According to their blog, An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump have called it quits after two short years together. Their short-lived run saw the all-girl trio storm the London indie scene, earning rave reviews from underground zines and mainstream rags alike, and, with two EPs and some pretty special singles under their wings, they seemed destined for great things. All things considered, the split comes as rather unexpected news, especially since they recently returned from Chicago with new material for their would-be debut album.
The short, bittersweet statement they have posted doesn’t give much away, though the fact that C-Bird and X-Bird have posted a joint paragraph next to D-Bird’s seems to point somewhat towards possible divisions. And, while the first two are reassessing their situation, D-Bird continues with her recently formed side project Blue On Blue.
To mark their demise, here’s a previously unpublished interview we did with D-Bird and X-Bird just before Christmas.
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How did you all meet?
X-Bird: I first got in contact with D when I showed some video work I had done at her club night, Decasia in 2007. We then met properly when C-Bird and I played Decasia as Eve Black/Eve White. The band formed out of a jam session we had before a night out. Instead of dancing about the living room listening to records we decided to thrash about and make our own sounds.
You swap instruments whilst on stage, and presumably in the studio. Why?
X-Bird: Why not? Creating music is something so intrinsically beautiful and magical. It’s something that I personally find so creatively overwhelming that limiting yourself to one instrument or role within the musical set up seems stifling in a way. We wanted to use every facet of our creative bones to make our music, changing instruments and challenging ourselves in this way is an important element in our quest for creative wellbeing, in a sense. We have such individual styles that every aspect of ourselves is in each of our songs.
D-Bird: We don’t want to limit ourselves in any way and it felt like a natural thing to do.
So is the songwriting a democratic affair?
D-Bird: Yes, although some songs have come about from pre thought out melodies and bass lines
X-Bird: I think it’s important to be open to every individual’s ideas. In order to realise great ideas within this group, all egos must be left at home. How can something great be accomplished if everyone is trying to clamber over everyone else’s thoughts and aspirations for a song? It’s about striking a balance and ultimately learning, more than anything else, how to work constructively with others.
Are you self-taught musicians?
D-Bird: No I’ve been having drum, guitar and piano lessons since the age of 11. I taught myself bass though.
X-Bird: I’m not a self-taught ‘musician’ at all. The term ‘musician’ is one I use very loosely. I’m originally from a film and video background but saw music as a natural creative progression. I got into music when I was around 18 years old and bought an old drum machine and a guitar to challenge myself to create sounds. I had no patience for learning the rules in a way. I wanted to create sounds blindly and find my own rhythm and make up my own rules. Every time I pick up an instrument it’s a constant challenge to continually dream up new ideas on how to construct a riff or drum beat, but this creative challenge is what I need in order to sustain my creative and mental wellbeing! I’m never sure how things will work out and that’s really exciting.
What/who inspired you to pick up your instruments?
D-Bird: Dave Grohl inspired me to play drums, PJ Harvey inspired me to play guitar, Kim Deal inspired me to play bass and Hope Sandoval inspired me to sing.
X-Bird: My inspirations are not exclusively musical. For instance, the primal soundtrack by Teiji Ito for Maya Deren’s film ‘Meshes Of The Afternoon’ was a pivotal moment for me. Once I heard that soundtrack it opened up new horizons in how drums could be played. What struck me the most was how something so simple, in a sense, created such depth and atmosphere in a film which was constructed as ‘silent’. If you watch ‘Meshes Of The Afternoon’, it’s a rhythmic dream and the soundtrack Ito made later for the film brought a sonic rhythm to the visual rhythmic element already there without overpowering the already heady elements of the film. It’s powerful and inspiring!
What kind of issues inspire your music/lyrics and are there any running motifs?
D-Bird: No running motifs at all. Most of my lyrics are based on poetry I write.
X-Bird: There are so many issues that inspire us to make the music we do. What I personally find to be a running theme to the lyrics I write and sing are issues I have carried with me since being a teenager. Now I’m finally using my voice and my creativity to make peace with whatever consumed me all those years ago; the only difference is that I am voicing these issues with an adult mind. This band represents such a stepping stone for me on so many levels. There are bands around us with the average band member age being 17/18. I personally don’t think I would have had enough emotional stamina to form a band and work as hard as we do at that age. This band represents my decent into adulthood and shaking off the shackles of feeling young, naïve and insecure.
Do you think of yourself as a ‘girl band’, or just a band that happens to have girls in it?
D-Bird: Our lyrics and expressions are from a female point of view and I’m heavily into girl-fronted music so I do look at us as a girl band.
X-Bird: We are three women making music. The term ‘girl’ I feel always sounds so fey and immature. I’m a woman in my mid-twenties. I left girlhood a long time ago and this band is very much a representation of my adult years.
It’s not a question that most bands own up to, but quite frequently, bands start out by emulating their idols as a way of finding their own style and confidence later on. Were there any elements of this in the group at the beginning?
D-Bird: If we did do this then you would say we sound like someone in particular. We don’t, and we’ve never copied anyone, hence people always have to ask us what we think we sound like…
X-Bird: I really don’t think there is a sense of emulating our idols at all. We’re all inspired by such different aspects of music and art that and play with such individual styles that what I feel we’ve created is something absolutely unique. We always get asked how to catorgorise our music as people find it hard to do so. This stands as a testament to how us Birds are continually going against the creative grain. Ultimately, being inspired by your idol is completely different to emulating your idol. It’s about honing in on ideas that have inspired you and using this to create something exciting and fresh, something that is 100% you.
How important is fashion and style to you as a band?
D-Bird: It’s not important to me in the slightest and it irks me that people mention it and try and link the two.
X-Bird: Individual, personal style is something that is as creative as any form of art. The clothes I wear are in a sense a visual extension of who I am, and sometimes in certain situations, how I want to be perceived. Sometimes I see it as a personal challenge and as a social experiment. How short does a skirt have to be, to be deemed socially unacceptable for example, or how low cut can my top go? I’m a naturally curvaceous woman and I’m proud of that fact. People tend to pick up on the fact that I’m a woman over the size 14 mark wearing a skirt cut precariously high on the leg, but I don’t care. I want to make people question the idea of idealistic beauty and what is deemed visually acceptable in society. Individual style should not be seen as something superficial and vain. I see it as another form of art and another way of celebrating who we are.
As Wears The Trousers is a female-centric magazine, can you tell us about any past/present female artists that you admire or have inspired you?
D-Bird: Karin Andresson, Lydia Lunch, Kim Deal, Kim Gordon, Karen Carpenter, Hope Sandoval.
X-Bird: Maya Deren is one of the most inspiring artists of the 20th century. A voodoo high priestess, championed filmmaker and writer. Her work continually challenges spectators to rethink the ways in which films are constructed and read. She said in an interview once that her work had a certain female ‘time quality’ about it. When I watch her films I try and bear this in mind and learn to try and understand it. Her work is beautifully rhythmic with a sense of urgency without an ugly ‘rush’. You move along with her tempo and get swept away in her flow – I suppose this is her own individual ‘time quality’. Perhaps we all have our own ‘time quality’ and in order to create great art we need to discover and understand it.
Your blog proudly banners the awesome motto “Punk Rock Feminism Rules OK”. Are there any particular figures who forged the link between punk and feminism for you?
X-Bird: I’m a fan of Babes In Toyland, Bikini Kill, Lydia Lunch, Tina Turner, Maya Deren and so many more inspiring female role models. The women I have mentioned challenged social boundaries in a positive way and pushed their creative sparks to the limit. Anyone who can do that is truly inspirational.
D-Bird: Lydia Lunch, Kim Deal, Courtney Love.
So is there an underlying band manifesto?
D-Bird: If we were to have a manifesto it would be composed of one word: spontaneity
X-Bird: D-I-Y. Push yourselves to the limit in order to fully realise your creative dreams and don’t get sucked into the bullshit…EVER. When you do, it’s game over.
Are you comfortable live performers or do you get stage fright?
D-Bird: I heard the roar of the 2000-strong crowd at Transmusicales and my stomach did a backflip for the first time…
X-Bird: It’s not uncommon for me to be fraught with nerves before a show. Sometimes it can be quite debilitating but I need this nerve juice. When I start feeling complacent about gigs, this will be when it’s over for me. I get nervous more than anything because I want to make sure it’s a good show, not just for myself but for everyone concerned; the audience, the band, my friends – everyone. We all put so much of ourselves into every aspect of our creation, including our live shows, that personally, for me, feeding off my pre-show nerves adds an extra dimension to the experience as a whole.
Do you have any pre/after show rituals?
D-Bird: Alcohol figures before and after shows…
X-Bird: I try not to drink too much alcohol before a gig. I used to get really drunk when we first started as I was so nervous but I want to feel the audience getting involved, I want to remember the experience. I don’t want alcohol to blur the moment and hinder me in any way. I will, however, smoke…a lot.
You’re a relatively young band who’ve blown up pretty quickly. What are you hoping for in the long term? Will music be a life long career for you all or are there other adventures waiting in the wings?
D-Bird: I want to do this for evermore and hope we get the funding to continually support us doing this
X-Bird: I’ve set up a new film and video collective called The Only Constant and I’m continually making new videos for the project. We’re hosting a monthly screening and open discussion night at Corsica Studios from February 3. You can check out our video work here.
I’m also the gallery curator at Our Space Gallery in London which is a gallery run by the mental health charity Together. I’m curating shows at the gallery all year round based around the theme of mental health. My aim is to help eradicate taboos and stigma around this issue and help promote confidence and mental wellbeing through varying art forms.
What do you hope 2010 holds?
D-Bird: Touring America and releasing our album worldwide.