INTERVIEW: Bec Sandridge releases debut album 'Try + Save Me'
Interview: Jett Tattersall
Australia’s Bec Sandridge has been releasing music for the past six years and today releases her debut album Try + Save Me. Two years in the making, Sandridge says: “The album documents two break-ups, coming out to my family and friends and my mental health journey in trying to make sense of those things.” Responsible for some of the most addictive, glorious pop bangers over the last year, Sandridge’s debut album is a veritable feast of 1980s inspired synthpop and rock genius with melodies and riffs to die for, topped by Sandridge’s powerful, emotive vocals. We recently caught up with Bec to find out all about her career and making her first album.
How are things in the world of Bec can I say ‘denim queen’ Sandridge these days?
I'm currently sitting on a wooden bench overlooking Wollongong beach, so it's pretty good today. I've moved back to Wollongong so it's really nice and relaxing. Whenever I’m doing anything musical I fly down to Melbourne because my band’s there and my manager's there and all that stuff, so it's nice. I get to have the calm of Wollongong and then the more music-y stuff away, which is nice.
Your first album is out today and what an amazing feat that is. Can give us a timeline how you powerhoused your way into the industry?
It kind of happened in a weird freakish kind of way. I was in this really bad blues and roots band when I was 21 and I was just playing guitar. The lead singer went overseas for 6 months and our booking agent at the time called us and he was like ‘I've got a support slot for you’. I said ‘The lead singer’s away’ and he said ‘You can probably sing’ and he just hung up! He had no idea my biggest fear literally was to sing in front of anyone, but I always wanted to do it. So I did the gig and then I went over to Europe and met up with some musicians who asked me to go on tour with them. I was studying English at the time at university to become an English high school teacher and my mum said ‘You've always wanted to do this, just defer university’. Like. the worst parental advice anyone has ever given their kid - give up a reliable steady income! I did that for maybe six months and while I was living in Scotland I emailed one of my songs to a bunch of radio stations in Australia and it ended up premiering on Triple J. I was like ‘I should probably fly home and then see how it goes…’ From that moment I quit all of the shitty boring jobs and decided to give it a crack.
You worked with Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper) and Oscar Dawson (Holy Holy) on the album which is just incredible. They're two very distinct artists, how do you feel that their different styles influenced your album?
Gab is a synth lord and Oscar's a guitar lord, so it was a very conscious choice. At the time I was listening to a lot of German manic club music but also a lot of late 70s 80s punk, like Siouxsie and the Banshees and the more punky Cyndi Lauper stuff. So i was thinking ‘How can I mash up anxious club with gritty guitars. I’d met Gab, we'd been friends for a while, I met Oscar also. It was kind of a no brainer to get them both in the same room. My main instrument is guitar and Oscar's guitar playing is so different to mine so it made sense in terms of covering all bases.
I wanted to talk about your track ‘I’ll Never Want A Boyfriend.’ You’ve got this punch pop song with your beautiful warbling vocals. then you've got your synth dipped melodies with that kick drum percussion. However inside your lyrics you're talking about confronting this sort of tradition that was probably forced on you to be straight. This story has been told before of course, but what I love is it's usually told with a piano or with a sad acoustic guitar and a moment where you cry in the bath, whereas you’re turning it into this floor filler. I think it’s brilliant. What was the inspiration behind doing that?
I think it's something that most women probably struggle with daily. For me I was in a really angry spot at the time and feeling really frustrated. i grew up in this tongue-in-cheek household and my family deal with different topics through humour. so I feel ‘I’ll Never Want A Boyfriend’ is definitely a tongue firmly planted in the cheek kind of song. The fun in the song comes from learning that you have control in that situation to assert boundaries and to just be like ‘actually, fuck you.’ I think it's just a change in perspective rather than feeling helpless. I wanted it to feel meaty and muscly and empowered rather than ‘poor me’. I came out to my mum, who's Pentecostal Christian, and my dad who was pretty homophobic. At the time I did feel like a bit of a victim and over time I've learnt to try to be more understanding and so have they. Initially [the song] came from anger but then I was like ‘How can I make this conversation more approachable and more conversational rather than yelling at you?’
I'm hoping you're flying the flags for more of these to happen. There's the acoustic sad moment, there's the shouty moment and non-accusational. Because of that, people are wanting to get into the lyrics and wanting to get into the story. So well done you, love it.
I had a really good chat to [Triple J presenter] Linda Marigliano about that song and she was said “I didn't even realise it was a coming out song…I resonated with it on a level of every time I see my nonna she's asking ‘where's your boyfriend, where's your boyfriend?’”
Then we've got ‘Stranger’ which has got this killer video with split screen. Can you talk me through the inspiration behind the video?
I worked with a girl called Tanzer and she has this ability to create these raunchy nightmare kind of manic manic things. I gave her the song and she came back to me and said ‘oh this is about being anxious in your body.’ I said to her I wanted it to feel like you’re on the precipice of a panic attack. She just really got it. it's the first time I kind of really trusted someone visually with my song which was really cool. I hate being in front of a camera, I get stressed, so it was kind of funny given the song. But we wanted it to be stressful but in a really beautiful way. It’s finding the beauty in anxiety and I think once you see it as a thing that can help you connect with yourself and connect with other people, I think it's a really cool thing.
You said that you don't enjoy being in front of the camera. The look you have, there's a kind of Gaga element to it in the fact that you have got this really beautiful painted face, you've got the power suit, you’ve got the eyebrows, the hair and it's almost like a front. Would you say that's intentional that you use that as a barrier and a protection - like a stage persona - or is that just you all the time?
Yeah, good question. I don't know. I've always been interested in seventies, eighties theatrics and it's a facet of who I am and it's something that I really enjoy. I love theatrical elements. I love when stuff’s in your face. I love drag. I don't feel like dissociative or separate to it. it feels very much a part of who I am. In the past when people have commented on how I look, of course it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but as a woman people are always commenting on your look. So maybe it is subconsciously a bit of a reclaiming of control over how I look. Maybe that's in there.
Your recently collaborated with fashion label Vovo and this is where you got the denim queen title - that’s one hell of a power suit in the ‘Stranger’ video. What was the desire to go there?
I'm stressed about performing in this denim suit - sweaty time! I've worked with Vovo for a while and often I’m a really bad drawer so I just draw up some shapes of things that I like. With the suit, I was like ‘I want the daggiest denim suit but very angular.’ I have this weird thing at the moment where I'm obsessed with asymmetrical shapes. I got my hairdresser to lop off one side of my hair. I just wanted something big, angular, denim. it’s very Grace Jones-y, David Byrne-y. I just thought why not?
There's been a lot of debate recently around the treatment of women in the entertainment industry across the board - film, television, the lot. What are your thoughts on sexism in the music industry? Do you think we have a problem?
Yeah, of course. I think everywhere there's a problem. From there being no being sanitary bins or sometimes in change rooms at festivals where there's been no curtains to get changed, assuming everyone's comfortable getting changed in front of other people. There should be safe space policy everywhere for people, so they feel safe going to bathrooms. There’s just so many things that could be improved upon that are just not that difficult to change. As an artist I think we have a responsibility as managers, venue managers, booking agents just to keep everyone accountable so everyone feels safe, everyone feels included. I feel like that's 100% not there yet. It's hard because everyone needs to be responsible. it's almost like a self-surveillance kind of culture.
Do you think we're getting better?
I think we're definitely getting better. It’s all in the language, non-accusatory language is so important. Not everyone has the same education, not everyone has the same background so it's really important to keep all of those things in mind and be open. I think anger has its place but patience does too.
Before we wrap up on Try + Save Me, what is your favourite track?
Hmm... good question. I quite like ‘Even Love’, that one I feel emotional when I sing that one, so I like that one.
And lastly what is up next in the creativity crater for Bec Sandridge?
I'm actually writing for my next album… whatever form it takes. Hopefully at the start of next year we'll be going overseas and I never take my band overseas, which will be amazing. I feel excited because some of these songs I wrote a while ago, so I’m keen to push it further and see what I want to write about because right now I’m not 100% sure. But my manager's like ‘okay let's go Bec.’ So yeah, just writing and getting excited for next year.
The Try + Save Me national tour kicks off today. Tickets on sale now from www.becsandridge.com
Friday 4th October - The Foundry, Brisbane
Saturday 5th October - The Northern, Byron Bay (FREE ENTRY)
Saturday 12th October - Hobart Brewing Company, Hobart
Friday 18th October - Cats @ Rocket Bar, Adelaide
Saturday 19th October - Howler, Melbourne
Friday 25th October - Lansdowne, Sydney
Saturday 26th October - UC Hub, Canberra
Friday 8th November - UniBar, Wollongong