Shari Black Velvet: 'There Is A World Outside' EP is Young Runaways' latest EP. Who will it most appeal to and what effect should or will it have on them?
Harriet J. Woodcock: I'm not sure there's anyone it will appeal to more than anyone else. I don't want to say younger people because that seems a bit like I'm stereotyping. I suppose young people would be more likely to hear it. In terms of the effect it will have, I think it's kind of cleansing. It is for me anyway. It feels relieving. I think the vocals and 'extra' instruments have a lot to do with it sounding like that - they add drama to it. Matt writes the lyrics and vocal melodies but he and I sing in harmony quite a lot, and Lucy does too, so sometimes there's a three part harmony going on over the top of all the instruments. With that amount of stuff going on I think it'd be difficult not to sound a bit huge at times. So the effect is kind of... exhausting?! But in a good way! Like the satisfying feeling when you go for a run and then you're really happy afterwards because of the endorphin rush.
SBV: The band features a myriad of instruments such as your trumpet plus violin, trombone and keyboards as well as the usual guitar, bass and drums. Do you think more bands need to experiment with different instruments rather than just being 'guitar, bass, drums' and do you think instruments such as the trumpet have the ability to fit in well with modern indie/rock music? What do you like about playing a trumpet rather than say guitar or bass?
HJW: I've always loved it when bands get a few different instruments involved - I just think it can make for such an interesting sound. Although I love the standard guitar bass and drums set-up too. Sometimes the simpler something is, the more it hits home. For us though, having the violin, trombone, trumpet and keyboards is so important. There are still occasional parts of songs that we deliberately strip back to guitar bass and drums, and I think these bits work so well because of the contrast with the bits when we're all playing together and the sound is so full. I definitely think the more orchestral instruments fit in with modern indie/rock - there are more and more bands out there proving it, six or seven people on a stage together, which is lovely to see. I love playing the trumpet because it feels a bit special! And you can be so dramatic with it as well: you can really go for it in a kind of fanfare-type thing and blast out a tune that you want everyone to hear, or you can be all quiet and mournful or kind of in the background sounding ominous. There are just so many ways you can play it. Having said that, it's not the most sociable instrument - apart from being really loud when you practice, it's not like you can sit around and jam with a trumpet the way you can with guitar or keys.
SBV: How much of your time do you spend on music and the band?
HJW: At the moment we practice once a week for three hours and that seems to be enough - Matt is writing away and always seems to have something new to bring, which is amazing. I think he spends the most time on it out of all of us as he's the chief songwriter. He brings the guitar part and lyrics and vocal melody and then we all write our parts from that. Apart from meeting up as a band though I think most of us play a lot of music a lot of the time - Matt and Lucy teach drums and violin respectively so music is their livelihood as well as something they love. I play a lot as well although I'm trying to learn guitar at the moment so am dividing time between that and the trumpet. I think we'd probably jam more but three of us live in Wolverhampton and three in Birmingham so that makes things a bit tricky.
SBV: The band played Glastonbury a couple of years ago. What do you think the band needs in order to become a Glastonbury headliner - and if you ever did get to headline Glastonbury what would you like your stage show or set to be like?
HJW: Wow. Such a big question. To headline Glastonbury... I can't imagine. To be on any of those stages at any time of day would be unbelievable. It gives me butterflies just thinking about it! From a practical point of view we would need to write more - Tom, Matt, Lucy and Bilbs decided they wanted to play as few of the older songs as possible, so we're building up our set time as we go along. You can't headline Glastonbury with 45 minutes! I honestly don't know what we'd need really. I think so much of it is luck - being in the right place at the right time, getting the right people to listen to your record. I wish it wasn't like that. There are so many great, great bands who don't get anywhere - and some appallingly awful ones that do. It's a bit sad but as long as playing and writing is making you happy then I think you have to kind of chill out about the rest of it. There's no sense stressing if it feels like you're not getting anywhere. Obviously you can't just have a little sit down and expect everything to happen for you, but getting upset about it...I don't hold with that at all. You have to be optimistic, get over the bad things that happen, and celebrate the good ones! So if we ever did get to headline Glastonbury, I think we would be celebrating, to put it mildly! I think we would want it to be big and loud and a bit spectacular. I would want people to hear it and want to hear more.
SBV: You have a song titled 'What Happened To Us'. Besides working on the new EP what else of note has happened to the band lately?
HLW: We headlined Rainbox at the Rainbow in Birmingham! That was good. The older version of Young Runaways played it last year too and it was a great night both times. Plenty of people, all the bands were really good, and all the money raised went to Oxfam which felt great. Apart from that, writing has been the main thing.
SBV: Amongst your upcoming gigs is a free show at the Yardbird, part of The Free Love Club (this Sunday). What are your thoughts on free shows compared to gigs where there's an entrance fee? Do you enjoy getting your music out to new people that come to free gigs who otherwise may not come to a show?
HJW: I love free shows. Everyone loves a free show. We've played at this event before and it was absolutely brilliant last time - one of my favourite gigs. I don't know if it was because it was a Sunday so everyone was all chilled out and peaceful or because it was a free show so you could just rock up and wander in, but the atmosphere was lovely. I'm happy to play to anyone, whether it's a free show or one with an entrance fee. I'd just like as many people to be able to come as would like to. I think you do tend to get more people at free gigs. But that might also be because sometimes the promotion for paid gigs is so shockingly bad.
SBV: Ben works at a local newspaper. How do you all get time off for gigs? Do you have kind bosses who allow you to take time off to do shows, or do you just have to use your holiday leave? Do you try to book more weekend shows than weekday ones?
HJW: So far we've been pretty lucky with shows being in the evenings and over weekends. I think I've left work early a couple of times but it hasn't been a problem - I'm a temp so I can just make up my hours. I think everyone is fairly lucky with work being flexible and their bosses being kind. My boss is lovely - he urges me to leave work early on the days he knows I have band practice!
SBV: In 'Leave With Anyone' you sing 'don't cry for anyone'. Has anything band related ever made you cry?
HJW: Yes, it has. Everyone has bad gigs and you forget about it and get on with the next thing... but sometimes you have a really, really bad one. We've only had one of them since I've been with the band, but wow it was bad. I definitely cried after that! Very silly.
SBV: You're vegetarian. Did you become vegetarian for animal rights reasons? How old were you when you went veggie?
HJW: My parents brought me up as a veggie! So until I was about eighteen I'd never tasted meat or fish at all. I don't pretend that I haven't tried meat since then - I'd moved out and gone to uni and for the first time I was cooking for myself and had the choice of what to eat, so I think it was kind of inevitable. Maybe I was doing a bit of a delayed teenage rebellion thing, I don't know! Now though eating meat doesn't really make sense to me. It's so easy not to eat meat, there are so many substitutes, and so many reasons not to eat it, that I can't see why you would. When I was about ten I got really interested in the animal rights side of it - I think it was after I'd asked my parents why we didn't eat meat when lots of my friends did, and they'd told me that it wasn't fair to eat animals - and I joined PETA, and tried to talk everyone I knew into being a veggie. I think I only convinced one person, but there you go. I actually just looked at the PETA website again and the tagline is: 'Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.' That seems fair enough really!
SBV: Have you ever seen any animal cruelty that made you cry (either in real life or on video, in photos etc)?
HJW: There was some stuff on the PETA website that made me cry - chickens strapped to a wire by their feet. And a picture of a calf in a tiny dark trailer on its own so it could be veal one day. And then that horrible video about the Burger King chicken that lived for two years after they'd cut its head off - that was quite recently. Horrible.
SBV: Young Runaways' debut album was 'The Boy & The Beartrap'. What are your thoughts on traps - ie. everything from mousetraps to traps that are used to catch and kill foxes for their fur?
HJW: They're not great are they? It must be absolutely terrifying to be caught in a trap like that. It's just unnecessary, that's what gets me. I mean, obviously if you've got mice in your house you don't want them there, but it'd be better to just use one of those traps where they just run in looking for the food you've put in there, and then the door closes. Then you can go and release them somewhere, or pay someone to do it for you. And obviously, trapping foxes for their fur is so not okay that it's ridiculous. What a cruel thing. For the sake of fashion as well! And false fur can be made so easily! What is the point?
SBV: In China, bears are subjected to cruelty in bear bile farms and forced to have bile from their gallbladders sucked out of them. They have steel tubes put into their stomach via wounds and then syringes are used to withdraw the liquid from them. What do you think of that - and what are some other forms of animal cruelty you'd like to see stopped?
HJW: I just read up a bit on that as I felt like I didn't know enough to comment. I feel a bit sick now. I just don't really understand. Anyone you showed pictures like the ones I just saw would say it was unacceptable, but it still goes on... I would really like elephants not to be killed for their ivory. Elephants are incredible - they stay with their families their whole lives, they're peaceful, they're vegetarian. They don't hurt anyone or anything. And they're endangered. To kill such a beautiful, rare creature for anything, let alone a tiny part of them, seems unforgiveable.
SBV: Do you know many other vegetarians or vegans?
HJW: My parents and younger brother are still vegetarian. I have a few friends who are - all of the veggies are girls! I don't know if that's a coincidence.
SBV: What would you say the benefits of not eating meat and going veggie are?
HJW: Well, it's healthier for a start! Quorn, tofu or any kind of substitute - even the supermarket own brand ones, which taste just as good - will be lower in fat than the meat equivalent, but you still get the necessary protein. I don't think it's really a question of taste either. Now I've tasted both meat and the veggie equivalent, I feel a bit better qualified to talk about it. That was the one thing people used to argue about - if I hadn't tasted meat, I couldn't comment because I didn't know how great it was. But to be honest, I don't think there's much difference in taste, if you cook and season well (and even if there was, I don't think something tasting good is enough reason to end lives). Also, because I wasn't used to eating meat, it took me forever to digest it - I felt really heavy and sluggish for hours afterwards. So for me the benefits are obvious - meat makes me feel rubbish! But for anyone who has been eating meat, the two obvious reasons are your health, and your integrity. Even if animal cruelty was wiped out, and animals were killed 'humanely' I don't think it would be okay. Can you be killed humanely? That seems like a bit of a paradox. I just don't think you should take a life when it is completely unnecessary to do so.
SBV: Finally, going back to the EP entitled 'There Is A World Outside', what or how would you like to have an impact on the world? If you could make the world a better place, where would you start?
HJW: Another huge question. The world is quite a sad place at the moment. There are so many awful news stories about natural disasters, political unrest, violence, cruelty, disease, poverty, countries at war with one another... it's difficult to know where you would start, if you had a chance to change anything. I suppose one of the greatest things about being in a successful band would be that you might have some kind of influence. And it'd be your responsibility to use that for good. That's one thing that really winds me up about celebrity personalities - really, I believe it is part of their job to set a good example. People are impressionable and we do follow the examples set for us, good or bad. So I think anyone with any kind of influence has a responsibility to use it for good. I think one of the most important things at the moment is to be as green as possible. Turn the lights off, don't leave anything on standby, and walk to work instead of driving. We have a lovely planet but we could be treating it much better. Everything else - the politics, all the manmade problems, aren't going to matter anymore if we continue to misuse the world, because there won't be a world left for us to live in.
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