INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Comprising of vocalist Stef, guitarist Bean, bassist Lee, and drummer Adam, Quella are a four-piece from London who have used a diverse range of musical influences and tastes to create an intriguing yet accessible combination of progressive punk and progressive metal.
Having brought out a well-received debut EP – entitled ‘Fantasticshen!‘ – last year, the band will be releasing follow-up ‘Donor Fatigue‘ this November, and they recently had an in-depth chat with me about all of this and a host of other Quella-related topics.
How did the band first get together?
BEAN (guitar): To be completely honest, Quella is a chapter in a long story that can be traced back for decades. The band as it is now emerged from the ashes of another project that Stef and I were involved in, a significant difference being, for Quella, me making the switch from drums to guitar, learning as I went.
Our early sessions were pretty chaotic. We wrote and perpetually re-wrote our material, seemingly destined to remain in the practice room, and we were our own audience.
Lee came on board two years ago. I have known him since we were at school, and we had played in a band together throughout our teens, and his contribution has been monumental, as he has essentially pulled back the elastic to catapult us into a forward direction. We’ve been trying to ride the momentum ever since!
How did the name Quella come about?
BEAN: Like many bands, we spent as much time trying to think of a name, as we did trying to create a body of material. It can be hard coming up with something that gives away a little bit of what we are about, but not too much, basically something that creates curiosity. For a while, we were known as Tantalus Bloom!
STEF (vocals): I had been looking at a list of the most unpopular girl’s names in the world for a character I was generating, and Quella appeared on it. When we looked at the origin of the word, it transpires that it’s an Old English world for “to crush, to repress, to indeed quell“, so she chose us, really.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
BEAN: If I had to fit it all under an umbrella, then I would have to say guitar music, punk, metal, and rock n’ roll, but even saying that feels restrictive, as we just want to capture the energy and excitement of life, and push it back out into the universe.
Personally, I’ve always admired bands who aren’t led by trends or the limitations of a genre, for example, Fugazi are a band who just completely did their own thing, and as a result, their music is full of integrity.
We also enjoy a good melody, songs you can sing, and it’s not all a jarring punk thrash with us, because we do appreciate a good Alice In Chains-esque harmony, too.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
BEAN: Initially, it’s all about spontaneity, and VERY little is prepared in advance, so we just go into a room and press “GO!“, and once we’ve fattened up something we could call a verse and a chorus, we’ll then embellish it with melodies until it becomes a song.
LEE (bass): Generally, Bean comes to rehearsal with a twinkle in his eye, and a fat riff in his pocket, and says nothing before plugging in and blowing our minds.
Adam and I will then fill out the rhythm, and then the three of us will see where it flows. We then send off the resulting mayhem to Stef, who seems to magically hear something quite opposed to what we had envisaged, and transforms it into a beautifully bizarre melodic frenzy, which I then dollop some harmonies on before serving.
What inspires the band lyrically?
STEF: Genuine emotion expressed by either friends, enemies, strangers, or a combination of all three. We aren’t too long in the tooth to have forgotten that a punk song should, almost by definition, express more than just a heart’s desire.
Influences in construction can range from the whimsy of Vivian Stanshall, the styling of Big Heath, to wholesale unashamed eavesdropping.
LEE: It’s both hilarious and frightening having the lyrics unveiled, as on this new EP alone, I’m singing with Stef about a zombie Kylie Minogue, aviophobia, picnics on war graves, and of course, a hobble-di-hoy, therefore, there’s a wonderful and surprising experience with every song!
Recently, you unveiled a new single – entitled ‘Smalltown Eiderdown’. How has the response been to it so far?
BEAN: It’s been excellent, as straight away, people can hear that it’s a big step forward for us in terms of production and presentation, and the comments I’ve had have been generally along the lines of, “I’ve always thought you guys were good…but this is GOOD!“, and I share their enthusiasm, as I feel really proud of this song, and all of the recordings we made in the session.
LEE: It’s growing all the time, as ever, for a band that’s not yet fully established, it can be difficult to get folk to take the time out to check out an unknown song, and I love seeing their eyes widen as they do.
And the track was taken from the band’s second EP, ‘Donor Fatigue’, coming out this November. How has the recording process for that been?
STEF: We’re no strangers to the studio, so we came in well-drilled. We’ve always wanted that rarely-achieved marriage of live action and studio refinement, and by trying to reproduce a more real world environment to record in, as opposed to a largely digital one, we feel we managed it, especially with Lewis Johns at the helm, and the facilities at Ranch Studios in Southampton.
That’s not to belittle our previous efforts, or the talented engineers that helped us, but ‘Donor Fatigue‘ really bristles with intent, which is what we all wanted to show.
BEAN: Recording ‘Donor Fatigue‘ was an absolute pleasure, and much of the credit for that can be directed at Lewis, as his keen ear, patient approach, and high standards really brought out the best in us.
ADAM (drums): I’ve always been a very loose player, so drum-wise, it was a very gruelling process getting the parts down cleanly, and in time, but Lewis‘s patience and foresight gave us an end result which is far better than any of us were expecting.
Also, how will your upcoming release differ stylistically to last year’s debut EP, ‘Fantastischen!’?
BEAN: It is much the same stylistically, but from a production standpoint, ‘Donor Fatigue‘ is a much richer-sounding recording.
We went into this with a much stronger idea of how we wanted it to sound, and we felt much more confident expressing this to Lewis, who really understood the brief and got behind it, helping us to achieve the sound we wanted.
We were just testing the waters really with ‘Fantastischen!‘, but it all makes for an important learning curve, and one that I hope we will continue to use.
The band have performed at venues across London, and have also supported the likes of Black Orchid Empire and Gold Key. How were they as experiences?
LEE: We’ve been very lucky to have played with some fantastic bands over the last couple of years. The show with Black Orchid Empire and Gold Key was definitely one of my faves, as there were also many great bands playing that day, such as Frauds and As Everything Unfolds, so it made for a great mix of styles!
BEAN: It’s great. I have nothing but respects for all of the bands on our scene – or any scene, for that matter – sharing their songs, and treading the boards. It’s something I’m proud to be involved with, and I’m also happy we can hold our own among some talented company.
STEF: Playing live means different things to each one of us, but we all value it highly, and supporting bands of whatever genre, but of undoubted pedigree, can only raise our game.
Also, how is it – for the band – playing live overall?
BEAN: It can be a bit seat-of-the-pants, but we always play with enthusiasm, and that makes for a good show, as far as I’m concerned. We genuinely believe in what we do, and we think it’s worth sharing, and I hope that comes across in our performances.
LEE: I adore playing live, as to me, that’s the main draw of being in any band. When you have that moment where it all comes together on stage, and you watch the faces of those in the audience who are “getting it“, it’s something else!
And lastly, what are your plans for after the release of ‘Donor Fatigue’?
STEF: We are already busy writing the follow-up, as we are back with Lewis, unless we’ve ruined his career! (laughs)
BEAN: More shows, more songs, then we’ll do it all over again, but hopefully with a few more ears pointed in our direction.
LEE: I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next myself, and that’s the beauty of being in this band, as you have no idea where the songs are going to go, and it’s a wonderful process seeing them develop…and to see what Stef is going to have me singing about next!
‘DONOR FATIGUE’ – THE SECOND EP FROM QUELLA – WILL BE RELEASED ON NOVEMBER 22, AND FURTHER INFO ON THIS – AND THE BAND – CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: