Monday, 9 September 2013

Madame So

Parisian-born, London-based singer-songwriter with punchy pop-rock tunes

photo by Derek Barnes
EP stream here
Website here

So who are your main influences?  

My influences include without being limited to..the Lemonheads, Garland Jeffreys, Sixto Rodriguez, Christophe Miossec (one of the best living French songwriters around), The Primitives (female-fronted original indie from the late 80s) and The Violent Femmes (US folk punk) , The Only Ones - I basically like poetic punk music whatever that means. But Liz Phair (circa 'Exile in Guyville' and 'Whitechocolatespaceegg') and Nina Simone really encapsulate the music I aim to be making: sharp, witty, direct, edgy without trying too hard to sound so...

I was surprised to see on your website that you've been compared to Tracy Chapman, what do you think about that?  The first thing I thought of when I heard your music was PJ Harvey.  The guitar riff on the first song on your EP reminds me of her early material.

Yes, I was doing the acoustic circuit for over a year  before I released the EP, so I assume people saw a black girl with an acoustic guitar, and that's the best they could come up with. It's silly but I take it as a compliment : Tracy has been at her prime a while ago...

About PJ Harvey, people have said that in the past even when I was solo acoustic, Allmusic even forced her influence on me, all this while I know close to nothing about PJ Harvey's music: the only track I own from her is 'This Is Love?'. A friend tried to get me into ' Rid of Me' and unfortunately I found it unlistenable... Without trying to be shocking, PJ isn't part of my musical culture, this said I like the protest track she's put out two weeks ago.

Like I said, Liz Phair was definiing in my musical upbringing : there's actually a cool piece here that looks on the influence she's had, even though people only reminisce of L7 and Hole (which I highly regard- I did listen to a lot of both these crews) when it comes to ballsy girls. 

photo by Richard Macien Clarke

As a musician, have you had any experiences where you felt like you were being treated differently than you would be if you were a man?

Yes, of course. Male musicians with whom I was trying to form some sort of collaboration have come to me saying my music is too "easy" or "simple", bur I see no point in showing off how one can play an instrument if there's no emotion or realness to it. For me, it's not about knowing your pentatonic scales by heart, but about making a sonic connection with an audience rather than just copying someone else's riff. So, often these very musicians can only come up with some deja-vu riff/chord progression and no lyrical content, instead of expressing themselves simply and/or freely however "easy" it may come across to others. These same guys would be unable to come up with actual SONGS: one with a melody and lyrics, rather than a complicated riffs been and done before by better/ or more famous musicians than themselves.

Also male promoters or punters who can't compliment you for your set without making a remark on the sound or detuning of your guitar- I found it funny that it would be something they'd only notice when it's a female playing, really... Most recently, my band and I (mainly boys) played a Battle of the Bands final. I was the ONLY girl performing out of 4 acts. The promoter (a female) asked us our timing requirements, I gave her a response promtply, asking to be programmed mid-evening (9pm to 10pm) so my fans could be on time to give us support, but she only got priority to the boys' requests and forced me to play first at 8pm... Yes, even girls are guilty of it, out of habit of male domination in the industry or maybe disguised jealousy, like they'd want to be on stage themselves. I've been told that before- I feel like telling them 'go on and do it then, and let's unite instead of competing'.
On that same battle of the bands night, a guy from another band, playing metal stuff, overcongratulated me, saying my stuff was 'summer-y' just because it's actually melodic, what the fuck does that mean? : my stuff is nothing but 'summer-y': I talk about smack and abortion" (not exclusively, obviously), thank you!

photo by Derek Barnes

Yeah, that reminds me of a recurring argument I had with the lead guitarist in my old band, about whether the guitarist from Walter Trout band was 'better' than they guy from Creedence Clearwater Revival.  I argued that technical superiority did not make the music better overall, and the music of CCR was obviously more soulful, despite, or perhaps due to their more simplistic playing.  He would just scoff at me patronisingly. 
So when you turn up to a venue, have you ever found that the male musicians in your band are treated differently by the sound tech/venue staff/members of other bands?

Well, I use a clean sound for my guitar so I don't have too demanding requirements but it seems, and I don't know if it's gender-related, that they always forget to put my vocals above all instruments, so I often get from the audience that they missed hearing the lyrics and that sucks because my material is very lyric-heavy, so if you don't catch what I'm talking about, you're missing half of the show, basically. Would this happen so often if I had a cock?.., I don't know.

Also, from members of other bands, they will always go pat my male band members on the back about our stuff after a gig, without acknowledging me, but that's ok: my band are great, deliver good shit, I guess I'm 'just' the girl who writes all the songs, but that's not for them to know....

One other occurance is when I was scouting for a band, some guys felt the need to reply to say it was not their thing, that they were after something 'heavier'... Then, why don't you just ignore my ad, knob! Sorry, I sound so angry at boys- I love them, really, just not when music making comes into play..

photo by Richard Macien Clarke

Yeah I hear that..the lead guitarist in my current band put an ad up saying she was looking for musicians to form a riot grrl band and some dudes contacted her asking if she'd like to be in their funk band - argh! 

Do you think things are improving for women in music, or do you feel like it's getting worse?
Well, I don't know...we, I mean, our gender is represented in the 'industry', but look in what way: one-dimensional, caricatural, over-sexualised, but genuinely empty in creative and artistic purpose or mission.. if you look at people like Rihanna, Del Rey, Gaga or Minaj, really!!
But I guess more girls actually writing their songs and playing their  instruments are coming through, from a variety of scenes, from First Aid Kit to Deap Vally to Savages. Even if they're not at all my cup of tea, if Savages can pave the way for more genuine music made by women being put forward, without it turning into an all-black clad/shaven-head uniform trend, then that's great. Also, I might be generalising a bit here but ultimately, I'll cherish the day when female musicians feel accepted, endorsed and supported enough so that they will not feel the need to use the all-female line-up card as a defense mechanism against machismo and will feel free, secure and comfortable delivering the music they want to make, and achieve the same levels of acknowledgement that men do enjoy.

 'Sell by date' music video


  1. I am going to pretend I didn't just read this two bit no one trashing rid of me.

    1. As I'm no great "pretender", I'll reiterate Rid of Me is unlistenable to me - no Bible to two-bit no one me, and shamelessly so.. Thanks for reading though. ;)