INTERVIEW

Our parents had Paul and Linda, we’ve got Blake and Staz.

Photography by Owen Richards

Photography by Owen Richards

Our parents had Paul and Linda, we’ve got Blake and Staz

Some couples get married, some get a cat, some adopt a tiger at the zoo. Blake Ivinson and Stacey Owen chose Bitches. Veterans of noise and metal bands around Oxford – Blake danced and screamed in The Walk Off while Staz played drums for Harlette – they formed two years ago when they realised it was easier than going it alone.

“I wanted to be in The Walk Off but he wouldn’t let me,” says Staz, as the duo sit together in a north London burrito shop, something of a second home to them. “I went to one of their practices but they decided to just use a drum machine instead.” Blake can’t help but set the record straight. “But we didn’t have any songs! Basically, I just shouted and danced. Sometimes there was a melody but not really. Bitches started because Staz and I were together and it was just easy. We hung around together anyway.”

Sound smushy? It isn’t. They describe their sound as Thug Pop that mixes the best bits of pop music’s hookish choruses and a sense of fun with a driving drum beat and ferocious vocals supplied by both members.

“We started to write songs about every day things,” explains Staz.

“I just picked up the bass because it looked easy. Less strings you see,” says Blake.

They don’t sing about girls or boys, or funny little emotions. Bitches love storytelling and currently boast 3-minute smashes about the time that Blake lost his wallet or how he sleepwalks and what Staz thinks about Vampires (the latter featuring an impressive squeal of “I will suck your blood”). “One of my friends says we could write a song about anything,” says Blake. And could they? There seems to be a certain kind of song lacking in Bitches’ 29 minute set. Where’s the slow jam? Surely every band should be able to get emotional? Could they write a ballad? “I told him it was rubbish,” continues Blake. “I tried to sit down and write a love song the other day and I couldn’t do it. Sad songs too. I just can’t do it.”

It’s a good job they attract a tough crowd, then. At their shows, usually in London’s darkest pubs and venues, fans and friends lap up the “get involved” Bitches set. Blake enlists audience members to hold his microphone and banters back and forth with anyone that dares to speak up. He’ll just miss the heads of the people at the front as he swings his bass. “My bass is on infinite loan from my best friend,” he laughs. “I can’t get too wild with it or do the Bruce Springsteen thing. It’s had a few nicks and the guy went a bit mad.”

Staz keeps a safe distance, elegantly yet ferociously hammering the drums. “One day I performed from the middle of the Stag’s Head,” she explains. “That’s why we like playing in small venues and close to the audience. Even if it’s half empty there is a good atmosphere.” So they wouldn’t take a fancy stage show if they were offered it? Not even something with lasers? “Oh, I’d take it in a second,” Staz backtracks “but you know, we’d just let the lasers do their thing and perform on the floor like usual.”

In America they’ve had an even better reception. On their recent tour in the states, the second one they’ve undergone with the guidance of LA label Deathbomb Arc, things were taken to the next level with some Staz-inspired nudity.

“I thought it would be fun if I told everyone to get into their underwear,” she says. “I didn’t expect them to do it! Imagine if that happened in London!?” At The Smell they played with notorious LA nudist jumpstyler and freak-musician Captain Ahab, one of their heroes and inspirations. Blake explains how everyone at The Smell is 50% wilder when Ahab plays and how they want to make an album using narrative and comedy, just like his last record ‘The End of Irony’ or 2006’s ‘After the Rain My Heart Still Dreams’. “I don’t like showy things but I’m a show off,” says Blake. “So I’m definitely drawn to things like that. Maybe it will be a bit like something Adam Sandler would do.” Along with the album, collecting their previous self-released ‘Winner’ and tapes with Deathbomb Arc and Scotch Tapes, Bitches will tour with Shearing Pinx this September.

Just one more thing, though – Bjorn and Agnetha, Sonny and Cher, Stevie and Lindsey… do they worry about their relationship, like, breaking up the band? “We don’t take coke,” says Blake, looking sternly at Staz. “So no, I think we’ll be fine.”

By Sian Rowe

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Originally published in issue 19 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010

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