An interview with Uh Huh Her at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Camila Grey, Leisha Hailey, and their half-naked drummer Josh Kane took over the London stage last night, 24th April 2012, for the final show in their European tour. As a goodbye gift and to the delight of the audience Uh Huh Her also shared the stage with Ladyhawke for a song.
Created four years ago by Grey, previously in the band Mellowdrone, and Hailey – famous for her role in the lesbian TV show The L Word as Alice Pieszecki and for being one half of the indie duo The Murmurs in the ’90s – the American electro-rock band Uh Huh Her released their second album Nocturnes last October. They are now working on the next one, which they promise will be more dance-oriented.
Gathering almost 1,000 women at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night was hectic. The sound of screaming fans filled the building as two fans ran across the stage blowing kisses to the band. Just around me, three couples were about to break up, while half of the crowd were updating their Facebook status to “OMG, I can see Alice”. At the end of the night, only smiles were on the faces as Hailey and Grey signed merchandise, taking time to talk to each person.
The Upcoming caught up with Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey before the concert.
It is your 10th gig in less than two weeks, you must be exhausted!
Camila Grey: Oh yeah, totally tired!
Leisha Hailey: but it’s actually less tiring than touring in America because in America every drive you do is ten to 13 hours. Here the distances are shorter, so it’s been way easier as far as the travel is concerned but the harder part is having a show everyday.
When did you arrive in London and what did you do today?
CG: We arrived this morning.
LH: Nothing! (Laughs) Unloaded, rest…
CG: But tomorrow we a have a day off.
LH: We will do our Topshop shopping tomorrow!
Do you have any good stories from your European tour? Leisha, I saw you skippy-ball on the German highway!
LH: (Laughs) Oh yeah, our friend got a skippy ball somewhere in Germany and we tried to get everyone from everywhere to skippy-ball.
CG: We were stuck in traffic in Germany and we got a couple of women to get out of their cars and skippy-ball. And then at the hotel there were teenagers on a field-trip and we land them try the skippy ball. We think the skippy ball brings people together.
LH: (Laughing her head off at Camila)
Bring it on stage, tonight!
CG: It’s our last show…it’s difficult.
LH: Jamie…would you get the skippy ball out of the van? Just in case. (Laughs)
You should go to France, or southern European countries.
CG: No we can’t!
LH: Honestly because we have to prove ourselves in a lesser market, where we’ve never been, and when a promoter doesn’t know… Even if you tell them you think you’ll do really well they don’t believe you. We have to start in really small clubs and then get moved up to bigger venues so the smaller clubs are all you can get in France. The guarantees are also really small and for us to travel from the US – we would lose money by going. It’s really difficult to get there.
CG: We are working on it!
LH: We are coming…we just don’t know when.
Why did you choose the most unpronounceable band name ever?
LH: We chose it at first because we were three girls so it was like one syllable each and now she’s (Alicia Warrington) not with us anymore and we are stuck with the name. I think at first we saw it in print but we didn’t say it out loud and then we said it …and we were like oh my God…
CG: …This is awful. We want to change it to UHH, just the initials.
What’s your favourite track?
CG: Wake to Sleep.
LH: Wake to Sleep. It reminds me of a time when we were writing the album and, I can’t word it but I like what it’s about and musically I think it sounds cool.
Camila, you are the one writing the lyrics and producing most of the music. Is Nocturnes made up of only new songs?
CG: Well, we are both writing but this particular song (Wake to Sleep) I wrote about Leish is very literal – the translation of some funny events which happened between us where she got pulled over by the cops.
LH: Because I forgot to turn my lights on…
What’s your writing or composing process?
CG: For me it’s anything from a beat, I try to get a feeling of where it’s coming from and then I start pilling on it. Once I start I won’t stop until it’s done, like the whole thing. It could take me an hour, it could take me 12 hours. I wrote Wake to Sleep in four hours.
Are there only new songs in Nocturnes?
CG: It was a combination.
LH: There was one song you wrote in college…
CG: Fascination I wrote in college but the majority are new thoughts.
Leisha, you wrote and produced Debris. What was your process?
LH: It was kind of a fantasy about phone sex and I love really grungy guitars.
When I write, it’s completely organic and not like how I learned to write in this band: like finding drums, leaps…very production-y. When I write it’s more me and my guitar, that’s how it comes.
Camila, did you teach her how to write?
CG: No, no, I didn’t teach her how to write…
LH: Cam definitely taught me new ways of writing, it’s not what I was used to do. Now I kind of dig it, I love finding new leaps!
CG: For example, the way we wrote Wait Another Day, we found that weird sound…She’ll find little things that caught her ear like that.
I was going through your different albums and EPs and I fell in love with Black and Blue, you released it about a year ago and it’s very electro-oriented. Some people on YouTube commented that it seems inspired by New Order’s Blue Monday, is that true?
CG: Yeah, I get it. I get the vibe, it’s similar. I can appreciate that reference. I’m a huge New Order fan but I never thought of that when we wrote it.
However I don’t see any similar electro-oriented tracks in Nocturnes; it’s more rock than electro – you didn’t want to continue down this way. Why did you choose to go in a more rock direction?
CG: It’s funny because we finished the album way before we did Black and Blue so really it was the rock before the electro. We released Black and Blue first.
LH: I don’t know why we did that.
CG: It was a weird choice but we had to go on our tour. So really Black and Blue came after Nocturnes, and that’s not what we wanted to have, it just happened like that. For the next record we are going to release an acoustic EP, so it’ll be five songs and it’ll come out in late May. It’s just going to be a remixed version of a bunch of old songs, acoustic, really really simplified. Then we are gonna try to make a dance record, more in the vain of Black and Blue. We’ve got the rock out that’s all we needed to do! (Laughs)
Did being in a relationship change your way of making music together?
LH: No, I mean no. (Laughs)
CG: Nothing’s changed. We are a boring married couple. Just kidding, not at all!
I was watching the trailer for the Nocturnes album and I was surprised to hear that you ran out of money to mix the album, especially seeing that you have such a large and wide audience. You held an auction on eBay for fans to purchase merchandise, is that right?
LH: We really wanted to work with this mixer Tchad Blake. He lowered his fees in order for us to do it but we still didn’t have enough so we had to come up with the money so that’s why we had the eBay auction and the fans funded the rest of the record! That’s amazing.
CG: We were filling iPods with playlists that we made (during the auction) so it wasn’t just people donating money but exchange of gifts and little things.
On your website you are also selling art made by yourselves.
CG: She is a great painter!
LH: I’m not great but I like to do it.
CG: You do pretty damn good!
What kind of painting do you like to do?
LH: I love portraiture, a lot, but it’s not like I paint series or anything.
CG: It’s kind of abstract-realism…
LH: Whatever she says!
CG: It’s a new term!
LH: I’m an abstract realist! (Laughs)
CG: Like indie-electro-pop-rock (talking about Uh Huh Her)!
Where do you see Uh Huh Her in 5 years?
CG: Oh…retired! (Laughs)
LH: Oh retired? Wow.
CG: I’m stuck in the moment, I don’t look that far it makes me have anxiety. It’s been exhausting and really fun at the same time. I just want to keep making records, and touring. Maybe not touring that much, I’d like to find a new way to deal with life that’s not being constantly on the road and away from the things you love, your dog, your comfort. Maybe I’m just getting old! (Laughs)
LH: It’s weird when you say five years…These years probably will fly but hearing the word “five years” is overwhelming. But at the same time I’m sure it will be here in two seconds.
CG: A lot more collaborating will be fun!
LH: I’d like to go away somewhere else.
CG: A new environment would be nice, rather than Los Angeles.
Where would you like to go?
CG: I used to live there.
LH: She still didn’t take me there!
CG: But I’ll take you, we just need time off.
LH: I went there when I was in high school, 17. I think I was there for six weeks; it was enough time to feel the culture, experience and drink sangrias. I was 17 years old…I almost got sent home a couple of times. (Laughs) That was fun!
I read that you would like to work with Linda Perry. Who else would you like to work with?
CG: I worked with her before. She’s amazing, very talented.
LH: Björk would be a dream.
CG: I’d love to work with Kanye West, that would be really cool.
LH: DJ Shadow would be cool. It would be cool to have vocal guest appearances like Axl Rose.
CG: Because she has a crush!
LH: (Denying) I just think it would be cool. And Missy Elliot.
Do you know any London-based bands?
CG: My friend is in a band: Ladyhawke. She’s based in London right now. You know what, I’m bad… There is Flood, who is our opening band, her name is Chloe Albert but Flood is her new band.
LH: We don’t choose our opening bands.
LH: But we chose Chloe!
Thank you for your time UHH.
Photos: Keira Cullinane