“We work twice as hard!” – Idealistics on living with disabilities, their music and politics in the times of uncertaintycCambridge based Idealistics are not your typical indie three piece. Thick as thieves, they are connected not only through the family ties but mostly by their mutual love of punk music, poetry and politics. Talking to them feels almost like talking to young Manic Street Preachers, a compliment they will gladly accept. Louder Than War sat down with them to discuss lead singer’s rare illness, passion for social justice and their desire to change the music industry for the better. 

You call yourselves Idealistics – those who believe in principles and ideas despite all the evil and corruption around us. In today’s world that’s nearly a political statement. So who are the Idealistics and what do you stand for?

Ali Hirsz: Yeah we’re definitely political, it’s hard not to be when we stand for so much and with how the way our government is going we have to make a stand. We’re all trying to fight for equality, honestly minorities are still treated like shit and it happens all the time. We consist of my partner George (guitar and vocals) and my sister Dom (drums) and we’re so close that we all support each other and have the same views. It is really important to all get on and just enjoy being as a band, we all stand for the same things.

The band is described as being socially conscious and often placed within a new punk rock movement that prioritizes values such as emotions, unity and vulnerability. It is a stark opposition to the old punk ethos of “anarchy in the UK”. With so much of real anarchy in the country, do you think the new generation of artists should do like John Bercow and shout “Order!” from the roof tops?

Ali Hirsz: We should be shouting from the rooftops definitely, not sure “Order” would be enough. Nowadays you have to really get people’s attention, really get them thinking. Even then when people have all the facts they deny the truth. You’ve got to shout what you stand for and whoever supports your ideals, you rally them up and you’re stronger than you were before you started shouting. It’s just a long and tiring process sometimes! 

Dominique Hirsz: I’m a big fan of The Clash and fascinated by punk music, fashion and ideas, but I think in the era of “post-truth” we definitely need to adapt our approach. It is getting very difficult to filter fact from fiction now both on social media and in the news and it’s on every individual to think critically of everything they read. I think it’s important to listen to people with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds, and lift up their voices. History is full of examples of how much we can achieve when we support each other, and that’s as important now as ever.

Let’s talk about Manic Street Preachers for a while cause your history is closely entwined with that of the Welsh quartet.  You actually came out of Manics fan community and were discovered by Richard Rose, founder of Repeat Records and owner of the long standing REPEAT Zine. Tell us about Richard and your beginnings as part of the REPAT Young Performers Gigs.

Ali Hirsz: I remember I was so scared for the first gig, I was starstruck that Richard would have us on board and I was so excited. Those first few horrific gigs we did were vital in us being able to do what we do now on stage. Honestly one of our gigs I had the bass line written on my hand and I still couldn’t get it right. It is so embarrassing to watch I hope the footage never gets out! 

George Gillott: Those first few gigs were messy to say the least. We awkwardly fumbled through our unpolished songs while a forgiving but slightly bemused murmur of people politely clapped. However, when we went off stage and went home I remember feeling this buzz that maybe this could lead somewhere. Nothing quite compares to performing your own songs on a stage so to have been given those opportunities it was so exciting and we’re really grateful to Richard for that. 

Ali, you appeared on stage with James Dean Bradfield at the Miners Institute in Newbridge, Wales in December 2018. It was a sold out show and you performed “Little Baby Nothing” causing a sensation. How do you remember that gig?

Ali Hirsz: I remember being so excited to be at a gig like that, James was on top form that night, he was joking and seemed to be really enjoying himself. When he said he needs someone’s help Dom was all too happy to shout but I shrunk in my seat a bit. I remember someone else caught his attention first and I thought ‘that’s it, if you had more courage you could’ve actually sung with your hero you silly twat’.

But it turned out they wanted to do a different song that James couldn’t remember so he came back to us. Dom kept shouting I could do it and I remember just being awestruck that he was looking right at me and talking to me! I got ushered up on stage and the first thing he said was “Don’t be scared okay?” and to be honest all my fears did melt away. The first note my voice cracked and I kept thinking “Don’t you dare James Dean fucking Bradfield is stood next to you” so I calmed myself down and just enjoyed myself. Honestly I’m just so grateful for his encouragement afterwards and he convinced me to stay in music. 

Can we say that you are now friends with the Manics? Are you still in touch?

Ali Hirsz: Ha I wish! We had a few exchanges since which was really very lovely of James. He’s such a kind person, like I said I owe the fact I’m still doing music to him. He was so encouraging and told me to never give up. Also when he discussed my feeding tube he approached me in the nicest way possible. 

Your single “Here Come The Zebras” have been played on BBC 6 Music by Steve Lamacq. The band also had a chance to meet him in London during BBC Introducing Live conference. Were you offered any tips from the champion of indie music himself?  

Ali Hirsz: He was a great guy, so encouraging and to have his backing is absolutely amazing! He told us ‘to keep going and producing music’ which was a massive compliment. We really hope to be able to have another chat with him soon! 

George Gillott: It was brilliant meeting him. I can’t think of a DJ around today that quite does what he does, his show on 6 Music is always so exciting and refreshing. It was an honour to be played on his show and to have him mention us. I hope he gets a chance to listen to our new EP, I’d love to know what he thinks. 

You have recently released a new EP “Rain In Our Eyes” on which you worked with producer and engineer Mark Gilbert. Looking back at the recording session –  how do you feel about the record? Did you encounter any difficulties during your time in the studio?

Ali Hirsz: Mark was brilliant, my good friend put me in touch with him and Mark said if it was for charity he wouldn’t charge us – it was so kind! He had a continuous round of teas going and was really funny, he has the same dry sense of humour as us and he was great at joining in on all the teasing. When we gave ideas on songs he was really great at knowing exactly what we meant, I would highly recommend him to other artists! 

We didn’t have any difficulties that I can remember, it was all a really positive time for us. 

Dominique Hirsz: Recording this EP was my first experience in the studio, and I really loved it. I definitely hope in the future we can have as much fun recording, as it was a great time to expand on our ideas and produce something we are proud of.

With the entire country in a lockdown due to corona virus, music business came to a full stop. Venues are shut, gigs cancelled, festivals moved to 2021. How are you dealing with the isolation and inability to perform?  

Ali Hirsz:  We’re very lucky that the whole band is in quarantine together so we’ve been continuing to write songs and practise. We’ve recorded home videos for Indie Midlands and Quarantini Virtual Bar. I also spoke to Catherine Wylie from PA Media Group the day before I had surgery which was a great way to take my mind off that. We’re also hoping that Camper Calling Festival and Face Value Festival will still be going ahead in August, we’re very much looking forward to them! We just hope everyone continues to stay safe and we can’t wait until we can play again and record some new material!

You are known for championing artists with disabilities as Ali suffers from rare form of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is not easy to be a starting out band nowadays, less alone to deal with a life altering condition. Can you tell us about the difficulties you face as an artist?

Ali Hirsz: It was tough because I had a taste of the industry before my disability became visible. I used to hide what I had and if I asked a venue if we could play often we’d get a thumbs up. Then I got my first feeding tube and nobody would have us. We played one pub and it wasn’t great at all, some people looked and stared and walked away out the pub. We were told I would deter a crowd. I stopped wanting to go in front of people with the tube and became ashamed of it. That was probably what I was most nervous about when I sang with James because I had stopped doing gigs when I sang with him, I didn’t know how people would react to my tube and that was when I saw that it just didn’t matter. People didn’t judge me, if anything they thought I was awesome for still singing with a tube down my throat! When I got it changed to the feeding tube in my arm I thought it’d be easier but people got worse. I’ve been told to cover up or leave shops because it’s upsetting other customers. Still venues want nothing to do with us. I just can’t believe the reaction it’s caused, even journalists say that the story will put people off, I was supposed to do a feature with the BBC and it turned nice and sour at the end, the journalist who first spoke to me was so incredibly lovely and then the production team got really funny about everything and dropped my story. 

If you could make changes in the music industry to accommodate the needs of artists with disabilities – what would you do? What needs to change? I work twice as hard

Ali Hirsz: This awful idea that because you have a disability you won’t put the work in. because normal everyday tasks are twice as hard. Having a shower is so incredibly difficult for me and people never think about it so when I am in the studio I put in as much as everyone else because I want to be there and want to do the best I can. Labels have said I wouldn’t put all the effort and work in and I’m like “who are you to judge? Have you even seen what I deal with and how I do things?”. My doctors said they honestly can’t believe I do what I do, my last specialist told me I’m reshaping how they view EDS! I just wish people would put my shoes on for an hour and see what it’s like, it’s not anyone else’s place to say if I can or can’t put the effort in. People in the music industry are so quick to judge and don’t even try to learn about me, I’ve had other bands say I’ve got no place here! 

A lot of the accommodations that need to be made can be very small, and often comes down to the misinformed ideas people have about disabled people. We still want to go out and be independent and deserve access to music venues, both on and off stage. I don’t want to talk for all people with disabilities because some won’t agree with what I’m saying but we do what we can individually manage and we enjoy doing things, what I hate is when we’re treated like we don’t have hobbies or things we enjoy and we’re ostracised when we go out. 

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