blogARAMA

WE ARE LISA WELLARD

by Jody Gadsden

Rachel and Lisa, circa 1996: Havering Sixth Form College, Upminster

Rachel and Lisa, circa 1996: Havering Sixth Form College, Upminster

I’m not much of an extrovert. In fact I’d go as far to say I dislike being the center of attention - a bit odd for a singer in a band, I know. 

I don’t much like having my photo taken. There’s something a bit cringe-worthy about band photoshoots: standing about, pretending to be a model. 

On the other hand, we’ve been lucky enough to have worked with many inspiring, talented (and patient) photographers over the years who have made the whole process fun and, somehow, made us look alright too. 

The person who has taken our picture the most is Lisa Wellard.  I've have been friends with Lisa since we met aged 17 at Havering Sixth Form College in Essex - that's her in the picture above, with my best mate Rachel.  

A group of us would hop on the 25 bus from Romford to London and go to Popstarz at The Scala - and that’s when I first started writing music.  

Popstarz in 2000: Rachel, me, Lisa and Daniel 

Popstarz in 2000: Rachel, me, Lisa and Daniel 

Lisa and Rachel were into dressing like mod girls at the time (it wasn’t the 60s, I’m not that old - there was a revival in the late 90s).  When they turned up at my house dressed to the nines, they made my mum cry because they both reminded her of her youth - nostalgia, nostalgia...
 
Lisa has pretty much photographed Autoheart from the very beginning, in 2007 when it was just Simon and me and we were called The Gadsdens right through to this years pictures which we shot in my mum’s back garden.  The thing I love about Lisa is that she makes us all feel so comfortable.  There’s no script, no styling, it’s as much directed by us all on the day and she manages to get the most natural shots. Nothing feels posed or awkward with Lisa. 

Michael Hutchence eat your heart out. 

Michael Hutchence eat your heart out. 

The first shoot we did, above, was taken in Hackney Wick where I lived at the time. I was very slight back then and had rather long, rusty-coloured locks - I can assure you that although my barnet looked good in this picture, day to day it was an absolute mess and the bane of my existence often covered with a hat or worse still, a bandana. 
Simon is still able to master that blue steel, look-to-the-side, chinny glance and often pops it out nowadays at photoshoots. 
This was our first experience working with Lisa - we were a bit wooden but she managed to get some great shots out of us, one thing she complained about was that we both blinked incessantly, something I still do rather a lot even today. 

Sunday roast anyone?

Sunday roast anyone?

I think this was early 2008 and the band now included Barney and David. It was perhaps the best photoshoot ever because Rachel - who I lived with then - rustled up a full roast dinner. 
We posed for about 15 minutes and then ate it all and got sloshed on wine. 
This was a pretty elaborate and staged set of pictures but Lisa made it work with her usual unplanned and natural style. 

Before Punch was released we had been joined by bassist Jihea Oh and we went with Lisa to Abney Park, the spooky old cemetary in Stoke Newington - after raiding Rachel’s dressing up box. I think we were thinking we’d look a bit Fleetwood Mac-eccentric. Don’t know if we pulled that off but I still like the shots. 

They don't call him Simon 'Legs' Neilson for nothing...

They don't call him Simon 'Legs' Neilson for nothing...

We were shot twice by Lisa before I Can Build A Fire came out - David, our drummer, finally decided trawling round with us was a bit distracting from bringing up his daughter (sensible man), and Jihea had gone on to tour the world with various bands. 

The black and white pictures were taken in my old flat - it took about half an hour and it really did just feel like we were spending a lazy Saturday afternoon catching up with a mate. I think the pictures look like that.

Five become three...

Five become three...

For recent the garden pics, we bought a bunch of stupid shirts from Asos (and sent them all back) - a leopard print number I wore divided opinion.
It was grey and almost raining the whole afternoon (not cold), but for a few seconds the sun popped out and hit us right in the face as we were sitting on this funny wooden bench that my Mum has, and Lisa took a shot. 
The reason we all look so quizzical is because none of us can actually see, because of the light.
Anyway, it was totally unplanned, a bit Abba-ish (Simon’s power hand) and I love it. 
Afterwards, we had rows because Barney thinks he looks like he’s doing ‘blue steel’ but we wore him down eventually. If you look closely, there’s a tear in his eye... 

 

WE ARE Anne haight

                                                        by Simon

Anyone who has heard our recent single 'Oxford Blood' will have now heard the instantly appealing tones of Anne Haight, a supremely gifted German-born solo artist based in Berlin who we were lucky enough to have feature on our second album.

We first met Anne when we were invited to a song writing boot camp in Berlin and were subsequently paired to co-write one song in one day. As the outsiders of the group, we were put together and given a studio room where we proceeded to play each other our best tracks - Anne's was an instantly impressive heart-tearing ballad called 'Mirror', ours was our debut single ‘The Sailor Song'. We decided on writing a song based on an idea that Anne had roughly sketched a few lyrics for; a quixotic love song framed around a Nintendo/Gameboy type set-up. The finished song titled 'Love Game' went on to be the lead single from her debut album 'In The Darkness', released earlier this year and just like us she released the album on her own record label confidently striding among a new wave of DIY artists.

Simon, Jody & Anne on the far right looking apprehensive...

Simon, Jody & Anne on the far right looking apprehensive...

Aside from our writing, we have built a chance musical bond through the teaming of Jody's vocal against Anne's. To us, they complement each other just like Johnny & June. Anne has a unique quality to her voice that strikes a familiar tone against an influx of Nordic singers to reach the mainstream (although she is German), yet she gives something completely fresh and distinctive that sets her aside. She is confidently fragile in her delivery, whether live or recorded she is faultless. When I pressed her for music she feels has influenced her vocal style and production she responded that she always comes back to four main artists; Feist, Kate Bush, Bat for Lashes and Beach House. That latter of which I feel draws the most "dream-pop" comparisons when listening to her debut album

On a follow up trip to Berlin we met up to continue writing and whilst there I had asked Anne if she would kindly lend her vocals to our album. The idea was to create a sound that had multi-layered backing vocals, evoking a hybrid sound somewhere between ABBA and Fleetwood Mac. After layering up 'Oxford Blood' and 'We Can Build A Fire' we decided to switch things up and try Anne out on 'Joseph'. We tried lots of variations, eventually removing parts of Jody's vocal to feature Anne as an equally weighted partner on the song. It's a magical moment on the album as it feels like they are completely connected by the title character.

With her album only recently released she has a planned remix album in the works as well as acoustic versions of the debut tracks. Anne said "I got really excited about all the opportunities in the studio whilst I was working on "In the Darkness“, now I feel like I really want to record the very first guitar or piano versions of those songs - to have the timeless version, or a version without any make up or accessories." Anne is also busy writing new material for her next album, early listens giving hints of country and is reminiscent of the recent Case/Lang/Viers album.

She is fortunate to live in a country where the government provides bursaries to live and work freely on creative projects, a national drive which actively supports creativity and economic growth through grant funding distributed across Germany. It means she gets to travel, spend time working with producers and artists and embrace the idea that collaboration can produce some of the best results. Anne added "I hope I can collaborate with other artists more in the future as it’s always so nice to be part of a great musical project. It is really wonderful to be part of Autoheart's new album”.

We of course plan on continuing our writing relationship together and also involve her in our live performances that are currently planned for early next year.

 

WE ARE RAIN DOVE

 by Barney JC

Rain Dove 

Rain Dove 

I am a little bit in love with Rain Dove, who stars in our video for Oxford Blood.

I don’t think you can spend any time with her and not be.

Yeah, she’s political. She has a point to make. She can look tough and she can look soulful. There is something of the Warhol superstar about her.

But she’s also funny as hell.

It might be her video - now viewed more than 3.2million times - in protest at the LGBT-phobic Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. She is powerfully passionate in her campaign for change. But she does it with a that deadliest of weapons: a heavy dose of humour that only goes to show up how misplaced fear and outrage about 'difference' is.

And, as I said, she's playful rather than deadly earnest (despite being completely serious about her mission). Lots of her fans believe Jody’s vocal, which she lip-syncs to in Oxford Blood, is actually her voice. Rain loves this, and we do too. 

She says: “People often say I look like a guy, but the thing that gives me away is my voice. So I liked being able to have this deep voice. There was the opportunity to make people go: ‘What the fuck is that?’ That always turns me on a little bit.”

Rain's story is pretty well known now so I won't go over it - there are some great articles here and here.

There was however an interview she did the other day, in which she summed up her philosophy beautifully: ‘Gender is a state of mind.’ I just thought: Yes!

This isn't about 'neutralising' anyone's gender: It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with a girl wanting to be a princess in a tutu, or a boy wanting to be a the knight in shining armour.

But, and I’m speaking from experience here, if you’re a boy who feels more like the princess, and wants to wear a tutu, there are some pretty heavy societal pressures for you to not do that. And we should question that. 

As a queer person, I personally have never felt particularly ‘of’ a gender.

I’ve spent time worrying that others might not see me as ‘manly enough’ or ‘effeminate’. It’s a fairly common if not ubiquitous experience. 

I’m probably more likely to say ‘fuck it’ these days, or not really think about that kind of thing at all. 

But there are times I’m reminded: I might hear my voice in a recording and think I sound, well, gay. Is it ‘girly’? Something else? I’m not sure.

But there is that discomfort, that somehow we are exposed just by a physical fact of our being that we have no control over. I suppose that comes from a fear that something bad might happen to us if we are 'found out'. 

Or conversely someone might say (is this supposed to be a compliment? Just an observation? I’m never sure...) ‘I didn’t realise you were gay.’

But as I say, these things matter less to me now either way than they did when I was younger.

And besides, femininity or masculinity for that matter isn't something anyone should be ashamed of. As Rain would say, we are all human.

More Rain...

More Rain...

My closest and most comfortable relationships are and always have been with women.

When I was very little the main motivation I can remember was that girls had the best toys.

But I also recall telling anyone that would listen that there had been ‘a mistake at birth’ and that I wasn’t really a boy.

When I first went to primary school, I went in a dress because I often wore one and, I expect, I thought I looked like hot stuff.

My mother calls it my ‘transvestite years’ but it wasn’t about dressing up (although there was a LOT of dressing up).

I felt a sort of grief when I realised I would never be a pretty girl, no matter how much of Mum’s make-up I put on.

Later, I discovered that to get on, even if I wasn’t like other the boys I had to at least look like one.

I’m not saying I’ve had poor male role models – that isn’t true.

But throughout my life it has been women, many of them gay women, who have been my best mates, mentored me and become my role models.

And while I don’t feel any more that I am actually a girl, I also don’t value ‘manliness’ as something I necessarily need to aspire to either.

Call me what you like (just preferably not a total wanker).

I’m not saying Rain is totally responsible for an epiphany but her thought provoking work has helped me make sense of this. I think perhaps that is the reason she resonates so much with so many people.

She is also part of a bigger movement to highlight that gender is a rainbow, rather than just black or white.

Rain’s point of view and strength comes from her triumph over adversity: people around her when she was growing up not accepting that she looked like a girl should look like. But what the hell is that?

Rain's Victoria's Secret campaign

Rain's Victoria's Secret campaign

In her own words: “If I took away your arms, your genitals, your eyes and ears, you would still be you. You are something bigger. The body is just a vessel. I love having tits, and I love my vagina, but it’s not like I chose this whole thing. It just happened.”

Of course there are people who don’t get it and argue against it. Whether they feel threatened or called out, I don’t know. I suppose that no one likes to be told a long held idea is not really the whole truth.

The fact is, the majority of people do strongly identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. And that is cool, great even.

But there are those of us who exist elsewhere on a spectrum.

WE ARE RON ADAMS

Jody's next career on QVC beckons

Jody's next career on QVC beckons

THE cover of our album ‘I Can Build A Fire’ is a painting called Neptune by Australian artist Ron Adams, who makes the most incredible retro-futuristic psychedelic paintings and sculptures. Here is Jody with the painting, which - and this shows what an amazing guy he is - Ron gave to us. We love it, obviously. Here's the man himself...

We discovered each other totally by chance via Instagram in December last year – he liked a couple of our pictures and we instantly connected with his work.  
We knew we wanted the visuals for ‘I Can Build A Fire’  to be colourful and bold and a nod to one of the major influences on the sound of the album, Abba. 
His paintings seemed to have been made for us, and Neptune even has an A for Autoheart in it. 
Ron’s work is heavily influenced by the music he’s into – Slade, T Rex, The Smiths, Brian Eno and Philip Glass are just a few he mentions – and they all seem to look like incredible album covers. 
Some of them feature song lyrics – like the (incredible) installation Five Choices of Death:

In it, the coloured targets each represent countries where it is illegal to be gay. 
Ron said to me: ‘In some of the countries, being gay is punishable by death and you get given choices of how you want to be executed, which is what the title refers to. It was part of a bigger exhibition about “difference”. The choice of the Smiths lyric really summed up how despite being gay, and being seen as different, I just feel like a regular guy like anyone else.’

One our favourites it a piece called H.O.L.L.A.N.D. It’s the cover to our single Oxford Blood:

The red writing says ‘Hope our love lasts and never dies’. We didn’t know the meaning behind the painting until after we’d chosen it for the cover, and I was totally blown away when he told me: ‘Me and my partner, George have known each other since we were 10. We are both in our 50s now. A few years ago, he gave me a ring, and on the inside the inscription was H.O.L.L.A.N.D. Hope our love lasts and never dies.’ 

It’s sort of spooky that despite him being the other side of the world – and the fact we have never met – his pictures and our music feel like they’re made for each other. It makes you believe in fate!

Ron Adams is represented by Galerie Pom Pom 

Ron Adams is represented by Galerie Pom Pom 

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