Sometimes people in the punk world can be a touch close minded despite their hardcore image so some spiky haired bigots would have been shocked to see Louise Distras on the bill at the Trades Folk Roots Festival in Hebden Bridge.
Distras is an in your face singer but she sees no contradiction in joining the folkies in a town with a reputation for non-conformism.
“People are forever trying to label me as a folk singer or a protest singer. but at the end of the day I just view myself as young working class woman from Wakefield, and I’m just passing on the message of a very pissed off and disenfranchised group of young people,” claims Distras.
“If you want to draw comparisons between folk and punk music – it’s working class music for working class people.
“The beauty of playing an acoustic guitar is you can play it anywhere so you play it at a hardcore punk festival or you can play it in the street which is where punk rock come from in the first place.”
Her biker jacket image might be right out of the 1977 playbook, and there is a touch of posh socialist Billy Bragg in her delivery, but Louise’s powerful words are reaching out to a new generation totally turned off by politicians.
Distras grew up in a small West Yorkshire town so she knows just hard it is to stand outside the herd especially if you have something to say.
“For young people there is this real social pressure, so if you are a person who is outside the status quo or that mob mentality we are attacked for our beliefs because they not the same as everybody else. So we’re labelled square, a geek or we’re told we are too serious so people can feel that pressure and become less inclined to speak out.” says Louise.
“Why is it that a young girl can get pregnant and have a child at 14 but be denied the right to vote or a young man can leave school at 16, learn how to use a gun and kill a man yet are deprived of the right to vote? Today’s youth are starved of democracy.
“It’s all well and good asking young people to find their voice, but nobody is actually asking young people how they feel and what it is that they care about.”
Her image may be old school but Distras is ready and able to step forward as one of the younger punk influenced acts determined to carry the torch.
“I find music is very insipid and there are not many artists taking about today’s issues, the bands that inspired this generation aren’t going to be around for ever and it’s now up to the new generation to carry the torch.
“George Orwell once said that the notion that politics has nothing to do with art is daft because it is a political statement in itself.”
Any narrow minded punk rockers who might be wondering how Louise went down with folk fans will be surprised to hear that she went down a storm because they could see this young artist is at the front of a protest movement that started with Woody Guthrie and endures to this day.
Louise Distras has just announced UK dates on her website www.louisedistras.co.uk and ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’ is out now on Street Revolution Records.
Interview by Paul Clarke.More from Paul Clarke on Louder Than War here.
Image by Blu Planet Photography.