The track, Fickle Friends, is available via:
1st October, 2018
The Green EP is available from 1st November. Pre-order here:
Rhiannon Mair & Lauren Deakin Davies
IT has been a little while since I last looked at DIDI…
so it is time to come back and see what she is up to. I want to look at artists who are producers or, more accurately, those who produce their own work; female producers and why they are gathering more pace; E.P.s and albums that chart a distinct story arc and personal narrative; Pop-Punk and sounds that need to be heralded more in this time; award-winners and artists who are building steam; joining with a band and putting together that fuller sound – I will end by seeing where DIDI will go. Fickle Friends is the latest single from DIDI and there will be the Green EP coming along. I will keep you alerted as to developments and the E.P. as a whole but, right now, I wanted to look at production and how important that is. There are many artists who self-produce and can take care of their own material. Fickle Friends was produced by Rhiannon Mair, who also drums on the recording. The reason I wanted to talk about production is because of artists who are still lending out there songs to others. I do wonder whether modern musicians lack the skills to produce their own material or if they prefer another person’s direction. It can be understandable why an artist like, say, David Bowie used producers such as Tony Visconti. Building up a great working relationship can last for years and lead to some terrific work. If you have someone you trust and can offer fresh perspective; it can take the work in different directions or add something you had not expected. The best producers are patient and will listen to the artist but will not sit back and allow them to have all the say. Compromise and input is important and the producer can bring your work to life. Some might say an artist producing their own work might be too subjective and rigid but I do not believe this.
Producers are among music’s unsung and they do not get the credit they deserve. Lauren Deakin Davies, as I shall explore, is a fantastic producer who is among music’s fastest-rising and most prominent producers and, as such, has the expertise and talent to know where to take her work. Not only can an artist – who learns to produce – have more of a say regarding their own work but they can work with others and bring that back to their stables. I am reminded of the case of Kate Bush on her earliest albums and how she was frustrated (she was) unable to produce. She feels, then and now, her voice was being directed by others and only achieved true comfort and contemplation several albums down the line. Maybe new artists are not as hard on themselves but learning basic production skills is a great thing to have in your locker. It might not have to be as in-depth as knowing every inch of the studio and being that advanced but I do worried whether hired producers have the understanding and knowledge of the artist’s work to really do it justice. DIDI (alongside Mair) has that experience and can ensure her work is produced and cemented as she feels fit. I, if I were a musician, would learn basic producing and engineering skills because, whilst I feel having others in the studio is important; being able to have your own say and offer some comeback is crucial. I am fascinated by producers and what they give to a song because many of us do not really take the time to think about what they do and how they enhance music. I am not suggesting every artist needs to rebuff outside producers but having some basic understanding will help enormously. Not only will that understanding aid your own work but it will, as mentioned, allow you to work with other artists and add to your C.V. From there, an artist can learn more about the studio and bring that back to their own music.
I know Rhiannon Mair (DIDI’s drummer) and her talents as a producer but Lauren Deakin Davies, as DIDI, has this duel-personality and split that is interesting to look at. I will talk more about her sound and artistry soon but I am really interested looking at the producer behind the music. Deakin Davies has a long career and has worked alongside the likes of Laura Marling. She is one of the most respected and lauded producers coming through right now and is one to watch. DIDI’s E.P. comes out on 1st November and you will get to see all her (Deakin Davies’) different sides and production talents come to the fore. She won the Producer of the Year award at the NMG Awards (she has won that two years in a row!) and I can see her picking up more silverware down the tracks. You can follow her work and search who she has produced but I feel there are few female producers who get the attention and spotlight they deserve. The likes of Lauren Deakin Davies and Catherine Marks are doing so much for music and show as much talent and force as any male peer. I am delighted Deakin Davies has been awarded and seen her talents acknowledged and I cannot wait to see who she produces for in 2019. Alongside Mair; you have this artist who knows what sound is needed and can bring it to life. We all know there are far fewer female producers and engineers in the music industry and I feel the likes of Deakin Davies will help with recruitment. I am not sure whether the studio is seen as a boys’ club and the environment is unwelcoming to women. I know female producers who are warmly welcomed but there are some who feel they are going into a male-dominated area. It is hard to know for sure but there is still a lack of education and awareness at school-level. The likes of Lauren Deakin Davies are showing women can gain acceptance and attention as producers and there are so many more out there who can add to her voice.
I feel the music industry is still too male-heavy and we need to shift the vote. I know there are producers like Deakin Davies and Mair who are having their say and campaigning; striking out and proving there is nothing to suggest female producer should be in the minority. Maybe there is that historic impression of the male studio or the fact labels and bigger artists want male producers. I have mentioned how artists can self-produce and some of the biggest names in modern music, if not solo, ensure they have a production credit. In terms of female producers being behind some of the biggest albums around; I think more awareness needs to be raised and more women need to be encouraged into the studio. It is a complex problem to solve but, gradually, we are seeing some great female producers emerge. I am one of those people who wants there to be true equality in music and I wonder how long it will take until we see that. It is hard to say how we can go from where we are now to having an industry where half of the producers around are women. Talented and growing producers like Deakin Davies are helping regarding awareness and ensuring other female producers are given kudos but I feel more needs to be done by men in the industry. We know there are fewer music lessons being taught in schools and many cannot afford to study music at colleges/universities. I will come back to the production side of things when I look at Fickle Friends but it is an interesting angle I wanted to explore. I have talked about these sides and considerations when I last reviewed DIDI but, as it has been a little while; it is worth coming back and seeing how far we have come. It is only a few days until the E.P. is around and I have heard most of the songs that will appear on it.
Although I am not reviewing the E.P. itself – I only ever look at singles/tracks – it is well worth getting involved with it and buying it when it arrives. Listen to the sound of DIDI and that has developed since the earliest days. The likes of BBC Radio 6 Music have backed her work and radio stations around the country are throwing their support behind her. DIDI used to play solo but, through gigging and the passage of time; she has now got a band behind her and it has allowed a fuller sound to come through. The tracks that will appear on the Green EP were written at the start of the artist’s birth (early last year) and it is interesting hearing those slightly early songs being given a rich and emphatic support by her band. I think, at the start, DIDI wanted something quite spiked and Pop-Punk and, although that genre remains now, we have a fuller and more colourful sound that brings the songs to life. The past eighteen months have been interesting and busy for DIDI and she has been very busy in the studio. Busy producing E.P.s for other artists; Deakin Davies has had to approach her own work slightly differently. It is hard to tackle your own material the same way you would with other artists because it (your own stuff) is more personal and you are more invested in it. The production is exceptional and having Mair offer input and her voice means the work is not too subjective. I will return to the production side of things but the E.P. charts the story of DIDI and various different stories. Artists such as Muse, Arctic Monkeys and Paramore have influenced the sounds on the E.P. but the tracks all sound tight and focused because the band have worked hard on them. Although the songs started life earlier last year; the fact the band have gigged together a long time and have that trust brings new light and layers to the music.
You get some relatable and common themes coming through on the Green EP. All the songs, bar GO!, have been released as singles and we sort of know what to expect. This is the first full body of work for DIDI and has been a bit of a nervous time. She is excited to get the work out there but, as she has been around for a little while now, there is that expectation and build. Big radio stations have celebrated her work and it has been a fascinating progression. I want to investigate themes on Fickle Friends but GO! Investigates stark emotions felt when you go through a break-up; Fast and Furious is an out-and-out pure love song with a slightly, as DIDI admits, ‘soppy’ edge to it. Back Off and Awkward have more social-political and deeper origins. The former is about a drunken guy who was shouting at a girl – who had got off a train – and a sense of immediate intimidation. The latter is more about entitlement and the feeling DIDI, and her female peers, have felt when heading into the studio. It is good there is that balance between personal/commercial and the more intense. You have common themes and something everyone can relate to. Whether looking at love as a fractured and troubled thing or a pure spirit; there are songs we can all connect with and have some experience of. So many artists get obsessed with love and relationships and that is all they focus on! It is fine when you do a few songs about relationships but one looks for something fresh and more from artists. DIDI has examined relationships from different perspectives and ensured one does not become too familiar and knows what is coming. As a female producer, feminist and advocate for equality; it is understandable she addressed gender issues and experiences she and her female peers have faced. Recalling personal stories and experiences on the road gives the E.P. movement and different shades. It also means she can get away from her own heart and explore different senses. The E.P. would be too one-sided or introspective if it were all relations: pushing away and looking at other concerns gives the work a more rounded and multifaceted aspect.
Lauren Deakin Davies, as DIDI, has this musician-producer head that has to make some tough decisions before recording has begun. A lot of artists can take their work to a producer and that consultation begins. They might run through some demos or do some trial-and-error before a final sound is realised. The producer will get a lot of say but there is that democracy between artist and producer. Deakin Davies has experience of working with others but she also knows her own music well. Does she employ some elements of other artists (she has worked with) or does she take from her musical background? By that, I mean what she grew up around and the artists who have compelled her. In the case of songs like Fickle Friends; one senses little bits of Muse, Paramore and the Pop-Punk of the 1990/2000s. I recall when Green Day released their album, Warning, back in 2000 and, at the time, I was in college and listening to them and bands like Blink-182. After living through Grunge and then seeing Britpop come and go; the U.S.-led Pop-Punk explosion was another great shift. Although DIDI is (a lot) younger than me; she loved those periods and you can hear bits of Britpop in some E.P. moments and influences of Punk. What I sense, when listening to her work, is someone who wants to put across an intensity and spirit but does not want to lose melody and something a little warmer. There are female artists/bands who are quite sharp and full-on but DIDI is that link between pure-out Punk bands and those Pop artists who could, in many ways, add a bit more spike to their work. There are some great female-led bands out there (such as YONAKA and False Advertising) who can fuse various genres/time periods and keep it quite modern but DIDI, to me, seems to go that one step further. The music you hear is so busy but it is so personal. Too many artists, I think, skew their sounds to the desires of radio and the mainstream and you never know whether authenticity is being blurred by that desire to be heralded and following the pack.
IMAGE CREDIT: Freya Freeman Taylor
The fact Lauren Deakin Davies has awards for her production ensures that professionalism and passion comes through in the music. She has joined with a band and it seems there is a great team working away. When she started out on her own – and was almost taking care of everything – you could sense that promise but the feeling the music could be a bit fuller and bolder. As much as anything; having a band (she worked all out all the parts and performed them on the recordings (other than drums) but has a band who perform with her - Penny Churchill on bass; it's now Keyleigh Cheer on drums (as Rhiannon became SO busy, also as her solo artist RUEN moniker) and Emily Aldrich on lead guitar) gives options and the chance to bolster the music’s promise. It also means there are other players who can offer suggestion and have their say. I think there will be a lot more work from DIDI and I am interested to see where her and the band will head. It is the chemistry and companionship she has with the band that really makes the music Pop. DIDI reflects on past days and older music but there is that contemporary freshness and modernity that fuses it all together. I see artists who try and balance the older and new and it can often fail. DIDI, as the artist, has a great knowledge of modern and older sounds and teases these together in her own way. As a producer; Deakin Davies does not do what she has done with other artists nor does she mimic anyone else. She could easily fall into that trap of trying to make a DIDI song/E.P. sound like one she has already produced and know is a success. That is what I was saying about tough decisions and having a clear head. Instead, you get a work that does not copy anything else and is very personal. Any DIDI work is personal and unique but so many modern artists sound too much like someone else and it is hard to detach from that. Although one can sense colours of Muse and hints of Paramore and Green Day; they are not obvious and you have an artist who merely nods to them – never copying and sticking too closely with what they have done. I like how DIDI is not beholden to her own relationships and heart and brings in other observations.
PHOTO CREDIT: James Gallant
Fickle Friends swings in with a big and bold loop that has this brilliant blend of Arctic Monkeys and The Jam. As the opening track of the Green EP; it is a big and immediate song that gets under the skin right away and makes it presence known. I know DIDI/Deakin Davies is a fan of the early work of the Arctic Monkeys and it is interesting the band themselves do not have that sound anymore. It is a sound I have been hankering after and it is great seeing that same swagger and sensation come back into music. The introduction sort of sets the scene and you are already picturing that the song is about and who is being portrayed. From the rushing and flowing swirl of the opening; the song changes dynamic and gets into a more syncopated zone. DIDI comes to the microphone and her voice stutters, staggers and spits; much like a fighter in the ring, sizing up their opponent. One might have expected some yelled or calm but you get an unexpended delivery that gives the words more emotion, boldness and character. It seems the friends, DIDI and her other, have been using one another or, more accurately, the heroine herself has been used. It appears the other person has been mean and they are using the heroine and not showing that respect. The first impression I got of the song was something personal that also looks out at the wider world. We all know occasions when people have not pulled their weight and there is an imbalance in the friendship. I guess DIDI has given her all to this friend and, for some reason; they are taking that for granted and showing her a lack of kindness. The heroine does not let the emotions get on top of her but there is definite anger and accusation. The production is superb (as you’d expect) and it allows for this great balance of rawness and polish.
PHOTO CREDIT: James Gallant
You can hear every word clearly – so many producers and mixers drown the vocals and bury them – and there is a distinct shine to things. That bring said; the grittiness and spiked tongue one hears means authentic Pop-Punk attitude pervades and resonates. I mentioned Arctic Monkeys at the start but, if anything, bands like Paramore become more evident as the song progresses. That is not to say DIDI is too influenced by anyone else but you can tell who her influences are and what she wants to achieve through Fickle Friends. I love how all the instruments have their say and play their role. The bass is liquid and slithering whilst guitar and drum combine and create something heady, heavy and brooding. DIDI recounts how the ‘friend’ took from her and the imbalance in the friendship. You can sense that build up and the tension growing. The chorus is a big and gutsy blast that finds the heroine pushing away the other and wondering why she was taking advantage of. Our heroine used to have confidence – whether that friendship gave her that ability and comfort – but now that is all lost. What strikes the mind is the sheer vitality and energy of the vocal. DIDI never lets things get too accusatory and angered but you can definitely sense the electricity and aggression come to the surface. It is clear Pop-Punk and U.S. artists are an influence and it the story engrosses you. It is not explained why the bond has been broken but a definite lack of respect from the other party has led to this. The band weaves colours and threads together that bring the story to life and take it in new directions. Rather than a repetitive and predictable composition; the musicians shine and you get so many interesting notes and lines emerging. They brilliantly propel DIDI and she, in turn, keeps them level and directed. It is a clear and solid relationship that makes the song sound completely focused and pure. As things progress and they turn towards the end; the bitterness and sense of disappointment remains and one wonders whether there is any way back. Fickle Friends is an exceptional song and one that shows DIDI is among the most promising new artists around. Make sure you get hold of the Green EP and back this wonderful talent.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tony Birch
What strikes me about DIDI is how she has progressed and developed over the last eighteen months or so. The songs we will witness on the Green EP started life back then but you can tell how much the band has added. The music never sounds like it is too rooted in one period. All of DIDI’s songs have their own skin and sound as fresh and urgent now as they did months ago. I am looking ahead and wondering whether DIDI will head. I know Deakin Davies will be producing other artists and busy in the studio but there is this whole other life that will be explored. I think DIDI will get a lot more airplay and attention from radio stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music. Maybe there will be gigs around the country but I feel DIDI can travel the globe and get some attention over in the U.S. I feel her sound naturally fits there and she could get some gigs around L.A. and New York. I am not sure what her fan numbers are like over there but, when more music comes out, she will get that demand and her numbers will grow. I wanted to study Fickle Friends for a number of reasons. Not only is it her latest release and the last single before the E.P. comes out but, to me, is her most fired and memorable tracks so far. I have followed DIDI’s work since the start and can see how far she has come. I wonder whether she is already looking to other singles and E.P.s and what 2019 holds. It will be a packed year ahead and one filled with adventure. I am seeing more female artists/fronted bands being heralded but there is a long way to go before there is equality. I have talked about female producers and I know the likes of Lauren Deakin Davies (and Rhiannon Mair) and doing a lot to get the ball rolling and discussion happening. You can see the work Deakin Davies has done and it makes you wonder whether there are female producers like her who have been restricted or felt like they would not be supported – they have a champion in the industry and someone who shows there is that potential for recognition. I shall not discuss the issue more but I suggest everyone follow DIDI and get behind her E.P. Fickle Friends is a great track that stands in the mind and compels you to investigate it again and again – no mean feat considering how many songs (not that many) from the current day provoke that reaction. The future is very bright and 2019 will be a big one for DIDI. Growing from that solo endeavour to the tight and bold band there is now; it has been a wonderful progression and I know DIDI will keep the pace going. One is spoiled for choice when it comes to great new music but I feel a playlist/collection would be weaker if it did not have…
DIDI in it!