When You were 17

Beki talks with writer Jennifer Upton about writing the song and making the video.

Walk me through the genesis of how you develop new songs. Lyrics first? Music first? Does one person handle all the lyrics or it is collaborative with both words and music?

Usually one of us comes up with a title or a riff first, usually a riff. Paul is responsible for most of the riffs and I’m responsible for most of the lyrics and vocal melodies and we tend to sit down with guitars and construct musical parts first and then add lyrics. Sometimes we just play a beat and write a song over that, there are no set rules.

The song When You Were 17 looks back at the life of a young skinhead who has lost his rebellious streak. When you both look back to your youths, what do you think has changed about you the most?
‘When You Were 17’ is about the innocence and arrogance of youth and how you come to realise that you knew nothing. My understanding of human nature has increased enormously since I was a teenager, as has my understanding of economics!!

There are a lot of articles written about how being young today is a lot different than it was for our generation. In terms of the music business, what is the biggest change in the music industry you’ve seen since you were 17.

image of Vice Squad When You Were 17 CD EP disc and front and back covers

The music industry is very very different from what it was in the 80s, most of the major labels have been eaten up by even bigger majors and many of the larger independent labels no longer exist. There are thousands more artistes now than then were then because everyone now has access to the technology required to record music. This is both good and bad because it allows obscure bands a chance to be heard but it also means there is little chance of them being heard by a wider audience as there are thousands of other artistes competing for that audience. In the 80s if a label thought you had talent and songs you could be signed and have a career but now you’re more likely to grab the spotlight if you have money behind you as although recording and video making is cheaper than it used to be it still costs a lot of money to market music. At the top end the industry still has gatekeepers so those with the most ‘push’ and money behind them are most likely to be heard.
Barcode Babies confronts the dangers of evolving technology to humans. Some of the technology arguably makes it easier for artists to create at home and get their music to the world efficiently. This EP was entirely recorded at home. The mix is great. Compare the home studio process of recording/mixing vs. a commercial studio. Do you have a preference? I would imagine having complete control is both liberating and a lot of work!

As a writer/composer I like the control you get from working at home, but I don’t like the noise restrictions! The advantage of a commercial studio is you can sing at midnight if you wish plus you have an engineer to help get the sounds you want. Paul and I have had to learn to be producers and Paul’s taught himself to engineer, so in effect our lack of money has made us self sufficient. It is a lot of work but when it turns out well it’s worth it.

Describe the technical process and specifically get into some detail on the video for When You Were 17. How was it shot? For the outside scenes, who is the young guy in the video, who was the director, etc.?

The ’17’ video was one of 2 that we filmed on the same day. We filmed a video for the song ‘Ruination’ and had about an hour left so did ‘When You were 17” as well, it was filmed in a studio in Brixton by Stuart ’Studley ‘ Stirling, he’s filmed us live a few times and has a very distinctive style where he uses lots of quick cuts. The first edit he did was a bit too comedic, no wonder considering how much we were clowning around, but we got him to make it a bit more serious looking. The skinhead in the video is Taylun Watts and he was filmed by our drummer Ant Overman in Nottingham. I asked Ant to get swagger, bravado and vulnerability from Taylun and Paul suggested he film him shaving, looking in the mirror and squeezing imaginary spots. Taylun went the extra mile and shaved his head on camera and I think Ant has definitely captured what I saw in my mind’s eye and more, he is very talented.

Buy When You Were 17 Limited Edition CD EP

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