Not too long ago, down in Deptford, SALUTE caught up with Passion Bel Canon who have been in great form since their latest recordings and EP release. The trio is part of the SALUTE class of 2017, performing their music at festivals and gigs over the summer with a pretty immense live show that is designed to resist creative dilution and gender tropes. Their idiosyncrasies will prevail, as well Lauren’s dramatic vocals, and we think that’s just grand!
- SALUTE: I understand that you funded your EP through a Kickstarter campaign, that also meant working with Werkhouse?
Jamie: Wow, yeah, it feels like ages ago now.
Will: We had been playing for a while. We wanted to record but it was our first attempt and we didn’t know how to go about it.
The Kickstarter model really interested us. All our friends and family were supportive for us to record so we thought we’d give it a try. It was really fun.
Jamie: We didn’t have a huge fan base but we thought it would be a good way to galvanise that.
Lauren: You felt your heart swelling up as you watched the money grow and words of support. People were so generous. We had friends that recorded us the promo video. Everyone joined together to help. Friends who are creative in their own right helped us. When we reached our target and went above our target, it was amazing. We kept a bit aside for the promotion campaign. Working with WerkHouse was great. The guys there have been working in music and have their new model of how to produce and record.
Jamie: They spent a lot of time with us to understand our sound and how we created our music. It was a genuine investment in us and it paid off for what we got out of it.
- SALUTE: What happened after the EP?
Lauren: We wanted to move forward with a single, but that was limited. With the whole EP as recorded evidence of what we could do, we played the main stage at Farmfest which was amazing. Quite scary but we really enjoyed it. Tom Robinson played our song on BBC 6 Music! It was a great feeling that people really enjoyed what we created. It allowed us to step up and do bigger things.
Will: We learnt a lot together. We look back on that and feel a lot more confident now recording new stuff.
Jamie: Not everything went to plan, there were some learning curves and trying to manage expectations.
Lauren: After some interest from a Swedish publisher we ended up going to a Swedish festival which was our first time playing abroad. Getting our gear on to a plane, getting our stuff across the city…
Jamie: We spent like half a day running around desperately trying to find a keyboard stand (laughs).
Lauren: It was one of those things where you learn to manage expectations. It was great though, we felt like we wanted to tour more afterwards.
Will: The other artists there from all over the world was really invigorating. There was a mad Norwegian experimental band and it was inspiring to have all of that creativity come together was cool. We also did a music video from the EP. I’ve loved film my whole life. I used to watch a lot of music videos on MTV2 when I was younger so it was dream come true for me. Getting involved with the independent movie scene was great.
Lauren: We managed to get help from friends who themselves are skilled film makers, they let us borrow all of their stuff which meant we had really amazing videos, even on our budget.
- SALUTE: Calling in some favours!
Lauren: Yes exactly. It’s great to see that they are also benefiting from the work. ‘Lights’ was picked up by the London Independent Film Festival which was great for the director, Will Bloomfield. Mattew Stuart Smith who directed ‘Stranger’, got some more work for music videos. Being able to draw from other art forms is always inspiring. My sister designed the artwork for the cover of the EP.
- SALUTE: How did you guys meet? It was on a musician’s version of Tinder right?
Will: So yeah, I put up the ad so technically this is my band (laughs).
Lauren: I was looking for a guitarist and Will was looking for a vocalist. We met in a coffee shop and it went from there.
Will: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I just wanted to meet up with another musician and collaborate.
Lauren: It just kinda worked out and we started working together and spent the whole evening playing music together. We wrote some tracks that Will recorded on Fruity Loops.We put a track on Soundcloud called Metamorphosis. We suddenly thought we needed a drummer. Up went an advert with a demo and Jamie got back to us.
Jamie: Yeah I was nervous but we geeked out about Flying Lotus for like half an hour on the phone which was great.
Lauren: The first few times we played together it was cool but our songs have changed now because the first two songs Will and I had written, and then after that we started writing together as a band.
Jamie: After about 6 months, maybe one year, it was like we got our sound.
- SALUTE: Cool. So where did you grow up? What were you up to before the band?
Will: I grew up in Southampton. I studied film at uni and realised that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a director. I moved up to London so that I could do something creative. I used to play in bands, there is a scene for bands but you quite quickly think about leaving to go to Bristol, London, or Berlin where there are bigger scenes.
Lauren: I’m from Dudley in the West Midlands. My journey down to London was on the back of breakup. I have an acting background so I’ve always been in performance and loved music. When I got to London I missed playing music and needed an outlet. I needed someone to collaborate with and to build up my confidence again.
- SALUTE: What was Dudley like? Was there much of a music scene in Dudley?
Lauren: It’s a town. It’s the capital of the ‘Black Country’. It’s the salt of the earth, the people are part of an old industrial town. The name comes from the old steel, iron, and chain factories that Queen Victoria commented made the land black with smoke and soot. The people there are very proud, with their own dialect. I love being part of that place but I also love the energy and opportunities in the city. The music scene was mainly Birmingham. The Midlands is the home of heavy metal so it’s got its own musical histories and there are a lot of music lovers in the Midlands. It would be great to play back there.
- SALUTE: What about you Jamie?
Jamie: I grew up in West London, Teddington. I am officially the old man of the band. I’ve played in quite a few bands over the years. I went to uni in Leeds, and played with bands up there. I started to get more interested in electronic music around then as well. When I moved back to London I continued exploring electronic music more and played in electro bands.
- SALUTE: What music did you guys grow up on?
Will: My parents met because of their love of music. So ‘Genesis’ is like my first memory of music. I was interested in music and they could see that I was interested and would encourage that. Being part of the MTV generation, I used to just get home from school and sit and watch music videos. I’ve been in bands since year 8 and we were on Myspace back then. Music was a big part of my identity at school. My friends from then are also in music and doing great things with Resident Advisor and Brownswood.
Lauren: My parents always played music. My mum was enthusiastically into Queen! Which is probably where I get my dramatic voice from, it’s a big voice! Fleetwood Mac, The Who, the Beatles – I listened to a lot of big singers growing up. Both of my parents play instruments, guitar and violin. Music was always part of the family, but I was also really interested in acting. Singing was always my instrument and that’s how I got into it. For me the voice is the important bit. My family in Dudley has been really supportive.
Jamie: Neither of my parents are musicians. They had a lot of influence of music from the 60’s. My mum absolutely loved The Beatles and I always remember the car trips with my dad blasting out Talking Heads. My mum got me into Steve Reich as well.
- SALUTE: What was the first song you wrote?
Will: The first song I wrote was cheesy as hell. I used to write bits on a tiny keyboard but I can’t remember.
Lauren: I always did bits when I was little. I wrote a song for the first time on the piano at my house after my most recent breakup. The songwriting process now with the band is a process where we can add all of our ideas together to make a whole song.
Will: Everything now is fair game together.
Lauren: We all come in and add something different together and explore stuff together.
- SALUTE: What gear do you use for production?
Jamie: Well we all seem to think we are in a different band. We have two macs on stage now. To get to where we are now is a long process. It was all very acoustic when we started. I was playing on a standup cocktail drum kit. Which has been added to more and more with little bits of percussion and electronic trigger pads as well. We mainly use Ableton.
Will: We use Ableton as a sound engine. We had a band rule:
The common trend of two male geeks who do all of the soundscapes and the female up front who only sings we made a pledge not to fall into that trope and ever use click tracks or backing tracks.
Lauren: We play as much as we can live and the dynamic on stage is great. It’s a good energy on stage to be playing live. But some serious moments of nerve-wracking moments. You do get moments of thinking ‘is it all going to work today?’
- SALUTE: How much do you follow a methodology for your creativity and songwriting together now?
Will: We’re all potential over-thinkers, and we have a lot of different influences which means we have to always justify to each other what we want to contribute which is great, it just means that it can take some time. Especially because we all also have a really open-mind as to what can happen to a song or idea. Things bounce around a lot.
Lauren: The story telling doesn’t always rely on the pop formula for songwriting.
Will: Yeah, it’s great to mould a song to a story rather than just using a fixed formula. It’s more dynamic and personally, I take a lot of inspiration from bands like Supertramp who made short little songs that had a lot of different textures and sounds.
- SALUTE: Do you write songs for the live show?
Will: We write for live performances.
Jamie: Our live performances reflect the recordings that we have done now, but leading up to this point we have always written for live performance.
Lauren: Some of the recordings have started to influence the live shows now which is good.
- SALUTE: How do you make music and the band work at the same time?
Will: we did the Kickstarter to fund the EP, but most of the time we are just making it happen out of hours and doing alright.
Lauren: Just about managing (JAM government acronym there). I’ve always been a freelancer and having a full-time job recently has been difficult.
Will: It’s better that there are only three of us in terms of practical scheduling.
- SALUTE: How did you find out about SALUTE and what do you think about it?
Lauren: I’m really excited about it! I found out about SALUTE on the Unsigned Music Guide and I was really motivated to enter to see where we can get to. It’s an amazing opportunity for songwriters. With the industry at the moment it’s a clique. Being able to make stuff ourselves and have the opportunity that SALUTE brings is amazing.