In 2017, Sofar Sounds uploaded a number of videos of Bang Bang Romeo positioned in an intimate London setting, flowing effortlessly through a handful of songs that would later appear on the band's (upcoming) debut album, A Heartbreaker's Guide To The Galaxy. Two things are immediately clear while watching: everyone in the audience is transfixed by lead singer Anastasia Walker and her vocals are incredible. The performance is mesmerizing, hair-raising, and always on the move - a band whose music harkens back to a more crowd-pleasing era of rock with powerhouse vocals and raw guitars. Looking back at this performance, it's not difficult to see why Pink chose Bang Bang Romeo as her opening act for her 2019 European tour.
Bang Bang Romeo's music is full of variety - from the cinematic instrumentation of Chemical to the catchy accessibility of Shame On You and the emotional balladry of Adore Me - but it all hangs together by virtue of Walker's commanding presence. "Wouldn’t it be really cool if, for the album [A Heartbreaker's Guide To The Galaxy], we turned every single song into a planet?" Walker had said, "we’ve created a universe, we’re saying welcome to our world; each song on this is the soundtrack to our lives." Taking this into account, the band has a unique gift for merging an array of musical influences into a unified whole.
Coming off the back of what has been an emotionally charged breakthrough year for the band, Anastasia Walker - aka Stars - spoke to me about how Bang Bang Romeo wants to inspire a more positive sense of self-love with new single Love Yourself (feat. Example)...
First of all, I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time for this interview. How are you doing?
I'm very good thank you. We [the band] have got two days off now until our tour continues. We only just came back from Dorset last night, so we are catching up on some sleep!
That sounds hectic! How was the show?
It was amazing and it was a great show. We played Liverpool the night before... We went from Liverpool to Dorset, then back up to Doncaster. Which in touring terms, is a very long way. However, it was totally worth it because the crowd was so great. Also, the festival we played was awesome.
So, your upcoming tour sees you return to the Isle of Wight to play Strings. This year you played the big top at Isle of Wight Festival, overall what was that whole experience like?
It was brilliant. I love the Isle of Wight Festival because it is kind of like a second home for the band. We've played there many times. In 2018, we opened the main stage to a record crowd for an opener. Which John Giddings [festival owner] said was amazing. There were about 20,000 people there, which was incredible... We weren't actually supposed to be playing at the festival this year. Because we were heading off supporting Pink on her tour. But then John rang us up and said: 'if you want to play the big top, you've got a slot' and we can't ever say no to the Isle of Wight. It was great to see our fans in full force there.
As you mentioned, you drew the biggest audience for a first-on act in the festival's history. Were you shocked by that response?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it is the first slot and you don't expect too many people. We were walking up to the stage and poked our heads around the curtain and we were all kind of like: 'holy sh**... That's a lot of people.'
Fair enough, that's a natural response!
I know! There were loads of people in Bang Bang Romeo t-shirts and they all knew the words to our songs. John came up to us before we went on stage and told us the news about it being a record crowd for an opener in the history of the festival. It was such a shock.
You do a lot of touring. I read that in 2018 you played over 150 shows. Are there a lot of stresses that come with that lifestyle? Or do you prefer to be on the road?
Well, you sleep when you are dead! I love being on the road. We are currently on our biggest headline tour yet, I've got two days off and I've already got itchy feet. You know, kind of like getting ready to go again. Half of my life is currently spent on a tour bus, so it is kind of strange to be home actually. Even just for a couple of days... I think we have counted that, so far this year we have played nearly 80 shows. I think that averages out to around 3 gigs a week. Kind of used to it now!
With this in mind, are you looking forward to the prospect to return to the Isle of Wight to play at Strings? Which, admittedly is a smaller venue than you've become accustomed to this year.
I think it is all part-and-parcel of performing on stage. We love both: playing at intimate venues and playing on a huge stage. We are completely in love with both... We've had a taste of playing at Wembley Stadium and playing at smaller venues, and we always approach everything with the same level of enthusiasm. We are very lucky that no matter what type of audience comes to see us, we've got to that point where our fans go nuts! Which is so humbling and wonderful. So, it is all the same to us... We give exactly the same no matter what size venue we play at.
In October of 2018, your band released the Shame On You EP. How much has the band grown since the release of your first EP?
Well, we got to do the Pink European tour. That was pretty big! We've learned so much. I think when you are put on stage and are playing to 60,000 people a night, you grow and your music grows. We were given that opportunity and thankfully we took it all in. I think that from our first EP to today, you can see a massive change in the band. In terms of confidence and self-belief. I believe that sometimes it feels like you are not allowed to believe in yourself as often as you should. And we are very proud to say that we do believe in ourselves! I think you'll be able to see our growth on stage throughout our current tour.
I’ve noticed that a number of the tracks from the Shame On You EP make their way onto your upcoming debut full-length album, A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Was it important for you to have these tracks on your upcoming record?
Yeah, totally. The EP was kind of like a little taster of what's to come. I think there are a few changes in the previous songs. But, the album really does have a massive broad sound. Kind of like our live show. Many tracks are emotional and hard-hitting, however, there are also tracks that people would have never heard before that have massive string arrangements on them! The album is such a broad variety of songs and we didn't want to have an album where every song sounds the same.
I read that you worked with a few collaborators on the album, including producer Nick Furlong and American Authors guitarist James Shelley. How did working with them impact creating A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy?
We loved it. A lot of the songs on the album were written years ago. You know, on our own in a bedroom. Then a lot of them were also written with collaborators. I think that shows how broad the album is gonna go. We were grateful to be working with people that we looked up to in the music industry. To get the opportunity to work with these people really blew us away! And again, it was such a massive learning curve... We experimented so much on this album and I think you'll be able to get a taste of everything. For example, I wrote Adore Me on my own in Doncaster and Bag of Bones was written with James Shelley in New York. So, it is really exciting!
With the last question in mind, recently you released a new single called Love Yourself which features Example. How did you develop a musical relationship with him?
Well, we met him at an event in London. I think we were playing live and Elliot [Example] was getting interviewed and we hit it off straight away. He was just so funny and proper made us belly laugh. We got talking and said: 'look, it would be amazing if we could do something together' and it got organised. I think Love Yourself was written in a couple of hours and it just came to us so naturally. We kind of knew what we wanted to do, however, when we just met him we never knew we'd end up writing a song together. Looking back on it now, it is really cool that Elliot was up for working with an up-and-comer rather than an established artist. I think that is a testament to him as an artist and we are both so happy with what we have created together. The message of the track is so strong and it is a right banger!
I understand that Love Yourself is about the unconditional love that we show to others but rarely show ourselves. Can you talk about the story behind the song and your inspirations for it? Was it personal?
It was a collaborative effort lyrically - a 50/50 split. Ross [lead guitarist] had the chorus for a long time and finally thought he'd share it with us! To be honest, we'd tried to fit it in with other songs but then we showed it to Example and he loved it. Then he just started coming up with these lyrics for the verses and we all thought that they were really beautiful. We all decided that what the world needs now is love. Which is cheesy, but also very true... We kind of delved into our partners and the people that we love. For me personally, the song is very much about my partner Charlotte and how she shrugs off compliments. People find it hard to accept them. I believe that self-love is so important and I wish that my partner could see herself in my eyes because she'd never not love herself again... It was the most natural songwriting process and I think it is because we all knew what we wanted to say to our loved ones.
On the topic of believing in and loving one’s self, is there anything you are most proud of regarding the upcoming album?
I'm really proud of my vocals on the album. I think it is the best work I've done. I'm also proud of how honest the lyrics are and how much we were able to say what we want. For example, there is a track on the album called You & I which is about Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. I was so happy that I was able to write about that. Furthermore, I'm so proud to support the LGBT+ community. A lot of the underlining vibes of the album are about self-belief and about empowerment. So, while the album takes the listener on a rollercoaster of heartbreak, pain, love, happiness and everything in between; the overall message of the album is quite clear in believing in yourself.
You briefly spoke about the support of the LGBT+ community. How does it feel having that support and being a voice for that community?
It is very flattering when people say that because for me it is the other way around. I never thought I'd be classed as a 'voice' for the LGBT+ community. This is because; they've always been a voice for me personally. People do ask questions like: 'why do we need Pride?' and it's because Uganda is planning on making being gay punishable by death. So, that is why we still have Pride! This is happening in 2019 and it is very sad. So, if I can help anyone who is scared of coming out and accepting themselves because of people in the world that won't accept them; then that is important to me. But, I wish I could do more...
Thank you for giving me your perspective on this. When I was asking that question, I was thinking about how this shouldn't really be a question I need to ask...
Exactly! It is so weird, isn't it? It is weird that we are having to have these conversations. But, while countries, leaders and other people continue to spread hate we are gonna just have to carry on having these stupid conversations. It is so important and I'm glad that we are talking about it.
Tickets for Bang Bang Romeo's headline show at Strings can be found at https://www.seetickets.com/event/chalkpit-presents-bang-bang-romeo/strings-bar-venue/1423493
George Miles - Follow me on Twitter @GeorgeMiles6