State of the Nation Playlist: UK-based French punk cellist Loose T. talks Brexit & shares her soundtrack for our times

Loose T. is the punk alter-ego of French cellist, writer and activist Lucie Trémolières. Having lived and worked in London and Edinburgh for the past eight years and witnessed the events leading up to the country’s separation from the EU, she’s sharpened her bow and fashioned a riot-grrrl inspired middle finger to the whole shitshow.

Released on the final day of the transition period via not for profit label Pear O’Legs, ‘Brexit’ spits vitriol at the entire debacle over effects-laden strings – it’s available via Bandcamp here.

We caught up with Loose T. about Brexit, Scottish independence and hope in the darkness, and asked her for a playlist of songs to soundtrack our times.

Your new single is titled ‘Brexit’ – I get the slightest impression from it that you may not be a big fan.  What are some of your biggest concerns about this massive change to the relationship between the UK and our nearest neighbours?
What gave it away? Is it the “I wish I could puke in your face”? I am not a big fan indeed. I’m not too worried about the EU, even if it’s a tough blow on that side of the Channel as well. I’m much more worried about the UK, both the “U” and the “K”, though I don’t really care about the “K” that much. There’s a big danger that Britain will be even more inward-looking, dreaming up exceptionalism instead of open-mindedness and curiosity. Britain is having a huge identity crisis, and even though I don’t think that there will be a war, it’s good remembering that peace on European soil has never lasted very long historically – and I’m of course including British and Irish soil when I say that – so I keep an eye on that.

Amongst the five-mile lorry queues and boatloads of rotting fish, another story that has made the headlines recently has been the UK government’s refusal to agree to a reciprocal ‘musician’s passport’.  What effect might this have for bands, venues and music fans on both sides of the channel?
We’d have to start being able to perform first!! And I’m hopeful that by the time we can have crowds getting drunk and shouting and dancing in one room, we can have some sort of deal that makes touring possible. I just hope that it’s not going to be a two-tier system where the biggest stars have it very easy but it’s much harder for everyone else. In the meantime, there’s this lovely feeling that you can be a fan in Shetland and a fan right outside Wembley Stadium and you have the same access to your favourite artist. 

How has it been living in the UK as an EU national during this time?
I created a punk persona to deal with my anger – so pretty positive overall! When life gives you lemons, throw them at the Tories.

What has the reaction been back in France now that Brexit has finally hapened?
Honestly, we have coronavirus, an insanely brutal police force, rising Islamophobia, a government that’s completely out of touch, climate breakdown, and about a thousand problems to deal with so I’m afraid the reaction was a sort of indifferent relief. We have a strong love/hate relationship with the English (totally mutual, I know, and it’s love/love for the Scots and Irish <3) so obviously there were a few jokes about it. To be honest, unless you’re British in France, or have a particular link with Britain, you’re unlikely to care much. It’s like your house in on fire and you realise one of the candles is not burning anymore – phew. 

One of the unintended consequences, from the government’s point of view, has been a surge in support for independence in Scotland and Wales, and the possible reunification of Ireland.  Having lived in both London and Edinburgh, what are your thoughts on Scotland potentially leaving the UK and rejoining the EU as an independent nation? 
‘Auld Lang Syne’ sounded great in the European Parliament.

Let’s try to end things on a positive note. The defeat of Donald Trump and the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the US gives a glimmer of hope for the future after four years in which we’ve seen divisive right-wing politics on the rise across much of the globe.  Are we right to think that a corner has been turned, and what impact do you think the election result may have outisde of the United States?
I don’t think it makes that big a difference. The fascists are still here and all the systems that allowed them to have power are still here.  What makes me hopeful in the US is The Squad (the “radical” left), who will pressure Biden into being serious about the climate crisis and all the related issues (women’s rights and anti-racism especially) – it’s going to be the fight of our times and it’s good to know that these people won’t bulge. One good thing that’s come out of Trump, I think, is that Western democracies can’t be so self-righteous anymore. And that’s five hundred years of pretty problematic history (slowly) being turned.

We asked Loose T. for ten songs to soundtrack our times.

1. Lost in the Supermarket – The Clash
So. Relevant. Also, punk can have good lyrics.

2. S.O.S Mother Nature –
“The planet’s gonna die cause of bullshit politics” is, hopefully, a line that will not age well, but for now it just hasn’t aged at all since 2007.  The “current state of society and politics” is in total denial but I think the science is clear that this is the most important issue of our times.

3. People, I’ve been Sad – Christine and The Queens
I’m hoping that one thing we’ve realised this year is that we are a society. We depend on each other, and that’s a good thing. That’s what I understand from the lyrics “If you fall apart, then I’m falling behind you.” but as always with Christine and the Queens, you take what heals you from their songs – and we need shitloads of healing.

4. Exister – Iam
I had to put a French song in there. IAM is the first rap band to release an album in French in the 90s. They’re especially good at being both hopeful and very lucid about the state of the world. One line I love in this song is “Il y a tellement de révoltes mieux que celle de brûler un pneu” (“there are so many better revolts than setting a tire on fire”). I often ask myself now: is this better than setting a tire on fire? And if it is, I think it’s worth it. 

5. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
Who said the revolution had to be without a smile and a wig?

6. Seuls et Vaincus – Gaël Faye
The lyrics are a poem written by one of the most inspiring French politicians alive, Christiane Taubira. It’s called “Alone and Beaten” and it’s addressed to racists, who will die alone and beaten, for love and tenderness are stronger than their hatred. It sounds cheesy when I say it but you should have a listen. I am very hopeful for the next social movements, because for the first time in history, we are not hypocritical when we say “universal” (or at least some of us try very hard). It’s not even that the current movements are inclusive, it’s that they are led by minorities and womxn, people who have historically ended up being left out of the gains of social movements, and that makes huge difference.

7. Know Your Rights – The Clash
Loose T. is a pretty big Clash fan as you can see. I want to quote the whole song because it’s so relevant and good, but I suggest you listen to it very loud and shout it in your bedroom. And then shout it again and again and again and then tattoo the lyrics on your forehead.

8. Longing – James Patrick Gavin
For Irish fiddle fans, the whole album is worth listening to, but this one particularly resonates with me, especially when we are stuck in our houses, only talking to screens, far from family and the sea. Again, an ode to the healing power of music and poetry.
“I long to be in a place where ye are greeted with a smile, where every face has poise, and grace, and time to chat a while.”

9. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
Cause, you know. All you need is love. Also, bit of a French anthem in a very British song, probably does more for friendship between nations than shouting about Brexit, right?

10. All Will Be Well – The Gabe Dixon Band
I’m not sure what this song’s about, I think potentially a break up? The lyrics are quite confusing but I love the feeling of it.
“All will be well, even though sometimes this is hard to tell, and the fight is just as frustrating as hell, all will be well”.

Interview by Paul Maps

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