We were fortunate enough to catch Che playing at the Barrel House in Totnes when we went to see Kim Churchill recently, her voice and guitar playing were truly mesmerising. I tried to locate her after the show, I think she'd snuck upstairs and was having a sneaky glass of wine and catching up on her TV boxsets that she loves so much.
In-between episodes, we had a chat about 'one eyed trouser snakes', Salt-n-Pepa (ahhh, push it....push it REAL good...) and supergroups formed only of people called Dave, here's how we got on....
Hi Che, please take a moment to tell us about yourself and your music….
I’m a sort of folk alternative singer-songwriter from Vancouver BC who is off on her first UK tour alongside Kim Churchill! I released an EP a couple months ago called “Volume One” and am now trying to spread the word however, wherever I can.
What is the music scene like in your hometown at the moment?
It’s getting better I think. We used to be known as “No fun city” and that definitely spilled into our music scene as well. We had a lot of live music venues shutting down or only playing ipod DJ nights or top 40. It’s also a bit of a challenge getting Vancouver folk out to shows. I’m not sure why? But it’s getting way better with people putting on their own nights at the random afterhours venues that keep popping up all over the place.
What was the last book you read? What was it about?
Right now I’m reading “Bad Feminist” which is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay. It’s about feminism, race, sexuality and politics. I picked it up without knowing anything about the author or what she stood for and was blown away within the first few pages. I think everyone should read this book to get a better understanding of what feminism can be and about what women face on a daily basis. This book focuses on feminism from a minority’s point of view, which is important because that is something that can be easily overlooked when talking about women’s rights. It’s not man hating, sex hating angry women. It’s women of all cultures and sexual orientations standing up and asserting their worth which sadly still needs to be asserted.
It’s funny. I started reading this book on tour with a bunch of guys, which was probably not the best idea. Tour banter and silliness can take on an air of extreme crude comedy, which I usually laugh along to but I found myself getting really indignant about certain topics. I felt like I had to be the protector of women while on the bus. I was such an asshole. It was funny. Everyone was throwing out names for a women’s lady bits and noting how they were all really awful but we couldn’t think of one negative term for a mans and that set me off on a long winded rant about how that’s because these terms are obviously meant to degrade and diminish women and the fact that there were no degrading names for men, just silly ones like “trouser snake” and the like, was incredibly telling of how backwards our society still is blah blah blah... I was definitely the Debbie downer of that day but I stand by it.
Tell us a fascinating fact about yourself….
When I sing powerfully I see shapes and colours. It looks kind of like a laptop screen saver’s abstract color display.
You name Nick Drake, Bon Iver and Cat Power as influences, what is it about these 3 acts that you enjoy?
Obviously all three artists make incredibly honest, melancholy and beautiful music which I tend to gravitate to but what has made me fall in love with Nick Drake and Cat Power specifically is how they are not perfect. They don’t/didn’t know how to be the perfect performer or person. They were and are kind of stumbling through it all, doing the best that they could. That resonates with me. Nick Drake was so sensitive and he tried so hard and his loneliness showed through his music. Cat power has really awkward and rough moments onstage because performing scares her but she still gets up there and tries. They both write from a place of honesty and their songs make me feel understood and as if I have a friend in them. It’s soothing to have idols that are just as confused as you but despite their confusion they still go for whatever it is they need to go for.
I don’t know much about Bon Iver but his first album came at a time for me when I was just getting over a really awful breakup and starting to fall in love with someone else. It was winter in Vancouver, which is a really rainy melancholy time. His first album was just so lush and beautiful and fit that time in my life perfectly. I really loved how he holed up in a cabin and wrote and recorded it all himself. I’ve always wanted to do that. It was just an incredibly thoughtful album, which made me want to become a better producer and songwriter.
Which band or artist made YOU want to start writing and performing music?
I’ve always wanted to sing and write and aside from being a psychologist there was nothing else in this world I felt the urge to do. I didn’t have the stamina for 6-8 years of school to become a psychologist and music is it’s own form of therapy so ever since I was little I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I’ve always been extremely scared of performing and of people focusing their attentions on me so it’s taken a long time for me to get myself out there but I guess it was Cat Power who really inspired me to just get over myself and do it. Jason Molina made me want to write meaningful and coherent lyrics. I don’t think there was ever one person or band, just elements from each that encouraged me to write.
Is Spotify THE FUTURE of music or will we carry on buying CD’s and vinyl records in the future?
I don’t know? I really have no idea. When it comes to what will be the future of whatever I’m usually so behind that my opinion doesn’t matter. I just signed on to use spotify the other month literally to listen to my own cover of Iron Man that I didn’t know was being released at the time. That is the only time I’ve ever used spotify. But from what I’ve heard it’s pretty awesome so probably when it has ceased being so cutting edge and cool I will stumble on behind everyone and start using it because it takes me a really long time to catch on.
How do you approach songwriting? Would you say that your songs are based on things that you have experienced personally?
Everything I write comes from a place of having to let go of a feeling or to vent or unwind. I rarely know what I’m writing until it is done and I read it back. It’s just kind of a stream of consciousness that turns into something meaningful to me eventually. With my first album Underachiever, a lot of the songs were about betrayal and lying and around that time I thought I was just writing out of my ass. None of it meant anything to do with my life. Like the song Ambush, at the time I was like hmmm, I don’t really know where this is coming from. It was a couple months later that my love life blew apart and I realized that I was writing about something very real that was happening in my life without my knowing and my subconscious was trying to warn me about it through my songs. It was quite beautiful actually.
You’re from Vancouver, do you get over to the UK much to play?
I’ve been to the UK to tour three times in the past 6 months, which is awesome! Before that it had been almost 10 years. I hope these visits become the norm though cause the UK is awesome! I finally got to check out Scotland on this trip and so far I’m in love.
How do UK audiences compare to ones back home?
Well, I don’t play much back home. Weird, eh? I feel it’s too close to home (hahaha) and therefore that much scarier so I haven’t really been putting myself out there in Canada. Which is now going to change. I can’t hide forever. The audiences here are varied from city to city but I’ve loved playing to each of them. I find the further North you get, the more tame and quiet the audience is while you’re playing and the closer to London you get the more rowdy people become, which is funny.
Do you find you receive a better reception from the audience depending on which country you play in, where do the best audiences come from?
Ya probably. The response from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle crowds were pretty phenomenal but that could have been due to the fact that I felt a lot more comfortable on stage and put on a better show. I really enjoyed last night’s gig in Newcastle. It was probably the best night so far. The sound engineer was awesome and took the time to play around with delay and reverb. We had fun. The crowd was rad.
I love your track ‘Underachiever’, tell me how the track came about and what the song is about….
Well thanks man! Underachiever came out of a dark place. I was feeling pretty lost and useless. That’s a common theme in my songs and in my life. It came about pretty quickly, in about 20 mins I think. I recorded the demo in between café shifts in this place I shared with two guys on the The Drive in Vancouver. I was going through some stuff then so I felt very socially awkward and depressed and just you know, all around useless. The first version of that song is just me and an electric guitar and this really beautiful harmonium bit. I wish I’d known then what I know now about recording so the quality could have been better because that version was just so perfectly in the moment. Anyways, I guess the song was just me admitting to myself and to the world that I lived my life only doing the bare minimum and that I felt like I was wasting it. Losing time.
On your Facebook ‘bio’ page, you describe yourself as ‘She’s like the wind’, is this a link to the famous song from Dirty Dancing? Or are you quite literally a whirlwind?
I just didn’t know what to put down and I was listening to the dirty dancing soundtrack and I thought it was funny and cheesy. I still don’t know what to put in that section so there it will stay.
How do you relax after a hard day?
I am a big big fan of 'vegging out'. That is a downfall. I can go through an entire season of whatever on Netflix in a day quite happily. I generally feel pretty guilty about it but that doesn’t stop me. When I’m not feeling like the laziest person in the world, one of my favorite things to do to unwind is go for long long walks around the city or go for a hike with my dog. Vancouver is a great place for all that.
What are your ambitions as a singer songwriter?
The only thing I know for sure is that I want to create something that I am really proud of. It’s hard for me to like what I put out. For instance, I have a hard time with my first album. It’s not me. I didn’t get it right. My EP is closer but still it’s not right and not what I feel I’m capable of. I want to create something that makes me feel what Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” makes me feel. Or how Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” makes me feel. And I think that if I have managed to do that the rest of the world will feel something meaningful towards my music too and good things will come. But even if they don’t I will feel like my purpose has been met. Obviously I would like to be able to support myself financially, not have to worry too much about money and be able to buy my mum a house. A more attainable goal and ambition at this point in my life is to tour a lot more and to feel confident in my live act and to become a better guitar player and songwriter.
What was the last gig you attended (as a regular paying customer)?
I saw Shovels and Rope when they passed through Vancouver and they blew my mind. I left that show buzzing. I literally started stomping my feet in rhythm with the kick and like inconspicuously moving my fingers around a imaginary fret board to see if I too could do what they did. I started like silently crying. Though that’s not a rare thing for me when it comes to great music. I get a little emotional.
What was the last CD/Record you bought?
I can’t remember the last cd I bought but I know the one I’m going to buy next. Kim put on some Courtney Barnett the other day and I have a feeling that I am going to become a real big fan. Oh, right, Alt-J. I bought a couple of their songs before this tour started. I quite like them.
I recommend you go check out a singer songwriter from Canada called ‘Jeen’, she put out a new album called ‘Tourist’ not too long ago. Who would you recommend for me to go check out and why?
Awesome, thanks I’ll check her out! I think you should check out Timber Timbre. Any album, they’re all amazing. Creepy, haunting, beautiful music from Canada.
If you could setup your own ‘supergroup’ with only people named DAVE or DAVID, who’s going to be in the lineup?
Vocals/Guitar – David Byrne
Lead Guitar - David Gilmour
Drums – Dave Grohl
Bass – Dave Holland
Do you prefer bigger festivals like Glastonbury or smaller boutique types that offer smaller audiences but are more local and accessible?
I really enjoy small island festivals with local acts. If you go to any of the Gulf islands in BC in the summer they have all these really lovely little hippie festivals with amazing up and coming acts from BC. I saw Mother Mother for the first time on one of the islands and that was magical. There is a sense of community, people bring their families and it’s just so low key. Not to say that I don’t love bigger festivals but if I had to choose I’d probably be more excited by a smaller one.
But if we’re talking about what kind of festivals I’d want to play at it would probably be a bigger festival.
Who, in your opinion has produced THE best album in the world ever?
I think it’s a tie between Quincy Jones for “Thriller”, Paul Simon and Roy Halee for “Graceland”, Zero 7 for “When it Falls” and Yann Tiersen’s album “Amélie”. Oh and I have a soft spot for Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus for their work on all the Abba albums. Sorry, I can’t pick.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted some tips on getting up on stage and playing some songs to an audience?
Just get up there and do it until the act of doing it starts feeling familiar and comfortable. It may take a long long time to get there or it may not but if you let one bad stage experience sway you from performing regularly you’re never going to get better and the guilt of hiding from your passion will erode your self confidence in all aspects of your life and it’s really hard to come back from though not impossible. Probably. Or maybe that’s just me.
I could see that Che was itching to get back to her 'Netflix Only' exclusive TV series so I thought it only fair to put her through the quickfire questions that we ask all participants to take part in and get the hell out of there before she threw me out....
Acoustic or Electric?
Beards or No Beards (on men obviously!)
CD or Vinyl?
CDs! Because CDs are my childhood and my first one was Salt-N-Pepa!
Spring or Autumn?
Spring! Cherry Blossoms!
Ice Hockey or Basketball?
Yuck to both!
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Snowboarding or Sunbathing?
Coke or Pepsi?
Yuck to both!
Comedy Club or Poetry Club?
Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook because I’m behind the times and I don’t like change!
Whisky or Wine?
It’s impossible to choose. They are both very dear to my heart.
Hot Dogs or Burgers?
Roller Blading or Skateboarding?
Cinema or Theatre?
Live gigs as a paying customer, standing or seated?
God or Google?
Google all day, everyday.
We'd like to thank Che for taking time out of her 'vegging out' activities to sit and chat to us, we know the day only has 24 hours and if you can get by watching a season of a TV show in one sitting, you're not doing too badly. We wish her every success in the future and look forward to maybe crossing paths again at a UK show or festival.
Please take just a few minutes to go check out her music and her social media sites, they're all listed below for you, all you need to do is point and click!
Interview by Steve Muscutt
Photograph by Bruce Benson www.241photography.co.uk