Rozi Plain: 'I don't think that the recorded version is the definitive version; I like that element of it'
- Harry Harris
- 7 January 2020
Songwriter and This Is The Kit bassist discusses politics, community and collaboration
In hindsight, the day after a general election probably wasn't the ideal time to schedule an interview. I call Rozi Plain at noon, wanting mostly to talk about her forthcoming UK tour, but we are both angry. Angry and speechless.
'We all live in this world together, and it's gonna get absolutely fucked,' she says. 'We all live in the same environment, we're all in that. Everyone gets fucked here.' Scrabbling for chinks of light in the darkness, she tells me about canvassing in London, how engaging with her community directly gave her a feeling of hope, how that hasn't gone away:
'A really helpful thing that I've learnt from doing this stuff leading up to the election is that through speaking to people, I've been able to formulate my own thoughts, and I wouldn't have been able to do that, I don't think. You sort of feel alienated a bit from these things in charge, and not really knowing what you think about it but having a feeling of generally wanting things to be better or be good, and then you speak to people and you get a chance to work out what you feel really strongly about. That feels like a really powerful thing to have learnt.'
It makes sense that Rozi would feed off her community in her politics, as the same is true of her music, and 2019's cheeringly titled What A Boost in particular. In another interview I read, she talks about the title being about 'noticing the things that bring about change that you didn't think was the "thing"'. The album features a host of collaborators and friends, including Sam Amidon and sir Was. Its inception dates back to 2018's PEOPLE festival, a week of collaborative performances curated by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and The National's Aaron Desner, that she was invited to participate in. 'I love the other people I work with, I trust what they do so much,' she tells me, and this trust is repaid across the album.
Unsurprisingly, this freedom is brought into the live setting: 'I don't think that the recorded version is the definitive version. I like that element of it. Knowing that you finished a thing but knowing that it's gonna change as well. How it's gonna end up being alive.' Expect more collaboration and chemistry during this month's Burns&Beyond, where Rozi takes part in the Aidan O'Rourke-curated Lucky Middlemass's Tavern alongside folk ensemble Kinnaris Quintet and poet Nadine Aisha Jassat. She'll also be heading to Celtic Connections, where she'll join Pictish Trail as well as Sam Amidon, Kris Drever, and Bonny Light Horseman for Anais Mitchell's CAMPFIRE, an in-the-round gathering at St Luke's bound to be one of the highlights of the festival. 'It'll be great!' she says, 'I like playing Celtic Connections, it's a nice do!'
What space can music fill in times of despair? As I hang up the phone, the one concrete thing I'm sure of is that this is a time to hold communities tightly. Talk to them, work with them, make something with them. That's the only way we can make a change. And moreover, it's important to remember, in spite of everything, that change is possible, even if the thing that brings it about isn't what you expected, or wanted.
Rozi Plain plays Celtic Connections with Pictish Trail, Saint Luke's, Glasgow, Fri 17 Jan and with Anais Mitchell, Saint Luke's, Glasgow, Thu 30 Jan; Lucky Middlemass's Tavern at Burns&Beyond, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Sat 25 Jan. She tours the UK until Sun 29 Mar.