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Interview: Francisca Griffin of Look Blue Go Purple + Eliana Gray of Jaggers x Lines

Interview: Francisca Griffin of Look Blue Go Purple + Eliana Gray of Jaggers x Lines

Eliana Gray / Wednesday 25th July, 2018 10:33AM

On a sunny day earlier this year, Ōtepoti musicians and friends, Francisca Griffin (Look Blue Go Purple) and Eliana Gray (Jaggers x Lines) sat down to pick each other's brains about music, joy, trauma recovery, magic and creative communities. In advance of gigs this week from both artists, we thought it pertinent to print this excerpt from a longer conversation between the artists, which can be found in issue seven of Radio One 91fm's print-only publication Bones (if you don't have a copy already you may be out of luck - head over here for info). Jaggers x Lines will be opening for touring Australian songwriter Tash Sultana at the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday 28th July and Francisca Griffin and her band The Bus Shelter Boys play The Audio Foundation in Auckland on the same day.

Eliana Gray: Let’s do this! Francisca Griffin, what made you want to make music?

Francisca Griffin: I was watching a whole lot of people around me making music and I thought, "Oh! I could do that." They made it look easy and accessible. This was in the punk scene in Calgary. I bought a bass off my hairdresser and another friend taught me how to play.Then I came back here and met up with Lesley Paris and we started a band! It was like, "Look at all those other people, they’re doing it, let’s do it! And make it women."

EG: When you’re talking about accessibility, I wonder, do you think it’s important to see representations of yourself to make things seem accessible? Is that something that made it feel accessible for you and if not, why not?

FG: There weren’t really women playing, there were, but not a lot. It didn’t feel like it feels today. Back then in Dunedin it was like: you wanna play music? Cool! It (gender) made absolutely no difference. There has always been, in rock music, more men playing than women and I don’t understand that because there’s amazing women! It’s a historical thing and I love that we’re changing it now. I love that I’m changing it just by playing and I love playing! Something I think we really need to do is encourage women engineers and women producers.

EG: Something I find confusing: there is a part of me that has a lot of unresolved anger towards cis-men in general and cis-men within the music scene, who I feel like have been ‘gate-keepers’ of creative communities or displayed abusive tendencies. That part of me is really angry and feels very passionate about carving out spaces that are just for GNC folk and for women. But then there’s another part. I remember when I was doing ‘Yes Fest’ and some of the acts pulled out because they felt the way we were focusing the event boxed them in as being ‘just a women musician’ and I totally get that. It messes with my head because defining stuff by gender... it’s important because the disparities are there and it’s important to acknowledge that but then perhaps, the more you keep casting your light on that... the less you’re casting your light on the music?

FG: I think you’re gonna find that you can cast that light without being angry about it. I spent a lot of time being angry. Not about music, not about the creative communities or maybe I did and it’s just so gone now I don't even remember it. But back then, there were some things but we chose to ignore them because that’s other people’s shit. When we went on tour it was different, I remember talking about it with the ladies (in Look Blue Go Purple) and wondering what was wrong with these people. Of course back then my stock answer was, ‘They’re fucked in the head.”

EG: You’re not wrong!

FG: I’m not wrong. Now I’m trying to look at it as, “Why are they fucked in the head? How can I shine a light for them somewhere that they can follow?” I feel like these problems are caused by the machinery of the music, it’s not the musicians.

EG: So you feel like it has more to do with systemic problems that end up getting played out by individuals rather than the individuals themselves? Blaming individuals I think can sometimes be unhelpful [Ellie makes uncertain noises] because it perpetuates cycles of shame.

FG: You shame somebody and they’re gonna get angry, because that’s a really really uncomfortable feeling to have. If we can work around it, or with it, I don't know, if we can allow them to have their shame moment by themselves. Shaming someone publicly, I think that’s fucked.

EG: Hmmmm... I have caveats to that.

FG: Of course!

EG: I think, because this is gonna be in print; something that I wanna get down is that if anybody ever does feel really angry, that’s okay too.

FG: I think we’re I’m going with the shame thing is the historical shit. Dragging up lists of things that people have done. I think an issue is not dealing with the shit right then and there.

EG: Again it’s so completely circumstantial, but I do thing there are situations where the power differential is so great that you can’t deal with it then and there. It’s difficult to talk about because everyone experiences oppression differently.

FG: Yes, it’s subjective. So many of us have been in a place where someone's disrespected us and we haven’t been able to address it then, and maybe we’ll want to later but then, we have to do it for ourselves. Even if we address that person it’s got to be done for ourselves.

EG: This is something me and my therapist talk about a lot. Shout outs to my therapist! Like if I’m going to address someone who’s hurt me I need to do it when I’m in a space where their response doesn’t affect me because that’s just giving them power over me all over again.

FG: All right! Mx Gray, why do you play music?

EG: The primary reason I play music is because it brings me the greatest joy and I don’t see any point in living my life centred around anything other than that. This is a good illustrative situation. One of my bands, Jaggers x Lines, we played a New Year’s festival. The day before we played, I was sad, panicky, anxious. But as soon as we got on stage, it melted away. My partner said that it was so amazing to see me go from anxious and depressed, to totally joyous. That's how it feels as well. It’s a performance but not performative.

FG: Nerves?

EG: I’ve just come out of getting reeeally nervous. The first show I ever played, I was so nervous that I took a double dose of my meds, got way too drunk, broke my glasses! It was a mess. When I first started, I would feel like I would have to get drunk or stoned to be able to perform. And now, I have to be sober because I don’t want anything getting in way of me and the song.

FG: I completely agree! I used to have to get drunk to play, I was so nervous. Then, after some disastrous shows, I decided doing it sober was the only way to stay connected. I decided when I get on stage, I’m playing music for me. Playing it for other people used to be a big part of it. Now, I love that people come to my shows. I love that people dance but, it’s not essential.

EG: Playing music for other people and basing your feelings on their reaction can be just as addictive as the whole ‘I’ve got to be wasted to play” thought process. There’s always gonna be shows that you’ll play where people don’t come, or don’t respond in the way you’d like them to. If I’m focusing on that I’m taking energy away from my joy of playing and my expression of the song. Tying part of your identity to other people’s responses is a very difficult path to tread.

FG: An impossible path. And you know what? I think the audience can feel when you’re expressing a song accurately.

EG: Yes! So as much as we’re talking about how audience response isn’t important, the more in your songs you are, people feel that. And that energy exchange is literal magic.

FG: Tangentially: when I’m singing about something that hurt me, I’m singing this painful thing and still feeling the raw joyfulness of it. Does that happen to you?

EG: It does now and it didn’t use to. I’m in a much more mentally stable place than I was when I started. I’ve done a lot of healing, the wounds are less raw. I wrote a song called ‘Silver & Gold’ that I wasn’t able to perform. I would get so scared it would make me cry. The first time my band Terrified played it, I was crying on stage. Now, my songs are still about things just as painful, but the work I’ve put into myself means that I can find the joy in them.

FG: I was talking to a friend about wanting to have more joyful subject matter and they said, “Francisca you can sing about sad things and show people that you are being joyful despite having experienced them and maybe help someone who’s going through a similar thing.”

EG: Also, for me, writing about painful experiences helps the healing process. Every time I perform a song about something painful, the pressure eases off a bit. The more I can create external representations of my pain, the more I can practice validating and believing myself. Because if I turn it into something that other people can look at, it makes it more real. It’s naming. Music for me is really a process of naming experiences.

FG: Because the more you name something, the more you can move through it.

Francisca Griffin and the Bus Shelter Boys are playing at Auckland's Audio Foundation on Saturday 28th July with w/ Hermione Johnson and Stefan Neville, for more info and tickets head along here.

Dunedin punters can catch Jaggers x Lines supporting rising Australian songwriter Tash Sultana that same day at Dunedin Town Hall.


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