DS Interview: Louise Distras on the eve of her first headline US tour

UK-based folk-punk singer/songwriter, and Dying Scene favorite, Louise Distras is headed out on her first string of headline shows in the US in the very near future…as in, she plays her first such gig today in Los Angeles. We caught up with Distras for an impromptu interview late last night and spun it around for publication this morning in preparation for tonight’s show. Check out our conversation below; never quite done one like this before, but we think it came out pretty entertaining!

Distras is still touring in support of her debut full length album, Dreams From The Factory Floor, which came out in the US via Pirates Press just about a year ago. You can check out her tour dates below as well, just underneath our Q&A!

Q & A Chat with Louise Distras

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, welcome back to the States. How are you enjoying your time in Southern California?

Louise Distras: Thank you! It’s great to be back and I am so happy to be here in LA. Previously I’ve never had the chance to see the places I’ve visited on the road, so it’s been a real luxury to be able to explore the city, meet some people and relax for a couple of days before tour starts this weekend. I’m having an amazing time so far!

Granted I’ve only spent a total of like 10 hours in London, but that’s 10 hours more than I’ve spent in California. Is there anything in the UK that even remotely compares to SoCal?

Well London gave birth to the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned then LA gave us X and Germs. So one thing LA and London has in common is that both cities have great musical history!

Very valid point! We last spoke for Dying Scene on the eve of your first US tour, where you circled the country with the great Bryan McPherson. As you look back on it close to a year later, how did that tour go for you? Were there particular cities or venues that you did particularly well in?

Touring the US for the first time with Bryan was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I come from a small nowhere town in the North of the UK where nobody ever really leaves, so having the opportunity to play my music in a different country, see the beautiful landscape and connect with so many awesome people just totally blew my mind. The second show in Boston was just insane. To play a packed out show at the other side of the ocean and to hear so many people singing my songs right back at me is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. There was a couple of weird shows in the midwest, however the rest of the tour continued in a similar fashion to the Boston show where kids were coming out and connecting with my music in a big way. Every show was a highlight for me, but then again I suppose I am biased because I just love America so much and feel so incredibly lucky to have the chance to be here.
…Plus you have root beer, and it’s hard to find in the UK.

Really? Root beer is hard to find? I would never have guessed. The tour here with Bryan had you as direct support, so these are technically your first headline dates in the US then, yeah?

Yeah the UK doesn’t take root beer seriously at all.
I guess so…I am teaming up with a great up and coming folk punk singer from Chico CA for these shows, his name is Ryan Davidson and for anyone who hasn’t heard of him yet I highly recommend checking his music out!

How’d the team up with Ryan come about…good, old-fashioned networking?

Yeah, Ryan has also toured with Bryan! It’s a small world!

That is a small world! One of our editors shot a show he played with Darius from Swingin Utters about a year ago.
You’re playing Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas for the first time. That’s gotta qualify as your biggest US stage to date, right? What are your thoughts leading up to PRB? Who are you most excited to see?

Yeah it’s my biggest US show to date and I am so excited and grateful to have been invited to perform and fly the flag for British female artists. Actually I don’t know if anyone has noticed but I am one of only two female artists playing over the whole weekend, so I guess you could say I am the female headliner! Ha! But joking aside, it’s an inequality that needs to be addressed and something that folks should be aware of…
Unfortunately I won’t make it in time to see the other female act Negative Nancys but I am looking forward to checking out Giuda from Italy and Flogging Molly of course, plus it’ll be nice to see the guys from Face to Face again as well as Strung Out. It’s gonna be a great weekend!

I’ll be honest…I hadn’t paid that close attention to the fact that there’s only one other female act. Is that frustrating as a female artist to constantly be underrepresented?

Well that’s the thing, people don’t tend to notice these things until they are directly affected by them, or unless someone they know is being affected in a similar way. It’s frustrating for me because excluding women from the scene goes against everything that punk rock stands for. The lack of female visibility at these festivals sends out the wrong message, I see it all the time, where impressionable kids are told that the stage is only for men and that women are there to serve as groupies. The truth is there are no male musicians or female musicians, just musicians.
Gender is not a genre and it’s important to have women on stage, it’s important to show young women that they can do
it too!

In your opinion and from your experience, does it seem like it’s a conscious decision to exclude women, on the part of festival organizers, or do you think it’s more just oversight or lack of paying attention on their parts?

I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that I am super lucky to be in a position where I can stand on stage at PRB or wherever, sing my songs, and hopefully at the end of the show my music will have helped to empower or inspire someone in some way. Coz ultimately, that’s what punk is about.

You had also just done a tour with Bryan in the UK and mainland Europe before you came over here. Are there similarities between circling the US and circling the EU, from touring perspective?

Yeah it’s pretty much the same routine every day; wakeup, travel, soundcheck, do press, play the show, hang out, sleep and repeat. There’s a lot of variables with regards to transport, weather, food, accommodation, good shower or bad shower, and some days you might feel like shit, but it is what it is. You just get on with it and play the best show you can every night and support each other to be the best that they can be, then afterwards…Chipotle!

Have you paid attention to politics in the US at all over the last year? We’re on the cusp of having Donald Trump assume the role of Presidential nominee of the Republican party. If the protest punk movement seemed to have gotten a little stale under Obama…

Yeah, it’s hard to ignore what’s happening on both sides of the pond. I’m not totally up to speed on everything but I did read an article on The Huffington Post that compared the way Trump and Obama talk about women that made me feel scared. Like most people, I am worried about how things are going to pan out.

Have you been writing much in the year since we last spoke? What sort of lyrical mood do you find yourself in?

Yeah, for the first time ever I took a few months off from touring which gave me some time to reconnect and process everything I’ve experienced over the past three years since releasing my first album Dreams from the Factory Floor. I’ve definitely changed since then, and so has the song writing in the respect of that it’s just a lot better. I’ve got almost a full album of songs demo’d back in London, but no plans to record and release them just yet. But when I do, you’ll be the first to know!

You recently Instagrammed photos of yourself at the OK Magazine “So Sexy Los Angeles” Party, which was billed as “Celebrating Talented, Stunning and Sexy Stars”… I guess the obvious question is…what’s the story there?

Yeah, I met my friend for dinner. She mentioned that she was going later and asked me if I wanted to go too. So I thought ‘fuck it, why not…you only live once’ and I’m glad that I went because it was a super interesting to be a fly on the wall with the outsider perspective in that kind of environment. It was fun because I didn’t take it too seriously plus I met some nice people and made a couple of new friends. However that whole scene isn’t something I aspire to be a part of, it’s not really for me plus I’m not very good at schmoozing. I’d rather goto a show, hang at the beach or y’know…stay home and write some songs!

You’re going up as far as Santa Cruz; are you going to be able to hook up with the Justice Now! folks on that part of the run? I know that was a pretty inspirational thing for you last time around.

Well they are some pretty inspirational human beings, and it was a very rewarding experience to learn more about the prison abolition movement from them and be lucky to have this platform where I can pass on their message in the best way I can. I believe that music and art has already changed the world and will continue to do so forever, and it’s a very powerful force that can bring people closer together. Empowering communities through music and art is a big part Justice Now’s work, so I look forward to continuing our work together in the future.

Louise Distras West Coast Tour Dates

May 21 Los Angeles CA, The Redwood Bar
May 23 Long Beach CA, The Pike
May 24 Reno NV, Studio on 4th
May 25 Santa Cruz CA, Blue Lagoon
May 26 Ventura CA, The Garage
May 27 Bakersfield CA, Sandrinis Bar
May 28 Lake Elsinore CA, PK’s Roadhouse
May 29 Lake Elsinore CA, LUCKY’S TAVERN
May 30 Las Vegas NV, Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival

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