Bio A four-piece outfit formed in London, Tricky Susan immediately snatch your attention with their hook-centric tunes and an energy hard to eclipse. Cementing this with a penchant for a stonking good time (on stage and off), it won’t take you long to get what this lot are about.
Tricky Susan entice you to join them on their journey. Buckle up for the ride.
Camilla – vocals Don – guitar John – bass Val – drums
What first inspired you to make music? Camilla: Growing up with elder siblings in a house always full of music, I became infatuated early on by the power of a strong melody teamed with slick lyrics. My little mind couldn’t get over the fact that a good song had the power to transform your mood and outlook completely. That was it for me - music was my daily oxygen!
I think I churned out my first tragic attempt at a ‘song’ aged 10 and it went from there. A catalyst moment came in the form of a boyfriend, who told me with a sturdy dose of machismo that he was “off to uni to form a band.” I had never considered that was even an option for me until that point, and so that’s what I went off and did. (Sadly I don’t think he ever did form that band!)
John: I also grew up in a musical house and was encouraged to play from an early age. Later it became escapism, or a way of expressing my emotions in a healthier way.
Val: Running away from a negative world to clean the soul!
Don: It seemed like a pretty good way of annoying people.
Who is your biggest influence and what is it about their music that you find interesting? Don: I have a really broad taste, and I love people who trample over the boundaries of genre to do their own thing. Nothing worse than putting yourself in a box. I love anything too weird to be defined! Some of my guys are Bowie, Scott Walker and Tom Waits. I'm not particularly biased toward rock music – I'm really into Exotica, which is basically psychedelic Hawaiian jazz. It's all vibraphones and frog croaks … goes well with a cocktail and an obnoxious shirt.
John: I think my dad was my biggest influence when it comes to music, despite not being a musician himself. He had a great taste in music, so I grew up listening to a varied mixture including great bands like Steely Dan, The Stranglers, Radiohead and Gang of Four. Arctic Monkeys have also been a huge influence - I even played in a tribute band for a short while. I think all those bands play with real emotion - there’s a rawness there.
Camilla: Punchy rhythm guitar and drums with an urgent vocal to match is often a pre-requisite for me. The Hives, Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes were the basis of my vast musical love affair growing up. There are no obscurities to their music - only direct rhythm and messages which bosh you on the head as soon as you press play. From a frontman perspective, my idols are Howlin' Pelle Almqvist and Billy Joe Armstrong and of course that de facto frontman and demi-god, Mr Angus Young. They are the chieftains of the ultimate stage story experience. It’s as if they deliver live CPR to their flagging audience, rousing them from the mediocre and hum-drum worries of the modern age that we all insist on bringing into the music venue on a Tuesday evening. Suddenly you’re AWAKE, you worry less, and you GET IT - because of them.
How would you describe your music and what path has brought you here? Camilla: I’d say we fall into the Post Punk collective as well as happily accepting Punk Pop comparisons? I’m useless at this stuff. We met in London. Whilst we prioritise strong melodies we like to think we give a healthy ‘nod’ to Punk in general…. Certainly a dash of anger thrown in for good measure, it would be rude not to.
What is your creative process? Donald: Little ideas pop into my head fairly frequently. A snatch of lyrics, a chord change I haven't heard or used before – I have no idea what causes them, but I write them all down. When I need some new material I go through my notes and weave relevant stuff together.
There isn't a blueprint or anything, so that keeps it from getting repetitive. Sometimes I get a whole song in just a few minutes – that's rare but it's obviously great when it happens! It's fairly well known that McCartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head fully formed – what's less well known is that's just the tune. His placeholder words were, “Scrambled eggs … oh my darling, how I love your legs!” I think he should have stuck with them.
Camilla: I often get ideas when I’m out running, I imagine the rhythm of the run spurs that on. Also, cliché enough, after a tipple. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion holed up in some grungy North London lavatory cubicle, sending a voicenote to myself for the morning!
Apart from that it’s those pesky humans, the good and the bad, giving out inspo. I’m always perplexed by artists who can book out a studio for a week and bash out 10 songs. It escapes me. I definitely have to be alone to write and then go back to the guys with a set of ideas. Whether it’s anger; frustration; unrequited love; boredom... – I think you have to do a certain amount of waiting before a relatively authentic track comes along.
What is the most enjoyable and most frustrating part of recording for you? Don: Depends on the session! It's always different. Last time was great. So satisfying to turn up the amps and bang everything really hard, cause that's why you're there. And then to hear the big fat sound back through the monitors. It's maddening being in the same spot for so long though – I get itchy feet. Also there's always the diminishing time in the back of my mind ….
Val: Most frustrating part of recording for me personally is probably finding a balance between what I want and what I can do. Most enjoyable part of recording is when it sounds spot on.
John: Most enjoyable - nailing the take, especially when recording live! Most frustrating - time setting up, fiddling with gear etc - our last session I think I was actually only playing my bass for around an hour over the course of a couple of days. There’s a lot else that has to get done to make sure the whole record sounds good.
Camilla: “Donald! Pack your flamin’ sarnies in the morning!” Time simply evaporating is the most frustrating part- you need to get a lot done in a short space of time. Most enjoyable - hearing the sexy varnish of production transform a rough and raspy track into a sleek end product. The buttons, man, the buttons!
What is the most enjoyable and frustrating part of live performance? Camilla: The most amazing part is the chance to communicate your story directly to a crowd. Whether that’s something that’s: pissed you off; made you abundantly happy; made you abundantly sad…. You have this unique opportunity to get it out there and for it to resonate with someone there in that room. If someone leaves the venue thinking, “I felt like that today too” - I’m a chuffed egg. For me, music is the great communicator in this world - the top religion!
John: I love seeing the crowd bounce! I think the most frustrating part is when the schedule slips - I’m itching to play so any delays annoy me
What is the most memorable gig you performed? Don: I used to get my friend (filmmaker Michael O'Kelly) to do ridiculous stuff at the end of our set while we made a huge horrendous wall of feedback. One time he came out wearing a dinner jacket and full beard, and carrying a pint glass of water. He took out a razor and proceeded to shave off his beard, rinsing the razor in the glass as he went. When the beard was gone, the noise continued. So he improvised as any dedicated artist would: he shaved his eyebrows, he shaved his nose, he shaved his forehead, he shaved his tongue. Due to the adrenaline and the lack of mirror, he cut himself to some extent. The noise continued. So what else could he do? He downed the pint. One woman was sick. A man said it was the greatest thing he'd ever seen. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Val: There are plenty of them , every gig is special.
Camilla: I once fell on my arse whilst exiting the stage, quite memorable for the wrong reasons. Ever since I saw Patty Smith at Glasto do the same and send the following words reverberating... I’ve never been quite the same: “That’s right GLASTON -BERRY. I just fell on my ass. And you know why?! BECAUSE I’M ROCK’ROLL!!!!” In a world of nonsense- be more like Patty.
How do you feel social media and the internet has affected the way you promote or distribute your music? Camilla: I think labels are expecting bands to create a huge chunk of the professional package themselves, which means bands have to spend a hefty amount of time getting their social media spanky and faultless before they get truly considered. When this directs bands from focussing on their music when they're starting out I think that's a bit of a shame. I have stop myself sometimes as I do have the tendency of appearing as some sort of time-warped 70s rock child who took a wrong turn out of Narnia. I do find myself yearning for a simpler time - preferably when we could have slid on our platform boots, sent in a demo, lit up a Silk Cut and sat back waiting for the postman to arrive! But alas, that's not realistic of course - the only constant is change. On that note - get following us on Instagram for goodness sake!
What is the most trouble you have gotten into? Camilla: I am virtuous and without sin. Over to the others.
Val: It is very difficult question.
John: Dodgy festival memories come to mind!
Don: I've never been in any trouble, because I've never been caught.
What is the best advice you have been given? Val: “Took from the reach , kept for meself “ - Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.
Don: We are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
John: Aiming for perfection is setting yourself up for failure.
Camilla: Go With Your Gut.
Being part of the music scene, there must be acts that you have played with that have made an impact on you, who would you say was the one that stood out the most? Don: My old band had a policy of spending as little time in the venue as possible! We used to skip the soundcheck, arrive right before we played and do a quick line check then. Then we'd be straight out of the door after the set! It started off as a bit of a joke but it helped to keep the energy up. So we never saw any other bands! But there's a guy I play with occasionally called David Goo who's very interesting – very poppy but really original. Fake Teak are another great band too, as are Hot Sauce Pony. They recorded an EP with Actual Steve Albini a year or two ago.
Camilla: Shout out to Itchy Teeth - an authentic band with 60s Beach Boy vibes going on, with whom I first gigged with 6 years ago - check them out! Going back a few years I remember being on the bill with The Struts, who are now obviously doing beyond well in the U.S. When you see a British band go from performing on a crusty (but delicious) Camden stage to achieving stratospheric success, you can’t help but feel a warm glow in your tummy that somehow all is ok in the world. Their success is well deserved. There are so many great bands out there right now - I can’t wait to have them back live in my face after lockdown.
What is next for you? John: I can’t wait to get back to regular rehearsals and gigs- past that who knows?
Don: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans …
Val: To make more good music and for us to gig as much as possible on the big stages!
Camilla: If things are back to normal by then we would absolutely love to play the larger summer stages on the festival scene - the stuff of dreams.
What was the driving force behind your latest work? Camilla: Our latest single ‘Undercover’ is about bridled retribution. Describing a web of espionage and surveillance, it’s a powerful but covert F.U. to someone who thinks they can deceive you through their web of lies and deception. Tat for tat - but with enormous consequences!
What part of the production process were you keen to incorporate? Don: For punchy stuff like this, I always think it's best to get it recorded live in the studio - you get a more impassioned performance that way. So we did that, and all we overdubbed were Camilla’s vocals. There's a bit of editing on the music here and there but largely what you're hearing is a band playing – we didn't even multitrack the guitar, which is unusual.
John: I was keen to get a really fat sound to the bassline, it was all recorded through an octave pedal and with lots of saturation. I actually went out and bought the pedal the weekend after we started working on Undercover - It just wouldn’t have been the same any other way
Were there any hurdles, how did the material develop? Don: No hurdles really – it was a very organic process. Millskill brought in a rough idea on a dictaphone and we jammed the music into existence around that. Then she went away and formalised the lyrics. The only issue was when John picked out a C and I picked out a B in the chorus … in the end we went with a C but made it a minor so I could keep my nice lead bit. A tense moment, let me tell you. I still don’t know who had it right.
John: I rocked up to the recording session with a dead battery in my bass - rookie mistake! I keep a couple of 9 volts and a screwdriver in my gig bag now.
Which platforms will the material be released on? Tricky Susan music is released across; Amazon, Anghami, Apple Music, MediaNet, Deezer, Instagram/Facebook, Google Play, iHeartRadio, ClaroMusica, iTunes, KKBox, Napster, NetEase, Pandora, Saavn, Shazam, Spotify, Tidal, TikTok, Soundtrack By Twitch. And that Harry Potter platform at King's Cross.
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