The last twelve months have been non-stop for Doncaster pop-rock band Bang Bang Romeo with sold-out UK tours sitting either side of a UK stadium tour opening for P!nk. Well, to finish the year off the band are finally dropping their long-awaited debut album A Heartbreakers Guide to the Galaxy so we spoke to vocalist Anastasia "Stars" Walker about the last twelve months, role models and much more.
Thanks for your time, it's a pretty exciting period for the band now the album is finally coming out... Stars: Yeah, we've wanted this album out for a while now and now we can finally give it to the fans and show them what we've been upto in the studio. I think it was supposed to come out in the Summer but then the P!nk tour came up so we had to concentrate on those shows and get some singles out. We had a few more finishing touches to the album after that and, as we're perfectionists, we had to sort those out. It made sense to do it in conjunction with the headline tour and it all feels right.
Was it frustrating having to put the release of the album back? Stars: Not frustrating as such because so many amazing things were happening and we were being given some amazing opportunities but we're really proud of the songs and we just want fans to hear them and now they finally can.
Going onto the album then, what's the story behind the title ? Stars: The title stems from the song "Natural Born Astronauts". In fact the whole theme of the album stems from that. We were in the rehearsal room one night and kind of just fell in love with the vibe of the whole space theme and it kind of just made sense. It felt like the title of the album and the theme just belonged together you know? We had a few different ideas for titles but that one was the majority decision on that and then the artwork followed and the whole album just ended up being built around that movie/space vibe which we're mad about.
And here's the movie/space inspired artwork for A Heartbreakers Guide To The Galaxy in all its glory:
There are tracks on the album like "Adore Me" which come from a personal angle. Is that the case with a lot of your lyrics ? Stars: Oh yeah, a lot of the songs stem from diary entries if you like. We tend to write about movie soundtracks and storylines within films then there are the songs that are from a deeper place inside ourselves that we are baring ourselves for people to see, hearts on sleeves and "Adore Me" is one of them.
What do you get out of writing, as you put it, diary entries, and putting them out in the public ? Stars: I think in this day and age with social media your personal life is pretty much online anyway so, when it comes to putting out songs that are personal to you and come from a deeper place that you might not show people it's not really an unusual things to do. I also think that, as a musician, you've got bare those feelings for people to see. If they're going to see the real you and get to understand how the band tick then you've got to be very honest with your writing and we'll always be honest with our writing and let fans step into our lives for however many minutes a particular song might be.
You've been very open about your sexuality. Given the profile of the band is raising, are you prepared for the fact that people are going to be just as interested in you as a person as much as they are in the band ? Stars: If people are going to be interested in my life then that's fine isn't it? They might find that, when I come off stage, that I'm actually quite boring. I come offstage and I'm a Netflix and Chill kind of girl but actual chill you know? With a cup of tea [laughs]. It's part and parcel of the game really isn't it? If you're going to be so honest in your writing then people are going to be interested so, if they're interested in my personal life then so be it. When it comes to my beliefs, my religious beliefs, my political beliefs, I'm very open about that stuff, in fact I'm quite mouthy and I like everyone to know what I think [laughs]. I'm alright with it.
Listen to Bang Bang Romeo getting personal on "Adore Me":
Do you think enough is done to help musicians cope with the extreme interest in their sexuality or their mental health issues ? Stars: I think we're in an age where it just demands it. With social media everyone has an opinion, you don't just get abuse from walking down the street, you can get abuse online, you can be abused in so many different ways. I think it's right now that musicians have to be a little more outspoken because there are more ways of getting access to them now. Personally, with the LGBTQ community, I'm at a very good stage in the world. I'm not stupid to think that people back in the '80s would have had a much harder time if they were an open gay women than I do but in so many ways the world is also going backwards so I think it's definitely very important for musicians to be open and inspire.
In a recent interview you said growing up in Doncaster as a gay woman was very difficult. What advice would you give someone going through a similar period in their life ? Stars: The thing about growing up as a gay man or woman in the town where I came from, there was a lack of role models and I don't think that has anything to do with Doncaster in particular, I just don't think there were any role models for me growing up. My advice to people growing up in a town like I did, is to go online, there are so many people and groups and communities waiting with open arms to speak to now. I think more and more towns are becoming more accepting. For me, Doncaster Pride was, to me, one of the best in the country given that it's in a town that, for me, had no gay role models. Seeing half the town getting behind it was amazing. Go online, meet new communities, they are there with open arms and don't be afraid to be you.
Have people's attitudes changed to you given your success ? Stars: No, I think they still think I'm a bit of a knob [laughs]. I don't think so, I surround myself with such a strong group of friends that keep me grounded. I don't surround myself with negative people, I try not to anyway. To the people around my I haven't changed and they haven't changed. They still want free t-shirts and shit! Nothing changes.
As your profile increases, how difficult will it be to maintain that connection with fans who use you as a role model ? Stars: We were talking about this the other day and how much we speak to our fans online. It's a wonderful thing that we can do that but it's also that bitterseet thing that where the online fanbase is growing and growing and it's becoming harder to manage but we're never going to stop interacting with our fans and we hope they won't stop interacting with us. It was only a year ago where we could reply to everyone but now it's nowhere near that but we try to reply to as many as we can. I put up something online on International Lesbian Day, and I think that it's hilarious that there is a day for lesbians, that, if they're struggling with coming out or their feelings to drop me an inbox and they absolutely did. I became an agony aunt to about 500 women across the world.
Despite all of this attention, you always look shocked when you walk out onstage to a sold out room? Stars: It more like wow, look at all these wonderful faces. We've got to the point where we believe in ourselves enough to know where certain places are going to sell out. Leeds was a wonderful place to walk out and see 350 people there staring back with big smiles. That's a really cool thing and it really filled my heart up, it's wonderful seeing such lovely, wonderful, loyal fans and I'll always be shocked and surprised and happy because it keeps my feet on the ground.
You've just put out a new single, "Love Yourself", which features Example, how did that collaboration come about ? Stars: It's random as fuck innit [laughs]! We met Example at a This Feeling TV shoot. This Feeling is a massive UK promoter who has supported us for a very long time. We were playing live for the show and Example was being interviewed for it. Mikey, the creator of This Feeling, introduced us both and we hit it off immediately. He was just a really cool guy and it made sense that we would love to write with this guy. He felt the same way about us and it was organised within a couple of weeks to work together. When it came to the writing, it came about as natural as it comes really. We had the song for a while but we didn't know how to incorporate this chorus Ross had in his brain somewhere and Elliot came out with all these verses and our jaws dropped because it was so effortless but meant so much to us and within a couple of hours the song was there. The message in the song is something we all feel strongly about. We dig deep into our own personal experiences whether it be our partners, or friends who don't maybe love themselves as much and the trick is that, if you can love yourself you can love others much stronger and be happier as a person by showing yourself a little more love than you already are doing.
Here is Bang Bang Romeo’s recent single “Love Yourself” (ft. Example):
Great, that wraps it up then, thanks for your time, just to finish what are you looking forward to in 2020 ? Stars: We're looking forward to getting out and touring now the album is out. The tours are getting bigger, the fanbase is growing so we can't wait... and we have a couple of surprises up our sleeves but you'll just have to wait and see.