PolyFest 2018 takes place at the legendary Dublin Castle in Camden on 3rd – 4th November 2018, in association with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue. The event is hosted by John Robb (Louder Than War / The Membranes) and Asher Gould (Talk Radio).
Laura Beth from BBC Radio Manchester caught up with ‘She Robot’ ahead of the festival to chat about what she has in store for the lucky punters….
You’re playing PolyFest this year. You are obviously an X-Ray Spex fan. What tracks will you be playing from the classic ‘Germfree Adolescents’ album which is being celebrated for its 40th anniversary? Also, could you explain what those tracks mean to you?
I will be playing 'Art-I-Ficial', 'Obsessed With You' and 'Warrior in Woolworths'.
‘Art-I-Ficial’ for me is about how consumerism moulds people and also how they are conditioned to feel a lack of responsibility towards being moulded - in effect how people are conditioned to express their identity passively through the accumulation of products and branding, rather than positively and authentically on their own terms. I'm passionate about creativity and home-grown music, and firmly believe that people should create their own scene around them to reflect what they believe in.
‘Warrior in Woolworths’ seems to me a reflective look at youthful rebellion and how legitimate anger can still lack direction – all still highly relevant in the era of the zero hours contract, with social problems like knife crime still sadly rife in the inner cities.
‘Obsessed With You’ is somewhat ambiguous. I wonder if it's self-referential, Poly herself being rightly sceptical of the media attention focussed on her, always conscious of the commercial agenda and power play which always threatens to compromise art.
I can’t imagine you will be doing sound-a-likes. How are you preparing the tracks? What can the audience expect to hear on the big night?
I'm increasingly inspired by an electronic sonic palate, so obviously I will be taking these punky, guitar-infused tracks in different directions! I think it's important to bring a cover to a new place - why try to emulate a classic version which can't be surpassed? Also, I'm a one-woman show and can't play the saxophone! So you’ll have to wait and see…
I’ve been listening to your work and its rather unique. You seem to blend different genres to make highly original hybrids. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music, following individual songwriters who stand out to me regardless of genre, and my head is basically a big, jumbled toy box of lyrics, hooks and harmonies from songs I’ve loved over the years. I fumble around and experiment with sounds and ideas until I find something that sticks.
Which other acts are you looking forward to seeing at PolyFest?
I'm looking forward to seeing Fuzzbox, whom I've heard so much about, and also Doctor and the Medics, as I very much enjoyed Clive's recent acting performance in ‘Poezest’ and can't wait to see him in his rock ‘n’ roll capacity...
Your show is spectacular and you play all the instruments. It must be a complicated process. How do you go about setting it all up?
To create a song which loops, there has to be some repeating element structurally. Sometimes you have to take liberties with a cover to get that element to work. Then I spend a lot of time listening to different sounds - synthesiser patches and percussion sounds especially. I never quite know which direction a track is going to take until suddenly two or more elements click, and then inspiration strikes.
Interview by Laura Beth, BBC Radio Manchester