Ballet School at Yo! Sissy, interview with Rosie Blair
photography: Cathal O'Brien, Hair: Michael Lendon, Make Up: Rosie Blair
Yo! Sissy Queer Music Festival is back in Berlin for its second edition at the end of July with a big live and DJ lineup, including electro-pop act Ballet School. I am a fan of the band’s previous album, The Dew Lasts an Hour, and now I am also a fan of their font-woman, because it is not often that an artist genuinely talks as a person beyond her promotional image and beyond how we expect musicians to answer interview questions. Meet Rosie Blair, a woman who makes music and lives life.
KALTBLUT: Rosie, you are not based in Berlin anymore?
Rosie: I had to deal with a few things, the practical concerns following my father’s passing. I also needed to be able to grieve. I’m not fully out of the woods yet to be honest. But I feel in my heart it’s the right thing to play this festival. I’m so grateful to Yo! Sissy for having us.
KALTBLUT:Are you happy to come back for shows?
Rosie: To be honest, I’m nervous. Singing is my favourite thing to do in the whole world. It makes me feel really good. But hanging out and being in crowds and dealing with the business, I have to say, I really don’t like. I have my best friend coming to this show, Cathal O’Brien. He’s a London film maker and DJ, he made several of Ballet School’s music videos. I am really looking forward to the chance to do some work with him and spend some time together in a city that has been so important for us both creatively.
KALTBLUT:Any other plans for the summer?
Rosie: I feel I’m at a crossroads. I’m working on another album very quietly. I don’t want to say too much because my confidence is a bit low at the moment. I watched that Mapplethorpe documentary recently, “Look at the Pictures”, and I do believe that what he said was true: you have to give absolutely everything you have if you want to become who you are.
KALTBLUT:What do you do besides music?
Rosie: I try to honour my parents by helping others. I do volunteer work, spending time with elderly women. I think they are one of our society’s most undervalued resources. They are so emotionally intelligent they can read minds.
KALTBLUT: Also I wanted to ask you about fashion…
Rosie: Honestly I love fashion but I’m really out of it at the moment. Where I live in Ireland is not fashionable.
KALTBLUT: I see. And do you feel styling and grooming are part of your life as a woman, or as an artist?
Rosie: So much depends on your perspective. I’m a person who likes to experience a wide range of perspectives. I don’t really see one as right and another as wrong. Here’s a really tiny example. I have a really normal day job at the moment working for a makeup company. Some girls and women focus an enormous amount of their energy on their physical appearance and there are all these rules. Some freak out when their nails grow out an extra week and need filled. And they say ‘Omg my nails are terrible! Please forgive me for these nails!’ To me it feels restrictive and is a barrier to broadening your experience. Like, when you have your nails on you cannot play an instrument. In that sense I want women to be rid of it. But at the same time, I am feminine and I love being feminine. Everything has to be a balance. I always think of Dolly Parton, who has an assistant open-tune her guitar so she can just play bar chords, thus preserving her manicure. In the last two years I feel like I’ve become more and more obsessed with my appearance. I think it’s just about survival and feeling in control. Losing both parents is very destabilising. I do not have my own family to cushion the blow so I feel like I gotta stay on my toes and when I’m fierce, it really helps me get through the day. I mean that very sincerely. But I struggle so, so hard to reconcile the necessary sacrifices it takes to be an artist with the profound need within me for safety and structure and family. I need to believe it’s possible to be an artist but also be settled.
KALTBLUT: What’s your take on current events for women’s rights?
Rosie: In Northern Ireland abortion is forbidden. This is a huge infringement of human rights and must be immediately corrected. Abortion is denied even in cases of rape and incest (www.fpa.org.uk/abortion-rights/abortion-in-northern-ireland). We cannot endure in a society that makes it impossible for women to own their own bodies.
KALTBLUT: What do you think the future will bring towards these matters…and for you?
Rosie: Things are terrifying right now. I think there’s a generation gap in play now. Christina Hoff Sommers writes a lot in defence of the cis-het male. A lot of the time I agree with her. But what she doesn’t seem to see is that what is happening right now is a long overdue redressing of the balance. Every time a 70’s male celebrity gets exposed for decades-past abuses an angel gets its wings. It is a reckoning. Finally. The dismantling of the old order. Their time has passed. The language of privilege is spoken by few but understood by many. Trump is a bastion of the old order. If he becomes president, things will be crazy in the next years but he is going down regardless. Do you think he knows or cares what intersectionality is? He does not understand the world as it is now and this will be the undoing of him and all like him. More and more people just do not fit into a narrow model nor do they want to, they want to choose their own way.
KALTBLUT: How do we do that?
Rosie: Don’t lose your empathy. Learn the history. Don’t get caught up in the in-fighting. Don’t be sanctimonious, be caring instead. See the bigger picture.
Ballet School will play live and full band at Yo! Sissy at Postbahnhof on Saturday 30th; send us an email at email@example.com and tell us why you should go and see Ballet School for a chance to win two tickets for that night! And in the meantime, get in the mood with Plateau Repas’ mixtape special Yo! Sissy X Your Mom’s Agency featuring Ballet School, Simonne Jones, Christeene, and many more.