Roxanne de Bastion: Molecules
Single review and interview
Out Now on all streaming platforms via ROM
Roxanne de Bastion releases her third single, Molecules, from her forthcoming album due out in September 2021 and also announces her first live gig in what we hope will be a post lockdown world. Ian Corbridge reviews for Louder Than War and takes the opportunity to catch up with Roxanne to talk about early life in Berlin, a busy life in lockdown as an independent artist and plans for the future.
Emerging singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion is clearly not someone who is waiting for things to happen. As many aspects of normal life for most of us have been put on hold for the past year or so, nothing can be further from the truth for Roxanne given all that she has been doing throughout this lockdown period. And I sense this is only just the start as we all make tentative steps out into a brave new world.
Roxanne’s new sense of creativity started back in May 2021 when she undertook her own virtual tour by streaming short live sets from her own home through various venue’s digital platforms in order to promote both her single, Erase, and also the plight of the independent venue circuit. This also helped to promote her new collaboration with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who has produced her forthcoming album.
This was followed up by a live stream in September from the Moth Club in London, covered by Louder Than War, and a second single Heavy Lifting in November. And while all this has been going on, Roxanne has continued in her role on the Board of Directors for the Featured Artist Coalition alongside some fairly significant names from the music industry and has also been presenting a weekly radio show for Boogaloo Radio. This then brings us onto her third single and news of a new album due out in September 2021.
It seems almost ironic that a song called Molecules was written in a pre-lockdown world but its release now feels most definitely appropriate. Featuring a fragmented and brazen guitar attack from Roxanne’s Rickenbacker, which contrasts beautifully with a melancholy sounding cello, it delivers a narrative that seeks to challenge our view of divinity.
Molecules draws you in with sinister and eerie sounding strings before bursting into life with a raw and powerful sound which builds in a climactic way right through to the end. The interplay between guitar and cello continues throughout as it did when it opened the live stream at the Moth Club, albeit then in a more stripped-down fashion. There is no doubt that Bernard Butler has made his own mark on the song through the production process and the video is a perfect complement to the song with its space-age feel amid very vivid imagery.
In advance of Molecules being released, Louder Than War took the opportunity to catch up with Roxanne to talk about early life in Berlin, a busy life in lockdown as an independent artist and plans for the future.
Louder Than War: Which artists, groups and songs soundtracked and shaped your early years in life?
Roxanne: The Beatles and my dad were the soundtrack – I grew up listening to my dad play music in the house and my love for The Beatles pre-dates my memory. The story goes I watched the movie Yellow Submarine when I was four years old and refused to watch anything else for years. Growing up in Berlin, there was also a lot of minimal electronic music about when I started going out, so that was part of my soundscape too!
Who or what inspired you to consider taking up a career in music?
I don’t remember ever even considering doing anything else. It must be because I fell in love with singing and music so young and was lucky to grow up in a household with instruments. I grew up acutely aware of how difficult a career in music can be and I wasn’t exactly encouraged to pursue it for that reason, but I was (…am?!) incredibly stubborn and determined.
With all the history that Berlin brings with it both in terms of its political history and its musical heritage, how did growing up in this City shape you as a person and influence what you are doing now?
That’s a great question! More than anything, Berlin is just a very free, liberal and open city to grow up in. I’m really grateful that I got to grow up in a place like that. When I was little, there were still areas of Berlin where you could visibly tell if you were in former East or West Berlin, each part having their own distinctive vibes. Now, it’s much harder to tell. My favourite graffiti art in Berlin is a simple “this house used to be in a different country” in large typeface on a block of flats in East Berlin. The musical heritage was less significant to me, as I really struggled to find a niche in Berlin – there wasn’t really much of a scene for singer-songwriters / English speaking storytelling, so I was more focused on Liverpool’s musical heritage.
Where do you draw inspiration from for writing songs and how do you go about developing these ideas?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. I get a lot of concept and lyric ideas from books and documentaries. Songwriting is a very magical and unpredictable thing for me – I let melodies and words sort of magically float over chords I happen to be playing…sometimes a song emerges, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Molecules, I wrote all the lyrics in one go in about five minutes (which is really unusual for me!) and set it to music later.
With your formative years being based in both Berlin and the West Midlands, what prompted the move to London and what hopes, fears and aspirations did this move carry with it?
I was just dying to be where music stuff happens. I didn’t know anyone in London. I just moved there once I graduated from school, rented a tiny shoebox room in Shepherd’s Bush in a house with eight flatmates, got a job in a bar and started gigging. I just really wanted to be in a big city where I could play my songs to an English speaking audience. I aspired to build a career in music and hoped my music would fall on empathetic ears. I was too young to have any fears.
You have long been considered to be at the forefront of a new wave of artists breaking with tradition to forge an independent career, with your debut album supported by a crowd-funding campaign. Was this a very deliberate approach on your part and, if so, what prompted this?
Nothing about this was deliberate. There’s just no handbook on how to start a career in music and I didn’t have the finances to go to one of the music colleges (nor did I really consider that). It was just all one big exercise in learning by doing and building things up organically. The word “independent” is kind of tricky… I do think there’s a general move towards artists being more knowledgeable and more in control of their careers. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, it just means you can make better decisions.
Linking in with the above, you were approached some time ago to join the Board of Directors for the Featured Artist Coalition alongside some fairly significant names from the music industry. With one of the key aims being to bring greater transparency and fairness in the music industry, especially given the significant change in the way performers can make money from their work and the ongoing debate around streaming services, how have you found this whole experience and what difference do you think this has made so far and can make in the future?
I absolutely love being a part of the FAC and am so proud of the artist community we’ve built and are continuing to build. Artists are at the heart of the music industry and it is so important that we have a collective voice. Historically there’s just been so much smoke and mirrors in music and zero regulation – this has to change to make sure artists don’t get exploited. The FAC has already brought upon real change, particularly over the past couple of years, lobbying the Government to help self-employed professionals when the pandemic hit, being a part of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign and currently fighting for clarity and better solutions around Brexit (Ugh…sorry to mention the “B” word).
Your forthcoming second album, You & Me, We Are The Same, was produced by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. How did that collaboration come about?
I just emailed him – sometimes these things work! I think he’s such an incredible producer and was really keen to work with him. After I first reached out, he asked me to send him some of my demos (“the rougher, the better”). Luckily, he liked what he heard and we started working together pretty much straight away. It was all pretty easy and felt really natural. The year we recorded the album turned out to be a very tumultuous time in my life. Bernard was very sensitive towards that and treated each song with a lot of respect. He really encouraged me to be more free in my performance and helped me create a more ambitious sound. We’ve made something really special and I can’t wait for everyone to hear the album.
Throughout lockdown you have been presenting a weekly radio show on Boogaloo Radio. How did this opportunity arise and how have you found the whole experience?
It was through Bernard. He presents a show called BB and the King, which I was a guest on. At some point Bernard asked if I wanted to present a show, which I have ALWAYS wanted to do, so I was really pleased to be asked. I love the Boogaloo team, it’s such a great radio station with so many exciting presenters. My show goes out every Monday from 10:00 – 12:00, so it’s a great way to start the week. I get to play music by new and independent artists I love as well as share my all-time favourites, as well as speak to loads of interesting people who come on as interview guests. I love it.
You have clearly kept very busy throughout this long period of lockdown, but how have you coped with the wider emotional aspects and has this in any way influenced the songs you have been writing more recently?
I don’t really know how to answer that question lightly. Keeping busy is definitely a good coping strategy. I was in a state of raw grief going into lockdown, so everything felt surreal anyway. In a strange way, it was good for me to have an enforced break from travelling and gigging. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. It’s certainly been a struggle and there are so many people who have experienced so much hardship throughout this. I am counting my blessings that I’ve got a roof over my head and that I feel OK. I can’t wait to see my friends and family – that’s a big one. I am writing music all the time, but throughout the past year, I’ve definitely focused on finding a way to get this new album out into the world. I am so glad we’re finally there…
With the release of your new album planned for 3 September 2021 and a return to the Moth Club on 12 October 2021 following your successful live stream last September, what other plans for the future have you got now that there is a growing sense of optimism that some form of normality may return to our lives in the not too distant future?
So many plans! I am so excited to get this album out into the world and am ecstatic to have an actual show in the diary again. When it’s safe to do so, I plan on touring across the UK and Germany again to see all the lovely faces I’ve been missing. I’ve also been working on other music and writing projects, so am looking forward to sharing more soon.
As above, Roxanne de Bastion has confirmed that her second album, You & Me, We Are The Same, will be released on 3 September 2021. The album will feature Molecules together with Erase, Heavy Lifting and 7 further songs, some of which were featured in her live stream back in September. It was produced by Bernard Butler and can be pre-ordered here.
Roxanne has also announced a return to the Moth Club in London on 12 October 2021 but this time with a live audience. This will be a great opportunity to hear the new album performed live and tickets can be bought here.
As we all desperately hope for brighter skies ahead, these are exciting times for Roxanne de Bastion and we look forward to further live dates emerging to promote her forthcoming album and all the other ventures she alluded to above. Watch this space!
All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.