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Festival No.6 2015: Interview with Tender Prey

Tender Prey_1Tender Prey, otherwise known as Laura Bryon, is a feisty character from Cardiff signed to Jane Weaver‘s musical treasure trove Bird Records (via Finders Keepers). As well as performing with her label mistress, Laura’s worked with the likes of Sweet Baboo, H. Hawkline, Cate le Bon and Ezra Furman. Her latest, long-awaited LP Organ Calzone has earned her national press acclaim (and hopefully a much-deserved Welsh Music Prize nomination) but little prepares you for a real life encounter with the queen of “chicken liver blues”.

What have you been up to at No6 so far?

Arrived very, very late last night. Got our campervan stuck in the mud. Illegally pitched our tents and had to move in the early hours of this morning. Had a couple of hours sleep. Ate a bacon sandwich before they took away our gas and then came here, so now the set’s done I’m looking forward to exploring and seeing some bands. But site admin is what I’ve mainly been doing so far.

You’re signed to Finders Keepers, how did this come about?

It’s really lucky. I met Andy [Andy Votel, founder of Finders Keepers Records and partner of Jane Weaver] many, many years ago when he came down to DJ in Cardiff. At the time I was just making music in my bedroom. He checked some of the songs on MySpace, and he and Jane put those songs out as a 7″ under the name Libby in 2008. Then they asked me if I wanted to do an album and I said “Yes”. It was a chance encounter, and since then they’ve been really supportive. I wouldn’t have had an album if it weren’t for them nagging me.

Your Twitter handle describes your sound as “chicken liver blues”. What is it?

It’s a song title of the album. I suppose I find some of the descriptions you get around quite funny, “Oh, you’re this kind of band… You’re like psych this, cross with that…” (Laughing) I just thought it was funny to choose something fairly stupid and feeble. It’s taking the piss out of defining genres but also that song on the record is about my own anxieties about being a performer; so it’s taking the piss out of myself as well.

Tender Prey is the title of Nick Cave’s fifth album. Are you a fan?

LOVE him! I love his solo work and his stuff with Bad Seeds, and his films, and his books. Calling myself Tender Prey was a homage to that record. I also had this idea of a creative darker alter ego. Unfortunately for me, I’m not really good at acting. I wanted to be all really mysterious and really dark but I’m so like (adopting high pitched voice and waving arms about), “Hullooo”. Doesn’t quite work. The idea was that it would give me more creative freedom and distance. I also like the dichotomy: something violent but very vulnerable as well. My dad said (in an indignant comedy voice), “Why have you called yourself Tender Prey? It makes you sound really weak.” But to a lot of people I would be the predator. It depends on the perspective of how you see it when you watch a performance or listen to the record. There’s probably a bit of both in there. For all performers there is that kind of aggression, an ambition, a desire to create and perform but then there is also a vulnerable side. It seemed to fit with what I was trying to do.

Tell us more about your band.

I have a wonderful band. Mark Foley plays bass and Luciano plays the drums. We’ve been friends for a really long time, since I was a teenager and first started making music in Cardiff. Emma from Islet, who drummed on the record, couldn’t play live. She had her own band and her own stuff going on, so I just basically asked friends, “Please, can you play with me?! I have no money but I can promise good times.” And they have and they’ve been amazing! Mark runs Musicbox in Cardiff where I rehearse, and Rich used to play drums with me in a band called King Alexander.

I’ve noticed you’re quite vocal about politics on social media. It feels quite refreshing in this day and age.

(Laughing) Not that many people follow me so I’m probably preaching to the converted. I’ve always been really interested in politics and have been really politicised by the last election, the state of affairs in the UK at the moment. I think if you have an opportunity to say something, then you should. I’m quite strong in my beliefs that things can change and I wanted to help people. Twitter is a funny one because if you’re left-leaning, sometimes you’re tweeting to the converted rather than going out there and converting people who perhaps don’t follow you on Twitter. We need to do more of that rather than going (putting on silly patronising voice), “Have you read this Guardian article?… The New Statesman had a very interesting piece.” But I think it is very important to be political.

But it’s quite rare with artists now.

I think people worry that they’re going to alienate fans or say something that they shouldn’t say. On stage and in my general life what you see is what you get. It would be weird for me to sensor myself in that way.

What should we expect from you over the next few months?

Well, the album came out in May. I’m really lucky to be doing another split single with Jane in October. I’m also doing another four or five shows with Jane in October to support the release. We’ve played together a few times in the past. Even though our styles are really different, we really get along and we love each other’s music so that’ll be really fun. I’m playing Bestival next weekend and then Swn festival in November. And then I’ll be trying to write the second album.

Have you started on it already?

I have. And it’s funny ‘cos it took me so long to write the first record and now I suppose there is a little momentum with the album coming out. I feel creatively a bit more inspired playing shows, feeling like I’ve done a thing. Now I wanna do another thing. (Laughing) I’m hoping I’ll record that early next year.

Is it going to be on Finders Keepers?

I hope so. We have to see. (Laughing) They might not like it. But if it’s right for them and they like it, then hopefully we’ll do another record.

Buy Tender Prey debut LP Organ Calzone HERE.

Click HERE for tickets to see Tender Prey at Swn Festival in Cardiff on 7 November.

Photo credit: Steven Sibbald

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.