Note: This interview touches upon suicide, abusive relationships and domestic violence; reader discretion is advised.
BETH BLADE AND THE BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS are due to return with a brand new album titled Mythos, Confessions, Tragedies and Love. It’s an honest, authentic telling that we will all relate to in one way or another. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist/guitarist Beth Blade about the album, the importance of role models and mental health.
You’re due to release your latest album Mythos, Confessions, Tragedies and Love. I noticed with this one, there are some darker undertones compared with Show Me Your Teeth. It states that in your press release, can you elaborate?
It’s been a long lockdown. The first song I wrote for the album was way back at the end of 2018 before Show Me Your Teeth had even come out so I had the skeleton of Tonight I’m With You which is a very upbeat song. Then there were a lot of personal things going on until it got to a very dark place. For me during the lockdown; what I saw was that people were reaching out to each other and actually talking about the bad things that had happened to them and/or the people that they loved. I felt if I was going to be my honest, authentic self with people who listen to our band then these darker songs deserved their place on our record.
As they were coming out, the rest of the band were saying “Beth, this is heavier” and they were excited about that because they are always playing around with some metal kind of riffs. We get pigeon-holed as a New Wave Of Classic Rock band, which is great and it’s a great movement but I don’t want to stay in just one genre. For instance, if it came down to it; I would like to write a pop song or a RnB kind of vibe, even disco I would just write it. I don’t want the band to have a limitation on that and with this record, there was a more heavy vibe. I felt like I had to be honest and open, it kind of came out that way.
I suppose as well when you’re feeling on edge and giving up all together, you want something that’s going to match your mood as it’s really cathartic. I think this is what this album does.
I do that all the time. So if I am feeling really sad or down, I will listen to something that allows me to feel these emotions that I’m bottling up. Normally I am a get on with it kind of person but sometimes you need a good cry or you need a good release, music is really cathartic that way for me. The way I felt was if I write about these topics, if I write about this sadness then maybe it can help somebody else.
The song Hold Your Heart brought my emotions to the surface which is rare. What was that song about? I understood it to be about loss, missing someone who isn’t there anymore.
It’s exactly about that feeling so for me I wrote that song when somebody very close to me lost someone to suicide. I just couldn’t do anything to help, I couldn’t make it better; if I could have bled it out of my arms to make them feel better, I would have done. Even if I did, I couldn’t help. In those situations, a lot of people have lost family and friends to suicide. They have lost family and friends due to Covid, cancer because appointments being postponed due to Covid and all this stuff. I felt a lot of people would be feeling that same way.
So, it’s a song for people who want to help but can’t and it’s song for those who have lost loved ones and are struggling to move forward. For me, it started off writing a song for somebody I love to let them know I was there for them no matter what they needed but now it’s a song for anybody who has felt this loss and knowing that even though I am this ginger singer who works an HR day job, I think about all those people that have lost their loved ones and it’s close to my heart that people don’t feel alone.
Another song that I really enjoyed was Who You Are. That’s more upbeat and message to say “be yourself, don’t worry about what others think”.
When I was at school, I got bullied so much for being weird, ginger and walking around singing songs in the playground. There’s a friend of mine in the States and his daughter is that age in high school, the people at her school are making her feel like she is strange and different, like it’s a bad thing. I was like “you know what? I want to write a song for little Beth but I also want to write a song for all those girls who had different interests.” These girls liked science or they were in book club or did debate or were generally nerdy or liked computer games. No matter what it is, if you don’t fit into a stereotypical norm and not that there is anything wrong with if that’s you’re choosing to do but there is a lot of boxes that we’re expected to fit in.
For me, it’s the song. F*** what they say, you’re doing it your way and I feel like that people need to hear that it’s OK to be your own authentic self regardless of what anyone else says. I can’t imagine what it’s like growing up with social media now, it probably makes it about ten times worse. I’m glad that wasn’t around when I was a teenager, you had your rudimentary camera phones [laughs].
I feel the same way, I got picked on at school and at least I could go home and get peace from it. I can’t imagine it today with social media, you can’t get away from it now.
You can’t and there’s all sorts of content out there that they can easily access and feeling different about their bodies, the way they look. For me, knowing that teenage girl who is going through it now; I want them to have a song where they feel empowered to be who they are.
With Who You Are, was there any artist you drew influences from? For me, growing up and listening to Avril Lavigne.
It’s funny because we played the album for our close friends and family. For the past month, since my Dad heard it, all he has been saying is “You’re alright Avril” [laughs]. I was channelling an Avril Lavigne meets Foo Fighters vibe for that song. When I was a teenager, that was all you had. I grew up listening to KISS, Queen and all the hard rock stuff. Whilst it’s awesome and I love it, it’s very male orientated so when Avril Lavigne came out when I was fourteen and I was blown away. I think I remember buying my first eyeliner and looking like a panda. [laughs]
I think we’re similar in that regard as in listening to male orientated rock bands. When I came across bands like Nightwish, Epica and Within Temptation, that opened up a new world for me.
It also gives you a new way to explore your femininity as well as they are much more diverse in the way they present themselves. You can look at somebody like Simone Simmons then Tarja and people like Pink and Avril Lavigne, they all have their own distinct identities. They look different, there is a variation but they’re all absolutely kick ass and role models. I think this next generation coming up now will have a lot more female, non-binary and trans-gender musicians; they will have more of a place in the world. The thing I try to tell people is if a woman want’s to get up on that stage and she wants to rock out in her panties and some Wendy O Williams nipple tape, absolutely do that. If she wants to get up and wants to wear a full tracksuit from neck to toe, absolutely she should do that and it shouldn’t matter.
There’s the song Persephone that I really liked too. The intro reminded me of Ghost, was that the intention?
So Ghost are probably my second favourite modern band. When you’re in this rock scene, there’s a lot of pressure to stick to your kind of label that you have been given. As much as we are this good time, rock and roll band; I listen to a lot of different stuff and I like a lot of different stuff as well. For me, I wanted to give it some more scope and Ghost are a band that excel in creating this wonderful musical landscape with strings and harmonies; I absolutely adore that, it’s very much like metal ABBA and also metal Journey I think. I wanted to create something with a bit more epicness.
So funnily enough, I was speaking to my partner about that it’s really funny to me that I wrote Persephone sat on our couch. [laughs] It doesn’t sound like you would write it sat on a couch. Since Ghost’s last album Prequelle, that’s kind of filtered into my psyche. It’s given me more ambition because it’s more kind of accepted that you can have this big orchestral, fantastic atmospheric piece of music. It’s now getting to the point where in the mainstream, it’s being accepted. So from that, I decided that I was going to write something that I wouldn’t normally write.
Persephone is a mythological tale and I am nerd with Greek and Roman mythology. Also, for me it’s a metaphor about being subjected to and then surviving abusive relationships. Persephone is stolen from the world; she doesn’t ask for it, it just happens. The line “one day you will be free” because in the tale, she does return to the earth. It’s about getting through that trauma and coming back to the life. It’s that cycle of death and re-birth that sometimes us as humans go through. With that idea in my head, I thought musically it needed something more complex than just a straight forward rock and roll song to tell that story.
The symphonic elements really worked in that track.
For me as well, I love bands like Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless but there is also stuff like Lacuna Coil as they have those theatrical elements to it. So it’s more telling the story through the piece of music.
Out of the songs on Mythos, Confessions, Tragedies and Love; which was the hardest for you to write?
For me, I write in a couple of different ways. Sometimes; I will get a melody in my head and the song is done in twenty minutes. Sometimes it will take a bit longer and I will have to get the separate jigsaw pieces in my mind and build it up over time. For me, so Sacrifice was written quite quickly musically; so the music was done but the lyrics took a while to get out because the subject matter of the song is so personal and deep. At the same time; when things are personal, you still need to make it so other people can relate to it.
That’s what a song is to me; it’s about what it can mean to another person and the meaning they attach to it. If I had put something specific in there or too brutal, it might not hit the same resonance as I wanted it to. For me, I had so many different combinations and different lines of the lyrics that I kept switching out. I literally only came to the decision on what was actually going to be the lyrical content of the song, maybe a week or two before heading into the studio.
It was the hardest song for me to sing as well. Not vocally demanding in terms of belting, it’s the nuance of getting the tone right and it’s got a lot of pure notes in it. I was getting emotional recording it. We did three takes of the main lines but there were a lot of corrections because I had thoughts of that inflection not sounding right. Because the song had such an important message, I wanted it to be perfect and being a perfectionist with music is really hard.
With this album, I pushed myself lyrically and vocally to get it as perfect as I possibly could. Nick our producer really pushed me to my limits to get it the way it should be.
Our mission at Rock Out Stand Out is to spread awareness around mental health. What do you think we can do more of as family members, friends, partners, colleagues etc. so people feel comfortable opening up about mental health?
I think talking about it is the main thing. A lot of people say “just talk” or “just ask the person if they’re OK” and that’s not enough sometimes. Some people can’t talk and some people will say that they are OK no matter how many times that you ask them. For me, I find when I open up about my own struggles is the best way because people then see that I am not embarrassed or ashamed to talk about difficult things. That then may make them feel comfortable talking about it because you’re sharing difficult things that you’re going through.
When you talk to people and they start to open up to you, you should never go “oh yeah, this has happened to me to” as people want to be listened to. If you tell them in another situation, if you think something is going wrong with them or they have been acting differently; sharing something about yourself can really help because they know you are open and accepting of what they maybe going through.
Just being there for people too, not everyone is trained in mental health or issues that people are facing but all you can do is make sure they know you are there for them. Also having the education and resources that are available; MIND and other organisations in particular for mental health. Refuge for domestic violence victims. If you know someone who is going through something, have a Google search and educating yourself is the best thing you can do.
Going to what you were saying, I think it’s important to acknowledge that effects us differently and just because a certain coping technique works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.
Absolutely, it’s not a one size fits all. Unfortunately because of the way the country is at the moment and the lack of resources within the NHS. I mean there are resources but there are few and far between to go around for several reasons we won’t get into but community and friendship is really important right now.
What songs/albums that help you through tough times?
So, I’ve got two. They are not what people would expect at all. I will include a third one so there are three answers to this.
I myself have been through some awful things since the last album came out, I am very open about it. I’m a domestic violence survivor. For me, music is what kept me going; without music, I don’t think I would be here still.
Blue by Joni Mitchell was an album that played on repeat like endlessly; it allowed me to feel the feelings I had to bottle up when I was in that situation because I wasn’t allowed to express my emotions. It’s something I want to do at some stage as a musician, I would love to do an album that is just acoustic guitar and piano. With those songs, she tells her whole life and it’s so close to her. I think it’s admirable and it really grabs you in the heart because you can relate to it so much and I listened to that constantly on repeat.
When lockdown came around, I was thinking “what do I do with my life? there are no gigs, there’s no music” and I was in a bad place in the first nine months when we couldn’t do anything. I was finding it hard to write and be passionate or creative because I got so overwhelmed with the situation. The loss of what felt like my previous life but also the loss that other people were feeling and the fact a lot of people didn’t care. It was so much, I stagnated. A lot of artists did live stream gigs from their house or they wrote songs, for me I couldn’t do it.
Then Taylor Swift dropped a surprise album called Folklore and again it was one of those albums that was acoustic guitar and piano. It was wonderfully rich lyrically and I thought “if Taylor Swift can write this album in lockdown, what am I doing?” I still love it to this day. That album encourage me to get off my backside and start writing.
Recently, the new Halestorm album came out. So Lzzy Hale is a huge influence for me and I am lucky enough we chat sometimes. She herself seems to have had the same issue in lockdown where you loose your sense of purpose, personal issues with anxiety and depression. I have listened to it and it feels like I am hearing the same topics but from her perspective. So for me, I wrote Sin Eater a year ago. That song is based in a Welsh Myth about when it came to the end of your life, there was a Sin Eater in your village or town that would eat your body and take all your sins. I thought you should be able to forgive yourself and redeem yourself, not having to live with that burden. On the Halestorm record, there is a song called My Redemption where the main theme is about being able to forgive yourself and find your power within yourself.
So I really feel the the feelings people have had over the past couple of years are almost like a global consciousness that we have all been going through. I am really excited about the art that’s going to come out of it because it’s everyone’s different take on all these things that have happened. It also gives that feeling that you are not so far removed from your favourite band or artist because we were all in the same boat.
Do you have message for fans and readers?
I really hope they enjoy the album and that they can find some joy or connection in it because that was my main thing. I want our listeners or anyone who picks up this album to feel like they’re heard and not on their own.
Thank you so much Beth for talking with Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album release.
If you have been effected by the issues discussed in this interview, the following websites will provide support, information and help:
MIND – The Mental Health Charity – A charity that won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.
Refuge – A charity working against domestic violence; getting help and support for women and children.
Papyrus – Prevention of Young Suicide is the UK charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide and the promotion of positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people.