CATE LE BON | INTERVIEW
Welsh psychedelic pop champion Cate Le Bon recently took to the stage for a behind-closed-doors gig, livestreamed for free in aid of Music Venue Trust and presented by Amazon Music as part of Prime Day Live. Carl Marsh got Cate to wax lyrical about the venue and more.
Aiming to raise awareness and funding for the UK’s grassroots music venues, many of which are now under threat of permanent closure through loss of funds during the current pandemic, Cate Le Bon performed a 30-minute set live on stage at the small independent venue that has been a crucial part of her musical journey: Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff. I sent over some email questions to Cate, which she answered after her Fri 9 Oct performance.
How did your involvement with Prime Day Live come to be, and what do you want the audience to take from watching this experience?
I think it’s commendable how inventive people have been in the face of the live music industry grinding to a halt, but there is no substitute for being in a venue watching live music. As wonderful as it was to play with some of my band again, there was no escaping the uneasy presence of a venue that once brimmed with joy and music being deadly silent.
The venue you are playing today is a place that has been an essential part of your musical journey. What are your fondest memories of it?
As soon as my best friend got her driving license, we’d drive down to Cardiff from west Wales to watch bands play at Clwb. I would dream of playing there myself one day. When I moved to Cardiff, I would often go there alone to watch bands that were coming through on tour, and I’d end up meeting people who became close friends and collaborators.
It’s more than a space in which bands play. It’s vital to the cultural framework of a city like Cardiff; it’s linked to local labels, rehearsal studios and record shops as well as the musicians and fans. One of the standout gigs for me was watching British Sea Power touring their first album in Clwb back in 2003. It was utter chaos, so exciting – I’d never witnessed a show like it until then, or ever felt a feeling quite like it. I went to Spillers Records the very next day to buy their album.
How did performing at a local venue like this shape you as an artist?
There is a unique intimacy to seeing bands in a venue like Clwb that cannot be manufactured, whether the place is rammed or whether it’s an obscure band that 15 people have turned up to see. I think I’ve been shaped more from attending concerts here over the years. From watching local bands selling Clwb out and being caught up in the collective excitement to seeing bands like Magik Markers tear it up with only 20 people in the room, it’s been a constant valuable source of inspiration.
All venues are suffering: all those behind the scenes, contractors, artists, bar staff, the list goes on of people connected to the entertainment industry whose livelihood has been killed off due to Covid-19. Do you see the light at the end of this tunnel of lockdown?
Sadly, I think it’s forever changed unless something drastic happens very soon. The government’s patronising response, that all these people should retrain rather than offering assistance, is a sad indication of the value they place upon the arts; it doesn’t fill me with the hope that they will ever care to do enough to support it through these unprecedented times.
Charities like Music Venue Trust are doing exceptional work in acting to protect and secure grassroots venues. Still, there needs to be substantial support from the government so that the industry doesn’t just barely survive this crisis – they need to stimulate a cultural bounceback.
Is there anything you’d want the government to be doing beyond their current pledges to support the industry?
Showing the industry some respect by acknowledging it’s a viable one that employs thousands and thousands of people, and generates billions of pounds, would be a start. Like lots of other industries that have been hit hard because of COVID, the entire music industry needs financial support to weather these unprecedented times. It does not need this patronising and offensive rhetoric that implies it is insignificant and disposable. They are snuffing out our culture.
As an artist who has made a career out of what you do, it must sadden you to see that some local artists may not get the chance to fulfil their dreams without the venues being open?
If these venues close, it shuts the book on so many informative experiences for young musicians and fans alike. I don’t want to live in a cultural vacuum – that makes me feel so sad and angry that there is very little being done by the government to preserve and protect these valuable places.
Cate’s performance is available to stream for free at www.twitch.tv/amazonmusicuk and via the Amazon Music iOS and Android app.
words CARL MARSH photo ADAM GASSON