Interview: Beth Jeans HoughtonTweet
Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny hit Ireland for a trio of gigs next week. Vanessa Monaghan caught up with the Newcastle lass to get a glimpse into her world.
Beth Jeans Houghton’s has been put under the folk genre by many but listening to her music and then reading her Facebook biography point to different things. The biography states ‘she was born in Transylvania to a pack of albino wolves who raised her on chewing tobacco and stuffed clams.‘ Houghton says it was written by herself and her drummer ‘when we were a bit drunk’ but this writing alongside her music places Houghton’s music in an almost fantasy genre that she has created.
“I guess I’m just inclined that way mentally. I think we’ve all grown up reading stories and having an imagination.”
Your début album ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is out a while now. Are you happy with how it has been received now that it’s out in the world and has had a life of its own?
“I don’t know, I don’t take any notice about how it has been received but I’m happy with it. I don’t really know how it’s doing or anything. It doesn’t really matter to me how it’s doing. As soon as it’s recorded and released and I’m happy with the record, I feel like I’m done with it, I’m happy to tour. I don’t really need or want other people’s opinions on it. That probably sounds awful.”
What do you view success as? Being able to get out there and play your music or is it a number one?
“I think success is whatever makes you happy. I heard a rude quote my friend told me the other day, Bob Dylan had said something like “If you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night and do what you want in-between, that’s success”. I kind of feel that success to me would be releasing records until I die but then again at some time in the future I may not want to release music anymore, I may want to paint or something like that so I guess success is creating things and letting them go but being happy with the, I don’t want to say product, with the final thing.”
“It’s easy for me to say what I don’t see success is. I don’t see it as how much money you make or even how many people like it, none of that really affects me and I’d rather not know what people think. Even though I don’t want to make any records that are accustomed to people’s taste. I’m a human so hearing or reading that stuff could subconsciously effect it. I want to avoid that as well.”
You mentioned that you may want to paint in the future, is it that you are creative but music is only one element of that?
“Yeah, exactly, I made art and did photography before I even thought I was going to be a musician. I started music when I was 16. I haven’t made a whole load of art but I spent the last two weeks painting and it was really nice to.. I don’t mean get away from music but something else to be excited about so when I go back to music, it’s new again and exciting. I think it’s good to have different endeavours especially because I’ve got a short attention span.”
When you were 18 you supported Bon Iver, do find pressure of other people’s expectations when you’re that young?
“I guess so but I’ve never really listened to what other people say. I think the biggest expectations are from me. The most pressure I feel is not from an audience or a label or my band, it’s from me. I’m probably the one person who wants to,when I say success I mean what makes you happy, I feel I’m the one out of everyone who wants it to work so I can release records and have complete creative control. I don’t want to be rich but to live in an OK off music in a way where you don’t need a second job to pay the bills. That’s all very strifeful, it’s really difficult to do that and I’m by no means rich and I’m terribly in debt but at least I’m happy and at least I can release records. A lot of people want to and can’t so I do appreciate it in that sense.”
How long have the band been playing with you?
“Around about the time I was sixteen or seventeen about five years ago. A long time, according to me.”
Why do you use your name ‘And The Hooves of Destiny? It’s very dramatic isn’t it?
“Haha! I dunno. Initially it was me and we decided that the guys needed a name because you know a lot of people will have a band but just have their name on it. Even though I write the songs and a lot of the parts on it, I still feel that they are part of the project in their own right and it wouldn’t be the same without them. They’re not just session musicians who get told exactly what to do. They have input on their parts and stuff, everyone goes through each other’s parts. So, even though I write the songs, they’re my best friends and I wouldn’t be swapping them for better musicians or anything.”
“They are integral characters in the whole project so I felt it was important for them to have a name. The Hooves of Destiny just came up by accident, it was a misheard lyric, it was kind of a joke to begin with.”
You’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. Have you found the L.A. sunshine and way of life has changed or effected your music?
“I don’t know I guess experiences I’ve had in L.A. Will contribute towards the music I make in the next record and stuff but I always feel like it’s not the place that I’m in but the experiences and the people that I know that influence my music or the situations I’m in, stuff like that. Though situations can happen anywhere, I am a lot happier when I’m in L.A. Because of the weather so I guess that might some kind of effect on it but I wouldn’t say it’s a major role in the whole thing.”
You’ve been spotted many times out and about in Los Angeles. (Beth Jeans has been seen on the arm of Red Hot Chili Pepper singer Anthony Kiedis) It must be very annoying that every time you go somewhere you’re snapped by the paparazzi?
“Yeah, it’s not really a problem. I just tend to ignore them.”
On the album you worked with Ben Hiller (Villagers/The Editors/Depeche Mode), why did you decide to work with Ben?
“I guess he was the most interested and I did find really good vibes about him and it’s important to work with someone who is capable of doing something good but it could all go terribly wrong if you don’t get along with the person. Ben’s one of the nicest, honest and down to earth people that I’ve ever met. I really appreciate the honesty because in a business like this, there’s a lot of backhandedness and people saying one thing and doing something else, it was really great to work with Ben”
“A lot of people hold back in saying things to me because they think I’ll get upset because I’m young and female which is total bollox. I don’t feel like that’s the case at all but Ben will say ‘That sounds terrible’ and I appreciate that because then you can actually work from that but if someone goes ‘Oh yeah it sounds great’ but then telling everyone else it sounds terrible than you’re not going to get the results that you want. Honesty and bluntness and he’s just a really hard worker and he really believe’s in the music and it was a complete faith thing.”
“He just did it because he like the music and wasn’t in it for the money. I think that’s always a blessing. I don’t think I could have got anyone else on his level if they were in it for the money so I appreciate that.”
What can we expect from your live show? There are so many layers in your music, how to do recreate that or do you try to recreate the studio sound?
“It changes song by song, there are songs that are easier to do live like the record and there are ones that are a bit more difficult. Like, the ones that have a lot of strings and horns on, we use a sampler because it would cost a shitload to have a string quartet. Other ones, we replace some of the instruments with the instruments that we play. We do whatever sounds best live, we wouldn’t try to emulate the record with certain songs if it didn’t come across well live so we’ve just gone through them all one by one to see which comes across live like the record or if we have to change it.”
“Often we change songs month by month so we can keep playing with some kind of passion. Playing a song every night, it’s easy to become complacent with the music, if you’re on autopilot. Having a way of doing things, so we’re still on our toes, I guess. I get tired of songs very quickly, I’ve a short attention span, so we’ll change the style or the instrumentation or the structure. I think for an audience to enjoy it, we have to enjoy it as well.”
If you have a short attention span, does that mean you write tons and tons of songs?
“Yeah, I do. I kind of go through phases where I write, like a whole record or there could be a couple of months where I don’t really write much. I guess it depends where I am in my life. I don’t really write when I’m happy. I only every write if I’m happy if I’m extremely happy but that’s very rare. Also when I’m happy, I want to do other stuff that I’m enjoying where as if I’m upset or heartbroken or whatever, that’s when I’m in a room.”
“To be honest I feel like ‘Yours Truly’ sounds like an upbeat album but at the same tim if you listen to the lyrics, a lot of it’s quite dark. For instance, Lilliput sounds fast paced and jolly in a sense but really, the lyrics are about leaving someone because you can’t change them and they can only help themselves. That was a really sad situation that I was writing about there but yeah, it comes across as quite jolly. There’s different ways to do it and see it, I guess.”
Finally what would you like to have achieved by the end of the year?
“By the end of 2012, I would like to have the next record, at least the beginning of the recording process started and I want to be living in L.A.”