Catherine Elms unleashes a riot of emotion in her debut studio single, ‘Frustrations’, released on Friday 8th April 2022 via all major digital streaming and download platforms. In ‘Frustrations’, Catherine sees a world of injustice and inequality, and vents against those with the power to make change who refuse to do so. She calls for us to resist the urge to give up or turn our anger inwards, and instead work together to build a better world.
We keep fighting but nothing changes until those in power join us in the fight. This song is a call to arms–come join us: together, we could be a revelation.
‘Frustrations’ is Catherine’s first studio-recorded track, recorded at The Nest Studios with dark orchestral band Birdeatsbaby, with drums by Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls. It represents how she has come full circle, having discovered The Dresden Dolls at age 16 and determining to strike out on a journey of self-expression and performance from that moment.
Catherine writes from her experiences as a queer working-class woman, for whom these issues are deeply urgent. She explains: “Frustrations explores the feeling of wanting to stand up for what’s right – be it through activism, work, or just in the interactions and little kindnesses in our daily lives – and facing constant opposition. When it all feels impossible or overwhelming, you can get jaded and burned out, but you must dig deep and remind yourself why this matters, and stay connected to your purpose and strive
for meaningful change. This song is for those of us who are tired of fighting injustice in a world that wasn’t built for us – but we get up and keep fighting anyway. For those of us who long for something more – for ourselves, for the world, for each other.”
After years of building a loyal fanbase through her bedroom demos and lockdown livestreams, Catherine has captivated audiences with her genre-bending blend of baroque pop and hard rock, as well as her confessional lyrics that explore millennial frustrations with sensitivity and quiet hope.
This track fuses hard rock, dark cabaret, emotionally-charged melodies and impassioned lyrics. A self-taught non-classical pianist, Catherine’s raw and evocative playing style lies directly between the brash power of The Dresden Dolls and the baroque pop-rock of 1990s Tori Amos. Her music possesses a dark intensity with softly defined edges: both introspective and fierce. Catherine is a fast-rising independent artist in the South Wales music scene driven ever forward by her passion and a devoted fanbase.
‘Frustrations’ is accompanied by a frantic and compelling conceptual music video that blends Catherine’s energetic performance with the striking visuals of Scott Chalmers (videographer for Jamie Lenman, Birdeatsbaby, Saint Agnes). The video premiers on YouTube on Friday 22 April 2022. Catherine Elms returns with an emotionally charged single ‘Frustrations’, which is released on Friday 8th April 2022 via all major digital platforms.
Today we had a chance to interview Catherine Elms about her journey into the music industry and her freshly released single, “Frustrations” which comes with a video.
- How did you first get into music?
I’ve been writing music since I was 8 years old, when I wrote songs about haunted houses and skipping school on my Dad’s Casio keyboard, but never had any formal music lessons beyond a few weeks of guitar lessons at school here and there. When I was 16, I discovered The Dresden Dolls and they blew my mind. I’d never heard a piano used in that way before; Amanda Palmer (pianist for The Dresden Dolls) has such a raw dynamic playing style, it’s very punk rock and I loved hearing the piano used in that way. Listening to The Dresden Dolls showed me that you don’t need to be classically trained to create powerful, beautiful music – so that summer, I taught myself how to play the piano, and started writing music on a piano for the first time. During that time, I was also into a lot of female-fronted alt rock and metal, bands like Queenadreena, Jack Off Jill, Emilie Autumn, Hole, and that influenced my writing and playing style.
- What instruments can you play?
The piano, guitar, bass guitar, and a little bit of ukulele.
- Where do you see your musical career in 10 years?
In 10 years I’d love to be a full-time musician with another few albums out, touring internationally, collaborating regularly with musicians I admire, and putting out amazing work that I’m really proud of. I’d like to keep growing and experimenting as an artist – one day I’d love to release a metal album! I’d have my own home studio where I can record and produce my own work, and collaborate with other musicians. I’d also like to give back to the music community in some way, perhaps through mentoring and coaching, so I can share my expertise with people starting out.
- Which instrument is your favourite to play?
The piano – it’s my strongest instrument, I love its dynamic range, and its expressiveness.
- Which instrument is your least favourite to play?
Probably the ukulele, because my hands feel so big and clumsy, and learning new songs doesn’t come as naturally to me as on other instruments.
- What would you say is your greatest strength as an artist?
I think I’m a great songwriter, I write music that deals with intense emotional themes that are a bit less obvious than the usual themes of love and heartbreak.
- What would you say is your greatest weakness as an artist?
Perfectionism and self-criticism – I have a bad habit of hiding my music away and working and reworking it, trying to chase perfection.
- Who is your favourite musician?
Kate Bush. She’s an incredibly talented songwriter who pushes boundaries with experimental production and sound. She’s such a trailblazer for female writers and producers. I also love Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Mitski, and St Vincent.
- What is your proudest accomplishment as a musician?
I just finished recording my debut album, due to be released in autumn 2022, and I’m tremendously proud of it. I love every song on the album, and it’s so raw and honest and powerful. I can’t wait to share it with the world!
- What interests or hobbies do you have outside of music?
I’m big into fitness and weight training – I got into it during lockdown, as a way to add routine and structure to those long days indoors, and to take care of my mental health. Once I dedicated the time to it, I realised how much I loved it, and now it’s become a huge part of my life. Training helps me feel connected to my body and proud of what it can do, and gives me so much energy and mental clarity. I ran my first half-marathon during Lockdown 1, and ran two more last year. My favourite weight training exercise is deadlifting, and I deadlifted my producer while we were recording Frustrations! I’m also currently training for my first Tough Mudder.
I also love reading and writing fanzines, and before lockdown I co-organised the annual Swansea Zine Fest events, where fanzine writers and indie comic creators from across the UK would gather to sell their art.
- What is your creative process when making music?
I tend to write the music first, and then write lyrics to fit with the rhythm and mood of the music. I usually sit at my piano, and noodle around until something comes to me, and then I tweak and refine it over a few sittings. I do a lot of writing and re-writing to refine aspects of the song until it clicks – it almost feels scientific at times. Very occasionally, an entire song will appear in one sitting, and those are my best songs – that feels like true inspiration.
- Tell me about your top performances.
My best gigs have been at dive bars and pubs in my home city where the audience have started off not knowing what to make of me, but by the end of my set the room is silently watching me perform, completely engrossed in the music. I love that moment when I finish a song, there’s a moment of silence, and then the room erupts into applause, it feels electric.
- Take me through how the song idea came about, the writing and production process.
I wrote ‘Frustrations’ after a series of instances where I was told that I was being difficult, or idealistic, or naïve for trying to change things for the better – I kept hearing empty platitudes from self-proclaimed allies like “it is what it is” as a way of avoiding playing their part in making things better, or worse, comments like “yes but all lives matter” or “transgenderism is just a fad”. There were hundreds of interactions like that throughout my years of activism, and I remember getting home after once such incident and sitting at my piano bashing out a bunch of angry chords until the opening riff of Frustrations formed. The rest of the song came pretty quickly after that.
I recorded this song in The Nest Studios in Brighton with Birdeatsbaby, and Brian Viglione from The Dresden Dolls on drums. The recording process was such fun, and we’ve all become good friends while working together. I spent a lovely few days with my producer Mishkin Fitzgerald making the song, and in the evenings we’d eat vegan cake and exchange ghost stories. It’s been an amazing process, and it’s such a privilege to work with these talented artists to bring the song to life.
- Who would you most like to collaborate with artistically?
Tori Amos seems like an amazing person to work with, she has such a vibrant creative energy and I think our sessions would be very fun and playful. I also love Fiona Apple’s production and would love to work with her, but I think she’d be very intense (although it would be fun to hang out with her pet dogs).
- Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
My album producer Mishkin Fitzgerald has been a wonderful friend and mentor to me – she’s a hugely talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and whenever I spend time with her I leave feeling inspired and full of creative energy. We’re currently co-writing an EP together, so watch this space!
- Have you ever taught or mentored another musician?
Not yet, I’m still at the early stages of my career, but I’d love to give back and mentor young artists one day.
- What was your worst performance?
I once played a Cardiff all-dayer where every other act on the bill left as soon as they finished their set, so by the time I got to the stage, the only people left in the audience were the two friends I brought to the gig, and the sound tech. It was pretty cringe!
- How do you deal with disinterested or unruly audiences?
It depends on the size and mood of the crowd – in the right setting, sometimes a good cover and some on-stage banter will win them round and you can get them engaged. Sometimes, people are just in a room to drink with their friends and have no interest in listening to the music, so in those settings I just keep my head down and enjoy the act of playing, as though I were just playing in a room by myself.
- Do you prefer to work alone or collaboratively?
Working alone comes naturally to me, and that’s where my comfort zone is, but I love collaborating with others to generate ideas and create new sounds.
- What are your favourite venues to perform at?
I love this bar called The Masons, in my home town of Llanelli – it’s a small rock bar but the vibe is always so friendly and dynamic, and the venue have been amazingly supportive of my music career.
- What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired my deep human emotions, exploring our inner worlds, and exploring big ideas.
- How do you nurture your own creativity?
Making time to create by scheduling it in, and honouring that time, is the absolute best way to keep creating. I also try to prioritise rest, self-care, and quiet time – you can’t pour from an empty cup, and having some inner peace helps my creativity flow.
- Do you have trouble with performance anxiety?
Yes! I’m an anxious introvert, so performing live is very scary – especially after a 2-year gap during the pandemic. My pre-gig ritual to calm me down is to eat a banana, drink a G&T, and do some gentle breathing exercises.
- What are your favourite musical genres, and are there any you dislike?
I love female-fronted dark alternative music – anything a bit dark, weird, and moody, that pushes boundaries or is a bit experimental. I’m also a big fan of metal, prog, and hard rock. My least favourite genre is probably country.
- How do you differ from most other artists?
I’m a female pianist with rock and prog influences, and my songs are pretty heavy in places. I also cover rock and metal songs when I perform live. I see my music as a blend of baroque pop and hard rock.
- How do you think your previous music compares to your new release?
This is my first professionally-recorded track, so the production and instrumentation is so much better than my old releases, which were all basically bedroom demos. My songwriting has also evolved over the years – I’m a much stronger lyricist and pianist these days. I’m really proud of this track and I hope everyone else loves it as much as I do.
Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram as catherineelms