Lousie Distras is a singer/songwriter from Wakefield who has gained a reputation for speaking out through her lyrics on subjects that really matter to people but that often get swept under the carpet. In her latest single ‘Aileen’, rape culture is tackled. Gary Trueman spoke to Louise about ‘Aileen’, how some societies still jail women for turning on their abusers and the role an artist can play in speaking out.
Your new single sees you step away from the protest punk feel and move more into power pop territory musically. Is that a reflection of how your music is developing in general?
“Well, I’ve never considered myself to be a protest singer. It’s just a box that was convenient for the music press to put me because I’m singing from my working class perspective. Despite their pigeonholing, I have always maintained that I would never repeat myself and make another ‘Dreams from the Factory Floor’. I’m very proud of my first record, but the fact is that I have grown so much as a person and as an artist, so the new single and other new songs are a representation of that artistic growth. I’m very excited to release ‘Aileen’ into the world and start recording the second album, I really can’t wait for people to hear it!”
The song Aileen is about Aileen Wuornos who was America’s first female serial killer. It questions rape culture and the way society deals with the victims of rape….and indeed the perpetrators. Clearly, you were inspired by Aileen’s story?
“One night after a show I watched the Nick Broomfield documentary ‘Selling of a Serial Killer’, which is all about. Aileen’s story and explores the idea of nature VS nature. As someone who has experienced homelessness and sexual assault, Aileen’s story hit me pretty hard which in turn inspired me to share it through my music. Whether she was a serial killer or a feminist icon isn’t for me to say, however, the fact is that we live in a world where a third of women globally are raped, beaten and discriminated against every single day. This kind of social and institutional violence against women, and especially sex workers and LGBT people, is something that is still so common that it goes unnoticed. Even nowadays, women are being sent to prison for defending themselves against their violent partners – WIP states that 46% of the women they work with report having suffered domestic violence – and it’s often the case that women who speak out against their abusers are silenced.”
It’s a subject that many would shy away from. Surely it’s about time we confronted how badly women are still treated in the world? Even those societies that plead they are more enlightened?
“…yet it’s a subject that needs to be addressed time and time again until something changes for the better, and I think art is the most powerful way to hold up a mirror to the world and show other people what’s really going on out there and also bring people together to create that positive change. This is something that’s discussed in the DIY film I made to accompany the ‘Aileen’ single release on 30 September. It’s called ‘Real Outlaw – A Commentary on Rape Culture and the Riot Grrrl Movement’ and it’s available for free via scanning a QR code that’s printed on the back of the CD and also on tour posters across the UK and EU.”
And what about places on the planet where there is still gender apartheid. How can those cultures and countries be changed for the good?
“I’m not an expert and I don’t have the answers, but one thing I do know is that as an artist I have a platform where I can try to use my power for good. So surely if more people use their power for good, then that’s how we can make a positive change.”
Do you think the music industry should take more responsibility to highlight issues such as those raised in the song Aileen? Is there a tendency for big names to play it safe or to not speak out against for instance rape culture, forced marriage or child brides for fear of harming sales?
“Well, the truth is that thanks to illegal downloading, nobody is really buying or selling music anymore. However, the music industry, as well as the illusion of celebrity is still extremely powerful so there is a massive platform on which to spread a lot of positive energy that will reach a lot of people. Dunno about you, but I always find it refreshing to hear someone in the public eye talk about something that’s more worthwhile than they ate for breakfast or what colour shoes they are wearing on that day.
You’ve been compared to both Brody Dalle and Courtney Love but who do you most admire as a musical artist or as a lyricist?
“Yeah, it’s just lazy journalism based on whatever colour my hair is at any particular moment in time. At the moment, I can’t stop listening to Roky Erickson.”
Is there a lyric or book quote you love so much it has inspired you. Why do you love it so much?
“If you have ghosts, you have everything…” and I love it because it’s so fucking true
Louise will be on tour throughout September, October and November.
Sep 03 Loud Women Festival ,London, United Kingdom
Sep 04 Common Ground Festival, Coleford, United Kingdom
Sep 26 Gullivers ,Manchester, United Kingdom
Sep 30 The Black Heart, London, United Kingdom
Oct 05 The Rainbow, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Oct 06 Sound Food & Drink, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Oct 07 The Maypole, Derby, United Kingdom
Oct 08 Fighting Cocks , Kingston, United Kingdom
Oct 10 The Owl Sanctuary, Norwich, United Kingdom
Oct 11 The Doghouse, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Oct 12 O2 Academy 2, Islington London, United Kingdom
Oct 13 The Vestry, Dundee, United Kingdom
Oct 14 Audio, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct 15 Bannermans Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Oct 16 Foreman’s Nottingham, United Kingdom
Nov 19 Spieghel Groningen, Netherlands
Nov 21 Anyway Essen, Germany
Nov 22 Kult 41 Bonn, Germany
Nov 23 Sonic Ballroom, Koln, Germany
Nov 27 Wild at Heart, Berlin, Germany
Nov 29 Chemiefabrik, Dresden, Germany
Interview: Gary Trueman