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Escape Velocity

The Avalanche Of Rose: An Interview With Keel Her
Stuart Huggett , March 18th, 2014 09:33

Mixing surf pop, punk and electronics, the songs on Keel Her's debut album are just a sample of Rose Keeler-Schäffeler's prolific home-recorded output. With bandmate Andrew Barnes, she talks to Stuart Huggett about getting out of the bedroom

"I used to work in a pub in Winchester," recalls Rose Keeler-Schäffeler. "I'd work 'til three, record a song, go back at six and work all night, then do it again the next day. It was a good system. The pub's shut down now."

"It was a good system," agrees her partner, Keel Her guitarist Andrew Barnes, "But at the time it felt like it was destroying you."

The pair are chatting with me outside another pub, in Brighton's North Laine. It's Friday evening, the start of their last weekend in the city as they prepare to move to London for proper, grown-up career reasons as much as musical ones. Casual, mutual friends, knocking off from work in nearby shops, wander past and say hi. Although I've never met either musician around town before, I'm already feeling slightly sad to see them go.

Keel Her, their first full album on Critical Heights, follows on from a rapid run of 7" and cassette releases - for labels including O Genesis, Italian Beach Babes and Gnar Tapes - in the past couple of years. Even the deluge of Keeler-Schäffeler songs on these physical bulletins pales next to the amount of music she's posted online since 2010, initially on Myspace and SoundCloud but now available from Keel Her's Bandcamp page. Her collection of 2012 demos alone runs to a staggering 82 tracks.

Is recording songs so regularly like keeping a diary?

Rose Keeler-Schäffeler: Yeah, I suppose. I just did demos every year and stockpiled them together. I don't do it so much now, but I used to write a song every day and I wanted them to be like a stream of consciousness.

Andrew Barnes: Sometimes there's stuff that's happened in life and suddenly there'll be a song about it. Like, I had a kebab once and then the next day there was a song called 'Dogmeat' – "I saw someone eat dog meat."

When you were recording a song every day, did you expect they'd be heard beyond your own SoundCloud?

RKS: Not really. I was surprised when Critical Heights made contact. At first they emailed me and I was like, "Nah, I don't wanna do that", and then I realised that we got money for it. But I wasn't really angling to get released physically, I was happy just staying online.

AB: We had barely even played live when Critical Heights approached. I think that's part of the reason why it took us so long to do a debut album in the first place, because it came as such as shock and we hadn't really got our stuff together. It's a luxury in a way, because we were lucky enough to be approached by a label and we didn't have to have been touring in a band.

Have you been in other groups before?

RKS: No, I haven't. I have stage fright so I think that's why I write everything myself and record it in my room. I would like to be, I'm just probably not good enough. But you have.

AB: Yeah, I've been in bands before. I was in a terrible post-hardcore Biffy Clyro band when I was 16 and then I was in a band with my friends Martin and Emily, so it's not like I'm a veteran, but I have been in a couple.

RKS: Oh, actually I played in Royal Limp for a bit.

You must be getting asked to play live more often now.

RKS: Yeah, we do get asked a lot and to do festivals and stuff like that. Usually I try and ignore them.

AB: We're hoping to do a tour at some point this year. In this period where we haven't really had a stable live band, we only do the shows where we would actually enjoy the bill. It still feels awkward to be on a bill with bands who wouldn't even follow you round and hang out. That's why we've played with The Bomber Jackets, and White Fang – who I know Rose is a big fan of – and we've played with Sealings, who we lived with, an awful lot.

How did your collaborations with R. Stevie Moore come about?

RKS: I contacted him because I wrote a song called 'Robert', which goes "I just wanna be like R. Stevie Moore". He ignored it for ages and then replied and was really into it. He said "Come and stay", so I did. I stayed at his house for two weeks and I didn't play any shows or anything. We just recorded together in his studio in Nashville. There's an album that we did [Wedding Album, see Moore's own Bandcamp page] that's not finished and we recorded that single ['With Me Tonight'/'Boner Hit'] that Tim Burgess released. It was a really strange place, because there were no young people. Maybe in downtown Nashville there were, but where I was staying there weren't any, so people would just come up and talk to me.

Have you made contact with many other like-minded musicans?

RKS: Yeah, there's a couple of people, like Whorish Boorish and her boyfriend, who's called Ben Eroglu. I like collaborating with other people, they'll send me their stuff and I'll sing on it.

AB: We've got those connections here as well, but you do seem to be good at like finding people, like Rebecca, who is Whorish Boorish.

RKS: Yeah, she just followed me on SoundCloud, so one day when I started getting loads of followers I just went through everyone and I was like, this is really good.

Do you find people approach you as if you're some kind of outsider musician figure?

RKS: I think so, because I write so much and I'm not like a perfectionist.

AB: It seems to be either people think you'll be the weirdest person in the world who's only thinking about music and putting up a song a day and stuff, or they go with the whole "It's surf pop!" view, that I think doesn't take into account the whole album. I don't know how people would get the impression from listening to your Bandcamp stuff that it would be all Wavves-ish, like, "Smoke weed man!"

RKS: It's probably because of 'Riot Girl'. That was the most popular song and that was just like 'So Bored' by Wavves.

By giving the song that title, were you identifying yourself with riot grrrl as a movement?

RKS: Well I listen to a lot of riot grrrl, but I wouldn't really say that it's the same sound as us. But I really like Kathleen Hanna, especially the Julie Ruin album. I listen to that a lot and I wanted to sound a bit like that. She spent hardly any money 'cos she just got her equipment and did it in her room and that's basically what we did. We didn't go into any studios and stuff.

AB: Well it's what you've always done, before anything to do with this album.

RKS: Yeah, I just want, especially for my sister, for people to feel like they can make their own music, that you don't have to have all the equipment and somewhere to record. You can just do it in your room on your own accord and you don't have to have people telling you what to do or anything. I haven't had a place to record for so long though. When I first moved here I had my own bedroom, so I did that all the time, but obviously I had to move around. And then we shared a bedroom, shared a single bed. But once we're settled then we can definitely start doing SoundCloud stuff every day again.

Finally, I did hear you'd applied for The Apprentice this year.

RKS: Oh yeah. I just applied for The Apprentice once when I was really drunk. I can't remember what I said, I think I was just like, "I use eBay a lot and sell stuff", and then they sent me an email. I got an interview.

AB: We were in a cab the other day and suddenly we were, "Oh, The Apprentice, when was that interview you were supposed to go to?" "Oh that was yesterday." 'Cos I always think maybe we could write a business plan and pretend that we're the business proposition, but to be honest we'd have been thrown out on our arses if Sugar had got wind of it. Like, do you remember that band Hamfatter who were on Dragon's Den? We were gonna go for a Hamfatter kind of vibe. All you've got to do is invent a team name that sounds dynamic, like 'Ultrawax'. I don't think it was ever really a very viable plan.

RKS: They make everyone look like an idiot, but I think I would've been pretty good at that. I probably wouldn't have got through anyway, though. I don't even have any business wear, and you have to wear business wear.

AB: There's always next year.

Keel Her's self-titled album is out now on Critical Heights. More releases are available from the Keel Her Bandcamp.

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