“The bigger the stage, the better it is. For me, as a vocalist, I see the stage as a playground. So, the bigger the stage, the more fun I have.” So says Anastasia ‘Stars’ Walker.
For Bang Bang Romeo the stages will soon be truly massive, some of the biggest in the UK. Supporting Pink on her Beautiful Trauma Tour, they’ll be gracing venues such as Wembley Stadium, Glasgow’s Hampden Park, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, and Liverpool’s citadel of football, Anfield. “I’m dead excited about that. And Ross (Cameron, guitar) is a massive Liverpool fan. Crazy!”
Today, however, it’s just another day at the office, the hard working band fitting in two shows. Later they’ll be driving to Sheffield’s Don Valley Bowl, for MosFest, a fundraiser to support homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield. But now, at 11am, the band have just arrived in York, for York Pride. This annual celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is also organised by a charity and run by volunteers, and it’s something that is very close to Stars’ heart, as a gay woman, in an openly gay relationship. But even with Pink on her mind, she is excited about the prospect of meeting Gareth Gates, who was also due to perform. “Child Anastasia is trying to hold back the tears,” she says. “I just want to go and meet him. I’m going to creep around…”
The Doncaster band even have their own Pride, a fact that surprises me when told of this. “Yeah, I think Doncaster was the first ever Pride in Yorkshire.” That strikes me as unlikely, I say. “I know! It was so unlikely, I think that is the beauty of it. It’s why it had to be done, and why the organisers did it. It desparately needed it and now it’s amazing. You get thousands and thousands of people every year.”
Have things changed for the better with respect to diversity, do you think? “Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to give people no choice but to accept it, and that goes for allegiances with the straight community, and the gay community. If we all stand together, and support each other, it works. I think that’s what has happened in Doncaster. But, because it’s Pride month in Doncaster, I’m seeing a lot more things in the media that are infuriating me, and making me realise why we’ve still got Prides’. But Doncaster is rolling with the times, which is really nice. I’ve never been subject to hate crimes in Doncaster, so I’m very lucky. Doncaster as a town is growing, and it’s really exciting to watch.”
Fronted by vocal powerhouse Anastasia Walker, Bang Bang Romeo are a very tight three-piece that also includes Ross Cameron on guitar, and Richard Gartland on drums. It’s been a long journey, but their endeavours are bearing some ripe fruit. Not only are they about to tour with Pink, but their debut album will be with us very soon, despite a delay. “We haven’t got a specific date yet, we just know it’s going to be after the Pink tour. We’re perfectionists! There’s a few things we need to change. It’ll be worth it!”
The album was originally slated for release to coincide with the Pink tour. But you don’t sound disappointed? “No, we’ve sat on this album for a long time. With it being our debut album, these are songs that we’ve carried with us from the start. We’ve got about four albums worth of material that we’re sitting on as well, but this being our debut, it’s our baby, and we just want everyone to meet it!” she laughs that great big hearty laugh of hers. “At the same time, we just want to make sure that they are listening to the final product that we want them to hear. It will be worth it. Promise!”
If past songs are anything to go by, such as the electrifying brace of ‘Shame on You’ and ‘Chemical’, Bang Bang Romeo are about to deliver a stunning debut album, full of the passion, power and energy that they have become known for, both on stage, and on record. “There’s brand new tracks that no one has heard. The album was recorded in so many places between here and the US: New York, LA, London, Birmingham, Doncaster. New York and Doncaster! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it! Yeah, both have their shit holes. Who’s the real winner here!” Stars laughs. “The title of the album (A Heart Breakers Guide To The Galaxy) is based on a song we’ve got called ‘Natural Born Astronaut’. And visually, we’ve put just as much effort into that as we have with the music. We really wanted to take it back to the day when you got a piece of music and you got a piece of art with it. So, we’ve created this universe and we’ve transformed each song into a place. Each song has it’s own artwork, and its own planet. Whenever we write songs, we say this song sounds like, you know, a foggy water with a red light. It sets the scene. We are really into soundtracks, so we’ve tried to create this galaxy, this universe. So, for songs people have already heard, they are going to be able to see what the song looks like, which is pretty cool.”
The band first formed around Stars and Ross in 2010, when they met at a festival they were performing at. “We’ve been writing since then. Pretty soon after we met, the acoustic guitar came out. Then we started to take it seriously about four years ago, to be a career rather than a hobby, and we put the band into fifth gear.”
Both Stars and Ross write the songs, their songwriting partnership the absolute key to their ongoing development as artists and performers. “We know what each other is thinking, which is pretty cool. Ross will write a song separately, or I will, or the bones of a song, and we’ll bring it to each other and say, ‘I’ve written this song, I really believe in it’, and we’ll both work on it together. We’ve got a really good relationship when it comes to songwriting. The rest, he’s an absolute arsehole, but as a songwriter he’s a really nice guy!” before exploding another of those infectious laughs. “I’m sat right next to him now! He’s like a big brother to me. And that comes out in our songwriting, the love and passion we have for each other as a band. We’re very good at writing about it.”
What do you write about? “We tend to write about love and death. Only the light shit, Jeff!” she laughs. “Passionate songs. You know, you’re passionately loving someone, or passionately hating them, and wishing the worst on them. My songs are like diary entries. A lot of the songs I write are based on what has happened in my life, love interest, and family affairs. Ross tends to write stories, and really paints a picture. We’d love to write screenplays. There’s a song that is called ‘Over My Dead Body’, which is going to be on the album, and which Ross wrote, and which is about a western bar fight. It’s very Tarantino, very Westworld as well. So, yeah, stories and diary entries.”
I’ve heard that you’re big Tarantino fans, and the music that often accompanies his films. “Yeah, we’re huge fans of film soundtracks. We’re huge Tarantino fans. And Tim Burton.”
I just saw a trailer for Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, I say to Stars. “Yeah, can’t wait! We’ll end up going to see that together!”
Do you see songwriting as a form of therapy, as lots of songwriters do? “Totally. Being on stage is therapy. I often say to my Dad, ‘I’ve got a therapy session this weekend’. You get all your frustrations out in your writing. They come out at three ’o clock in the morning sometimes, which is really kind of them. Then you wake up, piss the missus off, turn your phone on, and hum a melody into it. I’ve got so many recordings of (Stars hums a typical melody), which is both pretty cool and annoying. It’s a curse!”
I suppose it depends on how good the melody is, I say. “You wake up the next day, and you’re like ‘that’s shite! I’m not recording that’. But sometimes you wake up and you’re like ‘Yeah, that’s worth working on’.”
Before they head out on tour with Pink, they’ll be visiting the Isle of Wight festival once again, for the fourth consecutive year. The festival organiser John Giddings, is now Bang Bang Romeo’s agent, so while it’s not such a surprise they get asked back every year. the festival did provide a key moment for the band when they were practical unknowns. “We were very lucky,” says Stars. “This Feeling, which was created by someone called Mikey Jonns, and is an amazing club night for up and coming bands, gave us a chance on the This Feeling Stage. And very luckily The Mirror were there, unbeknown to us, and gave us an incredible write up. It was quite bizarre really. It said ‘Fleetwood, Mac, Blur, and Bang Bang Romeo have stormed the Isle of Wight’. Obviously, we were just this band on this tiny stage at 1pm, so we were blown away. John Giddings, who became our agent, saw it, and fell in love with it, too. Now, it’s the back garden for us! We know where all the shaded areas are.”
That show, however, will be but the hors d’oeuvre before the main course. No show with Pink will be smaller than 55,000, with the biggest being, according to Stars, 97,500. How on earth did that happen!? “We were playing a show at The Social in London. And again, unbeknown to us and our team that were there, Pink’s agent came in. It was probably a good thing that we didn’t know she was there. She threw our hat into the ring for the Pink tour, as one of the supports. We were like, ‘this is amazing, but this is where it’s probably going to end’. But how amazing is it to be given that opportunity. How many bands get to do that? So, we saw that as a win anyway. But then we got the phone call, and that Pink had actually picked us. I’m a huge Pink fan as well. I’ve grown up learning and listening to her. She was different to other pop stars. Her songs are so fucking good. We knew there would be a London show, we thought maybe the O2, and then when they said, ‘no, it’s Wembley’, we were thinking Wembley Arena. ‘No, no, no. The stadium’. What!? ‘Yeah, two nights in a row. My manager is called Guy, and I was like ‘fuck off, Guy. Stop pulling my arms, Guy’! He wasn’t at all. So, yeah, ever since then we’ve been rehearsing, prepping, and learning new experiences of what it is like to be a proper band!
“I hope it has a domino effect on the music industry, in terms of other acts, who are Pink’s legendary size, who will take a leaf out of her book. It’s not very often that you see an act of Pink’s size, with an act you’ve never heard of. It’s normally someone you are aware of. It’s one of the only ways that new music’s going to break through the barriers, these known artists giving unknown artists a platform, a golden ticket. I’m just so happy she liked us, and we had worked hard to be in the right place, at the right time. That wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t adamant on gigging across the country constantly. So, really proud.”
As a band, they have every right to be proud. There is also no doubt a growing confidence in the ranks. Obviously, being asked by Pink to come on tour with her can only be read as a huge confirmation of their talents. But, it seems that Bang Bang Romeo refuse to let it go to their heads. As Stars says about their recent The Great Escape show in Brighton: “We were on at the same time as Friendly Fires, Foals, and Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, and we were in a 500 capacity venue on the beach, and we thought there would be no fuckers there. But we walked on stage, and it was beyond capacity, absolutely rammed. We’re very grounded, we do not blow our own trumpet, we don’t believe our own hype. We just enjoy ourselves. That’s our rules of thumb, really. But when you do shows like that, the penny kinda drops, and you are allowed to think, ‘this is actually going well’.
“And then it’s back to work!”