We caught up with Rosa Slade from unique Brighton-based band Peggy Sue who have recently released their newest album 'Choir of Echoes'. Along with other band members Katy Young and Olly Joyce, Rosa worked on the album at the famous Rockfield Studios, the birthplace of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', the place where Motorhead made their first studio recordings and where Oasis, Black Grape, The Charlatans and The Boo Radleys all recorded UK number one albums between 1996-97. Rosa spoke to us about 'Choir of Echoes', poetry and record shops while also offering unsigned artists some words of advice!
ContactMusic: How are you doing?
Rosa: I'm alright! I'm moving out so I'm packing up loads and loads of boxes, so you're a welcome break!
CM: What can you tell us about your upcoming album 'Choir of Echoes'?
Rosa: We recorded it November/December 2012, at Rockfield Studios, Wales. We were influenced a lot by a project we did in between this album and the last, a cover album called 'Peggy Sue Plays the Songs of Scorpio Rising' which was actually the sound track to Kenneth Anger's 1963 film. It's got lots of traditional doo-wop vocals and, like, using your voice as an instrument and we took some of that and put it onto this album. It's a bit dreamier in terms of the way it sounds. The name is based on the final night of recording. The opening track on the album is called 'Come Back Around', which is actually a part of a vocal loop which happens at the end of 'Two Shots' (which is another song on the album), and "come back around" is lyrics from that so we wanted there to be that sort of circular narrative of an album which is like an echo. We recorded it in this echo chamber so the title of the album kind of comes from that; it also comes from this Greek myth about Echo, who was a Nymph who was cursed and had her voice taken away from her, this album is a lot to do with voices and the way in which you use them. Previously we'd been really interested in talking about words and their constraints and the beauty of words and this is much more about the voice itself and how powerful a tool it is.
CM: I read a quote from yourselves saying that the album was about singing, losing your voice and finding it again. Would you say the band has finally found its voice?
Rosa: Yeah, we had a really clear idea about what the album would sound like from the offset and what we wanted to say. I think we captured that pretty well in what we've done so, yeah, I think this album definitely has a voice. I'd say all of our albums have a voice. It'll probably change again, but that will be good!
CM: How big a part did personal experience play in the creation of your songs?
Rosa: It always plays quite a large part in mine and Katy's songs but, actually, with this album, lots of the songs come from things we've read, so references to Cormac McCarthy stories. A lot of the songs have got elements of another story within them which I think we did purposely because we have a tendency to always talk about ourselves and sometimes I think there's another narrative in there. You're obviously still going to project your emotions onto something; if you watch a film, if you read something you're always going to interpret stories through your own understanding of them and that's a reflection of your own experience so definitely personal, but I think we've hidden behind a few things somewhere in there.
CM: I noticed that your lyrics tend to be quite poetic and metaphorical - have you always had a love of poetry or is it just something which comes naturally?
Rosa: When I was younger I used to read poetry and now I've really become interested in poetry again in probably the last three years or so. I've also been reading through lots of the Ted Hughes birthday letters. I think they're really beautiful; I really like Sean Borrowdale and Auden is incredible. The beat poets are pretty fantastic too.
CM: I noticed you've worked with two record labels, Wichita and Yep Roc - do you feel there are any advantages being able to work with two different labels in two different countries?
Rosa: I think for us there is. We actually got signed in America before we got signed in England. Although Wichita were very much kind of there, we signed a deal with the Americans first, which is funny, but, yeah, I think there is. Having a label in the States is helpful because you have someone who's willing to get you over there and who knows the country. It's hard for a British band to tour the States unless they have support over there. But I also think that the ethos of the people we're working with in both countries is pretty similar and they're both just incredibly supportive, so it works for us!
CM: Was it at all daunting going to work with an American label, with yourselves coming from Britain?
Rosa: Before we signed, it was daunting because we were in the studio in New York actually recording our album before we'd signed on the dotted line so we were spending loads of money in the studio being like, 'Oh my God, we haven't signed anything yet! What's going to happen?' So when we actually signed it away we were so relieved! But no, it's not daunting, it's great.
CM: Earlier, you touched on working at Rockfield where some huge bands have also worked, could you tell us a bit more about your experience working there?
Rosa: It was great! The previous two albums we recorded were recorded in Bristol and New York and both of those cities were pretty new to us, we had an incredible time recording there. But it was so different with this album because we each had these little converted barn apartments, we all had so much space. We were also staying there over the weekend when we weren't working we'd be going out walking, going to the pub together; it was much more relaxed and I think that comes across in the album. It sounds a lot more chilled out and upbeat.
CM: You seem to have had quite a few busy years. Releasing three albums in as many years, was it difficult to keep up at that pace?
Rosa: No, especially seeing how we have two songwriters, we can write a lot of songs pretty quickly and we get restless if we don't; you just have to choose which ones fit together. It was such a lovely experience writing this album because we had such a strong idea of what we wanted it to sound like from the beginning, we were kind of controlling what we were writing as we were writing it so hopefully we can approach the next one like that! But I'd imagine we'll write a few new songs on tour and we'd like to release a new one over the next year or so, maybe even before the summer if we can! But who knows? We'll see!
CM: So are you guys happy with the finished album?
Rosa: Yes, definitely! It's a nice feeling!
CM: As an artist who has been creating and releasing music for a fairly long time now, is there any advice you'd give to any unsigned artists?
Rosa: If you can find a record label, independent or otherwise, that suits you like we did then that's great, and if you want to go major then work hard at it! Some parts of it are very much like an industry and it's always nice to have people around, but keep in mind that, at the moment, you can do it yourself. Me and Katy sent out like a hundred CDs a month for a year; with the internet you can release music yourselves. It's obviously nice to have the support behind you from a label, but you can get it out there as well. If what you want to do is play music, you can find a way to do it. So 'just do it' is my advice!
CM: You're heading into Europe in March and then touring the UK in April playing venues that range in size. As a band do you prefer playing in more intimate environments?
Rosa: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's really nice playing big places but we just wanted to play the sort of nice little places in towns.
CM: I noticed you played in a record shop in Brighton recently.
Rosa: Yeah, we've done a couple of little in store gigs recently. We felt a bit funny that we were releasing our album in the UK and were only going to play one show, so we wanted to do a few more slightly original dates just so that we weren't like abandoning the UK to go to America. So we played Sunderland, then we played Bristol and then we played Brighton and we've done some radio interviews and sessions along the way as well so a kind of mini tour!
CM: We're all looking forward to your album release, are there any other albums you're looking forward to in 2014?
Rosa: I'm really looking forward to the next St. Vincent album, which is coming out February!
CM: And, finally, what does the future hold for Peggy Sue?
Rosa: Lots of touring, writing more music, playing more shows and hopefully we'll get to make some more stuff!
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