Interview: Beth Jeans Houghton

25 March 2012

Tristram Fane Saunders talks to the ‘glam folk genius’ about everything except music…

One of the more unusual songwriters to be linked with the current ‘alt-folk’ movement, Houghton has been described as a “glam folk genius” and “a legend in the making” (NME). We phoned Beth to find out more…

Hello Beth. Where are you?

I’m in the dressing room of The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. What’re you wearing?

What am I wearing? Umm… a velvet jacket and some muddy jeans.

That sounds great.

I’m glad to know you approve. Are you wearing anything unusual or flamboyant at the moment?

Not really. But I do have green hair.

Nice. Speaking of clothes and clothelessness, you appear topless in quite a few of your music videos. Do you think there’s a possibility people might be offended by that?

Probably. Some people. But I’m not sure. Gary? Are you offended by my…? Well, my drummer says he’s offended, so there is one.

What do you do when you’re not music-ing?

I like to go to zoos. My favourite animal is the naked mole rat. They have the same kind of brain activity as bees in a beehive. There’s the queen naked mole rat, and then they have sex-slaves and stuff. I find it fascinating that they’re the only mammals that live in that way.

I am familiar with the naked mole rat.

Really?

There’s an animated kids’ TV show called Kim Possible where a naked mole rat is one of the main characters. You should check it out.

You’re kidding!? Amazing…

Why did Kieran Hebdon want to borrow your tweezers?

There was this sea urchin, in Croatia. He got a spine or something from this sea urchin stuck in his foot. He needed to get it out.

What were you doing in Croatia?

We were playing a festival called Electric Elephant… I hope you don’t mind, I’m eating carrots at the same time as talking.

Not at all. I interviewed a guitarist the other day who only eats health-food on tour.

What does he eat when he’s not on tour?

I didn’t ask. But do you have any unusual routines when touring?

Well, we all take baths together.

All? The whole band takes bath together?

Yeah.

Is it difficult to find hotel-rooms equipped with baths of that size?

Yeah.

I’ve never had a communal bath, but I’ve been skinny dipping in the ocean…

That’s not really the same.

But maybe the ocean is the world’s largest communal bath!

Maybe.

…Wait, I’m sorry, hang on. I’ve spilt Coke all over my interview question sheet.

You’ve spilled coke?! Are you allowed to do that while you’re studying at Cambridge?

I don’t – what? I mean Coca-Cola.

Oh…

You can’t get cocaine on a student loan, Beth.

You totally can get cocaine on a student loan. You’re just not looking in the right places.

Erm, ok. Speaking of the wrong places, where’s the worst place you’ve ever played a gig?

Oxford.

Good reply.

Wait, let me take that back!

No.