The Mediaeval Baebes fourth album "The Rose" is out this week and to celebrate the Summer Nights we though we'd provide you with the ultimate chillout band. The band have just returned from a successful tour of the States playing to a combined audience of old ladies, goths, businessmen and children. Its just a typical night in the life of the Mediaeval Baebes who can just as likely to be seen playing Cathedrals as rock & roll dives.
We caught up with Rachel van Asch to find out more about the band, the new album, her clothing company Sacred Clothing which supplies clothes to the likes of Rachel Stamp and their connection with art terrorists Minty.
Q: You've just returned from a tour of the States. Do you tend get a different reaction in a country like the States that doesn't necessarily have the history that we have over here in the UK?
A: A whirlwind Taking the States by Storm Tour. People have a lot less preconceived ideas about us in the States...in this country people are fed by a tabloid mentality and believe what they read and then go to gigs with bizarre expectations. Whereas that consciousness doesn't exist in America, so we don't get so much attention on how we look or how we dress - its more focused on the music over there, which is quite refreshing.
What sort of audience do we play to? Like how longs a piece of string? Its such a diverse audience its so hard to categorize from little old ladies to goths to witches and businessmen and kids. Its quite weird because I think were only band I know of that plays to such a diverse audience.
Q: Your new album "The Rose" is out this week. Your fourth album and somewhat unbelievable only the first one I've heard so far. How has it moved on from previous releases and what is the concept behind this album?
A: Its the best album by a long stretch and there's lots of good reasons for that. This is the record that we've had most control on artistically right through the whole process from pre production through to the artwork. Just every aspect of it is more our atmosphere than the previous ones.
Its nice to have a concept to tie a record together because it makes it more coherent and basically the Rose is a very recurrent theme through the lyrical content of our records. And we realized how often the rose is mentioned in the music and I think its because in Medieval time they were very obsessed with Roses. They were a symbol for divine perfection and perfect feminine beauty and those concept were very dear to their romantic hearts...as they are to us!!!
"Razreesh" is the first song I've wrote on an album and I've always been really enamoured by Bulgarian women's choir and a lot of Eastern European folk music. Its the poignancy in the pain, but somehow the redemption through the pain and there's some kind of beauty through the suffering that really appeals to me. And I know that sounds so pretentiously gothic, but there's something very moving about it. And sometimes not understanding the language it draws on your imagination that little bit more and in the same way you listen to a song you imagine a video.
Q: Personally, you actually grew up touring round New Zealand with your mothers Glam Rock Band. How did all of you get involved with this type of music?
A: Most of the band come from rock & roll routes. Even Katherine, who is classically trained, was in a goth rock band so I think the rock & roll aesthetic is in all of us. And I think it shows more in our approach to the music rather than the actual musical content. It doesn't show so much in the sounds you hear, but it shows in the way we approach writing, touring, the clothes we dress and the way we perform.
The reason the whole band started was because of Katherine and she did have experience of Medieval music before. The fundamental idea of it, apart from the recreational side of it and the fact it was just for fun, is its music that is quite instantaneously gratifying because its quite simplistic and it requires no amplification of any kind. We started it in May and it was really the thing for the Summer with the idea that we were free from wires and that we could simply sing in a field if we liked.
Q: I noted on the website that Trevor Sharpe from Minty is involved in the percussion side of things. How did that come about?
A: We he was actually in Miranda Sex Garden so he knew Katherine through that connection. He was very important in the middle stages...rather ironically on the first album we were doing the drumming and he was there cooking for us. It was somehow terribly the wrong way round!!!
He's not actually playing with us know because the other band he's involved with The Serpent has just got a record deal. They're very different from Minty - much more easy on the ears!!!
Q: Going off on a totally different tangent. You design a lot of the costumes that you wear on stage. Is that something you've always been involved in?
A: I've always made clothes and I was really obsessed with Medieval designs when I was about 16 or 17. I had a huge volume of designs based around those things and I forgot about that and found myself in a Medieval band and had all this stuff to draw upon. I formed a company called Sacred Clothing and now I design clothes not just for the band, but for anybody in the world who wants to wear clothes like we do.
I also do stage clothes for other bands who are not Medieval in the slightest. More rock & roll bands like Rachel Stamp. I probably do about 90% of David's stage costumes and I've now just started doing some of Shaheena's.
Q: Finishing off we've got the Exeter Cathedral and Joust gigs later this month. Do you find it hard choosing appropriate venues?
A: Joust is obviously coming up because its us in our element surrounding by Medievalists, but ironically I don't think were going to fit in exactly because we have quite a contemporary image in some respects and I think in genuinely medieval surroundings I think we will be equally out of place. But I think we thrive on the fact that we are as equally out of place in a S&M club as we are in a grave yard.
I actually prefer going from a rock & roll toilet one day to a Cathedral the next day and a Theatre the day after that. I find that kind of contradiction much more stimulating and we don't really have to change our set-up a great deal for each type of venue. Churches you have to careful with drums because of the reverberation and once we were requested at a Pagan event not to sing any songs about Jesus. But apart from that we usually do our thing.
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