An Interview With… Socket

As someone who likes music but doesn’t make it, the mythology of ‘the band’ has always fascinated me. I don’t mean sneaking a peek into the tumultuous and glamorous lives of famous musicians, but the nitty gritty of bands just starting out, trying to carve out a space for themselves. How do these things begin? How do they evolve? What is it like to bottle up your emotions and chuck them out at the audience like an angsty Molotov cocktail?

Enter Immie. We’ve been friends since we were thirteen, making each other laugh and dreaming of the future sat at the back of the class. For Immie, this dream was focussed on starting a band, which she did with another school friend, Rose, in 2016. The band, called Socket, is currently made up of: Immie (guitar, vocals), Bethan (bass, vocals), Jen (guitar, synths) and Morgan (drums), with Rose (guitar) on a year abroad in Canada.

Socket describe their sound as ‘noisy guitar music with emotions’ and it seems their main aim is to get on stage and have a good time. (Check out their bandcamp page here.) Their first gig was in Immie’s living room and, although they have graduated to proper stages, bigger audiences and even tours, this DIY, carefree approach to music-making still permeates everything they do, making them a refreshing addition to the London music scene. I met up with the band in a (randomly) aviation themed cafe in New Cross to find some answers and some insider knowledge, all whilst sat on some repurposed airplane seats.

 

You’ve been together for a while now, have you found there’s been a progression in your songwriting process as you’ve evolved?

Jen: There has, but because the band is focussed on being a live venture, a lot of the hashing of the songs comes from putting them in that space. Starting with the seed of a song, it gets so far removed from what it was down the line from routinely being played at shows and finding out what works. Some songs survive the live arena and others don’t.

Immie: I feel like we’re evolving really fast. Every song we write is quite different from the other. It’s hard to be like ‘okay let’s lock it down and put something out for an EP.’

Morgan: We’re very much a live band because we play so many shows – the real ‘experience of Socket is what you see when we play a show.

Will that change when you release an EP though?

Immie: At the moment, when people listen to our music we’re always present, so we get to frame it and its context. It’s quite scary to have something so removed from you but at the same time so much a part of you. But also quite exciting!

I know you’ve been on tour recently in Leeds and Bristol, but I was wondering how being specifically a London band has impacted you and your progression?

Bethan: I think London being faster really impacts us a lot. It’s a big thing in our personal lives as well. London is so fast and high-pressured and that’s really shaped and forged us as a band.

Immie: It definitely feels like a baptism of fire. Our first gig ever was at the Windmill, which is big. When I was at school I would read about the Windmill in NME.

Bethan: When I was in first year I saw this band, Fake Fur, who have broken up now (RIP). I remember seeing them at the Windmill and seeing Ellie, this frontwoman powerhouse, and saying to my friend, ‘in two years maybe I could be doing this at the Windmill’, and then literally like less than a year later we did it.



(*) This should read: “we also had this song about being a mixed-race person”. Apologies from the editor.

 

You all do creative degrees. How does that interact with the creative project that is Socket?

Immie: {Fine Art} The way I think about making music and making art is the same. I have this particular set of concerns and something I want to get across, so rather than making a sculpture to externalise that, I’ll write a song. I’ve had lots of tutorials at school about the band and for me it’s very intertwined with my art-making practice. It was all I was doing in second year. (Laughing) I didn’t get very good grades.

Bethan: {Fine Art and History of Art} I mean my answer is really simple because I make a lot of text-based art and it’s happened that I wrote things and they’ve found their way into songs. They go back and forth but in a very simple, material way.

Jen: {Music Composition for Film and Games} I think the main thing I get from the band, because so much of my time is spent cocooned in my bedroom working on stuff, is having the immediacy of playing a show and getting that feedback, where otherwise you have to go through so many systems and wait so much time just to find out if it’s good. The instant feedback you get performing live is just so much more rewarding. It’s a really nice balance of having these two separate worlds but them both being creative.

Morgan: {Fine Art} To me it’s honestly so separate. They definitely inform each other in some ways because, like Jen, I make my own music as well but it is completely different, and both of those things are completely different from my art. I’ve tried lots of times to cross-germinate, but really I like keeping them separate.

It’s so interesting that you’re all artists and yet you’re approaching the same creative outlet in such different ways, especially in relation to who you are as an artist.

Morgan: I think it’s to do with the fact that I see music as a much more objective thing. I’m not as conceptual. I don’t put myself as much into what I’m making with music as Immie or Beth.

Jen: It comes down to catharsis and what we’re taking from it. I think we all get that same release but we’re getting it in different ways. I get it from the flow of losing myself in playing a tune.

 

Has your opinion of the music industry changed now that you’re actually actively participating in it?

Immie: Boys like boys in bands and boys in bands get signed by boys at labels and that’s where it ends. Part of wanting to start the band was as a recognition of the boys club of music which we knew about, but became so much more apparent when we moved to London and started being able to see bands getting big and getting signed. I also find that boys are much more willing to mosh for a band of boys.

Bethan: I suppose girls don’t always start pits because that’s always historically been a hostile environment for women.

Jen: We played a gig at DIY space which had a pretty diverse lineup and it came with such a nice vibe. So yeah, there are pockets which are exceptions to the rule. There’s been really classic examples – we were playing a gig, all stood in a circle with Morgan being the furthest away and this sound guy comes over straight to Morgan and started asking him about tech stuff. So that happens a lot. Morgan’s apparently the tech guy?

Bethan: Or like ‘Morgan that was a fucking great set’ and I’m like stood there having a cigarette.

Morgan: It’s always guys. It’s fucking hilarious because every time it happens I’m super clueless. They come up to me like ‘what do you want for the set, let’s talk about soundcheck’ or ‘I really enjoyed the set’ and I’m just like ‘thanks man, I dunno.’ Being part of this has forced me to be really aware of that. It is completely unavoidable and it’s so obvious when something like that happens. If it was just a band of boys and someone came up to me I wouldn’t think twice about it.

Bethan: It’s an interesting position to have one boy in the band because if we were all girls, who would they decide to talk to to?

 

Bethan: I’m very passionately into the cult of the amateur in music. That’s my advice to anyone: just do it. I’m not very good at guitar, definitely not that good at bass. I know that and I get on stage and I do it anyway. I think that doing it anyway and maybe not being very good but being very passionate is more exciting than being technically good but boring.


Morgan: When you’re just starting out trying to do something, it doesn’t matter how low-tech it is, it is good. I think the problem is when you start coming up with a song, or playing a show, you start having to genuinely ask yourself ‘is this good? is this worth the time, is it gonna go somewhere?’ Those are perfectly valid questions, but the fact of you having a drive with it is enough for it to be good.

And sometimes being an amateur can be an advantage. When we were writing Valentine, Immie wrote all the lyrics and came up with the chords and structure. I have such regimented music theory drummed into my head (no pun intended) from doing lessons, so when Immie played me that song it was mind-blowing to me because I had no idea how she’d come up with something so complicated – I couldn’t figure it out. She was using weird time signatures and chord changes which didn’t make any sense. 

Bethan: I remember me and Rose being like ‘no that’s not how chords work, that’s not a progression, we can’t do that.’ And Immie insisted we were doing it because that’s how the song goes. I very quickly realised Immie was totally right, this sounds great and sounds way more interesting than what the fuck I would have thought of.

Morgan: It would be so difficult for you or me to write a song like that. You’d have to really think about all these subversive things you’re doing with songwriting, but when you come from a background of just having a passion for it then those things come naturally.

Check Socket out in their natural habitat on Thursday 22nd March at The Five Bells, New Cross Road – you’re guaranteed a good time (and hopefully a good mosh too)..

-- Freddie Martin, March 21, 2018