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Interview: Repulsive Woman on her new single 'Relief'.

Interview: Repulsive Woman on her new single 'Relief'.

[Photo Credit: Erin Lee]

Following on from a slew of releases of One Direction covers via BandCamp, Repulsive Woman (aka the moniker of Dunedin-based musician Millie Lovelock) has dropped her debut single in the form of ‘Relief’, a lo-fi look into a worried mind - which utilises Lovelock’s self-taught cello skills.

We spoke to Millie about the new single, her songwriting, and of course, One Direction…

COUP DE MAIN: What can you tell us about your new single, 'Relief'?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: It’s part of a collection of songs I’ve been writing on my own - I mean, I do all the writing for the band I’m in, Astro Children, but it’s kind of a different matter for me to sit down and think about songs that are just going to be performed by me. So it’s very different from Astro Children - I hope in a good way. But I’m trying to extend myself with my songwriting, and try recording myself, and produce my own work.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: I’m quite obsessive about lyrics. Lyrics are really, really important to me, so I typically will write most of the lyrics, or all of the lyrics occasionally before I start thinking about music. But once I start playing the music, I will rewrite, I do a lot of rewriting, and revision and changing the order of things. Trying to come up with words that fit the meaning as well as the rhythmic patterns of the music, the melodic patterns as well.

CDM: Does it take a long time, from start to finish?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: Yup, usually it takes me months, because I’ll write the lyrics, then I quite like to sit on them for a while. Then I’ll revisit things - I’ve got countless notebooks - I like to blend the music-writing process with the revision process. If I’m writing some music, and I think, ‘Oh, I might have some words that would work quite well with this,’ then I’ll go back to it. It’s not always the lyrics that I’ve written the most recently that I’ll go back to.

CDM: You’re classically trained in violin and clarinet - has that background informed the way you go about writing music?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: I think I have quite a complicated relationship with that part of my musical life. It definitely informs what I do now moreso than it did when I first started writing music on guitar. Because I’m not classically trained in guitar, I’ve had a few lessons, but mostly I’m self-taught. The way that I approach writing on the guitar is really different to the way I would think about playing the violin, or the clarinet. This year, I started learning the cello. I think the classical training is starting to lodge it’s way into my songwriting - I’ve played cello on the new single. I had this really nice moment the other night when I was writing the cello part, I was listening to the track I’d recorded - I’d been really enjoying learning the cello, I find it’s really challenging and fun - and I found I really connected with it once I started playing it with my own music. I was able to have that emotional connection that I have with playing my own songs on guitar to the cello. Learning the violin… I was five when I started learning - I never managed to find that really emotional connection though, as a small child. It’s so hard, you’re learning to read music, and it’s a really different way of playing music.

CDM: I know you performed live on Radio 1 in Dunedin - but have you played any other Repulsive Woman live shows?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: I’ve done a few. I’ve been doing these One Direction covers for a while, so I played a couple of low-key shows doing those - but my first proper show I was opening for Frankie Cosmos when she was in Dunedin. I chucked myself in the deep end. It’s really different for me to be on-stage by myself, I feel very exposed by it. But I’m really enjoying it. I love playing live, it’s one of my favourite parts of playing music.

CDM: You were featured in RNZ’s showcase on women guitarists in New Zealand. Do you think it’s important for women to be able to have their own space existing in the world of guitar music, which is so typically a male-dominated space?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I think those kinds of pieces are so important, because when you’re a young girl and you’re starting out, it can be really hard to see women in the industry. So I think that visibility is really important, and will hopefully push us to a place where we don’t have to have pieces which are like, ‘Look at the women doing cool things!’, but rather we can just put out music.

CDM: I really love the line you said in that interview: “Everyone’s terrible at writing songs and everyone’s terrible at playing guitar [when they start], so that there can be more space for younger girls to think, ‘Ok well I’m allowed to start a band and I’m allowed to be terrible when I start.’” Why do you think that there exists a perception that really talented musicians are ‘born’ with this skill/talent?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: I really hate that narrative - the idea that musical ability, or any kind of artistic ability is a gift from God, that you’ve either got it or you don’t. It’s not that way at all, it’s dependent on so many things in your life. Whether you’re raised around people who are really invested in the arts, or you had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, or to learn a particular artistic craft. Aside from that, it’s a lot of hard work to get to the point where you’re good at making art. I don’t think anyone is just born with unbelievable skill.

CDM: Obviously you’re kind of an expert in One Direction. Who from One Direction do you think has the most successful career?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: <laughs> I think at this point it’s Harry [Styles]. I love the album. I had a very good time listening to the album.

CDM: What do you think is the #1 best One Direction song of all time?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: That’s a really hard question for me. I’ve got a bunch that I think are really great… The song that I feel like is my One Direction song is ‘Perfect’ - it came out on my birthday. It was a special treat for me. I think it’s unintentionally quite queer-coated, and the production blows me away. There’s this really amazing close sound to the vocals when you listen to it through headphones, it sounds like it’s almost gonna feed back, but it doesn’t. It’s on the edge, but still so controlled. I’m a big fan of that song.

CDM: Are you planning to release any more One Direction covers?
REPULSIVE WOMAN: Yeah. The plan was to do an EP of covers, but I’ve gotten a little bit distracted writing my own album.

Listen to Repulsive Woman’s new single ‘Relief’ below…

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