“I’ve always been very strong in my opinions and beliefs of how I want to be. There’s never been a point where I’ve been uncertain in how I want to sound, or what I want to wear or say,” begins Beth Jeans Houghton, the artist behind Du Blonde. “But, the music industry being as it is, if you’re young and being perceived as female then you’re in a position where no one will take you seriously with a lot of things. So it’s been a long time of trying to figure it out. Working towards this idea of success and then realising it’s actually someone else’s idea of success, and that you never wanted to be famous anyway, so why are you compromising yourself artistically?”
Sat in the corner of a Dalston bar, clad in a fur coat and flares and fresh from the release of recent single ‘Buddy’ - in which she submerges herself in a bath-full of tinned spaghetti for the self-directed accompanying video - it’s hard to picture Du Blonde as an artist who compromises. But it’s taken the singer nearly a decade in the industry to get to the point of ‘Lung Bread for Daddy’ - her forthcoming third album (the second under the Du Blonde name), and her first to emerge as an entirely self-produced, self-directed, fully-immersive beast.
First entering the public eye in the late ‘00s with folk-tinged project Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny, the then-teenage singer inked a deal before releasing debut ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ in 2012 to a slew of praise, thus declaring her a kind of Florence Welch in Wonderland figure. When she resurfaced three years later with a different name, a new meaty, riffy sound and wearing nothing but a fur coat and fluffy merkin on the cover of (truly excellent) second LP ‘Welcome Back to Milk’ then, it’s fair to say that people were slightly surprised. But, explains Beth, her output had been playing catch up for a while by that point.
“The more open I can be about gross stuff, the less I feel worried about it.”
“I had a lot of frustration after the first record. I loved it and I’m glad I did it and I stand by it all, but I wrote those tracks when I was 16, recorded them between 16 and 18 and then released them when I was 21. So it’s the difference between being a young teenager and a young adult,” she explains. “I’d changed so much and I felt that, even though people were reacting well to the record, it wasn’t me. That was the main thing about [starting this project], thinking, I’m gonna make what I wanna make finally. Something simpler, with more blunt lyrics, where I can call a spade a spade.”
Informed by a nomadic lifestyle spent in and out of LA, where she “never really lived anywhere for more than a couple of months,” that first Du Blonde record rings with big yet consistently surprising melodies and a feeling of exploration. “Having a different name means I can walk out on stage and whatever I do, that’s Du Blonde and then I can go home and be Beth and be my weird self,” she says of the change in thinking. Yet ‘Lung Bread for Daddy’ seems to go a fair way to bridging the gap between the two sides of the now-29-year-old. It’s a record that’s artistically full of life yet underpinned with a strain of darkness and vulnerability - much like a conversation with Beth herself.
Cheesy as it may sound, but in an age when anyone can and frequently does (hello, yodelling Walmart boy) become a chart prospect overnight, it’s refreshing to find someone who hums with the frequency of an artist in its truest sense. Sit down with Beth and her conversation is filled with talk of her illustration and animation projects, of a childhood spent dreaming of “the West Coast music scene and taking trips across America” and a young adulthood spent actually doing it. “If someone was like, here’s £100k and here’s a house you can buy and you can live in it, I wouldn’t do it,” she nods. “I want more stability, but my idea of stability is to be financial stable enough to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do. I want to have an art exhibition and I want to finish my book and all of these different things.” And on one side it’s this hunger for creativity that shoots throughout her current work - from the strange metaphors and purposefully grotesque titles and phrases that run within it to the complete audiovisual world she’s creating alongside.
But there’s a relatable sense of doubt and honesty beneath the seeming self-confidence (“I’m not as extroverted as I seem...” she chuckles at that assessment) that makes Du Blonde a far more empathetic author than on first merkin-clad glance. Take new track ‘Holiday Resort’, in which, over fuzzy, simply-strummed chords she sings “Spoke to my doctor, he said I’m past my peak / All my eggs are dying, in my twenties I’m antique”. “My mum owned her house when she was 21 on the wage that she made, and I think, well what the fuck am I doing?!” she says of the track. “But then you look around and everybody else is like that too.” Shortly after in the track, meanwhile, she serves up a natty one-liner about sitting in her room “pulling pubic hairs from the crotch of [her] swimming costume”. It is, we note, kind of brilliantly disgusting. “But that’s what my life is!” she laughs. “I’ve always felt like the more open I can be about gross stuff, the less I feel worried about it. In all of my relationships, I’ve had a real issue with shitting near the other person if I know that they’ll hear it or smell it, to the point where I’ll be constipated for a week. But then my last boyfriend, I accidentally farted in front of him a couple of times and he didn’t give a shit. I felt so free! I accidentally shat myself in front of him because I had sepsis and I didn’t care! If you can either find people who are OK with you being human, or you can just be like ‘I am human’ then that’s so freeing.
“I spent so much of my life with depression and feeling ashamed of it, having eating disorders and being really secretive. Even when I started taking medication for depression, I thought, oh you’ve got to be careful who you tell because all these people have these ideas of if you should or shouldn’t be doing it. I think I just got to a point where I thought, I’m just gonna be completely honest and whatever people think, I don’t care because I’ve been honest and I know what I need and I’m happy with it.”
And the same evidently rings as true for Du Blonde. On ‘Lung Bread for Daddy’, the singer is finally throwing away any last vestiges of outside expectation, fully taking the reigns and doing entirely what she wants to do. Luckily for us, it sounds pretty damn good, as well.
‘Lung Bread for Daddy’ is out now via Moshi Moshi.
As featured in the February 2019 issue of DIY, out now.