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Interview – Sophia Marie, Wicked Wench, November 2012

| 29 December 2012 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Originally published in Xpress Magazine

 

Sophia Marie - Twisted

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today Sophia

Sophia – Thanks for having me.

That’s a pleasure. Now, I believe you’ve sold around about 10,000 copies of your CD’s.

Sophia – That’s correct.

That’s insane. In this day and age when even medium to big bands don’t sell that many through a major label.

Sophia – No, I think I outsold Jet one year.

Wow. That’s incredible. How have you done it without a major label behind you, without even a distributor behind you?

Sophia – The old fashioned way – door-knocking.

Door-to-door selling kind of seems very old school, from an bygone era…

Sophia – Yeah, I kind of think it’s like the old eighties movie of really going out and trying to draw up a crowd for a gig that’s happening that night or something, you know?

And I believe that selling the album door-to-door was your husband and manager, Stephen Wells’ idea originally?

Stephen – Yeah, I’d sold dishcloths and dusters door-to-door when I was 18, and I got sort of sucked into it. I swore I would never do it again, and I kept that promise for over 20 years. But when we were getting rejected left, right and centre without anybody even listening to the music, and lots of other bad stuff was happening to us, Sophia was getting upset and depressed. I just thought about it, and I just figured, what was there to lose? So I tried it a few times, it worked, and then I managed to overcome my fear, which was pretty difficult. I had Sophia come round basically and hold my hand, and keep me company whilst I went knocking on doors. And it worked, so I quit my job, and then we started doing it full time.

I guess it must help having a pretty lady knocking on your door trying to sell her own music?

Stephen – It’s good having a six foot 3 hairy bloke doing it…

I couldn’t imagine Lemmy knocking on the door and 90% of the people in our street, I think would be freaked out.

Stephen – Originally Sophia used to walk around with me holding my hand, and it was going to be something that I did, that she would keep me company with, because I was too scared to do it on my own. But it soon became clear that we weren’t going to pay the rent that way. The initial trial went a lot better than how it went after we quit our jobs. And so one day Sophia basically had to go out and do it herself, she basically burst into tears, and cried all the way down the street, knocking on doors, and I was on the other side of the street, and we’ve been doing that sort of ever since. The tears have stopped, but when people answer the door to just me, they are basically seeing a six foot, hairy, very, very scary person, knocking on their door. So I think Lemmy would have just as good a chance as me actually.

[Laughter]

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What made you think that it would work for Rock music? Especially when Perth is… I think you’ve done this in Sydney as well haven’t you?

Sophia – Yeah, we started there.

And when Perth is so, musically speaking, generally very mainstream and commercial. To come out with what basically amounts to a melodic, Heavy-Metal record.

Sophia – People don’t actually see it that way though, and they listen to it, ’cause people’s perception of music is different than you and I.

What they hear is “That’s really like Pink!” or, “oh, that kind of reminds me of Pat Benatar”, and they are comparing my music to people that they have come across in a commercial world. So it’s actually gone down really well.

Stephen – I think what you also have to realise, or what the music industry should realise, is that there are literally millions of people in Australia, who are very, very happy to buy a CD. It’s just that they haven’t been getting proper service from the record stores or the music labels.  People have been doing it wrong. So when we turn up at their doorstep, and give them an opportunity to listen to something new; they have a listen, and if they like it, they like it, and they buy it. It’s just proven to us that there is a market for music, and for sales of music.

Sophia – Because when we were in Sydney, we didn’t actually just sell my CD, we started selling mine at first, but as we were going along, we were surveying what people liked to listen to instantly. And it was classical and jazz and rock, and maybe some country. But hip-hop and R’n’B was not what they liked, which is really interesting, because that’s what they play on the radio, but they didn’t like it.  So, we ended up finding a classical artist who did harp and vocals, and they had a CD, so, we started selling their CD. And then shortly after, we met an original Jazz artist and we started selling her. Before we left, we sold about 800 of hers I think…

Wow.

Wicked Wench 1

Sophia – … And she was just over the moon with that, and she’s fantastic! Coming back here, we didn’t know if people would like jazz, and we’ve come to find out that they don’t!  But the classical is more of your wider range. So we brought the classical one over, and we were selling the Harp Diva’s as well as ours, just to kind of have something to fall back on if they didn’t like mine.  We don’t have that many left of the Harp Diva’s, but what people are liking is my music; more of my music than the classical.

You know, a lot of people don’t like anything else but rock music here, which is great! I’m finding more people that like rock… So, you know, we’re not selling anybody else’s. We have met other artists along the way, and we have offered them the door deal of taking their CD around as well. But nobody’s been interested, or believes that it will work.

That’s staggering.

Sophia – I know. [Laughs]  Because, out of the 10,000, we’ve sold over 4,000 here in Perth, and I tried getting a Hip Hop artist on board – I liked his stuff, offered it to him, but he didn’t want to do it. I met a classical composer who’s done seven albums, but never pressed them officially. We offered him the door-to-door deal, but nobody’s taken up the offer of us physically distributing their music around.

Rock isn’t getting played much on the radio, new artists aren’t getting in the shops. We’re getting force fed by major labels, stuff which appeals to a 12-16 year old demographic. Where’s the classic rock music that’s had a huge resurgence in America and in Europe in the last 5 or 10 years?  Where’s that music for the 30-somethings and the 40-somethings, who WANT to buy CDs?  It’s just not happening, apart from your one or two big artists on each major label, your ‘Slash’s’ and so on…

Sophia – But in saying all of that, when we have been actually going out, a lot of the people that we sold to haven’t bought a CD in 12 years, you know…!!

Wicked Wench 2

And that’s exactly what you want…

Sophia – Yeah!!

If an artist is going to rely on the 100 people that go to all of their gigs, and for some artists that’s being generous, then they’re going to sell 100 CD’s.

Sophia – Yep!

You’ve really got to find creative ways to put your music under the noses of people who wouldn’t normally hear it.

Sophia – Exactly! And this is the only way that we have found that actually gives that result, and it is frustrating, you know, because there will be like ten houses [that say no] and you’re like ‘Oh god’ you know? Or you do find that one person, but they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I listen to rock music, but I’m not interested’. It’s like, you just wanna slap them!

Stephen – Even saying that we’ve sold 10,000 CD’s, we still, obviously, because we are knocking on peoples doors, are interrupting a lot of people. We get people who we’re sure would love the music, but you still never get a chance for them to have a listen.  We learnt a lot about sales whilst we’ve been doing it as well, if you get a call from India, the first thing they’ll say to you is, ‘How are you today?’ The first thing we say to people is, ‘Sorry for disturbing you’. [Laughter]

Just getting it out of the way up front?!

[Laughter]

Sophia – We’ve just noticed just to keep it simple: ‘Hi’, and get to your point really quick, ‘I’m going around promoting my music, do you like a bit of rock music? I’m a singer/songwriter, and I’m doing this ’cause I don’t have any other way!’ You know?

Stephen – And her spiel’s longer than mine, mine is; ‘Hi, I’m selling my wife’s music, would you care to have a listen?’

[Laughter]

Well it must be working, and that’s incredible. And maybe if the major labels aren’t giving people what they want, if record stores aren’t giving us what we want, and if the majority of mainstream radio isn’t giving us what we want, then becoming a virtual record store in yourself, and knocking on the door, and bringing the music to the people – it’s actually, you know, we could talk about it being a retro idea, and from a bygone age and all that stuff. But it’s actually a genius concept and very “punk”!

Sophia – Thank you. It’s not been easy, you know, it’s been frustrating. I’ve cried on the streets, many times, I’ve gotten frustrated. There’s been times when we’re just like, we cannot pull ourselves to do it, because it’s a pain.

Stephen – We’re not what you’d call natural sales people. Two years after starting this thing, I still want to throw up for an hour before we start into it… and it takes a good hour, after having started, before I stop wanting to throw up.

Wicked Wench 3

Well I think I’d be like you were saying about overcoming the fear, I don’t think I’d be able to get past that point.

Sophia – But after we do it, even though we feel gross and disgusting while we’re doing it, after we do it and we’ve made some sales, we feel really good about it.  We walk away going, “we did it, we just, honey, we did it, WE DID IT”. You know? “Aren’t you glad we did it?”  “Yes! And I’m glad it’s over.” [Laughs]

Yeah, and you’re selling tickets for your live shows as well.

Sophia – Well, we didn’t start doing that until recently. Basically we had gotten the concept from another band, and we started ordering tickets for the shows and pre-selling. It’s still a funny thing; it’s only the third time that we’ve actually done it. I don’t know if it’s been very successful yet.

Stephen – It’s hard to say. I mean, what we’re now finding with the tickets; we didn’t do tickets originally, purely because we didn’t have a band. Which was another reason why we went door-to-door, because every option to us had been closed, we couldn’t even go and play a local venue any more, because we had no band any more. So now that we’ve got a band again we’re selling tickets, but now we’re trying to overcome peoples aversion to going out to a local pub to see live music, which is incredibly strong here in Perth. I mean, there’s lots of people who would like to go see bands, and like the idea of coming to see bands, but they don’t like the venue, they don’t like the noise, how loud it is. We get lots of feedback about how things need to improve on the live scene locally as well. We’ll see, as time goes on, how successful we are at overcoming people’s resistance.

Yeah, I imagine talking someone into buying a CD, when they haven’t bought one for a dozen years is one thing, but getting them out on a Saturday night to a crowded pub, full of…

Sophia – People they don’t know.

….and what they might naively perceive as, ‘dodgy bikers’ and pissheads and what not.

Sophia – That’s why, when we’re selling tickets, we’re actually targeting the area of the venue…

So it’s nice and close to home.

Sophia – …So they know the venue, or at least they know of the venue. They may not like the venue, but we’ve told them that this is a really good show, and we’ve put it together ourselves, I’m working really hard, you like the music, come on, try this, try to come out for once! Something fun, you know!? But it’s not easy, it’s easier selling a CD than it is a ticket.

Sophia Marie 02

Yeah I bet. But still it’s great that you’re out there doing it, and I believe [local radio station] 96FM are showing some interest?

Sophia – Yeah, well it’s been another great bit of hope for us, is that 96FM have shown that they’re interested in promoting local music. They played my music on the radio, and when they heard the story they invited us in, and had us tell the story as well; they also think it’s cool. But what we’re really happy with is that they played the music first, before inviting us in.

Well that’s the thing isn’t it, what benefits the local music scene as a whole, has that flow on effect for everyone involved in it. Rather than some bands who are just being a bit more selfish, and looking out for themselves.

Stephen – Yeah well, I mean, it’s a prime idea of most success books that if you help enough other people, you’ll get help eventually yourself, so…

Fingers crossed!  Was there one pivotal moment when you realised you wanted to be a rocker? Was there one influence that made you just go, bang that’s it, I’m picking up that bass and that’s it?

Sophia – I went indoor rock climbing.

I can see the connection…!!??!!

[Laughs]

Sophia – Well, a fear of heights. There was a two year period leading up to that, my mother died in 2004, Schapelle Corby went to jail, and that rocked the country, and it was like, her life was taken away, oh my god. Then I went indoor rock climbing, and basically doing that and then coming home, it was just a light bulb moment. I had so much fun, why was I so scared? What other areas of my life are holding me back? Um… let’s see… swimming with sharks! [Laughter] Various other things that were popping up in my mind, and then I was like, oh my god, singing, oh my god! Everyone’s always told me how wonderful my voice was, but I never did anything with it. I was too scared, I didn’t think I was good enough. But if I don’t do this, I’m gonna regret it, because life’s too damn short. My mum died at 61. She was all I had as a family. Yeah, if I don’t do it and I look back on my life… Just ‘Should-a, would-a, could-a’ then I’m gonna regret it.  So, I had to do it.

Cool, well, one thing that stood out for me on Twisted, was that there’s some musical passages, that had a real Middle Eastern sort of flavour to it. What’s your background in that? Where did that come from?

Sophia – I really don’t have a clue, I mean, my upbringing was classical, folk music, oldies but goodies, opera. That was my mum’s thing. Everything else came from my cousins, the Billy Idol, and the Poison, and Whitesnake, all that came from them. And then my friends as well, so I have a very eclectic taste in music. I like Latin, I like a lot of Latin stuff. It’s a very exotic sound, and I just take to that, I really do. It’s very sensual, it’s very erotic, I just take to it, and my voice fits that kind of soothing, very flowing, type music. I don’t know, it gets my mojo going! [Laughs]

Excellent, so you’ve got a new single just released, is that right?

Sophia – It’s called Fear Is the Enemy

How fitting, ties in with what you were talking about, nice.

Sophia – Yeah, it’s basically about letting go of your fear, and following your dreams.

Fantastic, well we’re looking forwards to having a listen, and good luck!

Sophia- Thankyou!

https://www.facebook.com/wickedwenchband

 

Shane

Category: Interviews

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