The way she tells it, it took a move to Edinburgh to turn Carla Easton into Glasgow’s one-woman pop behemoth.
Or, rather, it took the journey home. “Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 & 2)” is something of a sonic diary entry, written by Carla on the train to Glasgow as she returned home after five years on the east coast, a song about “that point where you’ve lost sight of yourself and then reconnect”. It’s also not a TeenCanteen song, which might come as a surprise to anybody who caught the four-piece play their first show in a while supporting Shonen Knife a couple of months back (that would be Jehane and I, hi) and who knew they were on the cusp of re-releasing their crowdfunded debut album.
Meet Ette. Named for the suffix to many of the 60s girl groups that have long inspired Carla’s songwriting, she’s not the candy-coated bubblegum queen she first sounds – rather, Ette is an experimental pop duo which finds Carla’s sunny melodies put through a proverbial psychedelic meat grinder operated by Joe Kane, of Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab.
Recorded over the course of five days in Joe’s studio with the two musicians sharing instrumental duties, Homemade Lemonade – Ette’s debut album – is out on 22nd July on Glasgow’s Olive Grove Records. I caught up with sometime LYG contributor Carla to find out more about the project.
How did you get started writing music and performing?
I can’t remember not having music in my life. My eldest brother is 10 years older than me, so from a very young age I was exposed to everything he was listening to as a teenager. He bought me my first record when I was seven – “Mrs Robinson” by The Lemonheads. When I was eight, I was given a keyboard and started piano lessons which I did right up to the end of high school.
Writing is something I’ve always done – when I was given a piano I was more obsessed with how big a sound I could create than practising my scales – but I didn’t ‘seriously’ start putting pen to paper until I was studying at Art School when I was 19 and formed my first band Futuristic Retro Champions. Everything has just progressed from there.
Three words to describe your sound…
I would describe the Ette album as psychedelic synth-infused pop
What influences you – both musically and otherwise?
I’ve always been obsessed with the girl group genre – particularly the period 1958-63 when they were at their absolute height in terms of popularity. With that comes the classic Brill Building song writers whom I love dearly, especially Goffin & King. I am a huge fan of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. I love the drama of the orchestration and layering from old mono recordings. Every pop song he produced sounds like a mini musical/theatrical piece. There is so much drama contained in a very short amount of time.
Tell me about how the collaboration with Joe came about – how did you guys meet, and how does the way you work differ from what you do with Teen Canteen?
Last Summer I had been writing and demoing some songs whilst staying back at home for a short period of time during a transition from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I sent these demos to some friends and they encouraged me to record them properly. I had quite a clear direction for how they would sound and had written a lot of the parts of each song – moreso than I would do for TeenCanteen songs where I would just write the lead vocal melody and chord structure so the girls could write their parts in the studio. Joe Kane’s name kept coming up as someone I should seek out to work with. I didn’t know much about him at all other than he is in Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab (with Stu Kidd) whom I’m a huge fan of. I got in touch with him and sent him my demos and we took it from there!
The whole album was recorded over five days in Joe’s studio with the two of us taking on many instruments per track. It was extremely quick, easy and fun. I think this is due to the fact that – most of – the songs were new and hadn’t been played live before so I wasn’t overly precious about them. I hadn’t planned on releasing them and was more just looking to develop my abilities as a songwriter and musician by working with Joe.
For me the project definitely became a full on collaboration the more songs we recorded together. Joe’s production is incredible and his enthusiasm is contagious in the recording studio. I strolled up one morning and he was listening to some heavy dub sounding drum machine beats asking if I had a song that would fit. So we gave it a go and the result is “Bonfires” – maybe one of my favourites on the album! He really got the ‘big sound’ I love and was after. When we finished recording “Heaven Knows” we had the studio door flung open as it was scorching sunshine outside and he just said to me “you should release this”.
Songwriting wise – I think fans of TeenCanteen will enjoy the Ette album, it’s still me doing the writing! There is still a lot of harmonies at the core of each song on the album BUT for me there is more experimentation with genres and definitely a lot more synths.
Similarly, is there a difference between an “Ette” song and a “Teen Canteen” song, in terms of the parts that you write? Are there certain things that you would only cover in your lyrics for one of the bands in particular, or is there a lot of crossover?
Sonically there is a difference. Content wise, I would hope that the Ette album is a development of my songwriting. I think it’s interesting as both albums come out this year. The Ette album is released before the TeenCanteen album despite the songs being much newer. In terms of lyrics I would say that perhaps the Ette album touches more on themes of imagination and self identity but that is purely as a result of where I was at in my personal life at the time of writing.
You’re currently working with two different Glasgow-based indie labels at the moment on which you are releasing new albums. What is it about the Glasgow music scene that feeds into these collaborations? Could you see yourself forming the same partnerships anywhere else?
I sometimes wonder if musically we have gone full circle back to the time of post-punk where there was a wealth of limited edition vinyl releases on independent labels. What I love about working with Lloyd at Olive Grove is the ability to contact the person directly handling the release of my record. He’s not just a name, he’s someone I’ve met and can call at any time with any questions or suggestions and that is important for me at the current stage I am at as a songwriter/musician/whatever you want to call me.
Similarly, with Last Night From Glasgow Records, my brother is involved in the label but it was set up and conceived by Ian Smith who I met through the TC Pledgemusic Campaign. TeenCanteen played a gig at his house (one of our Pledge offers) and that was how we met. LNFG is a crowd funded label that was a result of us crowd funding an album – you could say TC are the most crowd funded band on the planet! – but the community aspect of the label is phenomenally infectious. I also love the snowball effect – the label wouldn’t have started if we hadn’t ran a campaign to complete the album which lead us to meet Ian. Mark, Stephen and Emme wouldn’t have been able to release music on LNFG if we hadn’t met Ian. It felt natural to release the TeenCanteen album with LNFG as a result of this community that has built up.
I think it’s interesting as you used the word ‘partnership’ when asking if I could see my self being involved anywhere else. I guess working with Olive Grove Records and LNFG is that it does feel like a partnership and it is the ‘working together’ aspect I enjoy by releasing on independent labels. Who knows what will be next. I think you can form these partnerships with anyone around a release if the passion is there for releasing new music and promoting new bands.
What’s the most exciting thing about releasing music into the world as Ette – has any of the reaction surprised you so far?
The most exciting thing so far has been playing live! When I first sent my songs to Lloyd I never anticipated or had any notion of performing these songs live and Lloyd agreed I wouldn’t have to. Playing live has been wonderful – the rehearsals have been some of the most fun I’ve ever been involved with!
I was tentative and nervous about what response I would get for Ette and wanted to make it clear that it wouldn’t hinder my passion for TeenCanteen – it 100% hasn’t! For me the feedback has been incredible and I couldn’t be happier. I’m happy that fans of TC are warmly supporting my solo effort.
What else do you have coming up in terms of tour dates, releases etc that you would like to plug?
See pic below:
And what are you listening to at the moment?
I just bought the double CD collection of Sharon Signs to Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 and would urge anyone interested in women making music to grab a copy! The stand out track for me so far is ‘Jimmy’s Grin’ by Margox but the whole album is incredible – pure pop by way of dub, reggae, post punk and shoegaze. It’s inspiring and sonically delicious!
Ette’s Homemade Lemonade is released on bubblegum pink vinyl by Olive Grove Records on 22nd July, with a launch gig the night before at The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow. Tickets are available now.
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