Stealing Sheep Interview: “It’s not about excluding people, but including people”
Ahead of Stealing Sheep’s Suffrage Project taking place at Sound City this weekend. Lorna Dougherty catches up with band member Emily Lansley to talk music, feminism and everything in between.
Being one of Liverpool’s most loved all-female bands, Stealing Sheep are quite the feminist figure in the city and in the music industry.
At this year’s Sound City they are staging the Suffrage Project, commemorating the centenary of suffrage and celebrating women with a performance inspired by the suffragette movement at the festival, as momentum continues to build for equality for all in music.
Co-commissioned by Edge Hill University and Manchester-based creative music charity Brighter Sound, Stealing Sheep’s Suffragette Tribute will bring together female drummers and percussionists from the Liverpool area with design, AV and production students to create a marching band and procession featuring brand new music – everything will be inspired by women, equality and empowerment.
The performance is the culmination of a five-day artistic residency led by Stealing Sheep that began last Monday (30th April) at Invisible Wind Factory, and is part of the Both Sides Now, an initiative led by Brighter Sound to support, inspire and showcase female artists based in the Merseyside region.
Ahead of the project, Planet Slop spoke to band member Emily Lansley feminism, music and everything in between.
Planet Slop: Can you summarise the Suffrage Project with Sound City and what do you plan to achieve from it?
Emily Lansley: For the Suffrage Project, we’re working with Edge Hill University and Brighter Sounds to bring together women to play percussion at Sound City.
So with Brighter Sounds we’ve done a call out for 15 drummers/percussionists and with Edge Hill 12 dancers to perform at Sound City on the Saturday and the Sunday.
And what we want to achieve is I guess is to empower women to feel they can get involved in the music industry, and not just that, just to empower women generally.
It’s supposed to be in tribute to the centenary of suffrage. There’s lots more details, I’ve been designing the costumes, Lucy, the drummer, she’s been writing the music, Becky has been projecting managing and been figuring out the projections, so we’ve just been working really hard for the past weeks and started the workshop with all the drummers in the Invisible Wind Factory so we’ve been working with them with help with the production and projections.
We’ve also got a choreographer called Kate Cox who’s coming in to choreograph the whole thing for the weekend.
PS: How would you define feminism and the values it holds?
EL: I think it’s quite hard because then it’s easy to put myself into a box of feminism. To me it’s everything and anything. Empowering women to be equal, that everyone can live as equal with the same rights, and that’s really important to me. It’s not about excluding people but including people, I hope that what we’re doing is an inclusive project and it includes men, transgender people, and anyone. In my mind feminism is about equality.
PS: So who does inspire you as a feminist, can be anyone musically, famous, not famous, in everyday life?
EL: I think I’m inspired by all the women that I know, really, that are creative, I’m just inspired by everyday ordinary women who are, an inspiration every day doing whatever they do and have, you know, gusto. I’m inspired by obviously Lucy and Becky who I play in the band with. I’m inspired by people like Bjork and Patti Smith in the sense that they’re powerful women, and musical and creative. I love loads of female artists, and we’re influenced by them all and were trying to bring their influences into the project and our everyday lives. And I’m inspired by my mum.
At this point, we began chatting about who inspires me, and I said myself; you need to be inspired by yourself if you have nobody else as a positive influence. This sparked a discussion about males as inspirations for females and if straight white males can be feminists.
EL: Yeah I’m inspired by men too; anyone and everyone and loads of different things. No, I think anyone has the ability to be a feminist because anybody that wants equal rights is a feminist; it’s not that being a “feminist” is a bad word is it? It’s like you’re embracing something, you’re embracing the movement for women and equality.
I think that sexism is engrained into our society from such an early life; there are people in my life, men and women, who have made me feel inferior. It’s the way most of us are brought up, you know, seeing Barbie’s that look perfect, and everything that you see is about women having to look attractive.
And that is so engrained into our society, to men and women. It’s hard to point the finger and blame people as a whole, but there are attitudes that need changing. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s change the attitude and the values and make people more aware.
Like the “Me Too” thing, it made people more aware of what women feel on the daily, and it makes you think how many times have been commented on, and it just doesn’t happen to men, being judged on how you are visually, by men.
Like Theresa May it’s all about her kitten heels at the moment, like you would never see a published article about Boris Johnson’s shoes; it’s just bizarre, and when you look at it you actually realise how weird it is.
PS: So what do you think about the 50/50 gender line up for festivals for 2022?
EL: I think that’s amazing. I think it’s a real step forward. There is definitely a lack of women in the music industry, like I remember looking at a festival line up years ago and literally there were three women at this festival, and I was really sort of depressed by it, but also thinking where are they?
And there is this thing, whether it be self-confidence or anything were women don’t feel that the music industry is for you, because of the male majority. I just think it’s great that women feel as though they can be involved in the music industry and that’s one of the reasons we created our project. Getting more women involved will create more role models from an early age and the amount of women involved will grow.
PS: Apart from your own performance, is there anything else you’re looking forward to at Sound City?
EL: I’m really looking forward to it being in the Baltic Triangle because I think when it moved it lost something down there. I really like the community spirit and the community vibe and I’m hoping with it being in the Baltic area. It will be more fun and more inclusive with everyone busying around that area.
I think it is positive move to move to there, being at different venues is better for the artists too, like when you were down in the last place you felt trapped in this weird cage thing.
Yeah, Liverpool is a big community of people, and I think the move back will create a buzz and, as you said, create the Liverpool vibe.
PS: To finish off, have you got anything else that you’re looking forward to this year with the band?
EL: Yeah, so we’ve finished our next album and it’s just getting mixed currently which will be getting realised this year, like autumn time. So we’re looking forward to that and looking forward to playing it live. Our third album, so watch out. It’s quite electronic; it’s got real drums and real bass. It’s still got the Sheepy-vibe and a bit pop.
Stealing Sheep’s Suffrage Project culminates this weekend at Sound City at 8pm on both days at Camp and Furnace. They will also be performing at Festival No.6, Latitude and Head to the Hills throughout the summer.