Danielle Mustarde meets Anastasia Stars, lead singer of Bang Bang Romeo, to find out how music can soothe our souls in tumultuous times
BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE
It’s a sunny but cool afternoon in early March and I’m sitting at my desk at home in London (read: kitchen worktop). In front of me is a notepad and pen, an almost full cup of coffee and my phone on loudspeaker. The warm, northern accent on the other end? That’s Bang Bang Romeo’s lead vocalist Anastasia “Stars” Walker coming in live from “Donny” Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
We’d arranged this call just a week earlier – before coronavirus had really taken a hold in the UK. We were going to talk about the band’s upcoming Pride gigs and headline tour, the (now poignantly-named) Beautiful World Tour – since postponed until October 2020. Instead, since the world has changed so much in just a few, short days, our conversation turns to the healing power of music, the increased importance of community, and of keeping on keeping on, even when the going gets tough – really tough.
DIVA: Will you and the lads (bandmates Ross Cameron, Rich Gartland and Richard Cook) be putting on virtual gigs to keep the “BBRMY” morale up?
STARS: It’s a little early, but we’ve already started talking about it. We’re always like, “Right, plan B, plan C.” We’ll definitely be doing something online. Mainly to help people to not feel like they’re going mad indoors.
Music feels really important for people right now. Would you agree?
Yeah, totally. There are so many messages that everyone’s music could be putting out. I was just saying to my dad how this virus doesn’t discriminate. It affects every race, every gender, every sexuality – we’re all in this together and music can be a powerful way of supporting that notion when people can’t come to shows and stand together. It would be a good thing for music to be on everyone’s televisions, phones and everything. [Think of] what happened in Italy – music brought everyone together, all stood on their balconies in their apartment blocks, singing. It’s really powerful.
Yes – the sound of solidarity.
Definitely. Let’s support those notions of the virus not discriminating. We need to look out for each other. Music could be a massive platform to spread that sentiment around.
Evidence suggests the LGBTQI+ community will be impacted by this on a greater scale than the general public, at least socially, in terms of mental health and isolation. What can we do to take care of ourselves and each other?
Loneliness kills doesn’t it? It’s a massive thing. We need to be looking out for one another and figuring out ways so that, even if you’re self-isolating, we can all be there for each other. I think that’s a really important thing. The LGBTQI+ community is such a strong community. We can [show] just how strong we are and just how well we can be there for one another during this time.
Recently, you talked about feeling almost as though we’re “walking backwards” in terms of LGBTQI+ rights. Do you think perhaps a silver lining of what’s happening is that we might stop bickering among ourselves and pull together?
Yeah. Because of the world we’re in right now, and because this virus doesn’t care if you’re a rich, white man – hopefully some eyes will open too. God, a silver lining would be realising that we are indeed all human, which many people forget, as stupid as that is.
The band were signed up to perform at many of this summer’s Pride festivals. Did you seek those gigs out or did the invites come because of queer themes in the music you’re creating?
The single, You & I, was written a few years ago, before we’d played any major Prides. Those gigs came after, which was an amazing thing. You & I was written for Pride entirely, so to get to play it at Pride shows, that’ll be amazing! I feel a massive sense of pride that the community like the song and feel how I felt when I wrote it [after the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016] because it’s real and it’s strong and it’s angry. Pride is normally really happy and uplifting but sometimes there needs to be a song that says, “Nah, this isn’t good enough and I’m pissed off and we’re all allowed to be pissed off”. I’m glad Prides have dug that.
Have you felt closer to your community as a result?
Yeah, totally. I feel as though no matter what size platform you have, you should use it to talk about the things you believe in and want to stand up for. I feel so much closer to my community because of songs like You & I and how the community have opened up their arms to the song. They’re for my community because I love my community and I’m angry for my community. It definitely made me feel closer and I’m really glad that’s happened.
You’ve spoken previously about growing up in an “almost mining town kind of village” – as did I. How does it feel thinking of kids in those villages and towns today, being able to access your music and those stories?
You’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that things don’t move very fast in those towns. Like, change doesn’t really get implemented as quickly as it should. I didn’t really have anyone to look up to within the community, so I do think that plays a massive part in where I’m from. Being able to be someone for someone else to look up to within my town? What a wonderful thing. I’m very proud of that. I just wish these towns progressed quicker. I love my hometown, I’m very proud of my hometown, but in terms of progress within the LGBTQI+ community? We should be quicker about it.
Your plans for the summer have been scuppered, so what does the future look like at the moment?
Washing my hands vigorously? [Laughs]
More, more, more music! This year we really wanted to smash that and we’ve got plans in place. It might not happen on the day they were supposed to, but they’ll happen. We urge people to go to our social media because, while being outside isn’t safe at the moment, we can use the internet appropriately and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to make sure that, even if someone is lonely at home, we’re going to be so active online. That’s what we’re going to be doing for now until the foreseeable. We need to band together as a human race and look after one another, so that the show can go on – because it needs to.
Get up there on the podium! You and the band have been putting the work in for a good few years now and you’re on an upward curve so hopefully that curve will still be there, waiting, at the end of all this.
We’ve just got to stay positive, haven’t we? I mean, we can be very serious about it all. On a selfish note, I was really looking forward to this tour but, being realistic, social distancing needs to happen. People’s safety comes first. When the time is right again, we are going to keep climbing that curve and keep pushing it, and pushing it and pushing it.
Bang Bang Romeo are touring October 2020. Find out more bangbangromeo.comand @bangbangromeo.
This interview first appeared in the May 2020 issue of DIVA – grab your very own digital copy right here!
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