In Conversation with LION

In Conversation with LION

LION are a four-piece band emulating classic rock combined with bluesy riffs and the beautiful, raspy vocals of frontman Beth Lowen. Live at Leeds festival saw the band playing at the Leeds Beckett University Student Union which they managed to pack out.

The band delivered an incredibly slick performance and created a great balance between the instruments and vocals. Beth’s vocals were standout and at times reminded me of a rockier Florence and the Machine. Passion, energy and love for the music were all more than evident on stage between all members.

The crowd, although starting small, grew and grew with each song and it is clear to see why they were named one of Gigwise’s 29 artists of 2019. I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the rest of the year with an album pending release and many festivals lined up.

In a chat with Beth after her set, I learnt how she met the band that work so well together, her song-writing process and her struggles with the business behind music.

So, how was the gig?

It was good, I loved it. It’s like weird playing in a place you’ve never played before and at first there were like five people and I was like ah fuck no one’s gonna come and then you remember that everyone’s on a strict time schedule. But it was good I was surprised at the amount of people that were there for a place I’ve never been to before.

One thing I loved about your performance was your band, how did you meet?

Well, I used to play with my brother a lot and we were like a two piece: it was him on drums and me. And then he’s like a musician in his own right and I was like ‘go and do you, stop playing behind me, you’re too good to just be backing your sister!’ And then I just kinda put the feelers out to everyone, do you know any guitarists or drummers or bass players, and it was super rushed and it was Christmas time. I met them all separately and none of them had met before and then we literally went straight into rehearsal just after new year and started a tour five days after. We did a big tour in January supporting Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and that was like massive, like fuck off massive venues. Our first ever gig was live on radio 6 – we kinda just got thrown into the deep end altogether.

Who would be your dream collab?

I mean, I’d love to work with Stevie Nicks. Growing up her voice was just in my house all the time. Probably her, she’s just an angel. Do you know what? This is a random one but maybe Damien Rice, I was so obsessed with him when I was younger, I always wanted to be the girl in his records that’s just kind of like there and no one really knows who she is, yeah, him. His songs are really fucking depressing and super haunting but I love him.

Do you think your childhood had a big impact on your career?

Yeah, my dad’s an entertainer, he was in loads of comedy bands. My cousins and aunties and uncles, everyone’s kinda musical. Music was something that was just always there. I remember always bitching and moaning when I was a kid about not having a TV in my room and mum was like ‘I’m not gonna give you one because when you go to your room and you’re bored you play the guitar or you sit and play the piano, if you had a TV you’d just sit and watch TV’. I’m so thankful she never gave me a TV. It was just kind of there, I can’t remember when it wasn’t there. I love dancing, no one really knows that. I did ballet and I loved it and I studied contemporary dance, but it’s just something I loved expressing myself through dance in my own little way and then music was just there and a part of that.

How was the response to ‘Second Hand’ as your latest release?

I mean, I think because there was quite a big gap between my last release and this one, its just been a lot slower, like I think, the longer I’m in the music world, the more you kind of realise there’s such a business behind this, because ‘Second Hand’ is one of my favourite songs, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s everyone else’s. I think I’m learning to be patient which I’m really shit at.

Do you think that business struggle impacts the songs you write or the way you go about releasing music?

I think it does in a way, because if you want to do it forever and as a career there has to be some sort of business behind it. It is an amazing thing, the fact that you can actually do music as a job, its nuts. I guess it does – you feel like a slight pressure and you don’t know – music’s one persons opinion against another and you’re like ‘who’s right’, you know, there’s no right answer. You just have to wait and see but I’m really shit at waiting, I’m just like ‘Hurry up! Now!’

What’s your dream venue to play?

I would love to sell out Brixton academy, it’s one of my favourite venues. I feel like there’s obviously more beautiful venues, like I supported Nathaniel Rateliff at hammersmith Apollo and that was insane and really special but there’s something a bit more grimy about Brixton academy and there’s stories of rock and roll and badass – there’s just more of a feel in there. And I lived in Brixton when I first moved to London so that’s a kind of a home for me.

When did you move to London?

It was about four and a half years ago maybe? But I actually just moved out of London in December because I hit the ‘London wall’ as I’ve named it: one day I was just like ‘get me the fuck out of this fucked up city!’ and now I’m living in a tiny town in New Forest and I’m bored out of my brain like ‘get me back to London!’. So, I’m gonna go back, I just need a rest.

Do you think where you live has an impact on the music you create?

Yeah, I think with all the songs I’ve got now and my first record (which I’ve just finished!) Those songs I’ve been writing forever like, a lot of them are about getting out of the little town I grew up in and what it was like growing up there and then there’s London which is completely the opposite end of the spectrum. But yeah it definitely does; it changes your mindset; you’ve got to adapt to your surroundings.

What’s your song writing process / do you work with the band?

No, I don’t I haven’t actually written any songs with the band. I’ve got a few people that I write with and that are amazing friends. I prefer writing with people just because I doubt myself too much if I write on my own and I think all of my ideas are shit so I go to someone else for them to say ‘no they’re not shit, they’re good’. It really depends, normally I’ll be playing something and come up with the melody first and then almost just start scatting random shit over it. I was talking to my friend actually, who’s a musician too, and how when you’re writing and then you just start scatting random words and they don’t mean anything it’s just like sounds and all of a sudden your subconscious knows that those sounds are eventually gonna mean something that means so much to you. Sometimes I find it a lot easier than others, I’ll go through 6 months where I just can’t shut up and I’ve got a billion and one ideas, and then it’ll be 6 months of ‘I don’t have anything to say’.

What do you do in those hard six months?

I just hope someone’s going to break my heart again! Sometimes I challenge myself, even if they’re crap songs, just to finish songs. If you stop doing anything for a long time you get a bit rusty at it and I think if you force yourself to write songs, whether they’re good or not, you’ll eventually, hopefully, get back into the flow of writing.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just actually finished my album, I’ve one more song that needs to be mixed and then it’s done which has been like my whole life in the making and its taken so long to finish it. So now once that’s put to bed, I’ll start planning the release of that and I’ve just been writing again which has been really nice, been writing a bit with my brother but kind of relaxed because its not really for anything yet, just write for fun.

Is there a story to the album?

Not massively, I think the story in itself is just kind of my life from the past 10 years, so 16 until now, so just going though heartbreak and growing up and not having a clue what to do with my life and not thinking and just pissing off and travelling and getting heartbroken again and having anxiety and all those things. I think it’s like a rounded off, massive almost like a diary of just different things that have happened in the last 10 years, which is really crazy saying ‘10 years’ because I just turned 26 – I don’t like it!

Anything coming up/are you playing any festivals?

I’m supporting Band of Horses on their tour at the end of June which I can’t fucking wait for. I’m doing YNOT festival this summer, Hurricane festival in Germany and Southside festival, which is insane because I saw my name on the same line up as The Cure and Foo Fighters. It was the same poster and I was like ‘what the fuck is going on!’

Amy May Ellis