20 Qs with BAXTR: “We write about our experiences and we’re not being afraid to share that”
Words by Tom Farmer- @tomfarmer5000 @TomFarmerJourno
“20 questions” is a feature where writer Tom Farmer touches on 20 topics with some of the UK and Ireland’s most promising new acts. It’s a bit like Vogue’s 100 questions, but a lot shorter and a fair bit less glamorous. May contain strong language and shit banter.
In the week of International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day and a week of female strength in the face of adversity, chatting to BAXTR was a poignant coincidence. After only their first release in June 2020, the three-piece have already gained radio plays with their 90s-sounding, hugely likeable pop-rock anthems. Their most recent release “Grace On Fire” tackles the issue of depression, both in as a sufferer and as an on-looker, and is out now.
With wonderfully-elaborate fake names and blurred faces, the band give the impression of being either being under witness protection or being on the Masked Singer. Despite this mystique and mysteriousness, “Floss”, “Keiko” and “Bash” were riotously thoughtful, if such a thing is possible- with deep conversations about moral issues such as the “feet for hands or hands for feet” debate. Despite the former debate not making the edit, we chatted about defining “nerd rock”, whether “Rocky Horror Show” is a suitable lullaby for a two year old and a particularly bizarre story involving the sole of a trainer and a kitchen surface.
TF: What’s the idea behind the name “BAXTR”?
Keiko: Have you seen the film "Anchorman"? It’s a film we’ve watched many times…
Floss: Too many times!
Keiko: If you know the film, you will know how we got our name.
Floss: I also like to say that BAXTR is an acronym for things, such as “Band Abroad Xenoblastic Travelling Rock”. You can make one up if you like, throw people off the scent!
Bash: It can be whatever you want it to be!
TF: I think “X” might be a bit of a problem there. How would YOU describe your sound?
Floss: I'd say it's a blend of all the things we love individually. And the synergy of that creates the BAXTR sound, which exists somewhere in between 80s pop anthems and late 90s nerd rock. There's sprinkles of other stuff in there, but I'd say that it's sort of loiters between those two.
Bash: I think it's not just a sound, but a whole field and a whole vibe. It’s to do with everything you see, touch and smell. Everything that goes into BAXTR makes it how it is.
Floss: It’s a world, Tom, that we want the listener to come into!
TF: You used a phrase called “Nerd Rock”. What do you mean by that?
Floss: I love bands like Weezer, Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, that kind of thing. So just from a songwriting point of view, I really aspire to write those kinds of strong pop-rock songs. Also, and I hope the other two don’t mind me saying, but we are all massive nerds. So we've got some Dungeons and Dragons going on. We've got some board games, we've got some Cosplay, comics. So it’s really the fact that we’re nerds and play rock makes it “nerd rock”.
“BAXTR’S a world that we want the listener to come into!
TF: You formed a band in 2020! How did that come about?
Keiko: Well, we've been friends for a while and always flirted with the idea of being in a band. And it was just before lockdown that I messaged the other two just to say “you alright?” and see if they're okay. Reignite that friendship back a little bit, which I think everyone did going into lockdown.
Bash: It was welcome- really welcome!
TF: Is it true that you haven’t actually been in the same room since starting the band?
Floss: We finally did it last weekend Tom! We did it all safely! There were tears, hugs, obviously a bit of Rock ‘n’ Roll with some Prosecco. It was very emotional in the best possible way and we got together to record what we hope to be our next single.
Bash: There were a lot of random things too! I feel we make more sounds when we’re together.
Floss: We just squeal when we’re together. It’s like travelling with a zoo.
TF: Yep, I’m starting to get that vibe.
Bash: Oh this is nothing!
Have you got any unlikely influences- someone that I wouldn’t think you would turn to?
Floss: I love Aerosmith. I don’t think you hear that in our music.
Bash: One of my biggest influences is Bruce Springsteen. I've got a shrine to him all over my body. Everything that influenced me is somewhere in BAXTR, even though you wouldn't quite necessarily hear it.
Keiko: I would say Michael Jackson, but maybe you could hear that. Bowie is our guide, of course!
Floss: Lots of artistic inspirations too. I’m quite influenced by Japanese culture, so our colour pallet comes partly from Japanese kids comics.
TF: If one person slid into your DMs and said that they liked your new single, who would you want that to be?
Bash: Joan Jett. If that happened, I wouldn’t exist anymore- just be a puddle of Bash on the floor. She’s a heroine of mine and paved the way in my opinion. Also Dave Grohl.
Floss: Oh yeah, come on.
Keiko: Yeah, I would have to say Dave Grohl.
Floss: When I was a kid, I had a shrine to Dave Grohl in my bedroom. I tried to stay home from school on his birthday, trying to convince my parents that it was like a public holiday. Didn’t work though.
I might regret asking this question, but what’s the wildest night out you’ve ever had?
Floss: I don’t think that we’re allowed to say!
Keiko: Yep, I think we have a good night-in story for you. I don’t even know what happened, but I wanted to clean my trainers because I had been running and they were really muddy. I just thought I could put them in the washing machine, but when I did that part of the sole came off! We ended up having a nice night in after with some adult drinks involved, and we all thought “let’s all fix the shoe!”. So we put some superglue on the bottom of the sole and put it on the kitchen top to let it dry. We basically ended up sticking the trainer to the actual kitchen.
Bash: We didn't get our deposit back, either.
Floss: I'd like to add that when we moved in, it was the most immaculate house belonging to an elderly couple. I’d like to think it probably added some value to the house to have that rock and roll trainer. There will be a blue plaque there soon!
TF: A couple more serious questions now. Your latest single “Grace On Fire” is a moving track about trying to help “Grace”, your friend with mental health issues. Did you have any moral dilemmas about writing a song about someone else’s mental health?
Floss: No because, to be honest with you, it's also writing about my own mental health. I’ve been both “Grace” and the person singing the song. So yeah, I feel like I’m not speaking or singing out of turn, because it's from my experience.
Bash: I think anyone that has the ability to pick up your device and listen to Spotify would have been through the same as well. Everybody’s either been “Grace” or on the other side of the song. I think it speaks to a lot of people.
As an all-female band in (unfortunately) such a male-dominated industry, have you found that this has been a barrier to your development?
Floss: We were lucky that we found ourselves a part of a DIY community that are really supportive of women, trans and non-binary people making music. But I'm sure that, between us, we all have stories of not so good experiences.
Bash: Oh yeah, we’ve all had not-so-nice experiences. It's been very tough. But as BAXTR, I don’t think we have had any.
Floss: At this time, I don't feel there to be a barrier now. But that's not to say that there won’t be in the future.
Do you feel an obligation, as an all-female band, to speak about certain subjects or issues?
Floss: As a writer, I certainly feel a responsibility to speak about things, topics and situations that are relevant and hold weight. That is not necessarily because I'm a woman, just because I want our art to be meaningful.
Bash: Anything we speak about doesn't feel like an obligation. We write about what we feel so it's just a natural thing,
Keiko: We write about our experiences and we’re not being afraid to share that. When you're being authentic, it always speaks to other people. It's all about connecting with other people in the internet.
Floss: If we're writing about addiction, self-image and catcalling, why should that just be associated with women?
Bash: We are not only talking to women; we’re talking to everybody to make everybody more aware. Excluding anyone is the last thing we would ever want to do.
“Let the music come first, let the music speak first”
If you could support one band on tour, who would you choose?
Keiko: I'm gonna say Foo Fighters.
Bash: Ok, so you’ve taken my choice there! I’m sorry if this disappoints the rock world, but I want to be on board with Katy Perry.
Keiko: If you book it, I’ll come!
Bash: Springsteen’s getting a bit old now, but if he does another tour, we’ll go with him. If not, Katie Perry.
Floss: I'm going to go with Weezer just because they're like my childhood favourites.
What’s the idea around the blurred out faces, like you’re on the Masked Singer?
Floss: It stems from the fact that we were all edging into this new experience of being a band and not being able to see each other. It was a way to be able to edge into reality from Dreamspace gently and let the music come first, let the music speak first. Plus the fact that we all love a bit of Mystique and mystery. As you know, we’re three nerds who enjoy fantasy. There’s a gentle narrative underpinning the whole project. More of that will become clearer as, as the months go by.
Bash: I think it will become clearer to us too, as well as you!
Would you rather have hands for feet or feet for hands?
Keiko: Oh, definitely hands for feet!
Floss: Imagine the riffs Bash!
Bash: 1000%! I could play four guitars at once!
What’s the first song you fell in love with as a kid?
Bash: I started watching “Rocky Horror Picture Show” from the age of two. It was the only thing that would make me go to sleep. At the time, I didn't understand it but I watched it again when I was 16 and thought “Whoa, I can't believe I was allowed to watch this!”. But all of the music if that is the first music I ever heard in my life and I hold dear to my heart.
Floss: I can’t believe you would fall asleep to that, that’s so crazy!
Keiko: For me, just Michael Jackson. I’m a bit obsessed, to be honest.
Floss: I watched all the Beatles movies when I was a kid and I could not comprehend the fact that Paul was too old for me. I used to think “well, he’s 20 in these films and I’m 10 so there’s still a chance”. As BAXTR gets bigger, perhaps my chances are increasing. Anyway, my tastes have changed.
TF: Back to the question?
Floss: Oh yeah, well I was watching “Help” and “Hide your love away” just did something to me as a kid. It moved me and it was the first song I'd heard that wasn't gimmicky or like a pop song. It just resonated with me.
What’s the last song you listened to before speaking to me today?
Keiko: Obviously “Grace on Fire”.
Floss: Obviously mine was as well! Apart from that, “Diamond dogs” by David Bowie.
Bash: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. I was in the car and the riff came on, so I just started head-banging.
If you could bring one musician, past or present, to turn BAXTR into a four-piece, who would you choose?
Bash: Gotta be Dave (Grohl, as aforementioned). Dave can do anything. And we know he looks good dressed up as a woman, from the music videos.
Floss: I’m taking this far too seriously! We need to find someone to play bass. I love Gail Ann Dorsey, David Bowie’s bassist. She played and sang on “Under Pressure” live and that had me in puddles. Paul McCartney if he’s available?
Keiko: Sorry if this offends anyone, but I feel like his ego would be huge. I don’t want to deal with that.
Floss: After a night out with us, we would sort him out.
What’s next for you?
Floss: Release, release, release, release until we’re blue in the…nose. We've got another single coming out hopefully later in April. We can't say too much about what the plans for that are and what’s going on around it. But we’re taking things one step at a time because we’re DIY with no label, no management, no publisher, none of that. We’re relying on our lovely friends to produce the tracks in the time they’re available. We’re not sat on mountains of money so we’re doing what we can.
Bash: We also have to juggle the band amongst our daily lives, but BAXTR is definitely our priority.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Floss: it would be nice to imagine that we're still in full control of all the creative processes of our career. At the moment, we do everything: we design the images, manage our socials, write all the material and obviously record it. And so whatever happens, I'd love for that to still be the case. And for us to have a really hands on approach. My dream is to tour the world with this and reach as many hearts and minds with this band. So yeah, if we've done that, I would be very, very happy.
Bash: I will second that.
Keiko: I will third that.
What’s one lesson you’ve taken from the last year?
Keiko: You can't force stuff. You have to go with what is presented to you. There is always a way, but it may not be the way you think.
Bash: if you trust something that you want, you just need to persevere. And trust that it will give back to you.
Floss: Give back to your community! Be grateful to the people who are giving you reviews, to the people who are giving you radio play. Without those people, we would not be reaching the hearts and minds of the people that we have reached. It's been a lesson in what's possible when you come together as a community.
BAXTR RELEASE THEIR NEW SINGLE 'IN POP WE TRUST' ON APRIL THE 23RD