Line & a Dot is the acoustic side project of One Toy Soldier bassist Sarah, with which she creates enchanting stories and songs that can both whisk you away to a magical place and break your heart at the same time. Neon Buzz caught up with her when she played a show at the Boathouse in Cambridge, recently.
So, you were in One Toy Soldier...
: Still am...
NB: Are you still going?!
L&aD: Well, no... We’re on hiatus at the moment but we still have a second album to finish and put out. That’s the aim. I think maybe we’ll record it at the end of the year, perhaps, cos Ross is doing My First Tooth, he’s busy so I tried to make myself busy too. Ric is also doing shows… side projects become like main projects but we will finish our second album. We all have to but we’re not going to do it til the end of the year and then we’ll probably tour it a bit, I don’t know.
So how does performing and writing solo compare to how you did it with One Toy Soldier?
L&aD: Well, when I was in Soldier I was mainly singing what I was told to sing and writing bass parts, which I really enjoy, but I wasn’t really writing the songs so it’s all new. I didn’t really write in a group before… I didn’t write anything before either. But it’s different, not having someone to perform with or to plan with and it’s a shame there’s not somebody to go “Why don’t you not do that verse, trash it and do something else”, but I kind of deal with that. It’s just… different I suppose. I never had the two crossover because as soon as we lost our drummer in Soldier, I got really bored and didn’t have anything to do so I just started doing that one thing and that was pretty much the start of our break.
Do you ever worry writing by yourself whether what you’ve written is good or not? Do you get insecure about it?
L&aD: Yeah, I probably do write loads of crap but hopefully I gauge it myself. Like, I’ll trash something before I’ve gone too far with it. I mean, you get feedback from all kinds of different places anyway after the song’s finished so it’s not too much of a problem, I suppose. You’ve just got to trust yourself because you do know when something’s kind of shit. Someone will tell me if it’s really bad, hopefully.
On your list of influences on your Myspace page, the list of writers is longer than the list of musicians. Is literature more of an influence and inspiration to you?
L&aD: I think possibly… yeah, I only have a few musical influences listed. I think it’s because I’m really influenced by lyrics and words. I won’t go and watch a band and be like “How did they get that guitar sound?” or “How did they loop this?” so that kind of thing doesn’t interest me so much. I really love reading and I love so many different novels and the way that they’re written and I think I find that in a song and then that’s what I like about it. So everyone who’s an influence, obviously it’s partly their music but I think a bigger part of it is the lyrical side of things. That’s what I’m bothered about and authors are probably slightly better at it.
When you’re writing songs, do you write them from an autobiographical point of view or do you make up stories to turn into songs?
L&aD: I’m really crap at putting myself in other people’s positions. I think hopefully one day I’ll be able to make up something that’s totally different because it might be good to write about something that haven’t thought about or done. I strictly write myself but I try and incorporate similar situations and put them in so like I’m sad like a boy whose lost his balloon and I have never lost my balloon but I’m sad so I’ll just bring in the boy… y’know, that kind of thing. Things I haven’t done, I can’t write about.
You’re unsigned at the moment; do you think that gives you more artistic freedom?
L&aD: I think it’s a bit of a drag cos I don’t have any money or any way of recording, sometimes I moan about it a bit but I understand being tied to a record label can also have problems. Like we were signed to a record label in the band and it was great but it had its drawbacks. If I was on a record label I think they probably would have told me don’t go to New York and do a tour with four shows in it and I would be like “Yeah but I probably should do a tour with four shows in and lose like £200…” So they probably would’ve told me to be bit wiser about that kind of thing but yeah, it’s a good level of freedom and you can make your own decisions even if you don’t have a record out.
NB: If you could choose one label to work with, who would it be? L&aD: I don’t know, I’m really bad; I don’t know any bands and I don’t know any labels. I could probably name bands and ask what record label they’re on and go “Oh, that’s what I want”. I don’t know the difference between a promoter or a record label or a booking agency. I just get confused by all that kind of thing. So, a nice one, I suppose.
What’s the scene like in Northampton? Have you got plenty of places to play?
L&aD: Northampton’s good, yeah. We’ve got a pretty great music scene. It’s the biggest town in England that’s not allowed to be a city, for some reason. But yeah, we’ve got a lot of bands. Maybe over the last couple of years we’ve had probably ten or twelve albums come out of Northampton and be in the shops. And then there are so many other bands that are unsigned there. We’ve got two big venues that get like the NME tours and stuff and then there’s a whole bunch of smaller ones. My favourite is the Labour Club, which is a functioning Labour Club and it looks like a terraced house, you have to ring a doorbell to get in. I mean, just like two weeks ago I played there with Liam Dullaghan, who’s great, and Chris Mills from Brooklyn. They get people from all around the world at the Labour Club and you’ve got to know about it to know that they’re on but they’ve had people from Spacemen 3 and all these crazy groups turning up at the last minute. You’ll just see like an Australian cross-dressing band who play flutes or something one night… but that’s the best thing, that it’s kind of weird. It’s a good town for music.
NB: Do many people support the local scene then?
L&aD: There are a few bands that are especially big in Northampton and they always pull in a massive crowd so I think maybe the downside is it’s only the big bands that are guaranteed to get big crowds. Obviously the touring bands always get a massive crowd. To get a crowd in in our town, if you’re just little and small, you just have to be persistent and then somebody will catch on. There’s a whole group of great music fans there and they’ll do other things too, like they’ll take your pictures and bootleg your recordings.
You played the King’s Affair [King’s College summer ball] the other day, what was that like?
L&aD: That was weird. It might have topped my weirdest gig actually. But it was good. I think I turned up at half eleven and played at half twelve. It was kind of bizarre, these beautiful structures and spires and they’re just being destroyed by students in body paint and neon lights and rave music. They had a laser quest and some dodgems, it was hilarious. You were allowed on the grass, that was pretty amazing. And all these bands played til half four, maybe five o’clock. All the booze was completely free – that was great. And then in the morning, they cleaned up so quickly. The groundskeepers were just out there, flattening all the grass and picking up the fags and all the stuff. I was walking out of King’s at like ten in the morning the day afterwards and the grounds men were on the job, and the poor doorman was there and this tourist was outside of the gate going “Oh oh, can we come in?” and he was like “No, no it’s closed.” The tourist was like “Oh, can’t I just take a picture?” and he said “No, no certainly not” cos it looked a little bit of a mess.
NB: Quite a few of the bands who played are from Northampton like New Cassettes, My First Tooth…
L&aD: and me! I think probably because Stephen Davidson from Tellison is at King’s and he was running the music. I guess those three bands have played with Tellison a lot and I guess he’s picked his choice of a few different bands. I mean, he went for a whole bunch of people but I guess that’s probably why.
You mentioned your New York tour earlier, what was it like playing in America?
L&aD: It was really great! Somebody told me that they don’t clap in New York, I think this was somebody who played over there so I was like “Oh ok, cheers for the advice” but they all clapped. So, maybe they just didn’t like that person, I don’t know. But they were all really nice. I played in Manhattan and that was amazing. I’ve never been to the US before so that was exciting for me. Brooklyn was probably the best show. I played in this incredible antiques/junk shop record store place and it was incredible. I think Brooklyn was my favourite part. It was all very bizarre and exciting too; I think I’d definitely like to do it again.
NB: Did you get to do much sightseeing as well?
L&aD: Oh yeah, we went to Staten Island and we got a horse and coach round Central Park, not ashamed to say it. Yeah, we had a really good time.
On your myspace it says you’re playing End of the Road open mic. Are you just going to turn up and play?
L&aD: Yeah, they have an open mic stage and I’ve applied to play as one of their ten unsigned bands. They haven’t had the grace to get back to me yet but maybe they haven’t chosen yet. I’ll be doing the same thing at Glastonbury this coming weekend, sitting outside my tent. I’ll make my own open mic stage. And Latitude, I think they’ve got an open mic, I think it’s like a plank in the woods. I’m not afraid to take my guitar; I think it’ll be fine; I’ll get in there at the End of the Road hopefully.
Have you got any ambitions or goals, things that you want to achieve with Line & a Dot?
L&aD: In gigs, I think I’d like to play South by South West, being unsigned is the only way you can do it really, so that’s a good thing. My main goal is to make a song that somebody else can include themselves in and maybe I already have one and don’t know or maybe I’ll get one or never but I just want to be able to make something out of Line & a Dot where I’ve written this song but it isn’t so about me that you can’t run your own movie reel to it about yourself. I want to have a song that somebody can apply to their own lives, nothing to do with me, and appreciate it in that sense but I think it probably will take me a bit of time.