At first glance, gambling is totally down to the lucky roll of dice, or the exacting spin of a roulette wheel. Take a closer look, and there’s far more at stake. To win, you have to work the system, hedge your bets, count the cards. The odds are skewed in favour of the house, even in a fifty-fifty bet. With Bo Rocha’s debut EP ‘Even Green,’ she shoved the chips to the centre of the felt, and went all-in, win or lose.
“I wanted to suggest that I’m not sure which way it’s going to go,” laughs Bo Rocha. “It could end in tears, or be great. I don’t know who’s going to have the last laugh.”
Leaving behind her former band Mt. Wolf, gambling was something Bo Rocha had on her mind when she started searching for her voice, and teaching herself to produce in a makeshift studio; along with a nearby copy of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays. “It goes as it lays, don’t do it the hard way,” says the book’s resident game-playing addict Maria, before listing off everything that she can’t - and won’t - do out of fear.
“I had six months of writing absolute bullshit, and a lot of it was quite dark techno.”
— Bo Rocha
Bo Rocha had a list of her own boundaries, many of which she forced herself to overcome and confront on ‘Even Green’. As a teenager going through rigorous classical training, she suffered from paralysing stage-fright. The thought of getting on a plane still terrifies her - a bit of a conundrum, she admits, when touring gets into full swing. Writing alone, to start with, was a frightening prospect.
“I think a lot of my anxieties have come out in this, because I wanted to write it as a start point to the project,” she says. “I think a lot of it is me working shit out - how to progress as an artist in the world of art. If you can’t get on a plane, you can’t go somewhere,” ponders Bo Rocha. “It was quite a headfuck when I first started talking about writing. It became kind of meta,” she says, of ‘Even Green’.
“I had six months of writing absolute bullshit, and a lot of it was quite dark techno,” Bo Rocha laughs. “It was a weird teenaged rebellion, writing something that will never see the light of day. After leaving the band [Mt. Wolf] I just had an aversion to singing for a while, and I didn’t want to write any songs. Eventually, I fell back in love with songs, and I think I found a voice again.”
“I think a lot of 'Even Green' is me working shit out - how to progress as an artist in the world of art."
— Bo Rocha
As a result, overcoming boundaries is everywhere on ‘Even Green’ - from song titles like ‘Live Fast or Die,’ to the more symbolic act of abandoning everything Bo Rocha learned in the insular world of classical music.
“I always remember, you had people on the front row, sat there with a score, following it,” Bo Rocha says, looking back at the performances that made her stomach do tumble-turns. “You’re playing from memory, and they’re there tutting and shit if you get it wrong,” she says. “You had a tiny space to be in.”
“Being locked away in there makes you figure out what you do and don’t want,” she reasons. “I found it way too rigid. There are too many rules and regulations. Unlearning that stuff has been really liberating,” she adds. “I have no idea most of the time what I’m doing, theoretically.”
Play It As It Lays
Bo Rocha’s track ‘Tangerine Flake’ is about pimped up cars, and when she wrote her debut single ‘Angel Eyes’ she was thinking about Virginia Slims - a dainty cigarette from the 70s which was targeted at women. Bo tells us a bit more about some of the influences behind her music.
“I’m fascinated by old adverts. I’m interested in advertising and how it affects us, I use a few old taglines in some of the songs.”
“I love [the American photographer] William Eggleston. [His photograph] Glass In Airplane reminds me of every time I get on a plane - I have to get myself a drink, and sit there with it. I’m terrified of flying, and it’s a big theme in the EP, weirdly. Around the time I was starting to write for this project I got quite into certain photographers, and that shot in particular, I related to. It ends up being an image for holding yourself back, doesn’t it?"
"I went to a classical and jazz music school. It’s a small little crazy place, and you have to practice a shit-load. Being locked away in there makes you figure out what you do and don’t want. Strange way to rebel, but you can’t leave a boarding school, so I weirdly got into history. I took a total break from music, and then came back to it lately. It’s been very roundabout."
Photos: Mike Massaro/DIY. Bo Rocha's debut EP 'Even Green' is out on 13th November. She plays London's The Waiting Room tonight (11th November).