Today we have something special for you: an interview with Pettaluck! Yes indeed it is our lucky day as such a thing doesn’t happen every day. If for whatever reason you don’t know or perhaps had never heard of Pettaluck, do not worry as this interview might hopefully help out a lot!
Hi Pettaluck, so nice to meet you! Thank you for popping over at our humble blog. Hope you can make yourself a bit at home over here… what is your preferred drink of choice?
Pettaluck: Elderflower cordial please.
Interviewer KN (on the left) and guest Pettaluck (on the right) with cups of tea
My very first natural question that jumps straight to my mind is what does your name Pettaluck stands for? I’m also curious about its origins?
Pettaluck: It means being alone, together. My mother in law was in hospital and they wrote Pettaluck above her head, but it isn’t her name. They still operated on her and fixed her up. Sometimes people can fix you without having a clue who you are. It’s not always easy to connect to others but maybe you don’t always need to, not in the ways we imagine. People can have a profound effect on us without ever knowing it. I have very deep feelings of loneliness a lot of the time, but it’s something inside me which is hard for others to fix. Sometimes it’s OK to just feel lonely alongside someone else.
Are you from the Southend on sea area? Is your music typical for this area?
Pettaluck: I don’t think it’s typical for anywhere but we do have a very active and creative scene here. I was born locally and haven’t strayed far. I guess there is a ‘Southend sound’ because there are a handful of people who seem to pop up in every band, it’s like there is the ultimate condensed version of that band waiting to happen one day. But I say that based on people my age. There are many younger artists doing new things and I don’t get to hear them often enough. There is also a long and rich history of both punk and jazz here. We are close enough to London to get inspired by things happening there but far away enough to make our own rules. We have always had good venues too which helps. A large number for the size of the town and there are shows almost every night, often 2 or 3 even midweek.
A punk looking out over the beach of Southend on Sea
Do you remember the moment in which you decided to make music? Was there a specific instrument that tickled your fancy?
Pettaluck: It’s always just been part of who I was. Songs come into my head and harrass me until I can get them out again. I used to sing out of the car window on long journeys when I was a kid so no-one could hear me. Our school was very serious about music so recorder was compulsory and then I moved onto flute because it seemed glamorous and shiny. My mum discouraged me from very girly pretty things and the flute was the first time I really struck out from that and wanted something feminine.
Does music run in your family?
Pettaluck: Not especially, no. Only downwards. My son is obsessed. His imaginary friend is the You tuber Andrew Huang who makes songs using household objects. He also practises the drums for an hour a day and can name all sorts of obscure instruments. He’s made me some loops for my next EP. He is 3.
Does music ruin your family? I mean I have traumas of being tortured by an overdose of the carpenters by my dad… how is it in your family? Are they supportive?
Pettaluck: My parents don’t know I’ve released an album, my girlfriend hasn’t heard it, but my kid knows all the drum parts and sings it walking down the street so that’s enough for me. I grew up mostly listening to the Beatles, Vangelis, Elton John, Meatloaf and Kate Bush. I have a horrible feeling it shows. My parents took me to a lot of concerts and bought my instruments so I’m not complaining.
Pettaluck as a child listening to music
Do you have any artists that you gain inspiration from? If so? Who are they?
Pettaluck: Not specifically, I’m a magpie, I try to suss out the appeal of every artist and make sense of it. I am constantly collecting and learning. I like anything which is new to me. There were a few bits on the album that were directly inspired from others but funnily enough they all got edited out along the way.
Pettaluck is a magpie
Do you write all your music out? Score wise or is it memory based?
Pettaluck: It was all improvised on the recording apart from some of the lyrics so neither, until I needed to play a gig and recruited some friends to make the best sense of it they could. Brian actually turned it into score because he is the studious type but I would never have the patience for that. I sometimes write down a list of letter names and hope that will be enough.
Pettaluck doing a wonderful gig at Culture as a Dare
You have just released an album named “Pass” through wrieuw recordings on tape and as a digital download. What does the album title stands for?
Pettaluck: It marked the end of a long period of time when I was trying to meet other people’s standards and expectations. Both in creating music and also taking lots of exams, and in my private life. Also my partner was trying to navigate the minefield that is being trans in the UK right now. It’s not easy. So it’s ‘Pass’ like passing a test, or ‘passing’ as who ‘they’ want you to be, but also like saying ‘I pass’ and refusing to be part of things, and ‘pass’ like a document which allows you to go to new places.
Click the cover art to check out Pass
What did you wanted to convey with your album? Is there a secret message within it?
Pettaluck: Ha no secret message, it’s just about identity really and coming to terms with being very fortunate but still finding some things painful. It’s a thing I wrestle with, like how can I complain about anything at all when people are starving or being murdered, but of course you do need to talk about difficult things sometimes regardless or you explode. I think my lyrics are pretty direct and not at all mysterious! There are a few references which I don’t think people will notice, they are there just for me really. The first track is called ‘Second Hand Shoes’ and that’s a nod to ‘Second Hand Blues’, the opener on the classic Fleetwood Mac album Rumours. That was a little joke to myself when I was making the album and wanted it to be the greatest thing ever, a little tease to keep me humble. Also the cover is very significant to me, I painted it on a very sad and hopeless day but I only let myself use happy colours, so it reframed the anger and frustration into something positive. And the gold stars on the artwork are a reference to the gross lesbian slang of a ‘gold star’ being a woman who has never slept with a man, Also of course to get a gold star from anyone means you have conformed to their standards in some way so it’s all wrapped up in there.
Pettaluck showing us Fleetwood Mac’s ‘rumours’ album
Your music is honestly to me something that sounds very musical and also very much all over the place: From experimental to pop, cabaret to field recordings. You seemingly combined all kind of elements and managed to bring it together as one. It comes across to me like like an sonic adventure more than a collection of sing & songwriter kind of songs. How did the tunes on your album got born and evolve in the work that it is today?
Pettaluck: Some of these songs date back to being on tour with Lost Harbours in 2012, Little bits from before then even, so they have had a long time to twist and change in my head. They have bent to accommodate which instruments I have, what I can actually achieve in my home studio, and then finally when I took them to John Hannon to mix and master. He made a few important changes while staying very loyal to the original feel. The opener changed a great deal, it was a big 6/8 rock thing, but on my budget it just didn’t work. Blind was a straight forward grunge number to start with but it just felt corny. Fox had sitar and violin but I just couldn’t make that gel. I think all of the changes resulted in something better. Of course recording the parts as improv in one or two takes also meant I had interesting sounds to work with which I hadn’t expected. And a lot came down to how rubbish I am at playing power chords on the guitar. I’m happiest with Beer and Coffee and that didn’t evolve at all, neither did Get Undressed. Stiff Upper Lip was a full on REM style pastiche with mandolin but then I got carried away with the woodwinds! It’s the only track I’m not 100% happy with. It’s an older version of me I don’t need anymore.
I think your music can easily be imagined as a theatre show, do you have any plans to perform your music in a play form? Or perhaps do something like that in the future?
Pettaluck: God no, in my previous band Ten Tigers I was quite visual with costumes and puppets but I don’t see the world through my eyes at all, everything is sounds to me, all my memories and the things I imagine and plan. Also the stories are all from different times and places, I don’t think they would make a good narrative. I did start writing a Eurovision musical once but I think that would still only exist as an imagined soundtrack to a play which never happens.
What about the instruments on the album? Did you play them all?
Pettaluck: Yes, although my friend Justin read out the lyrics for the secret track at the end for me, and I stole the Budapest metro field recording off a bandmate’s dictaphone because I’d failed to record it myself when we were there.
Pettaluck playing a balloon
Are you by any chance classically schooled?
Pettaluck: I suppose, although that sounds grander than it was. I had woodwind lessons with a private teacher as a kid. I’m now a music teacher myself. I took some exams and played some classical music in kid’s orchestras. Also did some jazz workshops. I was fortunate that my parents could fund those things and see the value in it but I think the whole ‘classically trained’ thing puts people in boxes based solely on how much money someone was willing to throw at them. Humans are hard wired to learn from everything and everyone around us and we need to celebrate that. I class myself as classically trained but with an outsider aesthetic and enjoy playing with the tensions that creates. Too many rules and absolutes makes you lazy.
See what too many rules did to this poor lion
If you wanted to give your listeners something (a feeling perhaps) while listening to your album; what would it be?
Pettaluck: Well, it makes me very happy, and I want to share that. I don’t write the happiest songs, but I think the music does things that make you smile. I want to pleasantly surprise people.
A smiling listener of Pass by Pettaluck
Are your songs personal diary bits or are they stories that had sprung from the colorful imagination?
Pettaluck: Oh it’s all hideous oversharing. It never occurred to me to make things up.
Where and how did you record the album?
Pettaluck: In my shed on a digital 24 track desk with trad sliders. Little tweaks were on the laptop, like creating the skateboard loop on Muscle Shell and adding some of the effects on the secret track. The sounds on Fox are just a DD6 pedal. It was mixed and mastered on computer by John Hannon at No Recordings, I tried to mix it using the analog desk but could only get so far. My girlfriend can get great mixes on it but you need to be a real sound engineer to utilise it properly and I was too close to the project to mix it anyway.
As pass has been released on tape, could you explain why tape is the audio storage format that suits your album the most?
Pettaluck: It was all I could afford! I mean it also has the intimate aspect of most people listening to it on a walkman but….. it was mostly a costs decision. I do love the packaging though. I’m a massive fan of lo-fi DIY music but honestly it’s harder work to sound or look lo fi than hi fi these days because even the most basic tech is so good.
The wonderful Pettaluck ‘pass’ tapes!
How would you describe yourself musically?
Pettaluck: Maximal. Shameless. Niave. Restless. Sadly none of those are filters on Spotify.
If you have to describe Pass in colors and smells, what would it be?
Pettaluck: orange both smell and colour.
Do you have anything that you want the world to know? A little shoutout maybe?
Pettaluck: I’m also in two bands, Lost Harbours who play doomy experimental folk and are mostly based in Latvia, and Rock Garden of Chandigarh who are currently recording our first album, a reimagined soundtrack to the French/Czech film La Planete Sauvage, so please everyone do investigate those. I am the least interesting member of Rock Garden. I also want to mention that Diana Collier who played at the Southend gig you saw has her own solo record out soon and Fran who played flute for me that night has an album of folk songs sung with her mum Belinda Kempster available now, both works are stunning.
What are the plans for Pettaluck in the near future?
Pettaluck: I have a session coming up on Resonance FM October 26th and a couple of gigs, the plan is for two Eps before the next album and hopefully a free Christmas download. I have a name and some imagery ready for the new album and I want it to feature a lot more string instruments as they got overlooked on this one. I think the next EP will be released as a zine.
Thank you very much for doing this interview. It is greatly appreciated and I hope it was as much fun for you as it was for me and the readers at home.
Pettaluck waving to the reviewer KN who is flying out to fight climate change
please check out Pettaluck’s Pass over here: