RACHEL MARIA COX
w/ HANNAH STRETTON
NEWCASTLE’S POP/ROCK SCENE JUST GOT ITSELF A NEW FRONTRUNNER WITH RACHEL MARIA COX, ONE BADASS BITCH WHO’S NOT ONLY KICKING DOWN THE PATRIARCHY, BUT ENCOURAGING AND MAKING ROOM FOR OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.
The debut LP, Untidy Lines, is out now, and Newcastle Mirage got the opportunity to speak to Rachel all about the new record, upcoming gigs, the reality and struggle of mental illness, and the need for more diversity, representation and encouragement in our music industry.
So your debut LP, Untidy Lines, came out on the 1st of August, which is really great, by the way. How are you feeling about it all? Were you scared to see how people would receive your new music?
Thank you! I was really nervous about how people were going to receive this record, because I felt like it had been built up for such a long time and I knew a lot of it was going to be quite different from what people had heard from me in the past. I’m also just hyper-conscious of how people perceive me (just little mental illness things, I guess) but I’m feeling okay now that it’s out and that the people who have listened to it have liked it.
It’s strange, I feel like because it’s been done for such a long time and has been such a long process, I built up in my head a lot of expectations of how the release would be, so I am just trying to reconcile those feelings at the moment.
Most artists can point out the inspiration/s behind their creation. What were some of yours?
Musically it’s really hard to say, but the inspiration was my own process in the last year and a half to two years with mental health recovery and the sort of overall personal growth that’s come with that. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2014 and I’ve been in and out of treatment for bulimia and/or anorexia nervosa for the last six years. ‘I Just Have A Lot Of Feelings’ was the starting point for writing this record, so it came from this place where I had made myself publicly really vulnerable about those two things and found this really amazing sense of strength from that.
It was like I had shown all my ugliest parts to the world on this record and said, ‘Hey, I’m hyper-emotional, I was an alcoholic and an addict, I hate my body, I’m dysphoric, I’m impulsive, my romantic entanglements are complicated at best, I dissociate and I have intimacy issues,’ and when you make yourself vulnerable like that to everyone you know and a heap of people you don’t, I felt like then I could finally grow from that. That’s the biggest inspiration for this record.
Speaking of creating this record, what gets your creative juices going? Is there a particular ritual behind your songwriting? It could be something as ridiculous as eating a packet of Twisties.
I work in music, so I’m constantly going. Being surrounded by and engaged with other music, with writing and art and movies, that keeps the creative spark going. I’m always writing, always thinking about musical ideas for the next record. I listen to music constantly – I think that’s the main thing.
I should probably read more. I dunno, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually had the time to sit down and write something. It grows for ages and ages in my mind, so by the time I sit down to put it onto paper and a voice memo, it’s pretty much already written.
Was there a particularly challenging moment for you when putting together this LP?
There were a few, to be honest. The recording process was more rushed than I would have liked; we couldn’t record at the same time and we had had maybe three rehearsals of a few of the songs, so it was really messy in that sense.
There was a lot of going back in and me having to guide the editing process after parts were recorded to get the structure of songs right. There were also a couple of really difficult emotional moments in the recording process; in order for me to perform songs I write authentically, I need to put myself in a really vulnerable emotional state to bring up those feelings and then be able to let them pass again.
‘Misery Kink’ was a hard one for that, and when we first went into record the vocals for ‘Stronger Lines’ I actually choked up – I physically couldn’t do it because one of the people I had written it for/about had just been hospitalised, and I was too raw to be able to sing that song. Joe was really lovely about that though, he just let me wrap up and come back and track it when I felt ready.
You’ve just wrapped up filming your first professional music video for ‘Stronger Lines’. How are you feeling about that whole experience? Tell us a little about it all.
I won a Triple J Unearthed competition to have a director and designer at NIDA make a music video for one of my songs. I won that earlier in the year and it was so exciting to shoot on the weekend [29th–30th July] and watch the whole thing come together.
I’d had two preliminary meetings before with Clare and Shannan. We’d talked a bit about concepts and what the song was about in the first meeting, and then in the second I got to see the pitch they’d given to Triple J and Rage.
Even then, I really didn’t have a huge hand in it or have any idea what I would be walking into when I went in to shoot. I think that made it really exciting and fresh because everyone, all the cast and crew and especially Shannan and Clare, had worked so hard for so long – it felt a bit like I was walking in on a giant surprise party! I’m so excited to see how it turns out. I think visually it’ll be really striking.
So you’ve just released your LP, filmed a music video, travelled all around Australia, and you’re also the manager of record label and booking agency Sad Grrrls Club. How did this come about?
I invented it out of thin air because of a joke that I took too far. Story of my life, really.
What is the mission behind Sad Grrrls Club?
Sad Grrrls Club is about promoting diversity, inclusivity and safety in music. We specifically focus on gender diversity, because obviously there’s currently a massive issue with a lack of that in Australian music, and globally. We focus on working with bands and artists where at least one member is non-male; i.e. female, gender non-conforming, non-binary, gender-fluid or agender.
We’re really focused on not taking opportunities away from anyone, but rather creating more opportunities for these musicians to perform and create in safety. This extends to performing at Sad Grrrls Festival, which is now in its third year, and releasing music as a DIY label.
Why do you think it’s so important to promote and encourage gender diversity in the music industry?
Anyone who thinks the music industry doesn’t have a sexism problem is kidding themselves. If you want to break the status quo, you need to work in whatever way you can against it, with whatever resources you have. It’s tough, but the more people who are doing it, the more change we see.
Is there a way that people can get involved and/or volunteer for Sad Grrrls Club?
Keep an eye on the Facebook page. It’s really a personal project at the moment, but I’ve started getting more people on board, so keep an eye on the page for volunteer callouts. Also, if you want to release music, get in touch!
Speaking of Sad Grrrls Club, your upcoming gig in Newcastle, Babes Take the Warehouse, is all about bringing gender diversity centre stage with a selection of art and music. Can you tell us more about the event?
Newcastle is still way behind when it comes to frequently putting on all-male lineups. There are more people who are trying to change this, which is why Babes Take The Warehouse is so important. Representation is crucial for young musicians, and there’s this big myth that there just aren’t enough gender diverse bands/artists in Newcastle, which is quite frankly just untrue.
You’ll also be playing your LP live for the first time, which I’m sure is nerve-wracking and exciting. What can people expect to see?
Our live show is kinda like if a pop star started fronting a hardcore band, so expect that.
With a selection of art on display, do you yourself have a favourite artist that will have their art on show?
I’m a huge fan of Jess Jones’ artwork so I’m really looking forward to seeing that, but I don’t know a lot about art so I’m excited to see what’s on offer.
Speaking of art, there will be other acts alongside you on the day – any in particular you look forward to seeing?
I love love love Antonia & The Lazy Susans and I think they’re destined for huge things, so I’m really excited to see them. Plus Crazy Old Maurice, who I haven’t seen in ages. The whole lineup is just amazing though and I love them all so much.
Is there anything super exciting that you’re looking forward to that is coming up or is it all secret music business?
I’ve got Sad Grrrls Fest coming up, which is very exciting (HINT HINT BUY TICKETS), and I’ve also got a couple of cool supports getting announced very soon.
Last, but of course not least, I wanted to end on a more sentimental note and ask you what you want people to take away from your LP. Is there an overall message behind your music that you want your audience to know?
There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable, messy, emotional, or in the bumpy process of trying to recover/better yourself. There is a strength in that.
Untidy Lines is out now, which I recommend you all to have a listen to – plus, it’s also available on vinyl for those who love that authentic snap, crackle, pop music sensation.