Isa and the Filthy Tongues interview – Stacey Chavis
Stacey talks to Mookychick about escaping George Bush’s America to become the lead singer of Isa and the Filthy Tongues and the lovely successor to Shirley Manson of Garbage. She’s been linked with the Banshees, the Skids and the indie film industry – and it’s all happened with her first ever band!
We find the lead singer of Isa and the Filthy Tongues savouring her second cup of darkly dangerous Colombian as she curls up like an alleycat at the back of Cafe Truva – a turkish waterfront cafe at the heart of cafe culture in Leith. Leith? Oh, you know… Leith. The north part of Edinburgh. Scotland. Choose Life. Choose Indie Rock. Choose Soft Edinburgh accents. Choose Leith.
The Filthy Tongues have great rock credentials. They were formed from the ashes of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Angelfish (the beautiful Shirley Manson’s first bands), with Martin Metcalfe (guitar), Derek Kelly (drums), and Fin Wilson (bass). They were joined by Stacey Chavis (vocals) in 2005 when she moved to Scotland.
What’s first noticeable about Stacey is how comfortable she is with herself, even if it is the morning after the night before. She’s dressed in what looks like an old black tanktop under a red and white-checkered knitted cardigan with skinny black trousers, studded black belt, and worn black biker boots. Her hair pulled into a high messy pony tail, she grins from under her fringe and waves us over. No make up, we note, except black eye liner and mascara, and natural lips. That’s what we like to see – rockers who know that the night is for fun but the morning is for tiny cups of colombian coffee by the riverside on a grey day.
“You should try this coffee,” says Isa (actually, Stacey – but, like Debbie Harry and Blondie, her real name gets swallowed into the name of the band). “It’s good coffee. Oh, what a cuppa! I could drink it all day long.”
Taking a real rocker’s delight in her tiny cup of caffeinated darkness, Stacey doesn’t mind a bit when we pop outside for a menthol roll-up. “Me, I quit 7 years ago. I miss it though, all the ceremony of lighting and flicking the ash. Good fun! But, hey, I don’t miss the smell, the nasty taste in my mouth, fear of cancer and the aging… Yep, I was a Marlboro red girl, then camel lights… you go and enoy your menthol roll-up! Suck deep and enjoy!”
Isa and the Filthy Tongues is real Edinburgh rock – dirty and sleazy and honest, honed to scuzzy perfection in a thousand nights of gigging it up in sticky-floored venues. If US-born Stacey could be bothered to come all the way from Americky to hook up with the band, the least we Mookychicks could do is hop on a train.
How come you moved to Scotland?
To escape George Bush’s America…
Isa and the Filthy Tongues have been hailed by NME as ‘Edinburgh Rock’, but you’re American. Scotland and America – a happy union?
For sure! I love-love-love working with my Scottish boys! They bring a flare that American indie rockers try to be, but my boys just are naturally.
Isa and the Filthy Tongues is part of rock history. Have you been in any other bands?
It’s kind of a privilege for me, definitely a real road journey… Believe it or not, this is my first band, and I had absolutely no clue of the musical impact Goodbye Mr Mackenzie had in Scotland. Apparently they were huge in Scotland, which made it incredibly intimidating, having to perform at their level. It was a bit sh*t for me and also kinda exciting… It’s been a very quick learning curve, as I joined the band in March and was in the recording studio in June 2005. The guys were very encouraging throughout my growing pains. Even though they were supportive, it felt like an almost impossible task to live up to Shirley Manson’s legacy. I’ve really had to learn to become comfortable in my own skin and in my own performance.
As someone who would daydream about being in a band without ever having had the courage before to do so, it was amazing to see my face on a CD in a store and to hear myself on the radio. To see our audience sing along to our songs, to meet interesting and creative people like Steven Severin (Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Richard Jobson (The Skids – who wrote the song the ‘Saints are coming’ which U2 and Greenday covered).
Man, I just couldn’t have picked a better first band to be in. I love my boys and I love our music. I feel like I’ve come home.
Ooh… was it like meeting Steven Severin?
I was bit nervous and excited to meet him as I was/am a fan of the Banshees. I have a tendency to get nervous around people I admire, but once we met he was lovely and put me at ease. With Richard, I didn’t know who he was, so I was much more relaxed around him. I could just be myself. He’s very warm and good fun. I think the guys were more nervous about working with Richard as they see Richard as one of their icons. I just think it’s beautiful that the boys have had this experience.
You’ve done the theme song for Richard’s Jobson’s upcoming British indie flick ‘New Town Killers’. How closely did the band get involved with the film to make the track?
Richard Jobson, who is now a movie director, loved our album so much that he asked us to write the theme song for his new movie ‘New Town Killers’. Richard wrote the lyrics and we wrote the music. It was amazing to hear my voice on a huge screen at the premier in London last October.
We had a lot of contact with Richard Jobson, plenty of drinks and discussions… but mostly we talked about what it was like at the beginning of punk – he was in a punk band in Scotland in 1976 which was unheard of back in the day! London was the epicentre of punk at that point and none of those London bands even had a single out till October/ November 1976 and their LPs came out in 1977… so Richard was right there at the beginning. I think the Skids had their first single out in summer 1977 – ‘Test Tube Babies’, it was called! We have a lot in common with him. The boys in the band came from a similar town. You know, the kind of town that’s industrial, unemployed and bleak.
‘Isa and the Filthy Tongues’ makes you sound like a doomed Swedish anti-heroine, but that’s just the band name. Your real name is Stacey. A bit like Debbie Harry being in Blondie. Do you get Blondie comparisons?
I’m flattered to be compared to Debbie Harry, however I don’t see the comparisons. Only in that I’m a woman fronting a band with blonde hair. I find it funny, all these comparisons – it seems that most female fronting singers get compared to Blondie. It’s silly, I find it ridiculous! We can’t all possibly be that similar!
Hah, fair point. But there’s always room for one more comparison, so we’re going to push our luck… Given half the chance, would you get involved with film as well as music? Debbie Harry did Videodrome and Hairspray, so…
Would I get involved with film as well as music? Sure, if the right project come along!
Okay, this is not a comparison, promise. But it’s always great to know… do you have any female icons? Someone who makes you feel the world is a bigger, better place?
I don’t specifically have just one female icon I look up to. There are so many. I do love Kathleen Hanna though. She’s always been true to her roots and I don’t feel she’s gotten the recognition she deserves.
Kathleen Hanna is indeed a special lady. Okay, some quick-fire questions before your coffee gets cold… Fame or money?
Both! I’m vain enough to want to be known for creating good music, but it wouldn’t hurt to have the money to keep a steady stream of shoes piling up in my closet.
Touring or studio?
Touring, I love playing live.
The tambourine is a godly instrument. Probably the most rock ‘n’ roll instrument ever. How often does it make it onto your tracks?
A few times, but not enough. I agree, it is very rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s time to make tracks, sadly – we have to nip down to Glasgow to see some friends, and Stacey is due to go to the gymn before meeting up with someone to discuss the band’s new t-shirt design. But, before we go…
Stacey, is there anything about the Filthy Tongues we should have asked you but were too selfish to realise?
Heh, thank you for asking. The single ‘New Town Killers‘ is out now for download and it loves you very much, so why not love it back? It’s also released on April the 6th on iTunes… and hey, if you buy the download before 26th April (Forward us the receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org) you can get a free MP3 called ‘Cock in my pocket’.
‘Cock in my pocket’ was written by Iggy Pop & the Stooges but never recorded for a proper LP… We’ve done a version from a bootleg called ‘Metalic KO’ where you can hear Iggy and the boys get bottled off by Hells angels…
“I got my cock in my pocket & I’m cruisin’ down the old highway…”
We thought it would be a good song for a girl to sing. Know what I mean?
Peace out xxx
What they’re saying about the New Town Killers single
“Full on proper indie rock n roll…..as dirty and dark as all good indie should be….”
“This song made me put aside my hatred for electronica for once, because it’s got soul, and feeling, and dirt under its fingernails. So sexy, so dark but still so godsdamned humalongable.”
“This is just what the doctor ordered.In an age of auto pitch and auto tune the Edinburgh Rockers give it large helped out by the old school punk Richard Jobson …”
“This takes me back to the good old days when music could set the blood racing – great stuff. “
Isa and the Filthy Tongues MP3 DOWNLOADS
- Amazon MP3 download: New Town Killers (single)
- Amazon MP3 download: Addiction (album)
- Buy MP3s from Amazon
Mooky heads-up: The Filthy Tongues have got a great deal on at the mo. If you sign up to the Filthy Tongues mailing list they’ll send you a free MP3 every month of 2009. Hurrah!