“Although it never really felt like work, being a musician has always been my job”, began Bellatrix. Described by WONDERLAND as having established herself as a pioneer in new-wave pop, Bellatrix is building a reputation. She is one of the most exciting emerging musicians coming out of the city right now.
“My main instrument is the bass”, she continued. “I earn a living from playing gigs and doing loads of different musical projects. Up until recently, it was all about collaboration for me. I’d always been part of someone else’s project. I never planned to be a solo artist at all. Then, at some point this new hunger took me and I realised I needed to do my own thing”. Two and a half years ago, Bellatrix started to write, and teach herself to sing.
Having just announced her debut headline show at The Sebright Arms in London, Bellatrix continues her fierce, unorthodox path through the UK scene. She’s honest and unpredictable, and describes herself as “kooky, multicoloured and shadowy”. Following serious acclaim for some of the most inventive tracks released this year, Bellatrix recently dropped her eagerly awaited EP, “Real Stuffed Owls”. This is the next step into a deeply interesting world that we have only broken the surface of. Described to me as channeling M.I.A and Kate Bush, she said she’s “not gonna complain about that one little bit! They are two incredible women who have been definite influences for me. I am often compared to artists who sing with a British accent because the mainstream norm is to be Americanised. They use their voice to communicate something very real and honest. Which I hope comes across in my work too”.
Bellatrix uses forceful and spiritual wordplay throughout her work, though she admitted, “lyrically, I started writing parts of the EP as long as three years ago”. At the time, she hadn’t excavated her vision as a solo artist, but was going through an intense time. “I felt the need to create something more personal than the other stuff I was involved in”, she added. “This body of work is really representative of that time in my life. There was basically some sore of awakening happening. The music follows my journey, un-chronologically. I began to work through some old trauma that I’d tried to bury for so long. ‘After More’ and ‘Still Looking For’ are very introspective, whilst ‘Be Your Bitch’ and ‘Mr Millions’ are more outwardly an expression of anger”.
Since childhood, there was never any question that music was always the dream; “Music was the thing that I was good at, and the thing that I liked doing. I am also aware that not everyone has parents who will support them in what they want to do. I mean, it’s not like we have any money. But I was armed with affirmation and positivity which pretty much sorted me out, I’d say. I did always wanna be a rebel spy though, and I’m still quite up for that to be honest”.
If you’re wondering whether the dream is still the same, Bellatrix went on to tell how her fifteen year old self defined the idea of success to her Dad; “I want to make a comfortable living as a musician and be respected amongst my musician peers”. She paused before adding, “Obviously our goalposts move as we grow, but it’s so good to be able to know that in a sense I am living the dream. But about goalposts moving and that, the dream now is to be fully self sufficient as a solo artist, touring the world with my band, bringing the realness and reaching the earholes. I feel bang on track right now, it’s great!”
Going back to the EP, “Real Stuffed Owls”, Bellatrix adopts a writing process that she took from writing with old bands. She limits herself to 25 minutes working on a musical sketch, and then moves onto another. By the end of the day, she will have “fifteen little song nuggets”. And whilst there’s a “whole load of rubbish in there”, there is always something promising to be found. “I have some basic production skills”, she added, “so I’ll spend some time developing my favourite ideas. Then at some point I’ll bring a platter of half cooked tunage to my mates, Exmoor Emperor. They are really great producers. We work together from there to complete everything. That was the general process with ‘Real Stuffed Owls’ and seems to be what’s happening with the new stuff we’re writing too”.
“To be honest, a typical day isn’t such a thing for me”, Bellatrix said when I asked her about routines. “I can be working on so many projects at one time that I’m hopping all over the place. Like, one week I was in Huddersfield running a vocal and electronic workshop with blind and visually impaired people. Then all of the next I was in rehearsal with my band”. Between playing corporate functions, because ya know, ya gotta pay those bills, writing and recording, Bellatrix volunteers once or twice a week with a charity that supports refugees.
She’s then glad that I mentioned the political content intertwining on her Twitter feed; “Growing up, my political education came solely from music”, she said. “I mean, it’s not like we were ever taught any of this in school. It was through music that I really learned about social injustice. I aim to raise questions and challenge societal norms with my music, and I hope to encourage that in my listeners too. The shifts that have happened in British history towards a more democratic society, for example women’s right to vote, have not been because the government feel things should be more fair. They have come from every day people taking part in activism. Politics isn’t just about what’s going down in Westminster. It’s everywhere, every day, and affects all of us. Pretty much constantly”.