Interview: La Bête Blooms

Last year we tipped La Bête Blooms to be “one of the most exciting and strongest forces in music right now”; this year, armed with a fresh EP, the Hull band are doing everything right to put them in the running for the title of the most exciting.

The band’s latest EP is a stomping four-track-strong offering from the post-punk four-piece – the creation of which they confess to have been a cathartic exercise of sorts due to their personal battles with mental health.

We caught up with the band to find out more about the impact mental health issues have had on their work, and lives…

You’ve recently released your EP I Know It’s Nothing, how would you say the general reaction to it has been?
It’s been really positive, we’ve been sat on it for a while. It’s been more of a soft launch, but the general reaction has been really good.

The EP is in many ways influenced by your personal experiences with mental health; would you be open to discuss those feelings, and the inspirations behind the EP?
The EP was mostly centred around a specific time – we’ve never really written anything personal in the case of our lyrics until this EP, and it was just a cathartic sort of thing to write about… I was working quite a lot, and through work I was getting really stressed out and I was in this really weird space; but it’s been a positive thing to write this EP around it and sort of be honest with myself. I suppose because it’s something that I’ve genuinely not talked to anyone about, so the only way I could express myself was through writing the EP, I guess.

It felt as though the music was this sort of release, the single ‘Low Hummer’ was about not being able to get out of bed in the morning – just really struggling from a lot of pressure. It was also a really weird time for us because we’d just lost someone who was quite a big musical figure for us in Hull, and then in between recording it and releasing it we’ve lost another person through similar circumstances, so it’s been a peculiar thing. It feels like a good time to really talk about it, especially in Hull – I think if you’re in a band or playing music in Hull, you don’t really have the outlet or the gateways that other cities do that give you optimism. We’re quite isolated as a city, so those links didn’t exist for a long time. I think the problems we’ve had in Hull in mental health come through bands who have been around for a little bit longer, when those links didn’t exist, because there didn’t seem to be a sort of positive outcome to the amount of work you were putting in.

In a recent study, 71% of musicians experienced anxiety and 69% experienced depression, which in turn means musicians may be three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than others. Does this surprise you in anyway?
I don’t know, I suppose musicians can often be in it for different reasons – they’ll experience stress and anxiety in different ways. I suppose even just performing on stage gives you anxiety. It’s a really odd thing; even with me, if I’ve just played a gig and my amp has blown, which happened the other week, I’ll be dwelling on that for such a long period of time. Especially with the amount of money that everything costs, you’re constantly worrying about it. I also think you can feel as a bit of a burden sometimes because it’s not always taken seriously, and often it’s not bringing you any income, it’s just seen as a hobby.

You can get one or two gigs that make you feel absolutely amazing, and it feels like you’re trying to achieve that level every time, and often you have to go through a lot of horrible ones to get to that point again. There’s massive ups and downs, you can go from playing in front of big crowds and it being great, but then you’ve got a week after that where you’re sort of like “now what?”… And I think it’s completely normal that musicians feel a lot of issues with mental health. It’s sort of like you’re on a massive comedown from this high – you have to go back to reality in a way, all your energy is just waiting to be used.

I’ve never really thought about it properly until now but it really is so weird what you put yourself through – a gig can feel amazing, but financially it might not help at all. All of it feels of your own making because you’re the one putting yourself through it, but also it feels so vital for you to be doing it because it’s your release.

For many, one of the main stresses of being a musician is the uncertainty of a regular sustained amount of income for living, would you consider this to be true?
Yeah it’s got to be, hasn’t it? I don’t think it’s stressed really how little income there is. I think a lot of people get into bands because of how much fun it is – y’know it’s not absolutely awful, it can be a really good experience. But it took a couple of years for it to really hit home for me how fucked up the industry really is in terms of there being no money, even at a good level there’s often no real money. I think that is a massive factor, and once you’ve got so far down the road you only start to realise just how bleak financially it’s going to be, which doesn’t help because you’re already half way in.

What would you say are the main causes of stress for musicians today?
I feel like the end goal for a lot of people is to be living off music, and when you don’t reach that goal I think that can be extremely damaging. I think there’s a big question surrounding the sense of worth of what it is you’re doing. I think there can often be this stigma of it being a hobby and often not being seen as a ‘real job’, especially when you spend so much time on it; when you spend so much time on something, it can sometimes limit the time you spend with friends and with loved ones, and sometimes it’s not actually fun, but you keep doing it, thinking about the bigger picture that you have in your head.

There’s recently been a call for a more tailored service that is designed specifically towards musicians; with 55% stating there were gaps in available help for musicians. Do you think this is necessary?  
That would be massive, I think it would be absolutely huge. I think it is a vital step that needs to be taken. Things have definitely changed and it seems a little easier to talk about, but at the same time it can also not be so easy – to have this sort of service in place nationally could have potentially saved a lot of lives. In Hull, we have a project called The Warren which does wonders, but they’re working on a shoestring – it’s very community-based, but at the end of the day they can only do so much.

Do you think that the concept of a mentally struggling musician can often be romanticised?  And how do you think this can affect the mentality of many musicians?
I think examples of it are all over the place, if you have heroes that are like that then you can sometimes end up being similar to them in a way, subconsciously you can take on and adopt that persona and in a weird way you can also take on that burden. I think it can also work two ways, it can romanticise it for the musician but it also makes it harder to talk about because you’re worried you’re going to become a cliché. To other people, it could seem as though you’re trying to be Morrissey or something, but in reality you could be tackling a very serious problem.

What personal advice would you give to those musicians who may be struggling with their mental wellbeing?
I think to know what you’re getting into and why you’re making music is a big thing – if you tailor why you’re doing it into a positive thing, it can be a massive help in regards to your mental wellbeing. To just understand that the industry is an industry, and there’s not a lot of money, it can hurt. What do you want to get out of it? Y’know. For me, it’s been a massive cathartic release sometimes and it’s been my life – playing gigs and making music with friends, those are the things that I hold onto, as opposed to the negative parts. To speak to someone can seem obvious, but it’s also vital, it is worth talking, you shouldn’t be suffering for your art.

Huge thanks to La Bête Blooms for answering our questions!

I Know It’s Nothing, the new EP from La Bête Blooms, is out now.

James Cummins

James Cummins

James Cummins

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