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Claudia Valentina, NOAHFINNCE, Softcult at The Great Escape 2022

While festivals like Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury and The Isle of Wight Festival are home to legendary artists and established bands who have dominated the airwaves with their songs, The Great Escape acts as a melting pot for emerging artists and bands to showcase their talents to music industry professionals and to the wider public.

Brighton’s The Great Escape is a three-day music festival featuring 500 emerging artists from all over the world on over thirty stages spread throughout the vibrant city. With a halt to music festivals due to the pandemic, this year’s Great Escape gave us everything and more. Having returned home after an outstanding musical experience filled with everything from dreamy pop synths to distorted guitars to emotion-filled vocal performances and smooth jazz-influenced breakbeats, this year’s Great Escape Festival will certainly be a memorable one. 1883 met up and spoke with three incredibly talented artists who are all creating their own sonic wonderlands.

 

Claudia Valentina

We begin with Guernsey-born pop sensation Claudia Valentina. This 21-year-old superstar-in-waiting has garnered a strong following and grown strength to strength with her infectious pop-leaning singles. Her recent record Extra Agenda sees her team up with fellow collaborator Trey Campbell and Stephen Kozmeniuk on this disco inspired production. I spoke to Claudia ahead of her performance on the LGBTQ+ Stage hosted by Gay Times to discuss her everything from growing up in Guernsey to fashion and social media. 

 

 

You’re performing tonight at Club Revenge. How do you usually feel before a show? Are there any rituals you follow?

Not really. However my beautiful friends have come down and brought these healing bowls and nice smelling incense because I get so nervous. I actually always do a pre-show shot. 

 

Will that always be the same spirit?

Vodka babe.

 

Is there a particular song that you’re looking forward to playing tonight?

Maybe my new single, which isn’t out just yet. I’m super pumped about it. It’ll be exciting!

 

I read that you were born in Guernsey. What was it like growing up there? 

Guernsey is an awesome place. Basically, it’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s super tiny where you either know everyone or you’re related to them. It doesn’t have anything going on. 

 

Is there a music scene there?

No music scene. Nothing really going on. But it was really nice to grow up there when I was a kid. However, there was nothing to offer me musically, which I think was a good thing as it made me have to go everywhere else to find what I liked. 

 

Where was the first place you went to? 

When I was 9 I was cast in Billy Elliot in the West End. There was an open audition in the Guernsey newspaper and I just persuaded my parents to let me do the open audition. They thought I’d never get it but were happy to go to London for a weekend away [laughs]. I got it and did that for a year and then moved to LA after that to pursue my music. It all worked out.

 

Was that always the plan to be a musician rather than staying in theatre? 

Yes. For me it’s always been singing. I remember growing up I’d just sit in my basement every day all day and just sing songs. I had a little make-shift studio and I would do shows for my parents. They were always and still are very supportive and would do everything they can to just help me. 

 

This year you released your single Extra Agenda. It has this real infectious disco-leaning instrumental to it. How did that track come about? 

I did that one like two years ago in LA with Koz and Trey. I’d never done a song with that kind of vibe before. It gives me Weeknd vibes. It was just the best day, they are both such great writers. I’m excited it’s out because it’s been in the dropbox folder for years. It’s definitely one of my favourites to perform live as it has such high energy to it. 

 

You seem to have a strong fashion sense and one that strongly intertwines in your music and videos. How important is that side of things to you?

Super important and thank you. I try my best [laughs]. I feel like music is fashion and fashion is music. They walk hand in hand. I make mood boards all day long for everything I do. They’re so helpful for me in creating the world that I want. Even when I’m making music I feel that when I look at my mood boards for my music it makes it so much easier to make it come to life and same with my videos and photoshoots. I want everything to be cohesive. I think everything is still a process and I’m just working it out as I go.  

I haven’t hacked it at all [laughs]. I feel like social media is intense for everyone. I do enjoy it because creating a brand is fun and it’s your own thing and you can do whatever you want. I love that. But I do feel like the pressures of it are super intense. And now the new world of tiktok. I’m trying my best [laughs].

 

Lastly, what 3 songs would you choose to soundtrack your perfect day (morning, midday and evening)?

Morning: Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede

Midday: London – BIA & J. Cole

Evening: Roadblock – NSG Ft. LD

 

Extra Agenda is out now, follow Claudia via @claudia_valentina__

 

 

NOAHFINNCE

 

 

Next up we have the charismatic YouTuber turned pop-punk breakout star Noah Adams aka NOAHFINNCE. A voice for a generation who are fed up with being told how to be, his latest pop-punk EP My Brain After Therapy is a vulnerable and introspective project that finds himself opening up about his transition and therapy sessions. 

 

Is this your first time at the Great Escape?

Yes. I’ve only been to Brighton two or three times before.

 

Is there someone you want to see live at the Great Escape?

I really want to see Rebecca Black. But I literally just got here 40 minutes ago because I was playing in Southampton last night.

 

 

She’s had a great comeback hasn’t she?

Yes! She’s differently branched out from her previous songs.

 

You’re performing tonight at Club Revenge. How are you looking forward to the show? 

I’m excited. I’ve never been inside of it but apparently someone said the venue has a stage shaped like a dick [laughs]. 

 

I guess there’s a first for everything! For those that don’t know, what’s a NOAHFINNCE show like? 

Fun as hell. It’s not like “hey guys so happy you are here. This has been the best night of my life” kind of thing. It’s just more like chatting a bit of shit with the audience. It’s probably a bit more interactive than other shows. 

 

Your EP My Brain After Therapy is set to be released in June. What was the inspiration behind the title? 

Literally every song is inspired by each of my therapy sessions. The last EP I wrote before I started therapy. Then I started therapy and the first song I wrote after that was Worms. And I was like okay now I know what this EP is going to be about. Writing the songs after the therapy sessions was therapeutic in itself because it helped me process and explore that kind of thing. 

 

Self-expression is something you certainly champion. What would your advice be to someone struggling in expressing their true self? 

I guess it’ll be to know that there’s other people out there that feel exactly the same as you do and all you have to do is find them. For me, I wouldn’t have the confidence if I didn’t have like-minded people that would be supportive of me. Finding your people is the most important thing you can do if you’re in that position.

 

I guess that’s the beauty of the internet. You’ve created a community where people feel safe and can express their true selves.

Yes. I literally have a discord with channels for every single show. That way they can join the discord chat and go with someone to the show. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’ve met their best friend through this. I like doing that kind of stuff. It’s very much a community thing for me. 

  

Lastly, what 3 songs would you choose to soundtrack your perfect day (morning, midday and evening)?

Morning: LIFE’S A BIT – NOAHFINNCE 

Midday: WEIRDOS – NOAHFINNCE 

Evening: STUPID – NOAHFINNCE 

 

Noah’s EP My Brain After Therapy is out June 3rd. Follow via @noahfinnce

 

 

Softcult

 

 

Last but certainly not least, I caught up with Canadian rock outfit and creative force Softcult, the musical endeavour of siblings Phoenix and Mercedes. Fresh off the stage of their amazing performance at the Green Door Store, we spoke about touring the UK, their DIY ethos, the importance of being true to yourself and their latest Nirvana cover. 

 

Hey! Firstly I have to say I was blown away. The venue couldn’t have been more of a perfect fit for both your sound but also the whole aesthetic of Softcult. How important is the aesthetics and visual element of things for you both?

Mercedes: Thanks a lot! Yes, it’s something that’s really important to us. We have full creative control now. Phoenix produces all our music and merchandise and I do all the music videos so we are really hands on. Not to trash our old label but before they’d spend all this money on these high-budget music videos that I felt didn’t really turn out that cool. But then Phoenix somehow makes videos on no budget at all and they totally look and feel how we want them to. 

Phoenix: I’ve always liked that kind of stuff. I brought a camera before the lockdown and so when we needed to make some videos but we couldn’t hire a crew we just ended up doing it ourselves over necessity at the time. But now I wouldn’t change it. I really like it this way.

 

Have you always been making music together?

Phoenix: Yeah. We’ve always been in bands together during our teen years. We are just besties [laughs]. 

Mercedes: I think I need Phoenix to write my best stuff. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off or someone to be honest with you and be like that’s actually not a fire line [laughs]. 

 

 

I wonder as song-songwriters how has your relationship with self-doubt changed over the course of your music career? 

Mercedes: I think when we started this band it got a lot easier because we didn’t have to report back to anybody. I remember we would send songs to our old label and they would have to approve them. We’ve definitely gained more confidence now that we can do what we want and the reception has been even better than we initially hoped. It’s nice. It feels validating to feel that we can just be ourselves and have people fuck with it.

 

And it must mean more because people are resonating with your true selves as opposed to making music for other’s validation

Mercedes: Yes! You can feel like a machine otherwise. I think the only self-doubt I feel is that we want to keep our music at a level that we deem good and only write for ourselves. I think the best way to do that is to always remind yourself that if you write something you like then there’s bound to be someone else out there that’ll enjoy it too. 

 

You’re currently on a UK tour. How does the crowd differ from here to over in Canada and the States?

Mercedes: I think in the UK they like us more. We’ve only played like four Canadian shows as Softcult so we don’t have a ton to go on but the crowds here just seem like they really like it and they’re singing along too! It’s been really fun.

Phoenix: Also the history of music and the artists that come from the UK is just so rich. So it feels good to be accepted. 

 

You’ve recently released the music video for your Nirvana cover (Been A Son). Was that song always included in your setlist? 

Phoenix: We just added it for this tour as we knew that single was coming out. We love Nirvana, they’re a huge influence on us. 

 

Were there other songs in contention? 

Phoenix: Yes, there were so many that it was hard to pick. For us, we felt that lyrically that song made the most sense for our project. 

Mercedes: I would do a full Nirvana cover album if we could!

 

Your songs have such strong messages in them. I was wondering in terms of songwriting do the lyrics usually come first? 

Mercedes: That’s a good question. It’s different depending on the song. But we usually write the music first and then the song usually takes shape from there. It’s almost symbiosis sometimes. It’s just important to know that when writing lyrics we have an understanding of what we’re writing about first. 

 

Several artists have recently come out talking about how exhausting it is as a musician to make music and tour whilst keeping up with social media and the ‘algorithm’. How have you managed this so far and what are your thoughts as an artist in 2022?  

Phoenix: We kind of suck at playing the social media game. We just try to do things that we think are cool. We don’t really think about making content per say. If other people like it then cool.

Mercedes: It’s this balance. If we didn’t have social media then we may not have any fans over here and then wouldn’t be able to play any shows. So you have to appreciate the good thing about it too but it’s important to not cater your art to the medium of social media. 

 

Lastly, what 3 songs would you choose to soundtrack your perfect day (morning, midday and evening)?

Phoenix:

Morning: Volcano Girls – Veruca Salt 

Midday: 16 Psyche – Chelsea Wolfe

Evening: Weird Fishes – Radiohead

Mercedes

Morning: Me And My Bed – EDDYEVVY

Midday: Seether – Veruca Salt

Evening: Sex Tape – Deftones

 

Been A Son is out no, follow Softcult via @softcultband

 

 

Interviews Dean Benzaken

Photography Richie Mafwa (Claudia Valentina) Frances Beach (NOAHFINNCE)

 

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