More about: Du Blonde
If you’re a record label, you should probably stop reading this now. Go on: off you pop. A bit further. Great, thanks. Everyone else - especially young artists - listen up, because Du Blonde (aka Beth Jeans Houghton) has already made the money back on her forthcoming, self-released third album Homecoming...on the back of its first two singles alone, no less. Her first record? “They spent like 100 grand on it. I’m gonna be paying that well into my 170’s.”
Houghton is delighted to have cut out the middleman (“and it is always a man”). “They spend tens of thousands making a record that you could probably make for seven-grand, and you don’t see what they’re spending it on,” she continues as she sits among the debris of the vinyl packing line she has set up in her childhood living room. “I’ve never been on a 6 Music playlist until this record,” she says, too, confirming that promotion sans label is…also better. “I’m never going to use a record label again.”
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Daemon T.V is the name of the Houghton-own imprint; the home of Homecoming, which is out this Good Friday. Compared to its magnificent but decidedly maudlin predecessors Lung Bread For Daddy and Welcome Back To Milk, it’s a burst of positive energy. Even the pop art cover shows a move from the bruising paints of Lung Bread For Daddy’s self-portrait. Houghton, at first, doesn’t see it. “Do you really think so!” she exclaims at the idea her happiness has never been more palpable. But perhaps no one had put it to her yet. Because after a moment’s musing, she agrees: “That’s super true now that I think about the musical difference as well. Homecoming has a lot of sad subject matter but in general it’s the happiest, most joyful record I’ve made.”
“I think that in the past I’ve often made really sad albums because I was really sad [and] wasn’t on medication yet. But also being in the music industry and working with record labels took such a toll on my mental health that that’s just what came out. All of these different factors definitely went towards those being very angry, upset albums.”
What’s that? You’d like even more moments of refreshing anti-record label sentiment. Say no more. “[Self-releasing] made me feel so free and so joyful, like how I felt when I was 15 and I started recording on Pro Tools in my room and no one could tell me what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to argue with some middle-aged white man about why I wanted a burp at the beginning of my record.” (Go and spin 'Pull The Plug' right now.)
Now, thanks to self-releasing, the benefit of growing older, and medication, Houghton is happier than she’s been in a very long while. Perhaps it’s partly due to her having the best kind of two totally different worlds. She can set up a vinyl production line in her Newcastle home with her best friend - her mum - making butt prints in paint to give away in special copies of her record, but she can also hang out with Ezra Furman and Shirley Manson whenever she’s out in L.A. Take the latter icon: a trailblazing artist best known for fronting Garbage. To Houghton, Manson's a mate. “We talk about all sort of things. Whenever I’m in L.A. we’ll hang out, me and her and her lovely husband Billy Bush. It’s great: almost like having parents away from home” she says.
The beauty of this is that Houghton is supported on both sides of the Atlantic. Though 31, Houghton is no adult: “I still need advice and also cuddles from older people” she explains, in one of several highly relatable and candid moments (another comes as water can be heard on her end of the line - “I’m pouring a kettle by the way, that’s not me peeing” she assures me). These older adults are also important pieces of the forthcoming Du Blonde record. While Manson appears on the God-Fucking-Bless-That-Meds-Exist single ‘Medicated’, the comfort and confidence of being at home with her real mum has made Houghton into a one-man band, from demo to tracking to engineering ("I did everything but the mixing and mastering.")
Contemporaries also paved the way to this newer, happier version of Houghton. Take Ezra Furman, who appears on the album’s lead single and centre-piece ‘I’m Glad That We Broke Up’. “There’s the friend you call where it’s like 'how are you? I went to Sainsbury’s' and there’s the friend you call and you talk about death. That’s who she is to me.”
Then there was the chance encounter with Ritalin, which another friend of Houghton’s had kept back from using in his heroin: “He said if you didn’t have ADHD it was kind of like speed, but when I took it I was super serene. That’s when I found out I have ADD.”
But it’s antidepressants and the psychological work that can take place when afforded some space from your own pain that dug Houghton out of her years-long depression spiral. “Overall I’ve actually done really well [in lockdown] which is in huge part down to the fact that I’m on medication,” she explains. “I think I’ve changed as a person since I wrote Lung Bread for Daddy. I’ve got a much better grasp on how to deal with things and when something seems like it’s going wrong, I don’t have to take it as badly as I used to. Now I’m in a much healthier place where I can break up with the love of my life - which I just did last year - but still know that it’s fine because it wasn’t really working.”
Fighting talk delivered with a grimace, you might think. But no: this new lease of life, the maturation and the mental clarity is evident across Homecoming. By no means a happy album, it is at least an album that moves beyond the scorn evident in 'Raw Honey' and the pure devastation of 'On The Radio' .
That’s not to say Lung Bread For Daddy and Welcome Back To Milk are bad albums. On the contrary, they are both tight, compelling records that every household should own on vinyl; early testaments to the irresistible world of Du Blonde. But it is nice to see an artist that you admire seem so much better in themself - and that certainly seems to be the case with Homecoming.
Houghton sounds upbeat and excited throughout our conversation, equally as excited to talk about stuffed animals ("I know loads of people that have them, including grown men") as she is to discuss enjoying music without judgement ("it’s completely valid to like a band and not know the names of stuff.")
Even in discussing harder times, Houghton sounds as if she's coping well. "It was a struggle to live with depression and it was also a struggle to be my creative self and get my ideas across and live off less than minimum wage," she tells me. Note the past tense: that particular flavour of hard times feels far away in the way Houghton talks about them now. Thanks, in part, to anti-depressants. Thanks, in part, to parents and parental figures. And thanks, in part, to dumping the record label life completely.
Homecoming arrives 2 April. Pre-order it here.
Issue Two of the Gigwise Print magazine is on sale now! Buy it here.
More about: Du Blonde