“Gigs need to be safe spaces for anyone” – An Interview with Seán McGowan

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Southampton’s very own Seán McGowan embarked on a tour during September, concluding with his biggest ever headline show at The Loft, Southampton. He sat down with me in The Social to talk all about his newest EP, Bestival and Safe Gigs For Women.

How was Bestival? Because you had a lot of drama that day, not knowing if you could play or not.
I love Bestival, but they were just unlucky with the weather. So we got locked down backstage, they evacuated the arena, they had to shut the bar because they were worried about the structure. Eventually, it reopened and we got to the stage 5 minutes before we went on, loaded on and were ready to go in 3 minutes which is pretty mad. We actually went on 2 minutes early but the set was great, Bestival is always great, but it was in and out for us because of the tour.

How has tour been?
Amazing! Amazing, couldn’t have asked for a better run, every show’s been much busier than we were expecting. We’re on good form, it’s fun playing with the band, so everything’s just wicked at the minute.

How’s the reaction been to Graft & Grief?
Really good, thank fuck! It seems to have gone down really well, thankfully, so I’m just kind of in relief I guess is the feeling. But it’s exciting playing some new songs and we’re already writing again so I’m sure we’ll run this campaign and then maybe start something else.

What’s your favourite song to play live from it?
I… I don’t know, I quite like them all at the minute! ‘Bleak Conscience’ is fun, ‘No Show’ is always good, it’s one of my favourites to play because I lose my shit every time I play it. My finger’s still numb from it, it happened on day 1. Day 1 of the tour I fucked my finger, it’s just been dead since then.

What’s it been like playing with Happy Accidents?
They’re great, really they’re just such a happy and fun band, they’re really good to just have around camp anyway and aside from their performances, they’re really good people to have around. They’re just fun, all the time, and as a band they’re the perfect band to go on before us and to play a support set.

You had a sold-out show at London last night and this morning you retweeted and talked about Safe Gigs For Women, why is it so important to you to have them at your gigs?
I met the ladies from Safe Gigs For Women a fair while back and I just agree with them, I completely agree with everything they stand for and I think it’s crucial, gigs need to be safe spaces for anyone. I think I was quite naive to it but after talking more with Tracy from Safe Gigs and hearing what actually goes on, it was a no-brainer and now I want to support them any way I can. Of the five shows, they’re at four, and they would have been at Nottingham if they could have got someone.

Was it not really something you thought about before you met them?
No, not at all. You just assumed that people aren’t dickheads, don’t you, and sometimes you find out people are. Every now and then it turns out people are. I guess it comes with certain clientele but it’s something I’m working with those guys on to eradicate from my gigs, hopefully, other people will follow suit and we can finally have an actual safe space for people and have a decent culture of human beings.

Literally, the last thing you expect is a groping at a gig!
It’s unfathomable, if you’re a half decent person then its pretty hard to imagine it but they’re needed and thank fuck they’re here, thank fuck we’ve got them, they’re good people.

You’ve said at various points this year that in 2016 you were very close to quitting music, what was prompting that, and what’s changed since then?
There’s a whole load of things, when you sign up to start doing this sort of job nobody gives you a description of what it’s actually like: it’s a lot of time away from home, you have no money but when you put everything in songs it’s emotionally draining and I just wasn’t in a very good place. This year, January, I just decided to take a more positive outlook on everything and as a result, things started falling into place, ended up signing a deal, one thing led to another and here we are!

Listen to Seán’s single ‘No Show’ below:

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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