Where are the girls? An Interview with Bryony Williams
After making a name for herself throughout the Birmingham scene and beyond, Bryony Williams has a new single out ‘I Can Be’ via Beth Shalom records. This marks a major jump in her music career, especially at a time when many bands are struggling to get music recorded, released and heard. ‘I Can Be’ paves the way for an exciting new EP out September 18th combining reverb, grit and emotionally vulnerable lyrics. Alongside this, Williams also co-produces a zine ‘Grrrl Groannn’, which promotes gender equality within the music industry. We had a chat about the new single, zine and how the Birmingham scene could do better.
Hey, what has been happening with the new single?
- The single is going good! I think it has definitely had the best take off out of all my singles, but I guess that was to be expected. Being the first track of mine released through a label.
How did you get started with Beth Shalom?
- Joe Booley, who’s the guy that runs it. I’ve known him for a couple of years really, I can’t remember how we got in touch or anything, but we went on tour together like 2 years ago. Maybe that was it, he was doing a UK tour, just for a week, and I came with him and opened up for him. So we were on the road for a week. I knew he was running Beth Shalom at that time, and even from that time there has been a discussion about releasing through them. It’s not that I didn’t want to but I felt like I could take on the world on my own a bit.
- I’m not meant to be in the UK right now anyway, I’m supposed to be backpacking around wherever. I recorded ‘I can be’ like last year in December, and I was going to release it while I was travelling just to keep things going then obviously I came back because of corona. Then Joe was like, hey! And we had the idea of releasing through Beth Shalom. We had a zoom call about releasing the single through him, and then left the zoom call, like right I’m going to record an EP and they’re going to release it. An EP wasn’t even an idea in my head at all before that. It’s really cool and it was really good to vibe off someone, and the T&Cs are all good, and I just thought ‘yeah lets do it!’
What does signing to them entail for you?
- I have to sign a contract, it’s a very nice contract, just like a year or something. And they cover all the physical costs. When the idea of vinyl came about, I was like yeah definitely okay!
What do you have planned for the EP after it releases?
- I’m not really sure! Well normally there would be a tour, but I don’t know if that can happen. My next official gig is literally March next year. So then might be a good time to organise gigs with my band. That’s quite a scary question in a way, what happens after the day its released. I guess I’m just focusing on selling all the records. Just get the records sold and into people’s homes. That’s the thing I love, just people having my music in their house. It’s interesting trying to think what’s the next step all the time. I think me and Joe will have a conversation, him being my label and all, he knows or should know more than me. ‘Tell me what I should do please!’
If you could tour with anyone, who would you choose to tour with?
- Hmm I think probably Jen Cloher, I just think she would be such a motherly figure but badass at the same.
She’d give you a hot dinner, but also a beer
- Hahaha definitely, she’d make sure you’ve showered that day. I love her music and I think it would be a good fit. I just think to tour with her would just be very nice, and still kind of low key. It wouldn’t be like we’re touring Wembley arena or anything. I think it would be cool!
What encouraged you to start the Grrrl Groannn zine?
- Grrrl Groannn was actually inspired by a university module, I was doing a media degree, and studying the music industry. One of the modules was a group task, which we all obviously hate, about coming up with a business or company to do with music, which could exist in Birmingham alongside pre-existing music, promoters and venues. Then come up with a company that’s innovative and could bring something new to the table. My studies then were really focusing on gender and the music industry, throughout history and how it is playing out right now. That was the forefront for everything, and was my shit. I remember I got put into groups, but I went up to the lecturer and just said ‘I’m going to do this on my own and I know what I want to do. I don’t want anyone else touching it! I know what I want!’ I gave him the idea and he just let me run with it. We had to just come up with a business plan, and market it, why is it relevant, why is it important and why is it needed. So that was a really fun module! I created this full concept, of ‘Grrrl Groannn’ and I went into the marketing of it, and then just thought why the fuck should I not do it!
- Already at the time I was photographing gigs that I went to, so it was my personal taste feeding through. I didn’t post them anywhere or anything, so I just did it for fun. Long story short, I just did it, I would take the photos and used the company name to email promoters, and thankfully I already had good connections through my actual music, and I just asked to interview people. It was a win win really, through Grrrl Groannn I could get a press pass and wouldn’t have to pay for a ticket and get to meet people I loved listening to and actually sit down with them and ask some questions. I can’t do design for shit, so my friend Jess Webberly who is a fabulous designer, came on board and designed the zine. So we’re kinda 50/50 really, I get all the content and she does the design and then we send it off as cheaply as possibly to get zines back, and then we sell them on our bandcamp.
What drew you to the zine format?
- I guess again around the time I was coming up with the concept I was looking a lot at Riot Grrrl, and zines were just the thing then! I thought well I don’t buy magazines, and now that I’ve started the zine, I have a few in my collection. Zines and the zine culture make them a slight novelty or collector’s item and again they relate to the underground scenes where anyone can do it and you don’t need permission or a massive fund. You can do it as cheaply as possible and have complete creative freedom. That’s what lured me in.
How do you think the Birmingham scene is doing in terms of equality, diversity and accessibility?
- I’m not going to say it’s a paradise, but people are still quite subconscious to it and the inequalities. Even when being in the indie scene, similar to the punk scene I guess, the messages are all about equality and stuff but there’s so many things that can be around and completely contradicting that. I think it’s the same in the indie scene and probably every music scene. Within the indie scene that I’m in in Birmingham, there’s equal opportunities but people don’t really think about it. They put people on because they fit the bill or they’re good, but they don’t really think about gender which in some cases is progressive because fuck it why should gender matter, however, there are some things which I can see even though it’s a very ripe topic of conversation, then sometimes you can see in the indie scene, say day festivals or something like that by people you know too…
I know exactly the local day festival…
- Last year or the year before, then the same thing happened the year after, and I just looked at it and it’s meant to be from the indie scene but there’s one girl on the line up. I just thought, why am I not on it! Where are the girls? It all just trickles down. The boy bands in the scene can be conscious to it but can have a blind eye to things. I think its about not ignoring that and putting it into practice, when you can make a difference even if it’s a subtle difference. To them putting more women on, it’s not going to make much of a difference to them, but we’re already talking about it as a problem when we wouldn’t even talk about it then.
There’s far from a shortage of wonderful female artists in the Birmingham scene, it’s not as if it would be hard
- No it’s really not, it’s not like there’s to to choose from.
Check out the new single and buy merch here!