One year after Edward Burnett's last chat with Irish-Canadian singer 0Stella, the two catch-up and reflect on a year none of us saw coming as well as 0Stella's Christmas traditions and career plans for 2021.
RNRR: Hello and welcome to our second Christmas Special of Spotlight featuring friend of the page, 0Stella! So 0Stella, how are you doing? The last time we chatted was in the first Spotlight interview of this year back in January and of course a lot has happened since then! What have you been up to in this extremely strange year?
0STELLA: Oh man. I’m ok. A lot has happened! It’s actually been really fun watching Rock N Roll Reports grow over the year, you’ve had some whoppers, congratulations. It’s funny how you don’t realise what you’re in the middle of until it’s over. My 2020 was shaping up great. I had just heard I was shortlisted to open for a major artist at an Edmonton festival and it was looking like it was going to be the year to properly launch onto the touring circuit in Alberta. There was also an EU tour through Ireland, UK and Germany being booked. January was New Years in Berlin, then Dublin and then back to Edmonton for a busy month of gigs in Alberta including my first appearance as a Sidedoor artist (house-show, now online platform run by Canadian musician, Dan Mangan). My real first show with Sidedoor had to be cancelled on account of it being -40°C outside. No one’s going to step outside their door at those temperatures, no matter who you are! Their car probably won’t even start. February was Toronto for a week of writing, then to Dublin to play a wedding. I’d been contacted by a band from Saskatchewan, Rymestone, asking if I wanted to join their tour. I was planning on going down to L.A to the new SOCAN writing house for a week, but decided to do the tour before I left. My final single from my debut EP, ‘Little Yes, Little Know’ came out on Friday 13th March. I picked it on account of the fact it used to be considered a GOOD luck day back in pegan Ireland, so I’d figure I’d bring back a bit of luck. That was also our first day of tour. And the onset of lockdown. Restrictions were limiting shows to 250 people, so we soldiered on through Alberta and into British Columbia (including a stop at Jasper ER to stitch up a guitarist’s knee) but never made it into Saskatchewan, where we had 2 dates booked. I was really looking forward to playing there for the first time. In February I joined a 6-month course to learn to write for sync, so that kept me focused and productive - most of the time - and then on to more songwriting camps. I’ll be running my own month-long songwriting camps in the new year.
RNRR: For those unaware, you’re based in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. How severe have the restrictions and number of cases been in your living area? Have things started to ease at your end with news of the vaccine being passed for use?
0STELLA: Well currently we are the Covid capital of Canada. Obviously every nation is stabbing in the dark at how best to deal with it and very few have got it right. We stayed relatively loose when the U.K and Ireland were severely locked down, but my how the tables have turned! A very isolated Christmas 2020, indeed.
RNRR: One major change involving you this year is undoubtedly the weekly podcast, ‘Imperfections’, you co-host with Callistan. How important is this show to you and do you find that thanks to this year there are more and more successful podcasts/recorded webcasts? Will this trend carry on following Covid’s eventual end?
0STELLA: I think covid has been a very fertile ground for creatives - once we can drag ourselves out of the deep, deep depression we’ve all been oscillating through. I’ve absolutely loved doing 'Imperfections' with Callistan. He and I reunited during lockdown, having worked together in Dublin over a decade ago. We collaborated on a reimagining of my track ‘Fire’ and Imperfections evolved out of that as a means for us to dive deeper into the themes we explored in the song. It’ber been great to have the routine of it - something we all have discovered is so essential to stable mental health this year - and it’s been immensely humbling and heartwarming having our special guests on, who have been so vulnerable with us. I love all the audience participation, too. People are courageous in what they choose to share with us. I feel like we’re building a lovely community around the music we both make.
RNRR: So as I said at the beginning, this is of course a Christmas Special of the feature so I can’t let you go any further without listing your favourite Christmas songs of all time and why they mean so much to you?
0STELLA: There’s too many! But if I could play nothing else, I’d be happy with the following songs. The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' as I bristled at this for so many years as a youngster. It is the antithesis of a Christmas song and now I’m in love with it. I played it at a Christmas party last December in Dublin and I’ve never been on the receiving end of an Irish crowd like that. It was magic. Slade's 'Happy Xmas Everybody'. Just a raucous 70’s rock Christmas song, all British, bad teeth, magnificent hair and hooks to sing all the way home. Honestly, this was one of the standout songs I hand on a Christmas special cassette that Pampers used to include on the box. 6-year-old me used to dance around my living room, eating spoonfuls of butter icing and having a great time to this track. Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas'. Also featured on that same cassette. How can you not adore this song? I got to see Elton John last year and I am so, so thankful for that. Then there is Judy Garland's 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. I had my attention turned its way when Tori Amos did a cover of it in the middle of my obsessive Tori fandom days. The richness of Judy’s voice in that song, in particular, makes me swoon every time I hear it.
RNRR: On the subject of Christmas songs, you yourself have of course released a festive song of your own this past month entitled ‘My December’. Talk me through this song, how long did it take to write and has it always been a career dream of yours to get your own Christmas song out?
0STELLA: No not at all! I’ve always wondered, but never thought I would. Until some friendly competition simmered up between myself and Callistan. This song was a bugger to tease out. Of course, songs are never done, but I’m happy with where it’s at. Just something to capture the felling of getting home to your familiar airport and the taste of tea and rashers and some ungodly hour of the morning when your body doesn’t know what’s up or down. I can’t get home every year anyway, but the lack of choice this year, in whether we can travel to see our families, is what is exacerbating the feeling of loneliness, I think. I just wanted to shine a light there for anyone that needs a good cry into their dry-ass turkey this year. Doesn’t have to all be Mariah Carey (though I love her!).
RNRR: Carrying on the topic of Christmas and festivities, I wanted to ask you what your traditions are for this time of year? Are there any films that you simply have to watch to get you into the Christmas mood each year or is it the decorating of the tree that truly shakes your snow-globe?
0STELLA: Well, being a music teacher too, I can’t help but reference 'Die Hard' and 'Home Alone' every year and send my students to explore Beethoven and John Williams! I have a weird obsession with 'Batman Returns' I love to watch. 'Meet Me In St. Louis' and 'Love Actually' - this year might be a great year to try the 'Love Actually' drinking game, finally. I do love to shake my snow-globe though, so if I can just crank some tunes and have a dance somewhere, anywhere, I’m happy.
RNRR: So we are at the end of a very rubbish year as we’ve established for everyone and especially those in the music industry. What are you looking forward to the most in 2021 regarding music? Are there any bands you need to see live or any shows you’d like to play in particular?
0STELLA: Playing. Live. For. Humans. Again. EVERYWHERE I can. I plan to not come home.
RNRR: On a similar vein, what are your own career goals for the coming year? Any new 0Stella music in the pipeline that we should be prepared for?
0STELLA: Well, competition for grants has gotten really steep this year, so I’ll be slow releasing a bunch of music this year. I’ve a number of things percolating. ‘My December’ was my first home recorded and self-produced track, so more of that I think. This year I want to open for Garbage….I should have said that in my letter to Santa too...damn.... In addition, Skye Wallace, The Beaches and Hermitage Green. In a perfect world, I’ll meet St. Vincent too. I think since everything must balance, 2021 will be the ying to this ghastly yang of a year. So I feel my odds are good.
RNRR: As we are now talking about the end of this year, I wondered if you’d be so kind to give us your New Year roundup for the new music you’ve heard this year. What new songs, albums and artists have you discovered and heard this year which have been a saving grace of such an otherwise dismal year?
0STELLA: So Skye Wallace - Self Titled: I’m obsessed. Also Megan Nash - 'Seeker': freaking obsessed. Grace Petrie - 'Black Tie'. Dan Mangan's 'Troubled Mind' (though a piano student brought this to me a year or more ago, I’m thoroughly in love with it now). Miesha and The Spanks also as although I’ve known them a long time, I’m getting really into their discography this year. Finally, Gary Clark Jr. - 'This Land'. I heard it the weekend BLM kicked off and it floored me.
RNRR: Finally I need to ask you our favourite question on Spotlight which we ask every guest at the end of the interview as you well know. Way back in January when I asked you the old desert island album question, you sided with Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’. Has your opinion changed since?
0STELLA: That album and Skye Wallace’s go head-to-head on every long commute I go on, and Megan Nash is the umpire. I may have to smuggle a few extras onto the island!
RNRR: Glad to see you're still of the same opinion with loving that classic. Well thanks for being on Spotlight and our very last feature of 2020, 0Stella. We wish you the very best for what we hope is a much improved year in 2021.
Photo Credits: Marta Mora Photography
If you would like to find out more about 0Stella or her music, the links to all her social medias are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Georgia-based singing sensation Gabe Lustman AKA GABE about his early musical experience, his favourite place to eat and what the weather is like in Atlanta.
RNRR: Hi Gabe, how are you doing? Would you mind explaining what time of music you deal in to our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work to date?
GABE: Hey, I’m great. I sing pop and R&B.
RNRR: So usually I would start by asking about the beginning of your career path but I would rather first find about your recently released single ‘True’ which came out this year. Now ‘True’ is such a catchy song with a great, powerful chorus. When did you first start working on the single and what personal experiences went into this work?
GABE: I first started working on this in quarantine back in May 2020. ‘True’ was part of a group of 20 songs I recorded in about a 10 day span of time. I just locked myself in the studio, caught a vibe and it came out and ended up being a banger. Happens like that ya know.
RNRR: So taking it now back to the very beginning, what was your first musical experience? Do you recall your first gig or show that you attended?
GABE: I remember my parents put me in vocal training and I was in the school choir. I went around singing in nursing homes and even made the state honors choir and I always got the solos! People hated it (laughs). My first concert was The Temptations and Spinners recreated from a few original members and couple new guys at a local fair which my father took me to.
RNRR: Following a similar vein, who were your musical inspirations growing up? Did your parents or friends introduce you to any specific bands that had a profound impact on starting your career?
GABE: I loved listening to Justin Timberlake, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Mario, Usher. There are too many great artists to name them all. My mom actually came home from Target one day and bought me ‘Turning Point’ by Mario. This was really funny because I was only allowed to listen to christian music for years! Incidentally, to this day next to ‘Justified’ by Justin Timberlake, this is my all time favourite album. I would spend hours singing in the bathroom with those great acoustics trying to hit those Mario runs which surprisingly, I actually could reach!
RNRR: Away from the music now and onto your living environment at the moment. Now you hail from but Minneapolis but currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, a State which gained a lot of global press in this month’s presidential election. What would you say is the best thing about living there?
GABE: Two things. The WEATHER and the OPPORTUNITY. The weather is pretty humid but if I go anywhere now below 60 I’m in a hoodie and cold as hell (laughs). Second, this city is a Mecca for success as the economy is made for entrepreneurs and people of the arts. I remember when I first moved to the A people were getting record deals every month it seemed like!
RNRR: Now it’s no secret that the United States has a collectively big passion for food and restaurants. What’s your favourite meal to have?
GABE: Oh man, Korean BBQ is my jam! Was just there the other night (laughs). Shout out to my guys at D92!
RNRR: Besides the music, do you have any other strong interests? Have you mastered any new talents or developed fresh hobbies while lockdowns have been in place and spare time for the majority has increased?
GABE: I like to try new cooking recipes, workout and just sit vibing to music. I spent most of quarantine in the studio and shooting music videos so just working on mastering my craft before anything.
RNRR: What are your plans for Christmas this year? Has the pandemic stopped any planned or traditional meet-ups for the holidays?
GABE: I respect Christmas and what it stands for but to me Christmas is like any other day of the year to someone who’s on the grind chasing their dreams. I’ll most likely be in the studio or catching up on emails as well as revising my marketing plan.
RNRR: Back onto your profession, what does the future hold for you? Do you have any live shows in the works for once the Covid pandemic eases? How about any new music in the pipeline?
GABE: I am working on more singles, more visuals and I plan to be a platinum artist in addition to my recent #1 Germany EP ‘My Ex’. I’m actually about to order my iTunes plaque for it so I’m very stoked! I plan to start off 2021 performing. I am working closely with a few booking agents currently to set up dates.
RNRR: Where do you see yourself and your career in two years’ time from now? Are there pinpoints on your career path that you want to reach or is it more of a “see where the road takes me” sort of vibe?
GABE: In two years I plan to be a platinum selling artist headlining my own overseas tour and securing distribution through a major. I’m very focused on making this a reality.
RNRR: Finally, here at Rock N Roll Reports we ask the same vitally important question at the end of each Spotlight interview. The old famous desert island question. You can pick only one album to be able to listen to for the rest of your days on said desert island. What are you picking Gabe and why?
GABE: I am taking ‘Justified’ by Justin Timberlake because its my favorite album and singing along with it alone helps keep my vocals in check. I like to think of it as a vocal training cd!
RNRR: A great choice especially due to your reasoning! Well Gabe it’s been a pleasure, thanks for coming on Spotlight! To you and our readers, Rock N Roll Reports wishes you a great Christmas!
If you'd like to find out more about GABE or keep up to date with his latest releases, the links to all his social medias are available below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Prague band Bottled Fish about their latest EP, methods of recording their songs in a pandemic and their favourite films of all time.
RNRR: Hi Bottled Fish, would you mind introducing yourselves to our readers unfamiliar with your work?
BF: Well, Bottled Fish is a indie-rock band based in Prague. We are mostly inspired by such bands as Radiohead, CCR, Joy Division, Depeche Mode and many others. I have formed a band a few years ago with a couple of friends, but most members have changed several times. The band members are bass player Nikita, our drummer Alex and me, Asya, lead singer!
RNRR: You talk of inspirations for the band there mentioning both Radiohead and Joy Division. Both bands have lyrics with very deep meaning and often depressing stories are documented in their music. Would you say that your music also goes to dark places when needed and manages to convey that same almost depressive vibe that is so unique to the few bands mentioned?
BF: Well, for me my music is not depressive but more sad maybe. The lyrics are full of reflection- many songs are about human behaviour, personal responsibility, politics, relationships. At the same time it is not too straightforward, so I am curious if people always get it right.
RNRR: Do you ever feel challenged to write music about something completely different? Or if the topic of the lyrics doesn’t change, are you ever tempted to mix up the genre somewhat?
BF: I never choose what I am writing about to be honest. I just get an idea and try to tell what I am thinking about at that moment. I do have some songs about love also (laughs)! Genre is also a big topic. Originally there were just two guitars, bass and drums. Now we try to experiment a little bit with electronic music. I had an idea of creating a fully acoustic album with piano songs. I hope all this will happen after we release our debut EP!
RNRR: That is a perfect segway to talk about the debut EP then now that you’ve mentioned it. What can you tell Rock N Roll Reports about it? How many songs do you plan for KT to feature and what does it mean to finally have your work out in the world as a fully fledged EP?
BF: Work on this EP was rather complicated. We recorded everything by ourselves at home and we really had to study a lot: mostly about technical part. We played a lot with sounds and samples. But I think that we achieved the goal - we wanted EP to be conceptual. It is. We had an idea to tell about and it is all about that idea.
RNRR: Was this technique due to the Covid outbreak? Would you have gone about the recording differently in a situation without the pandemic? Do you feel that in hindsight, recording at home has worked to your advantage?
BF: [Asya]: Well, I think that thanks to outbreak and quarantine I had more time for music. It is surprising how long does social contact take. [Alex]: I believe that every musician should learn to do at least some recording at home. It helps you to hear your music the way other people will listen to it and gives you a lot of control. It gives you room for experiment, and I believe it’s the easiest way to learn and practice orchestration that you need playing in a band. Answering the question, I think that we would’ve recorded most of our songs at home with or without the pandemic.
RNRR: So you think quarantine had a positive effect on your music then?
BF: I think it had positive effect on my productivity. It was like pause, so many people were able to take a break and focus on one thing.
RNRR: Who would you say is your all time musical hero? You cited Joy Division as an inspiration earlier, would you say Ian Curtis stands at the forefront for heroes for you?
BF: [Asya]: Well I have listened to Radiohead since I was 10 years old and since then I’ve listened to many bands but I would say this is my inspiration 100%. I think that they always tried to do everything their own way and they’ve had success doing exactly this. For me, that is marvelous.
RNRR: How about you Nikita?
BF: [Nikita]: I can’t say that Ian is a hero. I can’t divide him from the band, because when I am listening their music it a whole band deal. But after listening Joy Division I decided to make a band. There are a lot of interesting musicians I like to listen to but I can’t say they are my heroes.
RNRR: Finally yourself Alex?
BF: [Alex]: John Congleton (The Paper Chase, John Congleton And The Nighty Nite).
RNRR: What does the band get up to outside of making music? What do you do to take a break from writing new songs?
BF: [Asya]: Well, probably, on the contrary, we take a break from life and write songs (laughs)! When I need to relax I do gardening. It really calms me down. I love watching movies a lot as well as that I am real series maniac! Although I wouldn’t say I need to take break from writing songs. I never get tired of music.
RNRR: So Asya, what are your favourite films? Do you feel that films are as important as music in conveying emotions and morals to wide audiences?
BF: Yes surely! All arts are doing this - they show something and explain things on emotional layer. Well, it will be long list of films.. I would name Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’ and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’. The last is genius in a way it integrates images and music: you even feel cold when it is winter or when heroes are suffering. ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ are also in a list. These are movies that make me cry a lot!
RNRR: How about you Nikita?
BF: [Nikita]: For sure films are as much important as music. Maybe a little bit more important because a film gives one more dimension, a visual one.
My top 5 films are - ‘Brick’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘The Dreamers’, ‘The Wrestler’.
RNRR: Alex, what is your opinion on the matter?
BF: [Alex]: It will be easier for me to list my TOP-3 directors: Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle. I don’t know if it’s correct to compare these media, especially regarding the importance. Although I definitely think that films are much more powerful than music. An average movie will guide you through a coherent story, a ton of emotions. It will teach you to solve at least one problem, how music and emotions are related, and much more. An average song will mostly amplify your feelings. This is important as well, as it will help you live through the moment, but, as I said, it just works differently, and the purpose of this medium is different.
RNRR: Finally, we ask this question to every guest we have on Spotlight and it’s always a pretty big deal. If you’re going to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your days with only one album to ever play again, what are you picking and why?
BF: [Asya]: That is so haaard, but just due to nostalgia I will choose Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ purely because it is my first favourite album. I listened to this for the first time when I was 10. Many songs are on here to cry out loud when you are alone (laughs). [Nikita]: ‘Stadium Arcadian’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are all types of songs included, for dancing, for crying, for hot days, for lonely nights. Also it is a pretty big album with 28 songs! [Alex]: I'd prefer to be there without any music. Any song you set as your alarm quickly becomes the song you hate. The album you have with you stranded on a desert island becomes your requiem.
RNRR: Some varied picks there with really brilliant reasons as to why you chose them! Also very interesting to go with the no music option there Alex! Thanks for being on Spotlight and we will be sure to update the page with any news from your camp in the future!
If you would like to find out more about Bottled Fish and keep up to date with their news, the links to their social medias are below via the icons: