Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her sat down with Andrew from Rabbits Black to talk about the new album, being independent, the Keep A Breast Tour, and why their music is really Rock n Roll. The interview was conducted on Wednesday, October 26th at the House of Blues in Dallas before their show in the Cambridge Room.
Rabbits Black (RB): Rabbits Black here with Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her. Just came through Austin and Houston on their way here to Dallas, touring with the first ever Keep a Breast Tour. How’s the tour been going so far?
Camila Grey (Camila): It’s been going well. We’ve only been out for 2 ½ weeks, and everything has been well attended, and we’re getting a good response,
Leisha Hailey (Leisha): …and it feels good not just to be touring for yourself, it feels good to be a part of something important.
RB: Well, how did this relationship with the Keep A Breast Foundation develop?
Leisha: It actually came through our manager. She’s good friends with somebody in the organization, so it just sort of spawned this idea… well, I’m sure they already had the idea to do it…
Camila: Ya, it was the first actual musical tour where they’ve hired bands, and got together with Live Nation to get musicians together to promote awareness through music to younger people. So it’s geared toward trying to reach younger people; and you know, this music is supposed to be “cool”, so maybe people will come out for that very reason.
Camila: I think that’s their angle. But it’s the first tour they’ve ever done.
Leisha: But it’s a great tour. I’m sure in the next five years it’s going to be the next Lollapalooza or something (laughing).
RB: Well, it’s a great message. Now, as a female group, with a largely female following, do you feel a particular connection to the cause?
Camila: Definitely. Both of my grandmothers are survivors of breast cancer, and fortunately they were able to catch it early enough that they could take care of it and live a very healthy, fruitful life. So the cause definitely rung with me, and I thought it would be a great cause to support.
RB: Well, let’s change topics and talk about the new album, Nocturnes, that you’re touring on right now. It took you three years to make this album…
Camila: Ya, not really three years to make, exactly. It took 9 months to make, but 3 years to finally come out.
RB: Well, when you were making this album, you were independent, right?
Camila: Ya, we had just been dropped from our label.
Leisha: And we had just gotten rid of our managers.
Camila: We just went on a firing spree. (laughs)
Camila: We just wanted to start over.
Leisha: So we rented a rehearsal space in Van Nuys, California, and we just started meeting there every day. We set up all our equipment, and sat there and talked about how we were gonna…
Camila: …finance everything…
Leisha: …do it on our own. Ya, finance the whole thing.
RB: How did that whole process – being independent, having to worry about financing everything on your own – influence the two of you?
Camila: Literally, in every way. It influenced the way did everything, especially in having to take this next step towards becoming real business people and really running a small business. It was just off to the races with that.
Leisha: It’s like being in a big washing machine. Everything you make has to go right back in to the company. It’s not like we get to pocket what we make.
Camila: Just like any small business.
Leisha: It’s been a learning curve, for sure, but we’re doing it… and thank god for Amex! (laughs)
Camila: (laughs) In fact, Amex should be sitting right here, instead of this Gatorade (pointing to a bottle of G on the table).
Leisha: Ya, so we basically put all of our front costs on Amex, and by the end of what we do we try to pay it off, and hopefully profit a little bit. But we have to deal with everything like that. Our merch, pressing CDs… everything pretty much.
Camila: It wasn’t one of those things where we were asking people to donate money to us; we were trying to run it like an actual business. Now mixing the record was another story. We had run out of money, and we wanted Chad Blake to mix it. We’re big fans of his. But he’s a bit pricy.
Leisha: (laughing) … and he doesn’t accept Amex.
Camila: So we set up an auction to sell some pretty cool original things. We’d sell some cool guitars that we’d played, or made mix-tapes, and just did all of these little creative things, and raised well over ten thousand dollars. We actually got the record mixed that way. It has sort of been a culmination of a lot of different things, a lot of different ways to finance all of this stuff.
RB: The two of you have also been very good using social media to promote yourselves, and to raise funds…
Camila: Well, we try (laughs, looking at Leisha).
Leisha: Ya, I’m still learning.
Camila: I’m like the twitter guru, or at least I try to be anyway. But it’s really important, because it’s a direct connection to your fan base, and without that we’d be lost. Because that’s the marketing aspect of record labels that you don’t get as an indie artist, so it’s really cool that our fans are helping us out as well.
RB: Do you think the whole indie experience has changed your songwriting as well?
Leisha: Ya, definitely.
Camila: This record is definitely a bit darker, considering the events of the past couple years, both personally and, well, what happens with the industry… having been put into this washing machine and getting spit out…
Leisha: … and also having the luxury of time made a big difference.
Camila: Ya, it was dark subject material, but we had the luxury of being on our own schedule. It’s a great situation for a musician. All I’ve ever wanted to do was hole myself away and write a record. The first record we did, Common Reaction, took us a month and a half to make, and it was really rushed. So this was the complete opposite, the complete antithesis of that experience. On this record we really took our time and had fun with it. There was no pressure or expectations…
Leisha: Or outside opinions.
Leisha: Well, we got them, but from people we respected…
Camila: …and from people who weren’t making money off of us. So it was a completely different experience, but a positive one.
RB: So is that where the album title comes from? Nocturnes?
Camila: Ya. It’s from a lot of things. I’m a classical nerd, and we wrote a lot of it at night, and the majority of it was done in the late late hours of the night, and the subject matter is dark, so we thought it was an appropriate title.
RB: But at the same time, this album has a few upbeat songs, and the tempo has definitely picked up from the last album.
Camila: Absolutely. The subject matter is dark, but I think the music is positive. You know, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hopeful in a way… it’s dark, but it’s hopeful.
RB: Was this more upbeat tempo intentional when you started making this record, or was it just sort of organic.
Camila: Organic, for sure. Some of the songs are older that we revisited, that I had written back in my solo days. Back when I didn’t know what I was doing, and didn’t have a band, so I just wrote stuff. Some of it she just wrote on her own…
Leisha: And I think the drums made a huge difference. Just having drums, using the live drums, gave it this…power… this powerhouse behind the music that we didn’t have on the first record.
Camila: We used a huge 29 in. kick on a Jon Bonham. Like a proper Jon Bonham kit from “When the Levee Breaks” inside a cement cathedral room. So the drums were huge.
Leisha: Ya, that made a huge difference.
RB: Well, you can definitely feel the drums. It gets the audience moving a little more than Common Reaction.
Camila: It’s a lot more Rock. I don’t know why they put it in the electronic category. I don’t feel like it’s electronic whatsoever…
RB: …the synth probably plays into that a little bit.
Camila: Ya, your probably right (laughs).
Leisha: (laughs) Ya.
Camila: I was like ‘we wanna be a rock record.’ But I don’t get to decide.
RB: Now, the two of you have been very involved in the industry for a while now, and you have a lot of other pursuits, but is it safe to say that Uh Huh Her is your primary focus right now?
Camila: For the moment, ya. I think for the both of us.
Leisha: Ya. I think we both wanted to focus this year on the band, and put all of our energy into this, and we’ve done that. Who knows what next year is going to bring, but…
RB: You both have also had very different sounds in the past, with past groups that you’ve been with. Is this sound you have right now with Uh Huh Her something you feel comfortable with? Or is it still evolving?
Camila: I think it’s still evolving. To say that you’re always going to do one thing… it’s moody. Music is moody. You’re going to have different moods, and you’re going to grow with that, and hopefully the music is going to grow with that, and change… change with the mood… I might be feeling down one day and feel like doing a whole violin record, you never know. You know what I mean? That’s how music is. I think we’re just going to continue to grow, and explore new territory.
Camila: I think if we don’t change, it gets really monotonous and boring.
Leisha. Also, we’re just starting to get to know each other musically more and more, and that makes a huge difference.
RB: Well, as a little something for our readers, what are the two of you listening to right now?
Leisha: I love the new Bon Iver record. That’s like my favorite right now.
RB: A lot of time on the tour bus… I’m sure you’ve had time to listen to quite a bit…
Leisha: Actually, on the bus, we watch Friday Night Lights. We’re obsessed with that show right now.
RB: Well, it’s a big hit here in Texas as well.
Camila: What am I listening to right now? What is that… (hums… na na na “to your love”) song?
Leisha: James Blake.
Camila: Ya, James Blake. I love that record. So good. Big Black Delta as well. He’s an old band mate of mine, and he has a new project that I think is really great. Let’s see… the new St. Vincent is awesome… what else? I’m just trying to think of new records. I don’t know. Insert a little Zeppelin and some Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, and that’s sort of my mood.
RB: Finally, we’re an LA-based publication with a largely LA following, is there anything you want to tell our readers before you head out there next week?
Camila: Come to our show at the House of Blues!
Leisha: Ya, definitely that. Also, to look out for our videos, because we’ve made four videos. We made them a couple of months ago. We’ve already put one out, and we have three more coming… so look out for those.
Camila: And we’re hopefully going to do our own official YouTube Channel soon. Sort of like “Uh Huh Her TV”, and we’re going to have our own little show that we’re going to do, that’s up and coming, so they can look forward to that. So mostly to look out for music videos, and maybe this little TV show that we’re trying to make.
RB: TV show?
Leisha: Well, TV show is pushing it.
Camila: Ya, that’s pushing it.
RB: That’s a little tease…
Camila: Definitely teasy. So ya, we’re planning a lot of things right now. And we’re going to try to get to Europe as well, to tour the record. Finally.
Leisha: Next summer. Finally.
RB: You haven’t had a chance to get to Europe yet?
Camila: No, we couldn’t find a booking agent. But we finally found one who’s willing to take us on and throw us a little, so we’re getting excited about that.
RB: Well, you’re getting a great response on this tour so far, and hopefully that paves the way for the European tour as well.
Camila: Ya, we hope so.
RB: Ok, well thanks for talking with us, and we’re looking forward to the show tonight.
Camila: Thank you.
Leisha: Ya, thank you, and come see us in LA!
Rabbits Black would like to thank Camila and Leisha for their time. To help support this band, or just to check out what they’re doing next, visit their official site, or check them out on facebook or myspace.
KEEP A BREAST FOUNDATION:
How’s the tour been going so far? Here’s what the Keep A Breast Foundation had to say:
“So far, the Keep A Breast Tour has been going amazing. I don’t think we could ask for a better group of bands to tour with or even better audiences. Everyone’s been so respectful and interested in what Keep A Breast does. Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I think it’s really helped spark everyone’s attention not only on the tour, but our mission as well, which is to help eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention and early detection. I think also having a breast cancer survivor speak on their personal experiences with breast cancer at almost every date has helped open people’s eyes and ears to the seriousness of it all. We want everyone to be happy and healthy, and we hope this tour helps make that a success.”