DATE OF INTERVIEW:
8th September 2017
Described by one journo as "Music's Wonder Woman", Texas-born musician Erin Bennett formerly fronted the innovative and successful folk rock trio Syren. Said band came to an untimely end following the devastatingly sad death of drummer Jo Heeley (also Erin's wife) from breast cancer at the start of 2012. Syren performed their final gig, with a new lineup, early 2014. Since then, Erin has been slowly making her mark as a solo artist, with 2015 seeing the release of her debut album, 'ReFlowered'. Now, two years on, alongside the eponymously named EB Band, the talented vocalist/guitarist/songwriter's second solo work, 'Post Truth, Post Sexy', is soon to be unleashed. Progressing and evolving beyond the pop-rock orientation of 'ReFlowered', Erin's new platter of music has been touted as a heavied-up, more prog-edged offering. Metal Discovery met up with Erin, prior to her show, early-September, at The Doghouse in Nottingham, to discuss this change of stylistic course; ascetic and misguided feminism; the prestigious songwriting award she won in 2012; just what she thinks of the "Music's Wonder Woman" tag; and a whole lot more. The EB Band's rhythm section, bassist Finn (aka. Dog) and drummer Anna, sat in on the interview to sporadically join in discussions...
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather the new album will be called ‘Post Sexy, Post Truth’…
ERIN: That’s right, yeah.
(Erin Bennett on the title of her forthcoming new album, 'Post Sexy, Post Truth')
"...we’re in a society where if you’re sexy, you’re a slut; if you are in touch with your sexuality, you’re an absolute slut… and you’re not allowed to tell the truth. And if you tell the truth, you’re telling a lie, anyway, because nobody wants to hear it."
Erin Bennett at The Doghouse, Nottingham, UK, 8th September 2017
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2017 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: A very thought provoking title, so how should that be interpreted within the context of the album?
ERIN: Gosh… well… how do I explain this in a very short way? Basically, we released our first album, which was called ‘ReFlowered’, and we made every effort to cater to people and society, and particularly how feminists saw women in music or women in any kind of art. They were very happy and very quick to bitch about women who would take off all their clothes on stage… not all of their clothes, but show their boobs or anything like that. So, we aimed to tone that down and cater for them on our first album, and we still got the backlash from them. So we thought, right, we’re living in an era when, no matter what you do, feminists are gonna find something to bitch about. They’re gonna find some way to call you out for being against the cause and we basically decided, you know what, at the end of the day, men aren’t the enemy when it comes down to feminism… and I use little rabbit ears… [gestures quotation marks]. They’re not doing anything against us. I mean, we are the ones causing the problems if you call yourself a feminist… and I certainly don’t. That covers the ‘Post Sexy’ aspect of it. Forgive me if I’ve not made sense.
MD: No, that makes sense. I studied a lot of feminism for my Masters dissertation, so I’m fully aware of all the different branches of feminism and all the politics, so know where you’re coming from.
ERIN: Yeah, exactly. I think the biggest thing for me was that, okay, I’ve got big tits; I’ve got big hips… it’s not something that I can hide, and nor should I. It’s an aspect of my body character and it’s something that I’m really proud of. You know, I’ve worked very hard to stay in this shape, thank you!
ERIN: And it doesn’t matter what end of feminism I try to approach, they’re just never gonna let me in, because I’m singing about things that don’t suit the feminist cause. I’m wearing a crop top on stage and I’m proud of my features… which, unless I get them surgically removed, are gonna be a part of me. So, that covers the ‘Post Sexy’ aspect of it.
And the ‘Post Truth’ aspect is one of… all of the songs on this album, they immediately attack certain aspects of what I would call the human condition. And, you know, back in the 70s, it was totally fine for us to sit down and have a conversation about art and the meaning of life, and what are we, as humans, contributing to the world; where are we going… that sort of thing. Nobody talks like that anymore. So, hand-in-hand, these have been the two main problems that I, and we, have come across.
FINN: You have to watch what you say. You can’t tell the truth. You just have to constantly watch what you say, so that you don’t offend somebody. And our right to offend has to exceed our right not to be offended, otherwise we’ve got no truth.
MD: Yeah, I guess, on a surface level, “lies” could be another word for “post-truth”, but it’s more complicated than that.
MD: Well, yeah, a wig-wearing fascist in charge of… well, what he thinks, the world. A pretty scary situation we’re in now, I think.
ERIN: Yeah, so it’s ‘Post Sexy’ because we’re in a society where if you’re sexy, you’re a slut; if you are in touch with your sexuality, you’re an absolute slut… and you’re not allowed to tell the truth. And if you tell the truth, you’re telling a lie, anyway, because nobody wants to hear it.
MD: Like Trump and any bad press he shrugs off as fake news…
ERIN: Fake news, exactly.
MD: Even if there’s photographic evidence… like the very few people who turned up for his inauguration… which Sean Spicer said was something to do with the grass!
FINN: It was the light!
ERIN: Everyone was wearing green that day… I mean, come on!
MD: So, what led to the heavier, more progressive sound of the new material?
ERIN: Well, to be honest with you, it’s something that we’ve always kind of veered towards. With ‘ReFlowered’, we directly produced ourselves away from a heavy sound because, at the time, I think we’d only been together a year and we were trying to find our sound. All the musicians in the band… for instance, Finn, he’s jazz influenced and prog influenced; Nikki’s classically trained on the piano so she’s got a massive classic and jazz influence; Anna is Popular Music Bachelor of Arts, with Honours; and I’m more of a folk background. So, we tried to bring aspects of everybody’s individual talent and make it click together. And, all the songs had already been written, so it wasn’t as if we were coming together and sitting down and writing a song. So we basically took some songs that had already been written and added our thing to it, and it came out really poppy. So, we thought, okay, fuck it. Once ‘ReFlowered’ was out and we started to tour to promote it, we slowly understood that every time we played it, it got heavier onstage. And, no matter how we tried to avoid it, we were rocking the fuck out of this pop set!
ERIN: So, when we started to come together and actually write songs for the next album, we went, “Do you know what, we have to just pull up our socks and accept that we are heavier.” And, all of us have similar influences when it comes to heavier music and they all kind of live within the prog arena. So, unconsciously, and without speaking to each other, we literally came from the same place in writing, and it just clicked and it gelled, and I think we just found our sound.
FINN: Can I just interject, if I may, from a producer’s point of view, because I had a lot to do with that. Erin wrote a book that goes with it, and it’s about her life. ‘ReFlowered’ was about your life and what you’d been through and a lot of those songs sounded the way they did, like the “dead Jo” song… ‘Dying in My Love’… it couldn’t sound any other way.
ERIN: Write that down… “the dead Jo song”!
FINN: I loved Jo; she was my very best friend. I loved her to pieces and it killed us when she died. But, a lot of your songs were about that and you couldn’t really meddle with them, because it would have fucking worked. Whereas this one, we’re enjoying the music and the songs you’re writing now are political and edgy.
MD: Seeing as music, like any art form, is an external expression of someone’s emotions, do you think your sound will continue to evolve on future albums, depending on how you feel at any particular point in time?
ERIN: Possibly, yeah.
MD: Or do you think you’ve found your stylistic feet?
ERIN: I think we’ve definitely found our style but it doesn’t mean that we won’t try something different. But, having said that, there’s been a couple of songs that we’ve worked on that aren’t on this album, and we’ve only worked on them briefly because, when we start to work on an album, somehow, I’ve been banned from writing new songs!
ERIN: And, so, of course, naturally, I continue to write new songs, and we work on them to a certain point, and then we go, “Okay, leave it alone, let’s get this album done”… and they still have the same sound. So, truthfully, I think the songs, overall, dictate where we go. And if the song has a similar sound to ‘Post Sexy, Post Truth’, or ‘ReFlowered’, or whatever, we’ll just kind of follow the song. But, it’s almost accidental that this album has wound up being so cohesive, I guess, as a genre.
MD: Where you’re coming from, it sounds like genre is secondary. You’re writing songs and genre is almost secondary to the songwriting.
ERIN: Yeah, definitely.
MD: You have a new video for ‘Stormy Waters’… which includes a shipwrecked boat… as soon as I saw that, I thought of ‘Dehumanized’...
MD: I guess shipwrecks have a lot of artistic metaphorical potential, but what draws you to that imagery, in particular?
ERIN: Well, two reasons. Obviously, first of all, ‘Dehumanized’. We’ve made a lot of hat tips on this album, particularly, back to Syren and Rockbitch, and working with Jo and Mandy, and then the girls from Rockbitch, because now I’ve got, as you would know, Babe and Kali, who were in Rockbitch, they’re the backing vocalists…
MD: And Nikki.
ERIN: And Nikki, of course, yeah, and good friend Finn, here. And Anna, who was five at the time!
ANNA: Not many people knew I was in Rockbitch back then!
FINN: The other kids were so jealous!
ANNA: I had to keep it from my parents!
ERIN: But, yeah, we wanted to make sure that… and, you know what, it’s probably something we’ll do on every album, because it was a massive part of all of our lives and it’s important, from an artistic point of view, to tip your hat to where you’ve been. So, yeah, that was a big part of it. But ‘Stormy Waters’ was a song that was written… at the time it was written, there were a lot of artists going through public difficulties with mental illness. You know, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell…
MD: I was going to ask about that as well, as to whether it was a nod towards their suicides.
ERIN: It was indeed.
MD: That was shocking, both of them. Out of the blue. Very shocking.
ERIN: Yeah, and those were the two that happened to be in famous bands and it was well publicised. But there are artists every single day who are dealing with it. And everybody deals with it for their own reasons but it’s a fact that, every single day, whether they’re famous or not famous, artists struggle with mental illness in some shape or form. So the shipwreck in ‘Stormy Waters’ was symbolic of a massive, beautiful force of nature that has been taken down by something that you would think to be very small or something that you maybe wouldn’t have seen at all. And, to be honest, it was an accident that we found it, because we were nipping across the fjord up in the Highlands, going to the studio to record the album, and we saw the shipwreck and went, “Fuck, we’ve gotta come and do a video here.” We didn’t think we’d have the time, but we got the album done so quickly that we went back down again.
MD: What are some of the other themes and narratives covered in the new songs?
MD: Is this too wide a question?!
ERIN: No, not at all. I can, actually, easily answer this. This biggest theme on the album, and this might sound very strong but I’ll explain, is the killing of oneself. And it is, basically, that we don’t know who we are. Nobody knows who they actually are. And there are things that you go through that show you new parts of yourself that you never thought you’d see. And you take that on board, that information, and with that on board, you start to see new things. At some point, your arms get so full that you can’t keep all the new information as well as the old information, so you have to cut something off, and you have to make a decision… what do I get rid of? Do I keep all of my conditioning; all of the old habits; things that people know me for; things that people like me for… do I keep them? Do I keep the things that suit me; the things that I want; the ways I want to be? And, once you’ve made that decision, you’ve killed off a part of yourself. So, each song approaches it from a completely different fucking way, but that is ultimately what it’s all about.
MD: We are ever-evolving beings.
MD: My A-Level English teacher told me, when I was 16, that you never truly know who you are until you’re 40. I think he was 40 at the time so obviously thought he knew himself very well…
MD: I remember thinking how weird that sounded back then but, over time, I kind of got what he meant.
FINN: I’ve always thought that if you don’t love yourself by the time you’re 40, you never will.