It’s just the way that writing has always happened to me. I woke up this morning with a feeling that I should write something to you to explain a little about what has been going on in Fishville, behind the scenes, within our Rubik’s Cube, in my head.
At the end of 2010, I promised you all a second album. The catalyst for this was Linda. Little Fish was on Linda’s record label Custard/Universal at the time. Linda wanted us to make a second record and we were to have it finished and delivered to her in the space of about ten days. The urgency for this was based on the promise of a tour around America with her new band Deep Dark Robot. For as much of a shock as this was to the system, Nez and I were prepared to take on the challenge. Nez and I were always prepared to dig deep and do the work necessary for the band to survive.
We always thought that Baffled & Beat maybe hadn’t had the rawness that people had expected of us, and so were thrilled to have a chance to correct this with another album. Unfortunately, after an initial burst of energy to get things rolling we received legal demands from the label that were very different to the ones we remembered from our initial signing. For us to make the record we would have had to comply with Linda’s demand. Had we signed, Nez and I would have been signed into the label for many years with no guarantee of ever making any money from any of the record sales or even having a budget to tour. It made no sense for us to make this record. We couldn’t afford to continue to live without making any money. Nez already had a child and supporting his family was of primary importance. This wasn’t a time for risk taking.
As a consequence, we asked to leave the label. We were lucky that we could do this and that they let us go. They could no longer fulfil their part of the contract for financial reasons of their own, and we were able to leave the deal without any ill feelings. So at the start of 2011, although Little Fish was without a label and pretty skint, we were free to do our own thing. Neither Nez or myself have seen any money from any of the record sales of Baffled & Beat. I am not saying that we are owed any money as I know that the label has to recoup what you sign for before this ever happens, but nobody has ever showed us any accounting. Who knows? All I know is that Universal/Island (our UK label) sold all the copies they printed and nobody ever sent us anything.
Being signed to a major record label was an experience. Some of it was great and for a lot of it, I will always be grateful. We got to travel a lot, meet great people, do some great tours and have a lot of fun. Before going to LA I had only ever really traveled to my French grandparents’ summer house in the middle of the French mountains.
One thing however, that I found hurtful and harmful in the whole process was losing a sense of myself. I lost the sense of who I was, why I was writing songs and the direction I wanted my life to go. To be part Little Fish, I had to lose part of myself, give part of myself, lose my whole. To be in a band is to be in a democracy. Nez and myself were both democrats. Being a slight conflict avoider, I now realise that I agreed and did a lot of things that actually I didn’t want to do and should never have done. I should have done far more research before I signed my record deal, and maybe even understood who I was before I let things sweep me away.
I think I slipped into the role of ‘rocker’. I understand why this was. I see that I can be slightly insane on stage, that I can sing loudly and not be the most compliant stereotype when it comes to being a woman. I suppose a part of this was my decision, as I have never wanted to be seen as a singer songwriter. For me, music has always been a ‘team sport’. Something that you do with other people to share with other people. I wanted to be part of a gang. I wanted to be heard.
I don’t like the stereotype of the typical female singer songwriter. I would hate nothing more than to be alone and traveling. I always wanted to experience music and happenings with other people. So, yes, becoming a rocker was my doing.
“Becoming the stereotype of ‘the rock chick’ was kind of inevitable. It wasn’t thought out.”
Having said all this, I need to make another thing clear. There is another side to the story, to the bullet. I was also in a band with a great drummer who I suppose, was a rocker. When we started the band, I was young and didn’t have the knowledge or experience that I now have. I tried to present all sorts of alternative songs and quirks to Little Fish, but I suppose they just never stuck with Nez. As I said, being in band is a democracy (well for me it has been) and well, I wanted Nez to be happy and play things he enjoyed. This was important to me. He was important to me. The alternative suggestions always got vetoed. Nobody really ever went for them. Not Nez and not Linda. So, becoming the stereotype of ‘the rock chick’ was kind of inevitable. It wasn’t thought out. Being a rocker was never all that I was and never all that I wanted to be.
It has taken me a year now to understand all this. Last year, I wrote another album. It wasn’t as rocky as the first. My manager liked the songs but kept telling me that there was no ‘hit’ song. We had no funding. Nez left. Things kind of fell apart. There I was. No drummer. No way of getting my songs recorded. I was stuck I suppose. I didn’t admit it at the time because I don’t like quitting and I don’t like giving up. I felt very lost.
After Nez left, we released ‘Wonderful’ simply because it was ready to go. Had there been an album to follow, it would have been the first single from it. Although the album has been demoed, it will only ever exist in the lost files on my computer. I doubt anything will ever come of it.
“All of this happening because one day, I had sat at my desk and started to write songs.”
This takes us to October 2011. Nothing happened for Little Fish last year. It was what I call a ‘dead’ year. These years happen. They aren’t particularly pleasant and I wouldn’t wish them on anybody. I was starting to get depressed and wonder if I should just forget music and start a new career. I had no idea what but I knew that if I had to, then I would. After the kickbacks, I was feeing defeated. The record deal was never the deal I thought it would be in terms of ‘how it is to be signed to a label’. Everything had been tough. Dealing with lawyers, ex-managers, record companies, people, opinions, criticised. All of this happening because one day, I had sat at my desk and started to write songs. I felt like I had gotten nowhere after all the years of hard work and sacrifice. I wasn’t happy. All this was never what I had signed up for.
I suppose I didn’t write a song after this for about four months, which for me was an eternity. I felt that I had nothing to say and no reason to say it. I knew that there were many other musicians out there with far more hunger and focus and desire to succeed. I didn’t feel I could ever have the energy to go through it all again. I started sleeping.
Today, I couldn’t be feeling happier or better. Something in me has changed. I have understood something crucial. I have stopped weeping and moaning about the past and blaming and living behind myself. I took the decision last month, when I could see myself becoming someone that I didn’t want to become and wouldn’t want to be around, that I was to only look forward and live in the present. To stop the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. I haven’t looked back.
Ben and I have done up an old garage and with the bits of gear that we have, we started recording. A month or so ago, Ben pushed me to record a Beatles cover, and it seems to have catalysed something in me to want to sing and play music again. I feel like I have rediscovered myself and found the direction that I want to go in and also possibly, the direction that I have always wanted to go in. I love quirky songs and quirky music and quirky instrumentation. That has always been me, but I haven’t ever been able to show this side to people. I was stuck as the ‘female rocker from Little Fish’.
“I want to put the colour into the songs that I have never been able or allowed to do.”
This last month, I have been writing a whole new sound and a whole new set of songs. I have decided that I don’t want to go deaf and be shouting over loud drums, I want to simply be able to sing. I want to put the colour into the songs that I have never been able or allowed to do. We were a two piece and Nez wasn’t the best singer, so harmonies were always out of the question. I can sing in French. I can do what I like and nobody can stop me. We have our own little recording set up. I don’t have to rely on anybody else. I can record one drum at a time and then another and make my own drum loop or pattern. I have also stopped sending any of the music that I have been recording to our management. I don’t need negative feedback about ‘hits’. People thought that ‘Darling Dear’ or ‘Am I Crazy’ would be a hit. And they weren’t. We could hardly even get any radio play. So, why should I care about this ‘hit’? Or what do other people really know?
“One day I realised that if I had a little bit of success, then it might be possible for me to travel and see the world and be happy doing something that I loved.”
I always wrote music because it was something that I did. I never did it to be famous. I wrote music and sang because it was fun and I felt like I could express myself. One day I realised that if I had a little bit of success, then it might be possible for me to travel and see the world and be happy doing something that I loved. I feel like I have found this person again. The person who first started writing songs all those years ago. I am not joining in with the ‘write a hit’ thing, pressure that the industry so pushed on me. It squeezed every bit of creativity out of me. Feeling free is a much better feeling.
And so, I have put a new band together. The line-up is different to Little Fish’s old incarnation. I’m not going to explain that all now. I will let you discover it for yourself. But I just wanted to let you know, that nothing that I am doing now is random, it is something that I really want to do. It is very different to any Little Fish music you will have heard before. Part of me realises that you might not like it and that is fair enough, but this music is my choice and for now it makes me very happy.
Thank you for reading this blog update. I never intended on writing it all up this way but I realised when I started that in order for you to understand the present, you would have to understand the past. And if you have got this far with us on this journey you deserve to be told, by me, that I am expecting a child. I am to become a parent in July.
So the new record will be recorded by July, but only released in early 2013. We will be doing a few shows before then, but afterwards have a break while I learn to live with my child and become a mother. I will be able to do this with peace and tranquility, knowing that I have achieved something for myself beforehand. I also want to get this record done so that I don’t have the stresses of ‘I need to write a record’ lurking constantly around my mind. The record will be ready and you may well see little videos popping up on YouTube in the lead-up.
Big love to you.