Scaling The 50ft Woman
Hot on the (high) heels of their recent Menage à Trois EP, I strapped on my crampons and set out up the north face of 50ft frontwoman Minki to find out more about the band. When I arrived – sweaty but invigorated – at her summit, this is what she told me:
For those of our readers who’ve been deprived of the joy of discovering 50 ft Woman, could you tell us a little about how the band came together?
Well originally, 50ft Woman really only existed as a name. It was just me, with a few songs I had picked from my old band, plus some new ideas. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it was a bit lonely being a solo artist. Gigging was a logistics nightmare, rounding up various musician friends, and really the songs sound more like a band. So I started looking and found Adie, swiftly followed by Paul. Ben and Axel are relative newcomers but fitted in so well it was like they were born to be in the band!
Looking at some of the old footage of the band on You Tube, it’s evident that the band’s sound and visual image have come together over the past three years – what were the key elements that made you to decide to go in the audio/visual directions that now define the group?
I think as the new songs have come together, it’s given a more tangible sound, which then gives a clearer view for the image. Now that I have a regular line-up and 50ft Woman is a band and not just me, it can be more cohesive, in both sound and visual aspects. I’m lucky anyway, as the ‘frontwoman’, I can get away with wearing whatever I fancy!
How did you come to select the three tracks on Menage a Trois? It seems to me that any of the seven tracks streamed on your website could have merited inclusion – will any of those be surfacing on subsequent releases?
We definitely wanted to record ‘(Strictly) Only Swinging’. We love playing it live, and at the moment it’s the perfect set closer. It was a case of then picking songs to sit around it that showed off all our best assets, as it were. We do have plans to put some of the other songs on the album, but they will be re-recorded to better fit in with the new sound we have.
Do you have a large corpus of unrecorded material? Do any covers find their way onto your setlists?
Funnily enough I just shared a large dollop of unrecorded stuff in acoustic form, with the rest of the band. There’s about enough for an album, and that’s just the stuff that is in a completed song format. The guys have lots of ideas too, and I know Ben texted me at midnight just the other night, excited about a song he had just finished writing.
We are currently including ‘Turning Japanese’ in our set, though it depends on the length of the set and where we are whether we play it or not. There are a couple of others we’d like to do, too. I think sometimes it gives a fresh crowd an instant connection with you, as long as you do it well!
Of the three tracks on the EP, ‘Psychic Hygiene’ and ‘(Strictly) Only Swinging’ seem to represent the band’s more visceral edge, whereas ‘You’re In Love With Love’ is more melodic – would you say that this accurately represents the two sides of 50ft Woman’s sound? Is it likely that as the group progresses, one side will eclipse the other?
It definitely represents the two sides! I’m glad you picked up on that. I do tend to have a very schizophrenic writing style, where it will be either one or the other! (Must be the Piscean element in me.) I think as a band we find it easy to flip between the two, and even the more full-on stuff will still have a melodic edge to it. The rule is that all of our songs must work acoustically, then you know for sure that it works as a song!
How have the band been going over live – is there a big difference between your most recent gigs and those from the group’s early days?
I think we are a lot more confident, a lot better rehearsed and we have a lot more fun on stage as a result of that. When you know that the band is totally ready, you can relax more into it, which makes for a much better performance. And when the band has fun, it definitely means the audience have more fun too!
What kind of audiences are you getting?
A real mixture. There is always a struggle with London crowds as there is so much choice of gigs and place to go. So lately, we have been concentrating more on out of London gigs. The weirdest one we have done recently (but also one of the best), was at the Marussia Virgin Racing Weekend. About 300 F1 fans all camping for the British GP, in the rain, which thankfully stopped when we came on, and as it was still wet, the audience was about 40ft away under parasols and tents! We still got lots of new fans from that gig, so it was worth it.
Have you played with any bands with which you feel a connection, or do 50ft Woman stand resolutely alone?
We’ve done a few gigs with the Scratch who we love. We do quite a bit of cross promotion with them, and are hoping to do a mini-tour later this year. I think in this business the more friends you can make and help along the way the better. After all, it’s not like people only like one band is it? If we could put on more nights with bands we like and that compliment us, then we can all share fans and all gain more!
Would you say that there are common influences that unite the quartet, or do you have wildly differing tastes?
I think we have a common love of ‘rock’ in general, though we do have differing tastes. Axel keeps promising to educate me in drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep and all those weird urban subgenres I know nothing about. Adie loves his seventies rock and blues, Paul loves most modern rock. I think Ben and I were separated at birth, as we seem to have a spookily lot in common musically. I think what helps as well is not being closed off. I have such eclectic tastes and love discovering new music.
I understand that you’re due to shoot a video for the forthcoming single ‘Google Tan’ – do you have any specific visuals in mind for that?
Ah that would be telling! Well, ‘Google Tan’ is obviously about spending way too much time in front of a computer screen … so it will be based around that. We are storyboarding it this weekend and I can’t wait to film it. There are rumours that I may be playing a few different characters in it, but you will just have to wait and see. Anything could happen in this band!
Any plans for an album, or touring? What’s next for the band?
Well, as I mentioned we want to do a mini-tour with the Scratch later this year, and knowing us, this will probably develop into other stuff too. We ended up doing support dates with the Union last year then rushing off to the London Tattoo Convention, so we are up for a logistical challenge. After all, I’m used to it from the early days! We’d love to get on another couple of good tour support slots, we seem to make friends easily, thankfully.
Album? Yes! It’s already in the pipeline. It’s literally a matter of sitting down with our diaries and guitars and making concrete decisions. However, we won’t release it until we are 100% happy with it. It’s our debut album, and as such, needs to be all killer no fillers.
50 Ft Woman website