Described as an alternative pop artist, Deqn Sue is, certainly for many in the UK, a considerably unknown talent, however thanks to her latest album Juggernaut, that may well change very soon.
The album begins with the upbeat and rather funky (I can’t recall the last time I used that word in a review) “Starter Adult”, which tells the story of a young individual who dreams of a big and bright future, but is brought back to reality as she finds herself back at her family home after finishing college. The rhythm and tempo of the song is what really makes it work, but for an opening number, it’s pretty good all round.
In a world where self-esteem and body image are constantly under scrutiny, largely thanks to the media, “Unicorn” plays like an anthem of sorts, reminding all those who hear it that’s okay – and great – to be yourself and to like, even love, who you are.
As someone who works in retail, I related strongly to “Delivery Girl”, written about how sometimes those who work in the customer service sector are deemed almost as second class citizens when compared to those in higher, more managerial positions. “Melanin” meanwhile is another reflection on the power and importance of self-love, though this time more targeted at those with dark skin.
“Messy” is a highlight of the album. With its funny but honest lyrics, directed at someone who can’t keep their mouth shut and who likes to tell tales on – or spill the secrets of – others, the song is a refreshing way of telling off those who really should mind their own business. Closing number “Hello Neighbour” is perhaps the most reflective, sentimental track on the collection, and showcases Deqn Sue’s impressive vocal ability.
Not everyone will like the many sounds and styles Deqn Sue showcases on the album, but, most notably because of “Unicorn” and its positive and powerful message, everyone should hear it.
Opening with lead single “Trails”, the 4 track EP from Brighton alt-folk duo Paper Hawk gets off to a strong start with a song that’s all but an anthem – and lyrical reminder – about not going back to something, notably a relationship, that is/was volatile and no good for you. It’s one of those songs that anyone who has endured negative situations in their lives will identify with, and one sure to find itself on repeat.
Next comes “The Fourteenth Floor.” Addressing long distance love and relationships, it’s not quite as strong as its predecessor, but with a impressive vocal performance, one cut from the demos the pair recorded on the same night they wrote the song, there is both a rawness and a vulnerability to the track which will likely leave anyone who hears it feeling that spine-tingling feeling that they can do achieve anything – especially when it comes to love.
There’s a fizzing, slowly building energy to “Northern Sky” which ensures it’ll go down a storm when it’s performed live. At a time when mental health and personal struggles are all too commonplace, the track offers a soft, comforting, but at the same time strong arm of support to anyone who needs someone by their side to help them through difficult times.
Closing number “Written In The Lines” is all but a final chapter, a closing few paragraphs as it were, to the story told within “Trails.” Focusing on those final few life changing moments of a relationship when you reflect on how it should have ended some time ago, together with the toll it’s taken on you, physically, mentally and emotionally, the vocal performance very much mirrors that of “Trails”, bringing the EP’s story full circle, and finishes it off in a reflective, but also accepting manner – something rarely found or displayed in any artists’ music today.
Having written her first song at the age of 13, music has been in Bishat’s blood for many years and now, following the release of her Q417 (Mixtape) EP, she’s ready and raring to share her passion for what she does with the world. She spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about the honesty and emotion behind her lyrics, her thoughts on social media and her plans to tour the world.
TITL: As an artist who comes from the same place as the legends that are ABBA, have you or do you ever feel any pressure to try and replicate their success or are you just happy to see that, over the years, more and more talented bands and artists from your country have graced stages around the world and won over music fans?
Bishat: I think it’s inspiring more than anything else, it just makes me feel like it’s possible to reach a global audience from this little corner of the world. The industry is so small in Sweden so you know a lot of the people making waves and it’s an amazing feeling when you’re in a taxi in New York or in a club in Ethiopia and there’s a global smash playing and you know the people who wrote it.
TITL: You wrote your first song aged just 13, with Jose Gonzalez. How would you say your writing style has changed and evolved since then and what advice would you give to anyone looking at writing their own first piece?
B: As with everything else, you mature and experience life and with that you evolve your way of thinking and how you’re expressing yourself. I’ve also had time to be influenced by a lot of other music and I’ve studied what others did to then land in something that is me. I think my music is much more raw and intuitive and a mash-up of all the genres that I’ve grown up listening to now.
TITL: You’ve so far been compared to the likes of Tove Lo and FKA Twigs, among others. Do you mind such comparisons or would you much rather be labelled an artist in your own right?
B: Both Tove Lo & FKA Twigs are brilliant artists that I admire and am influenced by so I take that as a huge compliment. But yes, sometimes comparisons can be a bit lazy. People seem to crave the need of labeling and comparing and I get that in a time when there’s so much music it’s good to have some guidance and indication of other artists you might like. I’m really bad at explaining my sound and genre so if other people nail it then that’s all good. Of course I hope and think people see me an artist in my own right – there’s room for everybody.
TITL: You’ve just released your debut EP Q417 (Mixtape). How was the creative, writing and recording process and is there one track/feature on the collection you’re particularly proud of?
B: This was a little different than I how I’ve worked before. I’ve always had a lot of sessions where we wrote lots of stuff over a long period of time but this was pretty much all done in the last quarter of 2017, hence the title. I was going through a lot of stuff, coming out of a long relationship, not having a place to live, so creating this EP became my mission, not to lose myself completely. I wrote all the songs myself except “Unholy Romance” which I wrote with XOV, and then involved a few trusted people in the production process to help me finish it so it feels even more personal with the entire core coming from me. I’m most proud of “Give You Up” because it’s the first track I produced all by myself, even though I’m always involved and co-produce all my stuff. I have, as a female, struggled with daring to call myself a producer but now I feel that I truly can and no one can tell me nothing and that feels good. It’s also the rawest song I think I’ve ever written and listening to it reminds me of how broken I was at the time. It’s a bit painful but it also feels like the whole reason I even got into music in the first place. To create things that are raw and vulnerable that hopefully resonate with others going through the same things.
TITL: Now that the EP’s out, have you started thinking about writing again for the follow-up or are you just going to go with the flow and see what the response to this EP is like first?
B: Yes, I have some songs written but I haven’t entirely set the tone for the next EP, or maybe album, just yet. I’m going to London for a while to do some writing – the music scene there is really inspiring at the moment with so much great music coming out, so maybe that will shape the sound. But, I will definitely try to put out more music after summer.
TITL: The EP as a whole is rather dark and addresses a considerably difficult time in your life. Were you ever apprehensive about sharing those times with the world through your music as you have, or is it something you’d like to see more artists do – address real issues in their lives and those of others?
B: I personally love music that I feel is super honest. I mean it doesn’t even have to be real life, but some artists make you feel like it is anyway. Life is messy and hard and incredible and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think everyone would be better off if we were more open and honest about the struggles, depression or whatever it is that we go through. There was a point when we were mixing and I was like ‘wow this feels pretty exposing’, but at that point I wasn’t gonna throw it all away. It was a little scary but I’m proud of my work and proud that I managed to put it together even though I was such a mess.
TITL: You’ve also dropped the video for “Dream About Me.” How did you come up with the concept, and how hands on in terms of the creative process, do you like to get when it comes to making videos and such?
B: Post break up analysis I guess triggered it. I was like I’ve been in these long relationships but in the end I somehow mess them up. They may not have been the right ones for me but still…I started to see patterns in my behavior and in everyone’s really. Most of us repeat the same mistakes over and over and so I had this idea of showing several relationships, which in the end ended up being just two, where you are super intense and all in in the beginning but then grow restless and end up leaving and then repeat it with someone else. The fear of space and change – which ironically is the thing that usually ends up ruining it. I’m very involved in every aspect of my artistry. I do almost everything by myself from artwork to styling and I was very involved in the video so it’s all very much me which is really nice even though it gets crazy stressful at times. The anxiety is real.
TITL: Personally and professionally, are you much of a social media user and how do you feel about the power the likes of Twitter and YouTube can and do have in terms of helping an artist grow their fan-base and keep themselves current?
B: I use social media a lot but not a crazy amount. I understand that it’s important and it’s really cool to have that instant way of connecting with people. To be able to chat to someone who loves my song in Peru in my Insta DMs is amazing. However, the flip side is the fact that there’s such power in numbers – I think we are too fixated with followers, likes and streams and that it influences what we think of the artist before we’ve even heard the music. I wonder if you’d listen to the same stuff or talk about the same artists if you couldn’t see streams on Spotify or didn’t have YouTube views showing.
TITL: Finally then, with the video and EP out now, what’s next for you? What does the rest of the year have in store for you, and have you started looking further ahead as to what the more distant future could and might hold for you?
B: I’m gonna play some shows which I’m really excited about, write lots of music for myself and other artists and slowly work on that world domination stuff. I’m ready for that world tour.
Check out the video for “Dream About Me” below and for more information on Bishat, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Her Q417 (Mixtape) EP is available now.