bloody/bath interviewed: grief & loss & Unholy Cross

there’s sadness in your lonely song:  bloody/bath interviewed 

Barely a year old, with six tracks released to date on Spotify, Bandcamp and other digital platforms, Northampton based bloody/bath have been played on BBC 6-Music’s Lauren Laverne show already and their outsider potential is getting noticed. Their bedroom gothic has a light touch but an emotional depth.

Ged Babey talks to the man behind bloody/bath, Kailan Price about the freshly released Unholy Cross, grief, authenticity and losing the person closest to you. 

there’s sadness in your lonely song / and nowhere to belong  (Unholy Cross)

I like to think that bands ask me to write about them because my reviews are sometimes funny, but always serious (for example, I wrote a piece called – Music Is A Matter of Life and Death.) This started out as a simple review of a new track, Unholy Cross, then a video premiere, but became much more.

Press releases sometimes don’t do a band justice; Minimalistic Post-punk, Emo and Shoegaze… sleepy vocals, haunting and emotional…. icy guitars & cinematic synth swells…  themes of depression, Isolation and dissociation.  So, direct contact with the artist is best.

When I received an online message from a big-bloke, resembling a younger version of some-one who’d like to punch me in the face, I panicked, jumped to a wrong conclusion: Shit it’s their son... I warily asked what he wanted… it’s about my band. Phew!

I told Kailan Price this and he thought it was hilarious.

His songs are full of openness about his own vulnerability and the only person he beats-up is himself, metaphorically.  His music is a kind of haunting bedroom gothic (but without the cliches and with a heart). His project/band is called bloody/bath. (Yeah, it’s a catchy name and with strictly no caps).

The band is basically Kailan, but assisted by synth-player, Joshua Guy. Drummer Joel Daw and engineer Matt Peel (Eagulls, The Crookes).  They never actually met in the same room for latest track Unholy Cross however,  Kailans bedroom doubling as studio and virtual HQ.

An earlier release was called Sissy Spacek and was a ‘sad wave break-up song’ that worms its way into your psyche on second listen.

I Stood Bleeding is equally affecting. Funereal and wallowing in gloom, but with a dark humour, “The drugs just make you look weird”.  The video for the song is strangely unconnected to the lyrical narrative and just baffling.

ARP-87 is even better. Cold Wave and Factory records influences and the gossamer lightness of Cocteau Twins or Durutti Column.

The new song Unholy Cross is the most confident sounding release yet. Surf-guitar twang riding atop the cavernous bass. Introspective yet cinematic. The vocal sounding like Adrian Borland at times.

Bloody/bath has a distinctive sound. You could say it’s not entirely new as it does have a hazy melancholy and dynamics which very much echo The Cure circa their album Faith.

Faith

As a 16 year old with a brand new Walkman I lived & breathed that album for a year, I inhabited it, as they say. My mum had died. I was broken. Lost.

40 years on, Faith seems to me to be a hollow, empty album full of off-the-shelf angst. (Many others disagree I know…) Michael Bracewell in his book England Is Mine says of The Cure at that time: “The soul is not so much bared as reduced to wandering around in its dressing gown.” And Robert Smith as having created “if not a wall of sound then a very high hedge of sound, over which he seemed to peer at the world like a boy who couldn’t be bothered to ask for his ball back”.

This when compared to say, the anguish and pain of Ian Curtis and the darkness in Joy Divisions music….

Authenticity

I guess it is about perceptions of ‘authenticity’. The critical listener wants to be satisfied their is a depth and meaning behind their dark and melancholic music of choice.

I only recently discovered the work of David Berman (Silver Jews / Purple Mountains) – an artist whose authenticity really cannot be questioned. His songs plumb the depths of bleakness & despair and on finishing his greatest album (his mother having died, his wife having left him, a hundred thousand dollars in debt) he killed himself.

It is too high a price to pay though. Had he lived the Purple Mountains album would still have been the absolute masterpiece it is. I Loved Being My Mothers Son being a pertinent example.

Mother

Death Disco (by Public Image Ltd) was about the death of John Lydons mother and never had the disorientation of losing a parent been so painfully expressed in a song. Until…

IDLES Mother – the song and video is to my mind one of the single greatest pieces of art of the 21st Century. But only once you know that the photo on the wall is Joe Talbots late mother (who had died after years of him being her carer.)  Her now-iconic image from the album cover. His cathartic crockery-smashing channeling grief-struck rage.

On the other hand you get the use of the weepy tragic back-story on the X-Factor. Of course the feelings and grief are real to the individuals concerned – but to have it cheapened, exploited, scripted and turned into a marketing-ploy seems plain wrong.

I mention all this because in the bloody/bath press it mentions in passing that Kailan Prices mother died last year.

So instead of an ordinary review I asked him if this piece could be about loss, authenticity and music.  (I told him that when my mother died, the Cure album Faith ‘got me through it’ hence some kind of cosmic kinship). He agreed.

bloody/bath interviewed: grief & loss & Unholy Cross
Kailan and his mum Hayley

She was the only person in my family that has truly backed me doing music so I almost feel like any sort of success I have will be for her.

What was her name and what happened?

Her name was Hayley. She was 50. She passed away from Cancer in September last year. Literally got the diagnosis and two weeks later she was gone. It was pretty horrific.

She was always afraid of hospitals and things like that as she had a breakdown years earlier and began suffering from psychosis and ended up in a mental hospital where she was abused, so when it came to the cancer she did not accept any help from professionals when she was dying because she was too afraid. This meant that I was her main carer and looked after her at home and it was the most horrific thing I’ve ever been through and will probably ever go through. Not nice watching someone you love slowly deteriorate, day by day and not being able to do anything about it.

(Interviewer lost for words…)

She was the one that showed me a lot of the 80s bands that have inspired me over the years (Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure) so I feel she was such an important part in getting me to where I am today. Mainly because she didn’t let me give up hope.  I just want to make her proud.

I feel anxious people will think I’m using her death to sell some story but it’s not the case… 

They won’t because this was my idea, not yours… I’m asking you to talk about it, so that you don’t have to again in interviews, unless you want to.  Grief can turn into PTSD if you don’t talk about it…

I do want to do a song more geared towards my mothers memory but I just haven’t written one yet. Guess I’ve been writing more about my mental state as it can be quite all-consuming sometimes.

In the press release, talking about the new track, Kailan had  said;

I’ve found myself becoming more and more open within my lyricism and Unholy Cross is a perfect example of that. I think during this difficult period in my life, I think it would be impossible to write a happy song, I think it would just come across as inauthentic. I just want to present my emotions in a real and interesting way, no matter how sad they can be. I just hope people who have struggled with mental illness can read into my head through the song and realise that no matter how isolated one can feel, that they are never alone in this adversity.”

bloody/bath interviewed: grief & loss & Unholy Cross

Grief

Because Kailan is slightly younger than my son, I worry about him. He is talented, but will need resilience and determination if he is going to make music his long-term profession.

His grief for his mother will last a lifetime and will shape his character. It is a scar that will heal over years and decades but will always be there. The hurt will become a compassion and humanity for his fellow man. The void will be partially filled with other passions and everyday survival.

His music may evolve and change too, as he does over the years – but it will always be rooted in the love for and loss of the person who gave him life.

It’s not easy, but he will survive.  I did. Others do. There is a whole silent community of people shattered by loss. Which could explain why ‘sad music’ seems to sell so well.

Stop The Clocks

Can I tell you a true story Kailan? (Well, I’m going to anyway.)

My dad sent me back to school the day after my mum died. All-boys school 1980, where they addressed us by our surnames.  Assembling for register, a kid from my village who I knew, but didn’t particularly like, said, in a loud Sargent-Major on parade-ground voice:

All those with a mother take one pace forward, march! Babey-STAY-WHERE-YOU-ARE!

………….

Boys will be boys.  Cruel.

Does that seem shocking nowadays?  I remember it more as a well-timed joke 40 years on.  After all, I was in shock/in pain much more than at any other point in my life. Nothing could really hurt me any more that the fact my mum was dead.  But I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I didn’t burst into tears, I probably just muttered ‘Fuck off Smith’ and got on with the day.  That was probably when I developed what my wife calls my ‘thick-skin’.

Music has always been my crutch though. My comfort and filler of the void…

So, I empathise with any one going through the grief of losing the closest person to you.  But you need something to fill the emptiness, so if it helps fire the engine of creativity that has to be good. .

Kailan has an invincibility, even if he doesn’t feel he has yet. He has gone through the worst trauma a mancub can.

It doesn’t necessarily or automatically make his music any more ‘authentic’ than the Cure or PIL or IDLES or Purple Mountains – but it does have two peoples pain, humanity and ambition locked-up inside it. It has a purpose outside of commerce.

I think it’s good stuff, with a large potential audience (of pale and interesting outsiders), otherwise I wouldn’t write about it.

Clumsy labels like ‘gothic’, ’emo’ and shoe-gaze don’t fit.

This is Stop-The-Clocks pop.  Music to submerge yourself in. Wallow deep, then count your blessings.  Songs that carry your sadness away… like a prayer on the breeze.

Buy Unholy Cross from your preferred music service

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Watch on YouTube Channel 

All words by Ged Babey

main photo by Charlie Holland

(Content fully approved by the artist prior to publication.)

As they say on TV “If you have been affected by issues raised in this piece there is NHS help available” but maybe just find a friend you can trust to talk to…

Dedicated to Hayley Price. 

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.

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