen to regularly. I think the Lady Bird that wrote WE did that.

The album was initially put together back in the halcyon days of lockdown #1, how have your relationships with these tracks changed in the time since they were recorded?

Alex: Personally I’ve gown closer with the tracks. They feel more cohesive now than they ever have. A lot of these songs were all written at different time periods from the very beginning of the band to the last minute before we headed to the studio. So, with that context I felt at the time that they were all a big jumble. But I’ve listened to it a lot. It feels much more now that they are a complete body of work.

‘Guided Hesitation’ uses Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens as a touchstone. Did you receive one of the book’s underlying themes that we are all essentially brief footnotes in an ongoing sapien evolution with a positive release from your ego? Or an onslaught of existential dread? It can go either way..

Sam: Well done you’ve passed the test! That book is indeed the reference. If a multiple-choice question, it would be answer A. I enjoyed that book and have taken parts of it and applied it to my own outlook.

Alex: Ha! Great question. I find it to be somewhere in the middle to be honest. The song manages to give you that sense of your place in time and space and how, as a being, you are relatively insignificant to the rest of the universe. But at the same time, you are your own universe, so being present in that is the most important thing you can do. It’s all you have to experience this life, so try to make it as best you can. Although that’s easier said than done.

Lady Bird seem to carve their own sound within the country’s vibrant punk scene: employing a little talk-singing alongside the heavy hooks of garage punk bands, which acts in the British music scene do you look to as your sonic peers?

Alex: Sonic Peers? Im really not sure. It’s honestly not something I’ve ever considered. I can give you influences but I’m not sure that we really fit in to their categories. Sam’s spoken word has been influenced a lot by The Streets. That was the main inspiration for starting the band. Slaves was also a big one as they were our good friends, and – being from the same town – were very inspiring. Bands like Dream Wife, Shame and Idles have also had a big effect on us. In terms of energy and conviction in our music. But in terms of sonic peers, I’m not entirely sure. Without sounding arrogant, I’m not sure we really sound like anyone else. I’d be interested in what other people have to say on the matter though.

WE’s title track gives the album a really poignant arch in the middle of the album, do Lady Bird tracks often begin life as acoustic composition? Or is the stripped-back approach a rarity?

Alex: Songs don’t often begin on an acoustic guitar. But little ideas can pop up anywhere so sometimes it might be on an acoustic guitar. This song was written by Alex as a cathartic emotional release and it was never really intended to be a Lady Bird song. Never really intended to do anything with it. But i showed Sam and he loved it and wanted to include it on that album. We all appreciate and enjoy acoustic music. Ultimately it felt like it fitted with the rest of the album for whatever reason. It was deeply personal and honest. Which is what we try to be, so maybe thats why.

You had a strong run of tour dates during the Autumn, how much of WE has featured in your set and which new tracks have seen the best live reception?

Alex: We actually haven’t had much of an opportunity to be able any of the album tracks live. ‘Bludsuckers’, ‘Infants’ and ‘Factory Fool’ were the only ones played regularly on the autumn tour. But due to extra instrumentation some of the tracks it’s been hard to recreate them live with just the three of us. So, you might see some extra people helping us one day! In terms of reception though. ‘Factory Fool’ and ‘Infants’ have been in our set for a long time and are relatively well known so they’ve always gone down nicely.

 

WE is out now via Alcopop! Recordings
photo credit: Gobinder Jhitta

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Matt Ganfield

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