Going for bold
Tonight Inverness Ironworks; Dec 17 Aberdeen Beach Promenade; Dec 18 Edinburgh Queen’s Hall; Dec 20 Glasgow Barrowland; Dec 31 Edinburgh Street Party
What a year it’s been for Stephanie Cheape. Twelve months ago the Hamilton frontwoman and her band opened the Scottish Music Awards, wowing punters and industry bods with their strident, metalglinting, electro-pop. Now they’ve been announced as getting Edinburgh’s Street Party started on Hogmanay.
In 2018 the flame-haired 25-yearold built up her fanbase at TRNSMT, Belladrum and Party At The Palace, raised the rafters at Glasgow’s King Tut’s and opened for Bryan Ferry at the city’s Kelvingrove Bandstand. The Roxy Music legend signalled his appreciation in style – of course.
“He sent a bottle of Dom Perignon to my dressing room,” says Cheape, taking respite from the pre-Christmas bustle in a Glasgow eaterie.
“He was amazing to open for, a proper showman and I was absolutely in shock that he had been so lovely to me.
“It’s great that a world-famous star can be all open arms about this Scottish girl who has just popped on the scene.”
High-profile support slots have followed, most recently with wild English blues boy Barns Courtney last month.
This week Cheape and her band – “my best friends in the world” Jonny Queen, Garry Aird and Don Wilson – support reformed 1980s Scots popsters Hipsway as they tour in support of Smoke & Dreams, their first album in more than 30 years. The dates include the Barrowlands, where Cheape saw the
likes of Hard-Fi and Enter Shikari as a teenager. “I was probably 15 and shouldn’t have been there,” she says. “Growing up going to gigs you wonder if you might play there sometime. We’ve played some amazing venues, and every time I think it can’t get any better, it does. We want to focus on putting on a great show and hope that everyone else has an amazing time too.”
The tour with Courtney coincided with debut single Blood Sweat And Fear, released on her own label Bold As The Boys. Based on a song written when she was 16, Cheape reworked the track into an arenasized banger with Twin Atlantic’s Sam McTrusty and Ross McNae, co-writers and producers who’ve been working with the band for much of the year.
Cheape says the results are “even bolder”; a dark twist on pop tethered to crunchy, metalinfluenced dynamics. Observers may be put in mind of the huge electro fizz of CHVRCHES, the subterranean sass of Garbage, even a touch of Jess Glynne’s defiant pop. Cheape is out to make her mark as her own woman, however.
Whereas Blood Sweat And Fear tells of a young singer desperate “to do anything to get on TV”, forthcoming tracks such as live belter Here I Am delve deeper into the “ugliness of a lot of the music industry and the ugliness of a lot of modern life”.
“Bold as the boys” is a credo, not just a name for Cheape’s label. The issues she wants to raise are less about individuals and more about the unspoken rules, expectations and judgements we make about men and women, she says.
“I work with a lot of amazing men but it is a very maledominated industry,” says Cheape. “Female artists are told we have to be in a certain mould and are continually being compared to someone else. I didn’t want to fit the mould, or say yes to everything.”
She adds: “If a guy goes on stage and starts crowd-surfing, he’s a rock star, but a girl doing that gets tarnished with something more negative. I want to eradicate that.”