Trauma Pet

Hailing from Southampton (UK), a rather good 4 track electronic demo caught our fancy, so we just had to talk to the people behind it. Keith Elcombe speaks to Elie and Tara from Trauma Pet. (October 2004)

1. So how did the band come about, and for what reasons?
Elie: I'd been working with two other bands, and whilst I enjoyed myself I didn't feel as fulfilled by them as I could have done, mainly because the music wasn't exactly what I really wanted to be doing. At the time I only had my Roland JP-8000 and a computer, and I wasn't terribly good on the technology side of things. Slowly, I began to learn the ropes and buy more instruments with the aim of setting up my own music studio. Nowadays I have a combined studio with my boyfriend Pete which consists of about seven synthesizers and several guitars as well as various other bits and pieces.

Originally the whole thing was conceived as a side project, or at least a way of writing my own music alone for the bands I was in, because time constraints meant I couldn’t always make practice twice a week. I suppose it was inevitable that I eventually progressed to doing my own thing entirely. I already knew Tara as we had been in a band together before, and she was definitely the first choice when it came to forming a band with someone.

Tara: We both moved to Southampton at the same time and met soon after. We've been friends ever since and I guess the band is just a natural extension of our friendship and love of music.

2. How would you describe your sound, and if you were to, what category would you put yourselves in?
Elie: That is tricky because I think we are still forming ourselves musically. We both have vastly different influences even though much of the music we listen to is similar. Tara likes the heavier side of music, whilst my main influences were formed during the synthpop era in the 80’s and later during the IDM explosion in the mid 90’s. I suppose melody has always been important to me. Melody and Mood. I want to be moved by our music but I also want to dance to it. So we thought we would call it melodic electronica. We could possibly fit into a range of genres which is something we like. We have been called everything from electronic rock (for tracks such as Breaking and Sick), Coldwave (for tracks like Affinity), electronic goth, and psy-trance. I kind of like the way we vary on a track to track basis. We don’t have any limitations about style when we write music. Whatever seems good to us at the time works. I still feel there is a definite Trauma Pet stamp on all our songs though.

Tara: Elie & Tara's bleepy, guitary, bassy stuff.

3. Where did the name 'Trauma Pet' come from?
Elie: Well, the name existed before the band did to be honest. I was thinking of what to call my side project before I had quite thought of forming a band with Tara. I wasn’t having a great time in my life during that period. Lots of things were going wrong and I felt close to breaking point. Sometimes I saw the amusing side of it all. That is where the name came from. I was sitting at msn chatting with my friends about it all and I mentioned how much drama and trauma seem to follow me around like a bad cloud. I think at that point I just thought ‘trauma pet’ and it stuck. A lot of people commented on the originality of the name, but I never thought of using it as a project name until my boyfriend suggested it. He was quite insistent about its ring and it grew on me.

4. When not being 'Trauma Pet', what do you do in the 'real' world?
Tara: I love SNOWBOARDING!!!! a lot, it's my fave thing to do apart from the band, I go to the snow dome whenever i can and go away each year to the alps. Best time was two years ago I got to go to Alaska, the most amazing place I've ever been. And other than that, watching scarey movies and getting lost in the forest.

Elie: The band does take up a huge part of our lives; it isn’t hard for that to happen when music has always been such an important part of your life anyway. But my other big passion is archaeology. I will be starting my PhD next year so I am sure that will take up a lot of my time as well. Apart from that I will sometimes DJ, mainly now with Neophile Promotions. I suppose it is more accurate to say that music takes up a huge part of my life. The band, my boyfriend’s band faetal, and Neophile Promotions do take up a lot of time. The rest of the time is allotted to personal things that don’t entail work or hobbies

5. What musical experience have you had prior to forming the band?
Elie: I was apparently imitating my sister on the piano when I was 2, so when I was 3 my parents sent me to private music lessons. I was winning awards and playing concerts in my home country of Malta from a young age, and at 12 I decided to pick up the guitar as well, although I was self taught with that. At about 15 I found myself singing and playing guitar in my first band, which was a punky alternative thing around the grunge epoch. The whole thing fell apart when I was about 17, but by that time I had discovered electronic music and had started working with some DJs. Shortly afterwards I made a few tracks with a DJ I knew, that got played in clubs around Malta, mainly in chill out lounges and such. Shortly after that I was invited by a friend to work with Richie Hawtin from Plastikman in Germany. At the time I wasn’t ready to leave Malta as I was struggling with my A levels and dreaming of becoming an archaeologist.

At 21 I picked up the flute and put myself through private lessons for that with the first flautist of the Malta National Orchestra. He was amazing. I also had a few master classes with international flautists and managed to get myself to grade 6 flute in a year and a half. Having already had a classical base in music theory, it wasn’t as hard as it sounds. I finally left Malta and moved to the UK when I was 23 to study archaeology, and discovered the British alternative scene in the process. I was hugely interested in many aspects of the goth scene, and was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to explore that genre with my previous bands. I suppose Trauma Pet is a mish mash, on my part, of all the vastly different influences and scenes I have been involved with up to this point.

Tara: Going to lots and lots of gigs and jumping around lots. a couple of short stints in various styled bands, but my main past band was an awesome punk metal band called Stray Headbutt! We were together and gigging for about three years and although some memories of this have been lost to the drunken haze, I had some of my best times in that band.

6. As a new band, have you found it difficult to get gigs/billings with other acts?
Elie: Actually not at all. I think we have been extraordinarily lucky in the way the scene has embraced us and helped us. We have been really well supported and helped by other more established bands, and the promoters and DJ;s we have dealt with have mostly been great and genuinely willing to help us and see us do well. We have also been blessed with some amazing friends who are incredibly supportive and really help to promote our music. We have only been around since January, but have played ten gigs already, with bands like Die So Fluid, The Sepia, Plastic Toys, Trademark, faetal and Misnomer. Our upcoming gigs will see us play with Brother Orchid and Swarf amongst others.

Tara: Yeah, we've been really lucky, much thanks to those who have helped us, we really do appreciate it x.

7. As a girl-duo, do you have any problems being taken seriously (until people hear your music that is.)?
Elie: It is difficult to say because any differences in attitude I see I generally end up boiling down to gender discrimination. It is an easy whistle to blow but things may be more complicated. People often focus on the way we look more than the way we sound until afterwards when a fair amount of people seemed to have expected us to be pretty mediocre or even bad. I don’t tend to see this as much with other bands who aren’t exclusively ‘girl bands’. We didn’t set out to be a girl duo either, we just clicked together as musicians. One thing I have noticed is when Pete (my boyfriend and session guitarist) plays with us, many people assume he is also writing all the music. Whilst he has written the guitar parts he plays on ‘Sick’ and ‘Affinity’, I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t bother me enormously. There is however, a distinct difference in numbers between women and men in the music scene. I mean real musicians not people performing songs others have written for them. I suppose this difference means people have preconceptions. I doubt any of them intend to come across as discriminatory however.

Tara: People who know me are always surprised as they asume everything i do will be screaming heavy metal!

8. Do you manage yourselves, or is there someone else behind the scenes who takes care of that side of things?
Elie: Oh we manage ourselves. It is a lot of work though and we might look into getting some help in the future if things progress the way they are. But nothing is certain in the music scene is it!

9. Listening to your work I feel confident I could possibly list some of your musical influences, but without wishing to pigeon-hole (grin), would you care to share them with us?
Tara: My biggest influence is Anathema, I have been in love with their music since I was about 14 or 15 they are the best. Other than that Duran Duran, My Dying Bride, Cold, Carcas, NIN,older trance stuff and too much other stuff to mention

Elie: Well I think you’d get different answers from both of us. I suppose some of my music will sound like my influences and others won’t. I was very much influenced by bands like Depeche Mode, Bjork, NIN, Tori Amos, Radiohead, Diary of Dreams, Orbital, David Bowie and Aphex Twin to name but a few. However I found a lot of local emerging talent on the scene very influential and inspiring as well: faetal, living with eating disorders and deathboy definitely impacted me with their music..

10. What is the driving motivation behind Trauma Pet?
Elie: Just the need to write music. It is that simple really. Sometimes I feel we have very little choice about the whole thing. People appreciating what we write is wonderful, and being able to see people moved by something we have created is so incredible there are no words for it. But at the end of the day, if people hated us we’d still be doing it at home where nobody could hear us.

Tara: To make music I like and have fun.

11. I note from your gig list you have played with/are due to play with some fairly well known acts (Brother Orchid for one). Are there any bands currently who you would really like to perform with if money/logistics were not an issue?
Elie: Sure there are loads of bands I’d love to play with. But I will keep this realistic. We haven’t played with Deathboy yet and I’d like to do that. They are friends and I love their music so it would be great. I'd always wanted to play with Assemblage 23, or Diary of Dreams since I first heard them. But my greatest music heroes I don’t think I’d want to actually play with at all. There are several reasons for that. Firstly sometimes you are better off not knowing your heroes lest you find out they’re actually not heroes at all as people. Secondly I don’t feel ready for that just yet. I am happy with where the band is, but we have just started and we still need to work our way up the ladder before playing with any of my heroes at least! Having said this we are going to be playing with a major act very soon but we won't reveal who that is just yet!

Tara: If Anathema asked, they would get a big yes!

12. Given the release of your demo CD, what plans do you have for an album/mini-ep etc.? Have you approached any labels who might be keen to take you on, or have you been approached at all?
Elie: We have been approached by several labels. There might potentially be some offers in the pipeline but I am not allowed to reveal any details about that just yet! However although we would like to make an album in the not too distant future we haven’t thought about it properly just yet as at this stage we are focusing on playing as many gigs as possible and getting our demos out to as many people as we can. As a new band it is important to take time to establish yourself. I wouldn’t like to move too quickly. Albums don’t sell if nobody knows who the band is.

13. What inspires you to write the lyrics you do? Are these taken from real life experiences?
Elie: As with the music, we both write the lyrics. The lyrics I write are indirectly inspired by real life experiences but more in terms of emotions than actual events. Most of the emotions I felt are related to situations in the world rather than in my personal life as well. Others are more self exploratory I guess.

Tara: My lyrics always come from stuff thats going on in my life, good or bad, I think life experiences make the best songs.

14. How do family and friends react to you being in a band? Are they supportive?
Elie: Oh yes definitely. My boyfriend Pete is incredible. Sometimes I wonder whether I would have been able to do this without his support and belief in me. My friends and family are amazing as well. My friends actively promote Trauma Pet even though they don’t have to and I don’t ask them to. They are absolutely amazing. My family are a bit scattered across the globe but they are nonetheless supportive. I think they like the fact that I am the third generation to be on the stage. My grandfather was an opera singer, and my father acts on stage and television. They are probably as proud of me as I am of them.

Tara: My Dad was a musician and always played in bands. If he was here he would be so chuffed and probably be at every gig.

15. Besides your (rather good) website, what other methods do you use to promote your band?
Elie: We flyer everywhere we go to, and try to keep things interesting looking (you have to when you flyer that much!). We are also on SCAR (radio) and Digital Gunfire (radio). We do have fairly good contacts with a number of promoters and DJ’s and we make sure they get any new material we have. Our track ‘Breaking’ is also appearing on the Line Out Records Outlines Compilation, and the same track also recently won track of the day on resulting in some interest from foreign magazines.

Tara: Plus phone every one we know!

16. What are the long term goals and ambitions for Trauma Pet?
Elie: To keep enjoying what we do and to keep doing it as best we can. The moment we stop feeling it, then Trauma Pet will probably cease to exist.

Tara: Have fun and see what happens.

17. If you had the chance to spend a year on a barren desert island, what three items would you take with you to make life a little easier?
Elie: Pete (can he count as an object?), my guitar, and a pillow!

Tara: Peanut Butter, a snuggly blanket and tea. oo can I have a mug too?