Very few bands are as legendary or groundbreaking as Girlschool. The four-piece, formed in South London, have been almost constantly on the road since 1978 and have inspired countless other musicians to rise up, form bands and get out there.
The line-up has fluctuated over the years, but what never has is their commitment to be the best they can, constantly fighting against the system and pushing themselves ever onwards.
Since joining the band in 1999, guitarist Jackie ‘Jax’ Chambers has been bringing her dazzling six string and writing skills to the mix and has been instrumental in helping to carry on the blazing fire of the quartet’s feral hard rock alongside original members Kim McAuliffe and Denise Dufort.
In fact, after a few lean years, it was a huge pleasure to see Girlschool back and firing very much on all cylinders again, the shows all over the world coming in and fans turning up in their droves.
Chambers never seemingly to be a person to sit still for long, decided to form Syteria during a rare bit of downtime and the band have also grown from strength to strength, their irresistible and intelligent hybrid bubblegum punk/metal with a social conscience gaining multiple plaudits.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3F4XlqP68o&w=560&h=315]
With the non-stop touring of the dual bands, five albums with Girlschool and two with Syteria, the sudden break in activities due to the global situation must have come hard to the workaholic. We caught up with her this week to find how she’s been coping with the downtime and to get her thoughts on the future of music, post-Covid.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
Absolutely fabulous thank you! Enjoying the sunshine in sunny Leeds today.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
I’ve been learning to cook new things, vegan of course…enjoying it …though the stage clothes are NOT going to fit if we gig any time soon…lol I’m sure there’s time to get into shape again beforehand by the way things are going right now:(
I’ve also turned into a gardening bore 🙁 I’ve always run a mile from gardening, never really saw it as a way of relaxing or fun…and I was right, it’s NOT lol, it’s back breaking and my hands are sore from all the digging up roots and weeds but I’ve now got an allotment full of fresh home grown vegetable that will be ready for harvest quite soon (I hope).
Of course, I have also been involved in a couple of projects musically. I played a song for Vive Le Rock Magazines for their live online show, so a 1st for me doing something solo 🙂 as well as helping out a couple of friends with guitar parts for their projects to raise money for the NHS. I’m now getting back to writing some new songs for both bands; Girlschool and Syteria.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
Neither band has actually done a live show as such, Syteria have finally just started to rehearse again which felt GREAT so we may do a live stream at a future rehearsal soon 🙂 Fortunately Girlschool had just finished a UK tour in Jan and Feb this year and Syteria just released an album Feb 21st, we were out promoting it at the time of lock down and it was going great until all this hit, getting great reviews for the album and live shows...but hey, those are the breaks.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
Not really no, I tend to write songs at home on a basic home studio set up (computer with logic ) and then give them to the band to learn and they progress from there in their own way.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes, with Syteria we are constantly on social media, still of course trying to promote this new album, so we’ve been doing home videos separately in our own homes and then editing it all together, so that’s been fun. With Girlschool we have been having Skype talks here and there along with our manager who lives in Germany. Tracey the bassist lives in Spain so it’s nice to all check in with each other like family do…and after all I’ve known these girls for years and years now 🙂
What plans have you had to change this year?
SO many plans had to change. As many bands are finding, all the gigs have had to be moved until next year now, some have been left in for the end of the year in the hope they’ll still happen or just rebooked for the same time next year in the case of festivals but we’re all looking at 2021 now. Girlschool had so many festivals and shows booked this year abroad, which it now looks like we may have been able to do BUT of course then there is the quarantine issue 🙁 and flights and…well so many things to deal with which makes going to Japan and Russia almost impossible, so that looks like being rescheduled. For Syteria we’ve had to change everything, with the album only just coming out, we’d put out adverts in magazines and had a PR company helping us with promotions to take place in March and April, of course that didn’t happen at all so we are basically having to start again.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LavKUYRv8g&w=560&h=315]
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100 seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
The thought of a drive in gig just makes me laugh…what? how is that going to work…won’t people have their windows down? parked closely still I’m guessing to maximise the people and who wants to sit down at a rock gig…even the seated arenas they find it hard to make everyone stay seated.
What will be interesting there is the mosh pit…lol it could be fun like stock cars bumping each other out of the way to get to the front…nope can’t see that being great for the bands OR the crowd. Social distancing gigs aren’t ideal either but at least it’s something. I see though some countries are already doing gigs as normal CZ for one, I saw recently that a few bands are already playing.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
I think it will change for now with the distancing and travel problems etc but eventually I think it will resume as it did as there is so much money to be made from festivals in this country. I believe last year they said that the industry brought in millions to the UK economy because of the festivals here, so I’m sure the government won’t want to miss out on that little cash cow, so will find a way to make it work.
I do think though we could lose a few venues if it carries on much longer or if this social distancing rule continues. The thing is as soon as there’s alcohol involved it will go out of the window anyway, people will be all loving and hugging once that kicks in, so there’ll be no way of keeping people apart…lol
I think the positive to come out of all of this is that people will be so much more appreciative of live music having been deprived of it for so long 🙂 Hopefully people will get out and support the new and up and coming local bands more often too not just go see the already established ones.
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
We will do all the gigs that we have already booked in this year…if it’s possible? just continue where we left off promoting the Syteria album the best we can. We’re hoping at the end of this year some of the gigs we already had booked in will still stand. The problem is there are now so many bands rescheduling that a lot of gigs are clashing, so that will mean split audiences…but at least we will all be playing, so I don’t think we’ll care if there’s only 10 people in 🙂
How can people support you during this time?
What helps the bands is people buying our albums and Merchandise on our own on line shops, not on line ones where the bands don’t always see a penny and of course listening to our music on line, the videos on YouTube and any social media or radio stations, especially those who play new music.
WEBSITE – http://girlschool.co.uk/
WEBSITE – https://syteria.co.uk/
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM