SPHERE Magazine’s Jennie Ikin caught up with Chibi from The Birthday Massacre for an exclusive interview before their show at Sheffield’s Corporation. The vocalist discussed her band’s origins, life on the road, contemporary alternative music and laundry…
“Can you imagine being in a bus with thirty dirty socks?”
S] Are you enjoying the tour so far?
C] Yes, like I was saying before, its eight shows in a row, all of our UK dates are in one big go. So it’s been very hurried, you know, like we arrived, we had a rehearsal day and then right into the tour for eight shows. It’s been really good though so far. We all really like the UK and we got to go to Scotland this time too, which was kind of neat, we had never been there before. But again we just saw it for a second and then back out again. Everybody was saying that there was a heat wave here but all it’s been doing is raining, we bring the rain with us. Wherever we go it rains, when we were in Australia it flooded with rain, it’s crazy.
S] What are the audiences like here, compared to the USA?
C] Everybody here is really enthusiastic, that’s not to say that the US audiences aren’t enthusiastic, but it seems like here people are way more into coming to a live show and dancing and just not caring and having fun, you know what I mean? People in the US do that too, but there’s defiantly more of a scene here, I guess, for sort of dark, alternative music so more people come out and just have a good time and that’s awesome because it makes for really good shows.
S] Have you got any plans for the rest of the year, after your tour?
C] I think we’re actually coming back here. We’re opening for The Deathstars in the fall, so we’re coming back over. I’m not sure if the UK is on that tour. But we’re coming back to Europe anyway. And we’re trying to write our next album too in the meantime.
S] How do you find writing on tour?
C] It doesn’t happen. No, I mean, we’re always like, ‘We’ll write when we’re on the bus, before the show we’ll just write new songs,’ and it doesn’t ever end up happening. You know, even today we were just looking for laundry; no-one wrote any songs, we were trying to wash our clothes! So, it’s kind of hard to do those two things.
S] Yeah, bit of a different vibe I suppose…
C] Yeah, definitely and we’re just too tired anyway. So when we get home that’s what we’re going to try and do is focus on writing for the rest of the year, when we’re not touring.
S] Moving on, you guys used to be called Imagica…
S] So what was it that made you change your name?
C] There was just other bands that had the name, you know it’s really hard to think up a band name that no-one else has had. We just switched the name. ‘Happy Birthday‘, the song, used to be called The Birthday Massacre, so it was recognisable to people who already liked the band and also the song, because we try and do the whole contrast thing like heavy music and little melodies and put the contrast together and a birthday massacre is a real contrast, so that suits the vibe of the band a bit better, maybe more than Imagica ever did anyway, so we don’t even care.
S] So what are the best and worst things about being on tour?
C] The best things about being on tour are being able to meet people and just being able to chat, like with people that you would never meet, ever normally. It’s meeting people who like the band, or just interesting people in general and getting to see different places. We’ve been to Australia, which was amazing, we’ve been to Mexico, which was kind of cool, you know what I mean, we’ve been here, it’s awesome! But then the trade-off is that you don’t get to wash your clothes. And it’s a job. Everyone always says ‘How was your vacation?’ it’s hard work. You always have to keep in mind that we’re sharing a tour bus, there’s fifteen of us on the tour bus because we’re sharing with the other band, so that’s thirty socks that get dirty! Imagine being in a tunnel, like this wide, with thirty dirty socks.
S] Do you have normal jobs back at home then?
C] Yeah, I mean we do make money enough to sustain things but I don’t think anybody’s raking in millions anymore, unless you’re Radiohead, or something. So it’s a struggle I think, no matter what level you’re at, we’re struggling musicians, right? It’s all good though, in the end. Thirty socks, thirty filthy socks. We’re in England, it’s beautiful, there’s thirty dirty socks and just waiting at the end of the day.
S] What sort of thing do you do then, when you’re not playing gigs?
C] I like to read a lot. I’m like a giant book worm, so I just like to lie in my bunk and just read, or you know, dink around on the internet, Facebook and all this kind of thing, you know. When we go home I like to write as well, I’m trying to write a book right now. But I don’t like to go to bars or anything, I feel like I get my fill being at concerts and bars when we’re on tour, so I like quiet time. I’m like a home body kind of person.
S] What’s your book about?
C] It’s about kids, it’s about two girls who are in like a death metal band, which is kind of cool. And there whole thing is that they want to get revenge on this other death metal band, that wronged them when they were younger, so they sort of create a band as like a revenge project. It’s cool. I want it to be really gory and kind of like scary and funny, we’ll see.
S] What was it that first got you into the alternative scene?
C] The whole time I was in school I was never the person to have a million friends and go to all the cool parties and everything, so I always just sort of hated everything that the cool people liked. You know what I mean, I’m sure we all have pretty similar stories, like, ‘They don’t like me, I don’t like them, I want nothing to do with them’ so you just kind of end up bonding with people and getting interested in things that aren’t popular. Like ‘You like that? Cool, because I don’t ever want to like that and you don’t like this, that’s great, because I like this.’ It sounds dumb, but I just ended up not fitting in. And I was never like confrontational or a mean person at all but those people really were. I mean I still think who are some of these people, even like nowadays, we’re sitting on the bus and we see people coming to shows, we’ll see people, walking by and heckling them. You just want to go out there and beat them with your socks. Like does this ever end? Get out of here! I like being in this band and being in this subculture because we’re sort of kindred spirits, I think we all can understand what it’s like to have somebody go, ‘Nice hair, stupid!’ That still happens to me and you know. I guess we can all relate to that so it’s nice, because you feel like you belong to something. It’s interesting because all around the world you find people who feel the exact same way and it’s a good way to reach out to people and I always find that the fans of our band have like a community, like everyone usually gets along really well, it’s nice that way. It’s a nice community to be part of for sure. Because I was never very popular in school and I always just sort of gravitated towards more sort of the artsy, writing, art and drawing and that kind of thing that I think we can all appreciate.
C] So how did you meet everyone else in the band?
C] I met Rainbow when we were in Art College together. We both took the same art program in London, Ontario at college and he kind of grew up with Mike, the guitar player, so they knew each other for years and we all just sort of met at college. On the weekends me and Rainbow along with our old bass player would just do cover songs, like just for fun, because we didn’t want to go out a spend all kinds of money and then we just started doing original stuff and here we are ten years later. Yeah we all sort of just met in school.
S] That’s cool that you’ve managed to stay together for so long though?
C] It does not come without its ups and downs. We were just talking the other day about how we’ve known each other for like, eleven years now, because I knew Rainbow for two years before we even started the band, so it’s like we really have been through a lot together, haven’t we? Yeah it’s been ten years so it’s like a family at this point. Time flies really fast.
S] So what’s your favourite type of music?
C] I like a lot of older stuff; I don’t know anything that’s really going on now. I like Ladytron, I like Dragonforce, the speed metal, crazy band, I like them, but I like a lot of older stuff. I really like Faith No More. There one of the bands I really like and they just reunited, they played at the Download festival. I saw it on YouTube. I also love Concrete Blonde. They had a big song called ‘Joey‘, people know back in the day. But yeah I like Type O Negative and Deftones and kind of stuff like nothing from this decade really except for just a couple of bands. I like stuff from the sixties too, like I like The Monkees a lot. I don’t know, I like kind of cute, nice, fun stuff like, I don’t know what’s going on nowadays. I’m so focused on our band I don’t know what bands are going on right now.
S] That’s kind of cool that you can just focus on yourself and not care about what anyone else is doing?
C] I guess until someone says something like ‘What’s your favourite band that came out in 2007?’ Like I have no idea! I had an interview for I don’t even know who it was but they said ‘pick your favourite for 2008 – what was your favourite album, what was your favourite music video?’ and I was like ‘Argh!’ I have no idea, like I couldn’t name a single album that had come out last year!
S] Our last question is just, how would you celebrate your birthday?
C] I just had a birthday actually, in April, and we had it on the bus. I had a cake and the bus was driving so the cake was kind of flipping that was cool. I think I don’t really mind birthdays anymore, you know what I mean. An ideal birthday for me would be at home probably, with my cat and my friends and a big nap with some clean laundry. That would be my ideal birthday I think, all the laundry done. When I go home I have such a huge pile of stuff to do because you know when you’re getting ready for tour it’s just like there’s this and this and it’s just waiting for when I get home. I’m kind of dreading that, but yeah that’s my ideal birthday I think, being at home, asleep, with my cat and clean laundry.
For more information visit the band’s Myspace and website.
Check out the video for ‘Looking Glass’ below:
* Pictures by Helen Gilroy.
* Thanks to Dolores for setting this up.