Back Off





 Back Off is available via:




Hertfordshire, U.K.


28th August, 2017


Rhiannon Mair 


Katie Tavini


THERE is a bit of a split in this review….



when I look at DIDI. I want to address a number of things before I come to look at the young songwriter’s latest track. Lauren Deakin Davies is the woman behind the moniker so wanted to address artists who are producers – Deakin Davies is a successful, award-winning producer. She has worked with some of the biggest names in modern music and is someone who helps guide and tutor young artists to making stronger music. Aside from her producer work; I want to look at female producers in general and how few there are – and why those we have are among the very best out there – and, looking at DIDI specifically, music both raw and nuanced. DIDI creates tracks that have a lo-fi edge to them but there is a lot of depth and layers to her work. I have just reviewed Wolf Alice’s latest album, Visions of a Life, and was mesmerised by the way the band mixed full-on, snarling tracks with something lighter and more compassionate. I will also talk about artists in the modern climate and competition; acts based out of London and, with it being fifty years since Radio 1 (and the first BBC stations) took to the air – why radio promotion is as vital as it ever was. DIDI is the alter ego of Lauren Deakin Davies: one of the finest producers we have in the country at the moment. I have been following her work for a while now and amazed at the work she has helped create. I recently reviewed Kate Dimbleby and her album, Songbirds. That record was a study in vocal excellence and the power of the voice. There was scant accompaniment and it was an album inspired by, in part, artists such as Bobby McFerrin. I was amazed by the record and many would say it’d be quite easy to produce an album with so few instruments and elements: it is harder because you have to focus on the voice and its beauty without undercooking it or making it sound too overproduced.


PHOTO CREDIT: Helen Meissner

It is a hard balance but one Deakin Davies got right. I am reluctant to take credit away from Dimbleby herself but the production on that album is incredible. In addition – one can look at her official website (link is at the bottom of the review) for all the releases – Deakin Davies has captured music from Kelly Oliver and Roxanne de Bastion; Laura Marling and Alexa Mullins. If one looks down her credits and there are a lot of female artists on the list. That is not an exclusive policy but the fact she knows how undervalued many female artists are – in an industry that is still male-heavy. I will come to that later but it is worth mentioning that, at the NMG Awards, Deakin Davies won the Producer of the Year prize. It might have been a surprise to her but for those who hear her work – that sense of shock is resigned to fact that she should win a lot more awards. One of the reasons I like the connection between Lauren Deakin Davies and DIDI is the fact they are very different people. The creative side of both is interlinked but there are distinctions between the producer and songwriter. The reason I wanted to mention producing is because many artists are working on their own stuff. It can be expensive getting songs produced and a day at a studio can cost an extraordinary amount. I worry many artists are being priced out of the market and unable to record tracks. In an age where technology makes it easy to make your own music; that is the option many songwriters are choosing. Maybe that method lack a certain professionalism and quality but the D.I.Y. method is becoming popular. At the very least, it gives artists the chance to produce and understand what it takes to make their own music. I can imagine Deakin Davies started modestly and built her way to where she is now. The fact she helms her own studio and is an award-winning producer has not come overnight. The talent and skills she has acquired means, as DIDI, she can guide her own work and does not need loads of other voices controlling it.


PHOTO CREDIT: Cassy Paris, Bellanova Photography

I find this is a great reason to become a producer and learn the craft: one can have a say in their music and make it the way they want to! I know there are terrific female producers out there but they get less credit than the guys. I wrote a piece on it a few weeks back – I shall not include it here; let’s concentrate on the review – but the idea behind it was to expose the issues many women face when they try and become a producer. There is that boys’ culture and the sense the studio has a very particular mood to it. Women are making their way into the bigger studios but, if you look at any studio right now, the majority will have men at the controls. It is sad to think there is a gender imbalance in studios but things are starting to change…slowly. Lauren Deakin Davies is a pioneer and will inspire many women to come into the studio. Courses are available but there is that perception that there will be few job opportunities waiting for them – any that do will see them struggle to fit into the clique of a modern studio. I have been to a few and, whilst they are welcoming and open, it is hard to shake the sense they are not actively recruiting women and changing policies. After my feature came out; some contacted me to say their experience was not that bad – many women have been welcomed and not faced prejudice. There are many who have had bad experiences, mind, and the statistics speak for themselves. Look at the best albums of this year – or any, for that matter – and the top-ten songs in the charts and the majority would have been produced by men. This is not to say they are better but it shows there are clearly a lot more male producers than women. I feel things need to change and there should be a bigger drive to break barriers and ensure women are given exposure and spotlight.


PHOTO CREDIT: Cassy Paris, Bellanova Photography

Lauren Deakin Davies has her own studio but I wonder what reception she would be afforded if she were coming into the industry – and had a placement at another studio. Maybe her experience has been smooth but I am glad she has been recognised for her terrific work. She, alongside awesome female producers such as Catherine Marks, is responsible for incredible, career-defining work. I am so pleased she has this great career and her story will give encouragement to women who want to become producers. One can say Lauren Deakin Davies and DIDI are two separate entities but they are, obviously, the same person. The fact DIDI’s latest track has a sense of personality, confidence and nuance is because of Lauren Deakin Davies and her production insight. She is a songwriter who knows how to create original and affecting songs but one listens to Back Off and knows Deakin Davies’ education and knowledge directly goes into the track. I want to talk about DIDI as someone the music industry really needs right now. I am looking at the new solo artists emerging and find so few of them stick in the memory. There is a faction who claims Rock and Punk are genres best left in the 1970s – that is when they peaked and have never been the same since. I agree Rock and Alternative sounds had a resurgence in the 1990s but there are few modern-day acts that match the quality and scope of those past days. I know there are plenty of great bands out there but it is the solo market that is seen as more popular and profitable nowadays. By that, I mean there are more musicians going out alone as opposed to setting up bands. The high-profile break-ups of The Maccabees and Wild Beasts make upcoming bands a bit nervous about their future and security. Those cases are exceptions and there are reasons why those bands have split. Regardless; one cannot argue there are tonnes of great bands inspiring the young to get into music.


PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Watts

The best music, largely, is coming from solo artists. When we accept that, we have to take a forensic approach to this side of music and whether, what is being said, is valuable and inspiring. I find there are a lot of great solo artists out there but there are relatively few who can produce great Pop-Punk and Rock. I find these genres, Pop-Punk especially, marries the tough and swagger of Punk with the accessibility and singalong quality of Pop. It is a hard blend to get right but, if someone does, you get a fantastic sound and music that hits all parts of the body. DIDI knows this and could easily have failed. It would have been easy for her to produce something generic and commercial – aiming to get the songs on the radio as quickly as possible. What I love about her music is the fact she eschews demands and expectations and creates songs that come from her heart. Sure, there are words of strain and oppression but she reflects what is happening around her and the life-experiences that mean a great deal. One hears shades of U.S. giants and modern-day bands in her music but, by and large, it is hard to compare DIDI with anyone else. I know she wants to be seen in her own right and not easily compared with another artist. In an industry where there is so much competition, one could forgive her for replicating another artist and trying to get to the top quite quickly. What comes out from her music is the raw and tough-cut sounds that we lack in the mainstream. There is an emerging wave of promising Punk/Indie artists but there are few creating influence in the prominent parts of the market. I am not sure why this is but I feel those who do try and make something great, and fail, are obsessed by commercialism and do not spend adequate time creating music that has any original voice and depth. This is a shame but it might speak to the way we want music consistently – not allowing an artist to cultivate and explore. DIDI is someone who knows the pressures of the industry but will not be rushed and defined.


PHOTO CREDIT: Helen Meissner

DIDI, effortlessly, seems to bring together the heroines and heroes of 1970s Punk and modernised that sound. There is a bit of U.S. Power-Pop from the 1990s and the latest cuts from the current time. It is an intriguing blend and one that would have been shaped by her music upbringing. I can only imagine the artists that she discovered as a youngster. Gathering those legends of the 1960s and 1970s with the 1990s’ brightest – hearing the best of the past two decades and joining them all together. Whilst it is easy to compare artists to their influences; that is not the case with DIDI. She seems to have crafted something true to her that does not lead someone to link it to existing musicians. There is that lo-fi sound to the music but plenty of layers and fascination. It is interesting comparing her to the best artists around – including our very own Wolf Alice. I want to mention the London band, not because I have just reviewed them, but highlight them as a band who are making a real mark. In an industry where there are few prominent female-led acts and properly solid bands. Their album, Visions of a Life, has moments of real heart and emotion – from a band one would not associate with being tender and delicate. Contrasting this are songs that spike, spit and slam. One would expect that from Wolf Alice but they never do it in a facile and overly-crude way. There are swears and aggression but that is married with incredible musicianship and exceptional lyrics. I wanted to link Wolf Alice and DIDI because, I feel, the latter has the opportunity to follow the trajectory of Wolf Alice. She is making music that carries the same rebelliousness and youthful vivaciousness but there is an air of introspection and fragility. Whether DIDI is planning something similar to Visions of a Life, I am not so sure – I would not be surprised to see an album as strong come from her!


IN THIS PHOTO: (Left to right) Shiva, Laura Marling; Lauren Deakin Davies and Rhiannon Mair

What DIDI does is provide music with a glimpse of its former best. I noted how there are some terrific artists coming to the mainstream (which there are) but the so-called best and brightest out there are still too Pop-lite and shallow. Few artists really stand out and there is that need for music that does not tax the brain. DIDI’s creator knows what it takes to succeed in music and how hard it can be for truly credible and talented artists to get noticed these days. DIDI is not going to compromise or pen music that sounds good on the charts and appeals to a set demographic. The music world is a competitive and capricious one so we cannot be naïve enough to suggest there is no place for chart acts and those who do not expend a lot of effort. Everyone is entitled to their own tastes but the only way music is going to evolve and transcend is to look at the music it proffers and augments. I feel the artists that have something to say – and are pushing boundaries – have to work a lot harder than those who have a commercial appeal. This is wrong and is causing a lot of musicians to compromise their ethics. DIDI wants success and attention but is not going to dumb her work down or ensure it is palatable to delicate ears. One gets a real sense of identity and personality when hearing her music. This is rarer than you might think which is why she warrants a lot more acclaim. I will look at some of the attention and honour afforded to DIDI later but, before investigating Back Off; I wanted to look at artists based outside of London and what Radio 1’s fiftieth anniversary means to modern music. DIDI is Hertfordshire-based but has that proximity to London. I wonder whether Lauren Deakin Davies’ musical moniker would sound the same was she based in the capital.


PHOTO CREDIT: Helen Meissner

What I feel is acts that have that easy access to London – but not actually based in the city – are producing the best music. The stress and competition in London mean it is becoming harder to distinguish the genuinely good and worthy. So much focus is being paid to London and that means it is tough discovering artists from any other part of the U.K. DIDI is turning heads and I feel the reason her songs sound and fresh and good as they are is because she is not tussling with the London competition and surrounded by people and never-ending rush. She is free to create music the way she wants without being crowded and pressurised. Maybe that theory is flawed but, at the very least, it is worth celebrating genuinely fantastic artists not based in London – we need to get over the assumption all the best music comes from the capital. I feel northern areas are overlooked and, rather worryingly, artists that are not based in London are labelled as London acts – because that is the only way people will listen to them and be able to relate. I love London, obviously, but feel there is too much focus put on the city. I realise there is a world of wonderful music out there that does not really get a look in. Hertfordshire is a county that houses some of our best young talent and some wonderful venues. I can understand why DIDI is based there. She has that closeness to London but is free to enjoy the local splendour and benefits of Hertfordshire. I have not got the time to list all the great acts in Hertfordshire but I recommend everyone investigate it further and check out the fantastic spots artists can play. I want to end the introduction but urging everyone to get involved with the celebrations surrounding BBC Radio 1’s fiftieth anniversary. Radio 2 is also included but Radio 1 is at the forefront of the commemorations because it was the first station we heard fifty years ago – D.J. Tony Blackburn welcoming people to the airwaves.



The station took over from the pirate options of the time and brought radio from the offshore illegality to the mainstream. It was a nervous time – not sure whether there would be the same sense of independence and quality as the pirate stations – and how long these new brands would exist. The fact they are prominent fifty years down the line shows what affection and need there is for radio. I am a fan of digital promotion/releases but feel radio is even more influential now than it was decades ago. For new artists; they cannot solely rely on music-streaming sites to promote their music and find new fans. Radio is the natural tune-in for true music lovers. I listen to BBC Radio 6 Music to discover the hottest new artists but realise stations like Radio 1 and 2 are vital. These big stations have always been at the forefront and are not going to relinquish their influence anytime soon. DIDI is someone who balances the benefits of digital promotion and radio exposure. To her, surely, hearing her music on the airwaves is more satisfying than getting who-knows-how-many Spotify streams?! There are few bigger thrills than hearing your music projected over the air and reaching thousands of listeners.


PHOTO CREDIT: Cassy Paris, Bellanova Photography

A reason I bring up radio – aside from the big anniversary this weekend – is the fact artists like DIDI make perfect radio music. What I mean by this is (sounds like hers) are best enjoyed through the radio. One hears a track like Back Off and gets a different experience when hearing it digitally – not quite as expressive and potent as it is when listening on the radio. I know Lauren Deakin Davies would have grown up listening to the radio and she creates songs that seem born for the medium. It is hard to explain but I have heard her music on stations like BBC Radio 6 Music and it sounds wonderful. You get the full expressionism of the music and hear it in full bloom. Her Power-Pop/Pop-Punk blends are suited for big speakers and the lure of radio. In addition to the sound and dynamic of her music; DIDI realises getting played on radio is as influential and important as digital means. I find sites like Spotify are only effective if people share music from there. It can be easy for artists to put their music on the site and not find it promoted by others. Unless you are a big name; it is tough getting a lot of streams and your music to the masses. Radio crashes through barriers and makes it easy to get to all sorts of listeners. It is instant and hugely effective. Rather than having to rely on social media and hoping people discover your music; the song goes across the airwaves and straight into the ears.


Following previous singles Sorry and Awkward; we have the wonderful, Back Off. The song has already been received a lot of praise from some big names. The stomp and twirl of the introduction is quite unexpected. It is a funky and danceable sound that has shades of, oddly, Rockabilly to it. One gets a sense of jive to the introduction but there is plenty of granite and electricity working away. An intriguing and fiery opening to a song that looks at an anti-hero who is getting in the face. The man is telling the girl what to do and getting really aggressive. His face is turning blue and there is that air of violence and control. Maybe the woman has been having her own thoughts and trying to live her own life – such values cannot be tolerated by the man! He is unhappy she has independence or any sort of mind. We can all imagine the sort of bully and ogre that would have these kind of ideals. He does not want his girl being who she is: follow what he says and make sure she is under the thumb. This is not something that sits well with DIDI who is aggrieved and off put by the callousness and boorish manner of the man. Maybe this is someone who has impacted her life but it seems like she is watching from the outside. Previous DIDI songs have tackled deeper and less-talked-about themes – she wrote an L.G.B.T.Q. anthem in Awkward. Here, I am not suggesting there is domestic abuse at play but something unsettling and dominating comes to the mind. The man is someone who does not want anyone disobeying his orders and arguing with him. DIDI is someone who recognises the danger but does not suffocate the song or make the situation worse. We will do “fine without you”, it is said, and the boy has to leave. The man thinks he is in control and can do better with him.


PHOTO CREDIT: Cassy Paris, Bellanova Photography

The chorus argues against this and urges him to back off. There is no need for him to be around and that urge to expel him from their lives is paramount. I wonder whether DIDI is involved in this melee and whether she is stepping in for a friend. As the lyrics go on; I was looking at other interpretations and whether it was relationship-based. Maybe the song is about men in general and those who promote sexist and abusive ideals. Perhaps that sexism is about the industry or issues faced by musicians today. Whatever the early truth; the chorus delivers plenty of fire and kick. It is a sassy coda that benefits from multi-tracked vocals and catchiness – few other songs this year boast such a dominant and memorable chorus. The syncopated rush of the choruses gives the song an urgency and rush but the lyrics are never buried and scrabbled. It is testament to the production and mixing – in addition to the performance – that everything hangs together and sounds crisp. Despite the fact it is a song that has polish and clarity; it relies on a lo-fi sound that gets into the head and compels the body to move. As the second chorus comes out; DIDI brings herself into the song more and, it appears, there is a lot of personal relevance. The boy would rather stick knives in his eyes than spend more time with her. That is not a reflection on her personality and appeal but the impatience and attitude of the man. He is angry and someone who will not take ‘no’ for an answer. The heroine tells him to give her space and get out. It is fascinating discovering where the song came from and whether it is a look at clingy and controlling lovers or a commentary on men who belittle women.



One gets a real sense of magic and potency in the chorus. The vocals shout and project but there are lovely little touches that elevate it. That can be said of the chorus, too. DIDI does not lazily repeat lines and make everything sound the same. She adds a real voice and personality to every lyric. Keen to get people chanting the track and remember each line – Back Off is a hugely memorable song that is afforded a lot of attention and dedication. DIDI’s guitar playing is excellent and the entire track has a great drive and rush. If anything, I would think making it even rawer and snarling would heighten and highlight the song’s messages. I have mentioned Wolf Alice and why they are so successful at the moment. They play in a slightly different way but consider the animal bite and grungy vibes of their music. Maybe Back Off would be even more digging and direct were it to be afforded the same treatment and dynamic. One of the reasons Back Off sounds like it does it to keep it light and accessible enough for everyone. It is never too aggressive and has enough melody and charm to hook younger listeners. A thing I love about DIDI’s music is the fact she does not limit herself to certain people. Each number is intended to be appreciated by large demographic. The chorus is the big selling point and the mantra that will be repeated by gig-goers every time they hear it. Back Off hits you instantly and will lodge itself into the head. It differs from songs like Sorry but retains that unique DIDI edge. I am excited to see where she goes from here and whether Back Off is a potential E.P. inclusion. Each song sees the young songwriter grow stronger and more intent.



I will end this piece here but wanted to congratulate DIDI on her success so far. Lauren Deakin Davies is an award-winning producer and is one of the brightest young producers we have right now. Her alter ego, DIDI, is getting a lot of love from big D.J.s such as Chris Hawkins (BBC Radio 6 Music). He played her other single, Awkward (twice in April and June I know Back Off was played on his show on 16th of this month – he is not someone who plays any old crap! DIDI is being taken to heart and resonating with local and national radio – she was featured on Amazing Radio, too. This would be an honour for an established artist but DIDI is a relatively new artist. It is incredible seeing her do so well this soon but not a surprise. There is something intuitively addictive in her music. One hears a blast of Back Off and is flooded with memories and visions. I was drawn to my childhood and some of the artists I grew up on - acts from the present days and a real concoction of sounds. Who knows how far she can go but I do know there is a big future for DIDI. I wonder whether next year will see an album come from her - I have been told an E.P. is likely before an album. It is interesting to speculate, for a number of reasons. She has a couple of great songs under her belt and, surely, will be planning more. This can only spike her mind and make her think about a full release. As a producer who has worked with a range of artists; Lauren Deakin Davies has the chance to collaborate with others. It would be an interesting experience if, say, DIDI united with Kate Dimbleby for a song – that would be an exciting clash that could lead to something wonderful. The same could be said if DIDI played with Kelly Oliver – or another artist she has produced. Maybe she wants to remain solo but there are creative options for the young songwriter.



It would be good to see DIDI perform around the country and I am sure she has ideas of where she wants to play. London would be a natural base but there are great venues around Hertfordshire. DIDI’s music suits big cities so I can see her play in places like Manchester and Glasgow. Maybe that will come further down the line but her 2018 will be a huge one. DIDI has played at Balstock Festival a few weeks back but has visions of playing other events in the coming weeks. I will try and catch her perform very soon because I know DIDI is a terrific live act. Combined with a brilliant songwriting ability and rare sound; she is someone we need to see and hear more of next year. Back Off is a wonderful cut that has, rightfully, been getting a lot of praise. I am excited seeing where DIDI will head and what is next for her. There are a lot of bodies in the music scene but, with powerful acts like Wolf Alice scoring huge reviews, there is demand for musicians that bring Indie/Punk sounds into the modern age. There are still too many vague and listless examples who are one-dimensional and commercial. Wolf Alice show what is possible when you push away from convention and do not follow the tribe. DIDI is another artist who works on the periphery and is not beholden to latest trends and chart rules. She will have a wonderful future and songs like Back Off highlight what an incredible force she is. Make sure you get involved with her latest track and follow her on social media (links are below). DIDI’s year has been productive so far – she has achieved a lot – and a lot of ground covered. The arrival of Back Off proves DIDI is born for great things and one of those rare artists who possesses…


IN THIS PHOTO: (Right to left) Alexa Mullins, Kaity Rae (Lauren) and Minnie Birch

A real bang!


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