We interviewed Sophie Day, vocalist and guitarist with the band, before their Bloodstock Festival debut, and we were really struck by Sophie's empathic and passionate take on the emotional power of music and its ability to connect people together; and we were really moved by her sharing why she had been so touched by the story of Sophie Lancaster.
R13: Congratulations on being asked to play at Bloodstock. What does it mean to you and the band to be playing at the Festival this afternoon?
SD: It's pretty special for us, because even though we have played similar size venues and festivals before, we have not necessarily done anything this broad in England. We have supported Trouble, Paradise Lost, and Fu Manchu in England to big crowds. But this is such a broad spectrum, it's really nice to be asked to play. I only live 15 minutes away, so for me it's very very local, and it's just really nice. I am looking around now and there are so many people I know, it's really really nice. My sister is coming soon, and it's a real family thing. Lots of people are going to be in the crowd that we know. You two guys were I think the first people I told, remember in Edinburgh. It was before we got announced.
R13: We felt really privileged, and kept it under wraps!
R13: How are your family and friends reacting to you playing at Bloodstock?
SD: My sister’s not really into this sort of music. We got told at the last minute we had some guest passes, so I said do you want to come, and she said yeah okay, and she doesn't really know what to expect. My family are proud that we are getting somewhere. Our friends love it, it means they get to see us play a lot. I suppose you would have to ask them...I'm not too sure. They probably think I should grow up, have children or something (shared laughter).
R13: Bloodstock has the reputation of being the best metal festival in the UK. What has been your experience of the festival so far?
SD: It's incredible. A lot of my friends have said its a very family atmosphere. I'm not a very metal sort of ...and I thought it might be a little too metal for me, but it seems to be okay. Everyone's joking that I am bringing the Woodstock to Bloodstock (shared laughter). It's cool and a relaxed and a very chilled out festival. It's nice to see so many friendly people, and we have been made to feel very welcome. Our sound guy Mez is actually the stage manager for the Sophie stage, and they have let him off today to do the sound for us. So I am really happy about that. We have got someone who knows our stuff doing our sound, and that's really nice.
R13: You are playing the Sophie stage, what's your impression of it?
SD: We went in their yesterday, and saw Mordred. Just to get a gauge for the sound, and it's got a really great sound. I thought the stage was going to be bigger than it was, but I think the size of the tent makes it seem bigger that it is. I am really excited and glad we are playing that stage. It's pretty special to get asked to play any stage here, but the main stage and the Sophie stage are the two that people want to play on. I was talking to Ben from Orange Goblin yesterday and he said they played the first ever Bloodstock when it was Derby Assembly Rooms, and they got banned from ever playing Bloodstock again, as they trashed the dressing room. They then came back a few years ago to play the Sophie stage and the main stage today, so Bloodstock are very forgiving people (Sophie laughs).
R13: We are really interested to know which bands you have seen at the Festival, that really made an impression?
SD: Opeth! There were two bands I wanted to see. I wanted to see Napalm Death and they were very very good.I have seen them lots of times. Opeth I had never seen before ever. Opeth were the band for me and they were just...they blew my mind. So good! I would have hated to be Within Temptation going on after them. I wouldn't want to go on after Opeth, however good you are. No way. I would have just turned round and gone home. I wouldn't even have bothered getting my guitar out. ‘I'm off then, do you want to play for another half hour lads’...(shared laughter).
R13: We all turned to each other after their set, and said 'sensational!'
SD: They were. I thought they probably played their heavier stuff, so the sound didn't get lost, but they had such a lovely mix. They played some really soft bits and none of it got lost at all. You could hear distant thumping from the other stages, but they sounded huge! It sounded like there were 20 people on stage. In fact just five people, it was so good.
R13: You can safely say they have made Ian Anderson and Robert Fripp quite happy with their massive progressive sound.
SD: Yes exactly.
R13: We have noticed bands at the Festival really speaking up against intolerance and prejudice. A wonderful example yesterday was the Indonesian Death Metal band JASAD dedicating a song to Sophie Lancaster; and of course Napalm Death pointedly playing Nazi Punks Fuck Off. Does that resonate for you, in terms of how metal can really bring people together, in a positive non judgemental way?
SD: It does definitely. We have spoken before, about how people say what is it like to be in a female fronted band, and it becomes irritating after a while. I have just been asked it and it just irritates you, because why is gender still an issue. Whether you are considered different because you have got tattoos, or whether you are considered different because your Muslim, or whether you are female, it's all the same. It's basically everyone needs to be treated equally, and at festivals like this it's really nice to see so many people from different countries, and women aren't being leered at here. It's a really nice atmosphere. It's also quite special for us to be playing on the Sophie Lancaster stage, as every single one of us in the past has been bullied for having red hair, or having long hair, that kind of thing. Me and my now husband, Dave in the band, were beaten up on a bus once, as Dave had long hair. So when I heard Sophie's story that really upset me when I first found out about it, because that could have happened.... Dave had his head kicked in on a bus because he had long hair. That's exactly what happened to Sophie, she was attacked in a park because she looked different. It's really special for us to see festivals like this doing such an amazing job.
R13: And Bloodstock have maintained their support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation over the years.
SD: I think this has been the inspiration for a lot of other festivals to start taking note. It's really special.
R13: We wonder if this feels like a homecoming gig, and has that sort of feel? And you are playing Birmingham in October as well.
SD: This is more local for me than Birmingham is. Birmingham is 40 minutes away from where I live and this is fifteen minutes. So this is like really local. I used to work two fields away, that's how close. Every year I used to pass all the people walking to Bloodstock and I would have to go to work. I am not nervous now, but I have been nervous thinking about playing here. I think it’s okay, because there are so many people in the crowd who I know. And we have tried not to play local too much this year, because the fans get bored and it's nice to introduce new people to the band. So everyone has just come together today, we have got people from Scotland coming, people from Bradford here, people from London coming to see us, and all my family. Its really nice.
R13: We think you are going to make a lot of new fans here.
SD: Hopefully we get a crowd after all of this (Sophie laughs).
R13: You have got a good few Finnish people going as well.
SD: Oh really, wow!
R13: Yes, there is a group of Finnish people camping, who are coming to see you.
SD: Oh bless. We had 250 0f these stickers printed off saying Sophie Lancaster stage Sunday, we didn't know the time then, so we couldn't put the time on. Dave was handing out loads of them. Everyone kept going, oh my God these are everywhere, and I said, yes that’s the point! Because we are quite different to the others on the bill, and it could either go two ways, we either get a lot of people not into us, or a lot of people looking for something different. I hope its the latter.
R13: Its a fabulous moment when the music is being played, and you see people coming into the tent to hear more. We are sure that will happen for you.
SD: I’m hoping it rains, so everyone comes into the Sophie tent for shelter (shared laughter).
R13: Thank you so much for your time.
SD: Thank you. Its so lovely seeing you again.
Interview by Gareth Allen and Lewis Allen.
Read Room Thirteen's Alunah Bloodstock review >>