Wallis Bird is an Irish multi-instrumentalist (she actually knows how to imitate birds tweeting) and a very gifted guitarist–even though she just has four fingers on her left hand. THE BOMBER JACKET went to her concert, interviewed the musician and was amazed by the charm and character of the young Miss Bird.
Standing in the crowd waiting for Wallis Bird to hit the stage, I start to get annoyed. It’s not because I have to wait. It’s because there’s this little ADHD-smurf right in front of me hopping and babbling and dancing and giggling and squealing–all simultaneously. There’s also this couple of 14-year-old girls that seems to have chosen this concert for their coming out. And then there’s that thinner than thin, whiter than white skinned, but completely dressed in black, blogger with his or her (impossible to distinguish) SLR Nikon that clicks so loud and frequently that I can hear it over the sound check. According to Wallis Bird, they could all be called exemplary fans, just like you or me. “The only really typical thing about them,” she says, is that they are from “any age, any background–to be honest.”
Anyway. I’m here for Wallis and her unpredictable and entertaining live show. When her band enters the stage, the musicians don’t really seem to know what to do for one moment and neither does the crowd. There is clapping, some guys are yelling, but there’s also talking and irritation. Then the Irish woman enters the stage and suddenly there’s this kind of energy. Everybody is into it from the beginning (except from the genderless photo-dummy who is gone after a few clicks. Dickhead.).
The session starts slowly and quietly with the opening track of the new album “Dress My Skin and Become What I’m Supposed to.” Her LP Wallis Bird seems a bit darker than its predecessor. “It just comes from a place of feeling very comfortable and relaxed about having a positive disposition,” Wallis explains. “I’m currently enjoying seeing things in a darker light. It makes me feel better about mistakes and understanding anger in myself and around me. It gives me more patience.” Her multi-instrumentalist band screams “shit” with her in the refrain and after the melancholic beginning, she asks, “You don’t like me singing these soft songs? Hmm. Leise ist scheiße, was?” (German for: “Quiet is shit, isn’t it?”) Wallis wouldn’t be Wallis if she didn’t take the pressure out of somber (but very strong) songs like the one above or “But I’m Still Here, I’m Still Here.
Listening to Bird’s music live is really worth going to one of her concerts; however, it’s the hilarious speeches and her energetic, refreshing mind that knocks the listener’s socks off. You never know for sure if it’s severity or irony. Isn’t she afraid of not being taken seriously? “Nahhhh,” is her answer to that. “You can’t please everyone so I don’t bother trying to! I like telling jokes and sometimes the simpler the better. The music speaks for itself to a large extent, so generally I like to loosen and confuse people throughout the set. It takes you out of this ‘predictable gig’ scenario. I’m only being myself anyway.” So it’s being herself that disguises her voice. It’s being herself that mixes German with English in a very charming way. It’s being herself that does beat boxing and crowd surfing and animates the audience to sing and dance. It’s being herself that simulates birds tweeting (very accurately, by the way). Can she imitate any other animals? She replies, “Dogs, kittens, sheep, sloths!” Again I’m not sure if she’s kidding or if it’s meant seriously, but I’m looking forward to hearing it!
During her concert there’s a lot of new material, but also old songs like “Lalaland,” “To My Bones” or “The Circle.” Unfortunately, she doesn’t play “An Idea About Mary.” A girl in the crowd cries the title, but Wallis Bird refuses to play it with a “Nahhh” and a laugh. In the interview she explains, “I’m not personally into the song right now, it’s too poppy for me. I never really liked the song to start with, but the label wanted it on the record and I eventually bowed to that.”
I wouldn’t want to be one of her guitar strings that night. They break one by one throughout the concert. Nothing special for Miss Bird, “I go through about 30 packs of guitar strings on tour.” Bird’s fingertips hurt, but she integrates her “Ouch!” noises into the songs. Despite all her jokes and easy-going attitude, there’s something you shouldn’t forget: Wallis Bird is a woman with a tremendous/stunning voice. She’s a multi-instrumentalist who is an extraordinary guitar player for having just four left fingers (she lost one as a child) and inverted her own unique way of playing. Really, she’s a woman to admire. What does Wallis admire? “Thinkers, drinkers, lovers, talkers, shitheads, eggheads….life….just won’t be a huge dickhead or hurt anyone and we could have a beer.” I’m not a dickhead and I’m not into violence–Wallis, I’ll take you up on that beer.