Interviewing Self Help

After their gig at the Port Mahon, Nat Slomczykowski sat down to catch up with one of Oxford’s best up and coming bands, Self Help. 

Image provided by Self Help

Image provided by Self Help

After their gig at the Port Mahon, PHASER sit down to catch up with one of Oxford’s best up and coming bands Self Help. 

Having previously featured in our ‘top 5 bands to look out for,’ here, we get to know a little more about Self Help members Danny, Silke, Lizzie, and Sean. 

How did the band come to be?

Sean: Prior to Self Help, Danny and Silke were the Din Twins, having met on joinmyband.com, where they also found Lizzie who had placed a (now very cringe inducing) ad on the site. 

Danny: Sean was actually the only member we met in real life, he worked at a pub before Self Help. It’s very 21st century.

Following on from your very 21st-century formation, what is the best and worst thing about being a band in the modern internet-enabled era?

Danny: The hardest thing about being in a band in the 21st-century is group chatting. There’s a lot of passive aggression in the group chat which comes off worse online than in person, but then as soon as we see each other in real life it’s all amicable again.

What is the group chat beef about?

Danny: Usually it’s just sorting out who’s doing what, though often when Sean is angry it’s just because he’s hungry 

(Sean confirms earlier that when he was passive aggressive in the chat it was actually because he was hungry – it was just before he had lunch and it was a late lunch)

What about the best thing about being a band in the 21st-century 

Danny: Well we haven’t been around long enough to be able to compare it to what it used to be like but the Oxford scene is very wholesome and everyone supports each other so much that it creates a very nurturing atmosphere for new music.

Lizzie: A lot of the people in the audience are friends that we’ve made from other bands who come to our show to support us. There’s no competitiveness – we didn’t realise how good it was till I talked to my friends from other cities who did not feel as supported by their local scene, so we’re very thankful for that.

You’re opening Truck festival this year! How are you feeling about that and do you have any other gigs lined up?

Danny: So excited – we’re the first band on the whole festival and we’re super excited to bring the energy which will hopefully set the mood for the show. We’re also playing Murder Capital on the 27th June at Jericho Tavern which is rumoured to be a sell-out show!

Lizzie: This feels like a nice local festival season for us, we’re playing some really nice summer festivals this season.

What’s your favourite gig that you’ve ever played?

Danny: We did a gig in France last year in Grenoble because they’re a twinned city with Oxford and they do a cultural exchange event where a band from each city goes to the other to play a gig. We played an outdoor festival on the day that France won the World Cup, so there were loads of people there in high spirits celebrating and lighting fireworks. 

Lizzie: At the same outdoor music festival, Silke played cowbell for a J-pop band she had befriended. 

You are a band consisting of a female drummer and bassist, have you experienced any sexism in the music industry and how do you deal with it?

Silke: There’s a lot of very causal subtle stuff which people probably won’t mean maliciously but it’s still annoying to hear. When I say I’m in a band they always assume I’m the singer because I’m a girl – if they see me come for a sound check they’ll ask if I’m the singer, but I play the drums so it’s annoying that there’s that assumption.

When you say you don’t sing 80% of the time people will ask if it’s an all-girl band – they don’t mean anything by it but it’s such a strange assumption to make

Lizzie: the best encounter I’ve ever had is someone assuming I’m the lead singer, and when I said I wasn’t they asked if I did backing vocals! Another favourite is the time I was on the bus with my bass and the guy opposite me was like ‘do you play that on your own or do you get help?’ I’m not exactly sure how that would work…Other times, when I’m with Sean they quite often assume I’m his girlfriend or something.

Sean: Whenever Silke does the sound check people are always actively surprised that a girl can play drums – she’s terrifying on the drums, she could kill someone. 

Silke: I think over time it’ll get better – I think I’m slightly controversial in that I dislike when gigs are put on specifically for ‘all female’ bands – ‘all female’ is not a genre, you should treat these bands the same as their male counterparts not as some standalone thing – it shouldn’t be a special gig, it should be treated equally along the other bands of that genre.

Lizzy: People are starting to call out festivals for only having all male artists – Download has been especially notorious for this, it’s a start that people are starting to pay attention to these things but there’s a long way to go.

What direction do you see Indie Rock progressing in?

Danny: It’s been dying since 2008.

Lizzie: We need more girls.

Sean: The genre all together is going to go – RIP indie! Indie is just not a distinct genre anymore ever since everyone became indie in like 2010.  I don’t think anyone we know would talk about music as being indie, in the 2000s indie was a thing but now there are so many sub-genres that it’s hard to get a grasp on what indie actually is.

Lizzie: The future is country hip hop.

Do you have any words in loving memory of The Cellar?

Lizzie: We’re really sad about the cellar, it was our favourite venue – it was an important stepping stone for new bands coming out of Oxford because its smaller than The Bullingdon and The O2 but big enough to play a gig at. 

Sean: It was like the small pasture for calves leaving the barn for the first time, before they go in the big field (the big field presumably being The Bullingdon and The O2, and the calves, our up and coming indie bands).

Find Self Help’s music at:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/52LiierGu1Hb2GyEovKHhA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/youneedselfhelp/

Website: https://youneedselfhelp.bandcamp.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/selfhelp_band/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKzSQ0MwdPob4AJH_XfD3aA