Laxmag "Char O’Lette: Girls are in bands because of the music", May 2012

10 May 2012
Simone Bauer / Photo credit: Char O'Lette

Taking a look at the band Planes, there are two blondes that will attract your attention: One is Steve Forrest, most widely known as the drummer for Placebo, and the other is the lovely Char O'Lette. We called the British singer, violinist and keyboarder to talk about how she started with music, the band’s first record and what it’s like to be the only girl among four guys.

When did you begin playing an instrument and how did your band Planes come together?

I started playing the violin when I was 10. Then I started learning the piano and singing along the way. Between 12 and 14 I sang at pubs and clubs - I was way too young to be there. I’ve played in local bands as long as I can remember. I joined my first real band when I was in Music College. I’m in Planes now for about a year. My friend Ted from College and I’ve talked about a band and he was friends with Steve. We hung out and it worked out pretty well. Bill Loyd helped recording our first demos. Then, a month later, our first gig was booked. Basically, we became a band, because our first gig was booked – we didn’t even have a drummer by that time …

What do you love the most about being in a band?

Yes, it really is. I’m with four of my best guy friends. I do have other friends of course who are no musicians, but that’s a different relationship. When I’m with the boys we want to make special music. I really just want to make music, it’s all about that.

Do you think it's harder for you as a girl in the music business, for example when you’re on tour or at an audition?

I guess. In general there are so many guys with suspicions, who will not take you seriously. But if you’re part of band thanks to an instrument, they’ll take you more seriously. Girls usually do this for the music, boys sometimes have different purposes to be in bands … But yes, you do have to work a bit harder …

Do you have any advice for young girls who want to be in a band?

Practice your instrument; that’s the most important thing. Performing is going to take over your life! You have to be determined and believe in it - just get involved with as many people as you can locally. And don’t get pushed into anything that you don’t want to do.

Do you ever feel unmotivated to work in this business?

If you got into music, it’s the most important thing in life. You want to get up for it. I feel lucky, that even on a bad day, I have something to get up for. Most people don’t do what they love professionally.

Who do you work with besides Planes?

Planes is on a break right now. We got some recording done, but Steve is busy right now with Placebo. Planes will always continue, for as long as possible. Planes is special. Like Fleetwood Mac, we’ll exist for the next ten years and more! I’ll be on a two week UK tour with singer/songwriter Heather Peace next up. Then I’ll do some session work for a few other people, guest appearances for Dominic Youdan for example.

Isn't it kind of difficult to keep an overview of different bands?

Well, no. It’s nice to play for other people, for different genres. The more you do, the better you get as a musician.

What do you prefer – live gigs or making demos?

There’s no other feeling than playing in a band, even singing in a choir. Simply being part in something that is so much bigger, is incredible. There’s nothing better than performing; but recording and writing is a different process. You think more about the details; on stage you know all those things, you live more in the moment.

Tell us a bit about your idols, especial the female ones.

I’ve listened to a lot of David Bowie. On the female side I especially get inspired by Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks, Björk, PJ Harvey. I also listen to a lot of blues-stuff, like Flaming Lips and Black Keys.

How did you get in touch with blues music?

I think you go through different phases discovering music. My mum doesn’t like most of the music I like! I grew up with Michael Jackson. When I listen to music I heard 10 years ago now I get some of my memories back.

You've released an EP on iTunes. What are the chances of a proper record by the end of the year? 

We’ll put out a proper record very soon. We just have to work very quickly – we have about 20 tracks that need to be recorded and we’re only waiting for Steve. Hopefully by end of the year we’re ready to go. We’re just waiting for the right time. It’s going to be very exciting, so we have to keep ourselves busy with other projects.

Do you plan on touring Germany?

Yes, that would be the next step. After releasing the album we’d like to tour Europe.

What was the most memorable moment in your career?

Our EP launch. It was our big night. You’ve done so much preparation and finally you could put aside whatever what was going on in your personal life. It was an absolutely crazy night. It was the first time my family got to hear the music. It was a big night for all of them. A special night.