SHE DREW THE GUN’s second album, Revolution Of Mind, hits the stands in October, off the back of the slow-burning success of 2016’s Memories Of The Future. Produced by The Coral’s James Skelly at Parr Street Studios, it sees singer-songwriter and guitarist Louisa Roach rage against the injustices of the world around us, and laying out possible solutions.
The roots of this egalitarian impulse can be found even in her early musical interests. The first gig Louisa attended was Oasis at Manchester Maine Road in 1996. She must have been about 14 or 15 years old, she reckons. The Gallaghers, as it turns out, are an important part of her music-making history; she learnt to play guitar using an It’s Easy To Play Oasis chord book. What a journey she’s been on from then to now, musically speaking and in myriad other ways.
“That book is an important book in my life,” she laughs. “I think [Oasis] invaded the whole consciousness. Everyone loved the songs, learned the songs, played the songs, enjoyed singing them. I think the Oasis thing made guitars cool again.”
What’s more, Oasis coming from a working class background, gaining a voice and being proud to use it, was a valuable example for northern creatives of the time. “There was the north-versus-south thing with Blur… it did become an identity thing,” Louisa explains to me as we’re sat in The Casa, Liverpool’s own symbol of resistance and of power in solidarity. “[They were] northern, working class lads, but everyone got involved.”
The power of Oasis’ songs are hidden, in a way; the choruses carry a life-affirming vibe rather than any solid meaning. Louisa agrees. “[Noel Gallagher’s] lyrics don’t especially make sense. They’re vague enough not to be pinned down to anything, but they’re also poetic, aren’t they? My favourite is always Noel and an acoustic guitar. I used to collect all the singles and go straight home to play the B-sides; the B-sides are what I loved the most. I’ve still got all the singles at home.”
Before Oasis, she got into The Beatles and John Lennon. “When I was 12 I heard [Lennon’s] Working Class Hero for the first time – it was on the end of a film and I rewound the film loads of times and wrote down all the lyrics. I was like, ‘Wow’. It was a social analysis in a song. There was no social media or anything, [so] you got your social analysis from the arts – that was an important song for me.”
For Louisa, Lennon’s vocal delivery is crucial. “When men sing, it’s a vulnerable kind of thing to do, isn’t it? I love anything John Lennon anyway – there’s a vulnerability to men singing which is a bit different [to] women,” she tells me. Which brings us neatly onto the subject of the new album. Revolution Of Mind is threaded through with sociopolitical themes, issues around gender non-conformity being one.
“With [lead single] Resister, I wanted to do a song that reached out to people that feel pushed out or at the edges of what’s going on in society. Keep fighting, keep resisting. It’s a shout out to everyone that’s doing something different.”
The social construct of gender is limiting; as I put it to Louisa, it’s a credit to the human race that none of us are gender conforming, not really. We all rebel and break the rules. She nods. “We’re a massive spectrum, aren’t we?” Yes! Because if we weren’t, all men would be like Action Men and women would be like Barbie. Even Barbie is in some sort of paid employment these days. “Have they given her a job now?” laughs Louisa. “The patriarchy is bad on men as well as women. It tells boys it’s not OK to cry and to shut off from their emotions – they’ve got to be ‘masculine’.” This is what made a nakedly sensitive male voice like Lennon’s so radical for Louisa.
The word count on Revolution Of Mind, I point out, is 2,700. Proof on its own that you, Louisa Roach, have a hell to a lot to say to the world. True? “I suppose!” she chuckles. The idea that knowledge is power, which the album riffs off conceptually, is something we’re not always aware of, I remark.
“What I’m saying with that is, I don’t think anyone’s going to hand stuff to you… in school, you’re gonna learn the government approved version of how we got to where we are, as a society. If you wanna learn…then you have to go and find it, read and discover. That does give you power. Just for yourself.”
This learning process, or as she puts it, “making the lens a bit bigger”, started for her with listening to the likes of the aforementioned Lennon and Bob Marley. “It gave me a grounding… [after a while,] I found myself living a more everyday kind of existence – well, not everyday… I don’t know how to put it, but I found myself needing another wave of educating myself when I was a bit older and after I had my son. The last thing I was doing before I got into music, [which] overlapped with me writing my own songs, was studying psychology for five years, because I did a Masters as well. I got into reading again, not necessarily mainstream psychology, but reading about all the philosophers, sociology… Being hungry to know what other people say about the world, and making the power structures that are there more visible by what they write about; I like that kind of stuff.”
The title track of the album arrives about two thirds of the way through the record. In the She Drew The Gun tradition of using spoken word to maximum effect – Poem (recently chosen by Steve Lamacq as one of his top 25 songs to mark his quarter century at the BBC) being an obvious reference point – Generation Of Mind is a stand-out listening experience; the medium of spoken word gives the messages within it more muscle.
“When you do spoken word, it makes everyone stop what they are doing and listen. I’ve done that sometimes at the start of a gig because everyone shuts up, and their attention is on you, because they want to hear what you’re saying. I really do think people want to hear the words.”
The #MeToo movement, stretching over the last 12 months, is not just women sharing stories. #MeToo is also a massive instruction for men to shut up and listen. And this is not a polite request, either. Revolution Of Mind encapsulates that feeling, especially when performed live.
“Kate Tempest, she commands the attention of everyone. It’s something I admire in women when they do it. I think the #MeToo movement is amazing. I feel there’s a massive difference now and you can feel it in the air. It hasn’t reached everywhere, but the vocabulary that surrounds it is becoming more and more everyday… feminism has stopped being a dirty word.”
Louisa admires a number of feminist voices throughout history, including folk singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds (SDTG covered her No Hole In My Head), author and poet Marge Piercy, through to today’s names like Kate Tempest and Nadine Shah. I mention the Nadine Shah show at Leaf at the beginning of the year. Although everyone had a splendid time and took in Shah’s political and social messages, I couldn’t help but think that she was preaching to the converted, in a way. What does Louisa hope to achieve with the new She Drew The Gun album? What will people take away from it?
“Anyone who comes to a She Drew The Gun gig is probably on the same page. It’s more about collecting everyone together and going ‘Shall we enjoy some new music that’s about that shit?’” she smiles. “I try not to be preachy, but it’s the same as if you go and watch Kate Tempest, you know what you’re going to get – someone speaking about all this shit, but [the reaction] is, ‘Wow, I love what she’s just said, it’s blown me away’.”
So, collecting people together, is that a driving force here?
“If everyone at the bottom started to gather consciousness, to realise we can change things… movements are changing people’s consciousness, gathering people together. Trying to connect with people is an important part of it.”
Revolution Of Mind is released on 5th October on Skeleton Key Records. She Drew The Gun support The Coral at Mountford Hall on 12th October and play a UK headline tour in February and March 2019.