Home > Interviews > Peggy Sue Q&A January 2014

Peggy Sue Q&A January 2014

Jo Cox


You’ve been quoted in other interviews saying when you met you could barely even play. Did that initially put you off and has it ever been a major hindrance to the bands success?

I think that naivety can be a very creative approach. It’s a preventative against re-using old ideas. We played the guitar like a bass for a long while because we were unsure of how to make chord patterns, but that became by default almost our style. I think alongside naivety there was always a strong element of choice behind the way we’ve approached songwriting. Me and Katy were both taught piano, I learnt from 7 to 16, but the guitar was the instrument which for some reason clicked with us when writing our own music. I think the symbiosis highly trained musicians have with their instrument is beautiful to watch. I suppose being self taught develops something different musically and it probably makes it easier initially to find your own style. It’s a blank canvas and that can be freeing.

As we started to improve our guitar playing we began picking up other instruments we couldn’t play yet and each one gave us at least one new song. It’s a buzz when something clicks with you melodically, a brand new discovery that helps you re-find the fun in songwriting all over. For the last two releases I’ve been sticking to guitar but using more guitar pedals, and I suppose you could say I’m approaching them in the same way as we approached new instruments.

What would you say to other young women who are interested in music and want to get stuck in but can’t play an instrument yet?

I would say to anyone If you enjoy making music then that’s what you should do in whatever way you can. I don’t believe with any artistic endeavour you reach a point where you’ve finished training and are ready to begin. You’re always learning which is what makes it exciting, and most of the time you have to do something to learn how to do it.

Your Facebook page lists the band’s genre as ‘post-folk’. What is it? Do you think it ultimately matters how your music is categorised?

I think we thought post-folk was funny. People often make folk associations with us although we’ve never slotted that comfortably into a folk definition. Post-Folk was our way of paying credence to the storytelling elements of our lyrics but suggesting we didn’t quite fit. I suppose it also has post rock connotations. I like to imagine post-folk as the moment Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar in a folk club and had Judas shouted at him.

To be honest I find Genre classification practically impossible – I still panic each time I’m asked what type of music I make. As much as you want to ask someone to go listen and make their mind up for themselves I guess you have to accept we live in the era of acronyms and 140 character limits and lots of people expect a concise summary. For a while a long time ago we were number one in the myspace rockabilly chart because you had to fill in a genre description and that was what we went for regardless of the music we were actually making, so I suppose categorisation has no effect whatsoever on music itself but it’s certainly best to avoid getting stuck.

Categories tend to be something that only fit for so long; they’re only really confining if people are unwilling to see that most musicians tend to progress through different styles and genres naturally. If we stayed the same for too long it would be boring.

Your latest album, Choir of Echoes, is due for release in January. What can we expect this time around and how has the new material been going down live?

It’s always exciting playing a new song live and I think so long as you’re playing it ok that feeling is infectious, so it’s been great so far. The project we did in-between the new album and Acrobats, Peggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising, had a big effect on the way we approached the writing process for Choir of Echoes. Doing a covers album was surprisingly liberating – not having writen the lyrics gave us the space to focus on melody and sound more creatively which has transferred across I think. Getting a permanent bassist for COE gave the guitars room to be more playfull, and we’ve begun experimenting sonically a lot more which conversely allowed us to return to simpler starting points in terms of song structure, taking a lot from the Phil Spector approach. There are more shoo-bi-doo’s and doo-wops on this album than we’ve had for a while and we really began finding fun in using our voices again. Thematically the album title refers to the voice, and the idea of loosing your voice, finding it again, voices competing for space and finding one voice amongst many are all ideas.

You’ve had quite a lot of pretty big support slots over the years, are there any shows which stand out for you?

I think playing to thousands of people in an ice rink on the Jack White tour was definitely a highlight. You could see the breath spiralling.