If Sheffield five piece Blessa aren’t one of the most talked about bands of 2014, then it’s time for the so called tastemakers, the label bosses and the kingmakers to hand over the keys to their realm to .. erm ….well… me, I guess.
Certainly based on the songs that have appeared online so far, Blessa undoubtedly posses all the attributes to genuinely make a huge impact in 2014. They have the songs and the musical ability to transcend the empty point scoring one-upmanship of ‘buzz blogs’ and superficial hipster bandwagon hopping to blossom into something much more enduring and substantial. The bands chiming sweeping guitars swirl around Blessa’s singer/songwriter Olivia Neller’s beautiful voice, a voice that has that rare ability to uplift, emotionally engage and transport the listener to another place. These are talents to be cherished rather than overlooked. Because whilst our politicians relentlessly pursue a pernicious ideological programme intent on bleeding all the colour and joy from our daily lives to create a bleak, myopic, nasty paranoid monochrome version of Britain, Blessa have appeared like a vivid incandescent rainbow.
And perhaps that’s why the best music is so often produced by ‘the outsider.’ By those who can’t relate to a system that doesn’t actively encourage self-expression or creativity and by those who have no wish to embrace a philosophy that simply allows you to work to exist. These are people to whom creativity defines them, the very people that bring colour to our lives, give our heart wings, and make our spirits soar. Blessa are such a collective and their potent, beguiling blend of poetic intelligent, literate dream pop sooths, consoles and exhilarates in equal measure, perhaps no more so than on their wonderful official debut single ‘Between Times.’
In conclusion, and as we have previously stated elsewhere, to say we are somewhat enamoured by Blessa’s music is an understatement to rival the suggestion that Eric Pickles “quite likes pies.” They are a band we’ll be tipping and supporting throughout 2014 and such strong feelings can mean only one thing, we had to interview them and find out more…
VP: How do! So you’ve finally released an official début single “Between Times”- now, without sounding terribly obsequious – I must say it’s FANTASTIC… I first came across you last year so why has it taken so long to release an ‘official’ single?
BLESSA: Those early tracks were very much ‘of the moment’ in that they were all written, recorded, and released in a very short space of time. Since the first official release always needs to be a statement, we spent a lot of time defining what precisely we wanted ours to be. We recorded with a number of different producers, scrapping a lot of material in the process, and eventually found that ‘Between Times’ perfectly fitted our idea of what such a statement should be.
VP: What would you say are the underlying themes of the single – the artwork is very evocative… yearning for freedom, adventure, the open road, escape …
BLESSA: Musically, the overarching theme of the single is that of movement – we wanted to create something that was propulsive, yet allowed moments of introspection at points throughout. The girl in the picture is between destinations. There are definitely some welcomed overtones of wanderlust, and want of adventure. Something we all picked up on about the picture was that this girl was heading forward and was free to move as she pleases, which you could call symbolic of where we want to be.
‘Let able moving hearts pick up and go’ and ‘liquid words’ reference a piece of work called ‘able moving hearts’, a word painting by Ed Ruscha, an artist who looked to question unreliable systems of language in his work. I thought this was fitting because there’s an intention expressed in the song to sabotage the existing status quo, to want more than you have and to find something that won’t fall away, something genuine and subsisting with someone or something.
VP: So Olivia knew Alex from school, and the rest of Blessa met whilst at Uni … whose idea was it to form a band initially?
BLESSA: Olivia and Alex met at school aged 14, and having both inadvertently applied to the same University met Rob and Jake through their studies. Rob’s brother Andy subsequently followed suit and relocated to Sheffield to read his degree. The band formed relatively spontaneously – after the five of us attended a Warpaint show in Sheffield; we decided to start writing together as Blessa.
VP: Did you envisage quite how the band would sound from the start; or rather did it develop organically when you began playing together?
BLESSA: Even from early on we were drawn to the concept of creating music based on the primary contrasts of light/dark and open/closed spaces. Whilst at first this was predominantly expressed through blunt dynamics, we’ve since honed our creative processes taken these concepts further.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as an overly nostalgic band. Whilst it’s great if our music evokes such feelings in the listener, it’s not something we feel ourselves. We are not influenced by any one movement or era; everything we make is a conflation of our collective consciousness.
VP: So where or what informed and inspired the band name- I’ve googled and deduced that perhaps it may derive from French and could mean “injured” or perhaps the third-person singular past historic of blesser meaning to injure….
BLESSA: I really like the idea that the act of making music, or doing anything creative, feels hugely life affirming, even healing. So initially, it was the French translation of ‘blesser’ as wounding and injury that caught my attention because it provides a point to work from. We were toying with being called ‘blesser’, actually.
VP: Although it’s still early days what have been your favourite moments so far as a band…
BLESSA: Supporting Beach Fossils in Manchester was great. Captured Tracks is one of our favourite labels and to play with one of their roster was surreal. Another favourite would be the time we spent with MJ recording this single. He pushed us harder than anyone has before to create something worthwhile.
VP: Liv, you’ve already been compared to other iconic female vocalists… but whom would you say are your main influences musically?
BLESSA – LIV: Talking strictly vocals there are some female vocalists I’ve always gone back to like St Vincent, Erykah Badu, Kate Bush, Elizabeth Fraser, Hope Sandoval and Laura Marling. There was a period of time a year or so ago where all I would listen to was Chelsea Wolfe, Anna Calvi and Warpaint, I think Apokalipsis/ the fool are perfect albums. More recently, I’ve been listening to Coco O (Quadron) Samantha Urbani (Friends) and Jehnny Beth (Savages); they’re fantastic live vocalists and performers. I think it’s great to be able to have such strong front women like them around. They’re captivating and brilliant to watch.
VP: What’s next for the band, any plans you can share? What are your ambitions for 2014- Ep? Album? Jools Holland? World domination? … And crucially, do you have a van yet?
BLESSA: In the short-term, we have a few shows booked in to support the release of the single, which with any luck won’t bankrupt us financially or emotionally. Looking further afield, a realistic aim is to record and release an EP, for release in early 2014. Hopefully we’ll then be able to quit our soul-sucking jobs and be a real band. We regularly get ‘van envy’ whilst walking round Sheffield, which I guess serves as a symbol of where we want to progress to next.
VP: I’m gonna predict 2014 will be a great year for Blessa – but over to you – have you any random predictions for 2014 …music based or otherwise?
BLESSA: Finally, we predict (pray) we find out that it’s cool to quit our day jobs
‘Between Times’, is out November 11th on No Self Records.