Bibi Bellatrixx is a London-based alterna dream-babe. In October 2014, she released her debut EP, B-Side Part 1, after breaking away from her rock band, Queens of Sheba. Now she’s releasing “Note to Self,” a single for those moments when you feel insecure and need a reminder not to drown in self-doubt.
Bibi carved out time to talk to me on the phone last week. We touched on the music that surrounded her when she was growing up, the fact that she makes her own clothes, and the black girls who inspire her. I came away from our conversation certain that Bibi Bellatrixx is destined to be a rockstar.
TAYLER: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
BIBI BELLATRIXX: I grew up on jazz. My dad’s record collection was absolutely huge, so my first memories of music are tracks by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob James, and Earl Klugh. As I got older and became more inquisitive, I started looking to other genres for inspiration. I discovered rock and metal as a teenager, which was what convinced me that playing the guitar was a good idea.
When did you start making music? Was it something you went into intentionally, or did you stumble into it?
I can’t really remember the exact moment that I picked up an instrument. It was a very natural process. I was playing the piano around eight years old. I studied music until college, and I decided that was long enough. Music shouldn’t be overly academic. For me, it’s more about a feeling that you share with the listener. I’ve always written music and songs. It’s an important part of who I am. It’s something I’m always going to do, regardless of whether I’m sharing my music with the world or not.
How would you describe your sound?
I’ve coined “alternative dream pop” as my genre because I was constantly being asked where my CD would go in HMV [a British music store]. I think there is an ugly/pretty sound to the harmonies I use, which comes from my jazz background. My voice doesn’t sound how everyone expects it to, and there’s definitely a chilled-out, laid-back vibe to my first EP. I have many different sounds. I never sit down with my guitar and say, Today I’m writing a rock song. My songs grow and change with me, so I can never tell which direction they’ll take.
I find the lyrics to “Note to Self” so empowering: “Breathe in with virtue, because these winds will break you” are words to live by. What inspired this song?
Fear. Fear of not doing all the things I want to do with my life. Fear of taking the necessary steps to get to where I want to be. The song is just a reminder that as long as what I’m doing is coming from the right place, it will be OK. It might be hard at times, but it will be all right in the end. It’s also a reminder for me to keep pushing myself. We all have our little box of comfort that we’d rather stay in because it’s easy, but nothing great was ever built in there!
How do you get yourself out of a headspace where you feel totally overwhelmed or unsure of yourself?
I think of those kinds of feelings as the friend at school who always gets you into trouble. They go away for a while, then one day they just show up out of nowhere. Your initial reaction is to panic—to slam the door in their face and tell them to go away. But it’s actually better, I find, if you just open the door, pull up a chair, and tell ’em to sit down. Then, you listen. Listen to all of the stupid suggestions they come up with. Mostly they’ll tell you how rubbish you are, or that whatever it is you’re doing won’t amount to anything. Eventually they’ll run out of steam, get bored, and see themselves out. Then you can get back to business. Those feelings will always come. Let them. Invite them. They will pass on their own.
I believe that black girls and women need black girl heroes. Who are some of your heroes?
Artists who push the envelope in terms of writing style. I love Laura Mvula and Lianne La Havas. It would be nice if there were more black women on billboards with guitars in their hands. I didn’t have any “heroes” who looked like me when I was growing up. I love Willow Smith as well. I wish I had someone like her to look up to when I was a teenager. She does whatever the hell she wants, and looks however the hell she wants, and experiments. She is 100 percent herself, and that self changes as she grows older, and that is OK.
How’s the music scene in London? Does the city inform your work in any way?
I don’t think I take much from the music scene in London, if I’m honest. The big players in the game here are pale-skinned men with guitars, or black girls who sing like Beyoncé. Their music doesn’t speak to me and mine doesn’t speak to them. The U.K. music scene, as a whole, definitely has a sound, which again, doesn’t speak to me. I’m not for the concept of cookie-cutter artists. I want to be different. Here, it doesn’t feel like there is much room for artists who are pushing the boundaries with their music. We have a couple, but it’s like someone said, That’s enough now, we don’t need any more.
How do you make music that comes from such a real place?
I don’t feel like I can give that kind of advice. Writing music is a natural response to life for me. As I experience life, I write songs. I only ever write from experience. If I’m not writing, it simply means that nothing worth writing about is happening at that particular time. “Note to Self” was written in response to feeling afraid of taking the steps [I needed] to move on to the next level as an artist. I’m a highly creative individual, but it’s hard to not give in to the voice that tells me to not put myself out there, or to not share my work with people. I would be very happy as a bedroom artist! Unfortunately, I can’t pay bills like that. Plus, I’d much rather make a living doing something that fulfills me on a creative and spiritual level, and that helps me to grow as a human being.
The name Bibi Bellatrixx reminds me of a superhero! Is there any particular story behind your name?
In my teens, I modeled under the alias Baby Bellatrix. As the years went by, and I stopped modeling, I felt like I’d outgrown the name, so I changed it to Bibi Bellatrixx. That’s it!
I am in love with your hair color! What influences you style-wise?
Thank you! Oh, what a difficult question. I love fashion so much. I make my own clothes at Betsey Supernova, and I’m influenced by most eras, to some degree. I love pinup fashion of the ’20s through ’50s, and I love the zany styles of the ’80s, and the goth-glam looks of the ’90s. I have a passionate relationship with color. Each color conveys a different emotion or feeling, and how I choose to wear it reflects my state of being at the time! ♦