In conversation with Freya Beer

With her blend of powerful poetic lyricism, dynamic music and striking vocals, it is no wonder that Freya Beer is creating a real buzz on the alternative music scene. The young songstress has been praised by BBC Music Introducing and BBC Radio 6 Music who made her excellent 2019 single ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’ their track of the week. Freya has also supported renowned artists such as Brix & the Extricated, Kristeen Young (who is also known for her collaborations with David Bowie, Morrisey and The Damned), and none other than iconic punk poet John Cooper Clarke. After already achieving so much even before the release of a debut album, it is exciting to see what else we can expect from this captivating artist.

I was able to speak to Freya on the phone and began the interview with a surreal yet unavoidable question about life in lockdown and the opportunity to be creative in spite of such unprecedented circumstances: “With this whole situation nobody knows what’s going on and nobody knows when it’s going to end but you take it day by day. If one day I feel like writing something then I will but on some days if I don’t feel in the mood to write then I’m not going to force myself. However, I definitely feel like having all this time helps my creative juices because I can discover music, read books, gain more knowledge and also record more demos and experiment with different sounds.”

Not to dwell on these challenging times, we move on to talk about the impressive endeavor of creating a record label. In 2019 Freya Beer launched Sisterhood Records from which she released her powerful single ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’. “It was suggested through my management which I didn’t even think of to do. Before I released my first two singles ‘Bike Boy’ and ‘Six Months’ under Freya Beer but now that I’m releasing new music under a name it just looks more established.”

Freya is a big fan of the legendary bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke, and explains how she discovered him through her “love of poetry and punk music from the 1970s and through looking into different decades of music as well as the poetry side of things.” She also supported John Cooper Clarke in December 2019 and explains that this incredible opportunity “was through doing an interview with him for my dissertation, it was a very surreal experience to support someone you look up to and of course, lyrics are my main thing.”

The influence of poetry and literature is inherent in Freya’s music and often delicately intertwined in her lyrics. For example, ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’ dazzled with words constructed from Allen Ginsberg’s ‘An Asphodel’ and Anna Sewell’s classic novel Black Beauty. It was such literary references which complimented the heavy riffs and strong percussion. In contrast to the punch of ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’, Beer’s most recent track ‘Arms Open Wide’ is stunning in its ethereal and multifaceted instrumentation. She explains that “with this new single, writing wise it was more about the sound whereas with Rosie the reading of literature helped to build my story for the song. With ‘Arms Open Wide’ it was more about the music such as the tubular bells because overall I wanted it to be quite ceremonial and so the lyrics sort of just came along. I usually feel with writing music it’s always lyrics first but with this song it was different because with my past singles the instrumentation is just me, guitar and drums, whereas for ‘Arms Open Wide’ I’ve got bells, I’ve got reverb going on in the background, guitar, and I’ve got a lead guitar as well.”

Freya is also influenced by art and visuals which are demonstrated in her music videos. She explains the setting and idea behind the enchanting accompanying video for ‘Arms Open Wide’: “It was a safe house which I never knew you could hire which was really cool. Visually for that video I was leaning more towards photographers -there is a photographer called Francesca Woodman and her visuals are very bleak looking but they also have that abandoned house vibe that is quite ethereal. There is definitely Pre-Raphaelite influence with the flowers and the candles and I love to incorporate that because that’s my main niche, that’s what I love.”

For ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’ Freya collaborated with Andy Hargreaves from I Am Kloot who provided the prodigious drumming for the track. “That was really unexpected and was through Phil [Phil Jones- manager], I recorded that in Manchester last year. We were just looking at session drummers and it was only by luck that Andy was available to drum and I just thought that was mad, like Andy from I am Kloot! But his drumming made the track what it is. It’s that big sound and he really helped accomplish and compliment what I was doing.”

After receiving a positive reception from ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’ and from the release of her other excellent singles, the prospect of Freya Beer releasing a debut album in the near future is eagerly anticipated. “I’m currently working on my next single so maybe at the end of the year an album would be out because I have all this material which I would love to record but I feel like not every song is a single. I already have artwork ideas and visuals… there’s going to be a cat, but bringing it back to this current situation I don’t know how that will pan out, so maybe at the start of next year. It’s exciting though because this time last year I never thought I would be where I am at the moment.”

Talking future plans and the increasingly challenging notion of returning to normality, Freya also states how she would love to perform at festivals: “I think the atmosphere of a festival I would love to be part of because it’s where people discover new music, whereas with gigs you pay the ticket and you know the band before. Festivals are also a great atmosphere creatively.”

Finally, I ask Freya what music she has been listening to recently: “ I’ve been listening to an artist called Jesse Jo Stark, she’s an American artist. Her visuals and her sound are amazing, she recently did a cover of John Prine’s ‘Angel from Montgomery’ and I think it’s so beautiful. I’ve been listening to a lot of older music like Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys just because it has that Californian sound. I’ve also been listening to Michael Kiwanuka’s new album, his visuals are very 70s and I love that look. Those three are the main artists at the moment but I try to discover new music every day, I have the time.”

As with many musicians, Freya has had to reschedule shows and before you will be able to see her owning the stage at a festival, live dates are currently set for October 1st in Brighton and October 22nd in London.

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