2021 According To… Collette Warren

The last six months of incredible raving freedom here in the UK have left the bleak first half of the year a dim and distant memory for many of us. But never forget how brutal that last long-haul lockdown post-Christmas was. And never forget the role artists like Collette Warren played keeping us sane during that time.

Following their consistent Intrigue streams in 2020, Collette and Ben Soundscape’s lockdown sessions were up there with the streams of Doc Scott, Marky and John B as weekly highs for many of us as we remained restricted and frustrated. But keeping the D&B community sane was only aspect of Collette’s achievements this year… As we came out of lockdown she and Riya announced a full album and the launch of their own label.

Featuring an all-star cast of producers, Two Sides Of Everything was a groundbreaking release in drum & bass and led to the duo being nominated for five awards together in the Drum&BassArena Awards earlier this month. Throw in an additional award nomination in the Best DJ Stream category and Collette was the most nominated artist of the awards this year full stop.

A fitting way to end another successful year for the Brum-born/Brizzle-based singer-songwriter (who’s also released a whole stack of tracks this year with the likes of Dunk, R1C0, Nymfo, Minor Forms, Unglued, Creatures and been rehearsing with her band Collette The Dots) we called her up for a little 2021 reflection…

I know you’ve got a big Collette The Dots gig coming up at NYE… What’s it like reconnecting with the band after the last few years of lockdowns?

I’ve loved it! At one point I was worried we’d drift apart and it would never happen again. Or that we’d forget the songs, or not have that same vibe we did before. But we linked up after the lockdowns and it was like riding a bike. Like, ‘Wow!’ If anything, it’s better than ever and tighter than ever. It’s been great.

I love this new post-lockdown energy we’ve all had since July!!

Oh my god, yeah the last six months have been a different energy! Those first few raves were insane weren’t they?

I’ve got goosebumps thinking about them now!

I’d never want to go back into lockdown again, but I’ll miss that feeling. There were points I wondered if we’d be able to rave again this year, so to have had that time in the summer was just beautiful.

What was your first gig like?

It was Summer Of Love festival just outside of Bristol, which was on the opening weekend. Ben Soundscape and I played and, having played together on streams every weekend for 18 months, to go out to real people it felt like my first gig again. We were on early, so when we started there were a few people but within five minutes we had loads of people running down to party with us. It was amazing. I don’t think I’d ever been happier.

Vibes! What a cool role to play. Those ravers… That’s their first rave after lockdown, or first rave full stop. What a cool responsibility to have! Welcoming them back to the dance.

Yeah it was! And some of our live stream supporters were there as well. That was the first time we saw them in real life, which was really special.

Props for those streams. You guys held it down. I don’t think you missed a week!

We missed two weekends. One for Christmas and one when we went away. It was amazing for us, as well. People were helping us by coming and experiencing it with us. D&B is our life, it’s part of us, so we needed that outlet to play, perform, try out new tunes we’d made and have that interaction. Just being part of something. We didn’t think it would get so big but we created a family. Seeing people chatting to each other in the chat. Shouting them out. We never imagined it to turn out like that, it was far bigger than we ever imagined.

Plus I used to take part in a lot of other streams. Like Doc Scott’s streams, Marky’s streams, John B’s streams. They held it down too and we’d be part of their chat rooms and you would see people chatting away about what they’re drinking and how their week’s have been. It was as close to a night out as you could get during those times.

How was it for you and Ben as well? I’m always inspired by couples who create or write or perform together!

Yeah I love how we’re able to do that and go on tour together so we share our experiences and neither of us feel left out. So that’s always been the way and the streams were an extension of that. It did make it very special for both of us.

And during this you wrote an album!

Yeah we were working on it before lockdown. It grew very naturally. At first it was a one-off project, then it was an EP then, 14 tracks later, we had an album. We’d always talked about self-releasing it and felt strongly about having full creative control, but having your own label costs a lot of money so that’s where we paused for a moment to work out what to do. Then we saw a post on EQ50 from Sweetpea about the PRS grant. We thought we’d give it a go and spent ages on the application. We didn’t think we’d get it, but we did. It felt like the universe made it happen.

The only crap thing is the vinyl situation. It keeps getting pushed back every month and now it’s not ready until next year. I know it’s across the board and affected everyone and we’ll get it eventually.

In a way I think that’s cool. Back in the vinyl days people wanted to play it out, but now people collect it and frame it so it gives the album another lease of life.

That’s true. Yeah a lot of people who buy vinyl don’t even have decks do they? It’s a collectors item. For me I just want to frame it because I’m really proud of it.

Yeah! If you could frame something else from this year, what would it be?

Getting six nominations in the Drum&BassArena awards! People have said it’s a shame we didn’t win. But to have that many nominations was a massive win anyway. I’m so happy about that and that it made such an impression.

Which award nomination surprised you the most?

I think the label one, because we’d only released the album on it. But we do have loads of great plans for the label and plan on pushing vocalists. I don’t think there’s another label out there just pushing vocalists so that’s us. We want to get the vocalists at the forefront, support the up and coming talents and established ones. EPs, singles, albums. The works. Just purely celebrating vocalists. So that nomination was the most shocking one, but the most special one was best album – there were so many great albums in that list! And so many albums that should have been on that list and weren’t. Like Fox’s album. How did that not get in? So for us to be in that list and the only album by women was special.

Defo! Things are good for vocalists right now, right?

It’s an exciting time for vocalists! It was really hard to get a gig when I started and there weren’t that many of us. But now there are so many different options to perform like either a PA or do your own DJ gig or have a band. There’s a lot more appreciation for vocalists now and that’s why it’s good thing to push and develop Carnelian Music and be at the forefront of that movement.

Speaking of performances. You and GQ over Marky’s set at Hospitality In The Woods was fire!

Oh yeah! SP came on for a bit, too. And Riya came on as well. That was my favourite gig of 2021. That whole festival had vocalists on every single stage at different points. Hospital are getting behind vocalists in a big way right now so shouts to them for that.

Totally. Reunion vibes!

Yeah it was! It reminded me of Sun And Bass in the way that you bumped into so many different people all of the time. It had that celebratory feel didn’t it.

What have other highlights of the year been for you?

Doing the album showcases together was special. We did two – one with Spearhead and one here in Bristol at the Thekla. They were great shows. All that hard work we’d put into the albums, to perform the songs live and to have a packed-out crowd singing along was very special. Just to be on stage with my best friend who is also one of my idols; that was beautiful and we’re looking forward to doing more shows in the future.

The wicked. Thinking about it; you have your band, you stream with Ben, you’ve done bits with Riya… You buzz off performing and creating with people don’t you?

Yeah you can’t beat it. Vibesing in the studio or on the stage with your mates is the best. Especially with the band. All six of us together, fucking buzzing. There’s nothing like it.

There’s not a lot of footage of the band online, to get the Collette The Dots experience we have to see you live don’t we?

Yeah I love that fact. There’s not much of us online at all so you do have to come and see us. One day I’d love to get some proper footage but it’s cool to keep it hush hush and just have a reputation as a live band.

And there’s plenty of potential to take it further, too…

We’d love to and we do have plans to write stuff, rehearse stuff and put something really special together. But it’s a lot of people involved, with a lot of busy schedules. And, with things the way they are at the moment, if one person comes into contact with covid, like they have this week for example, then we can’t all get together. But I’d love to take the band as far as it can go.

Awesome. What would you like to see more of in 2022?

More vocalists doing their thing! I’d love to see more PAs schedule at good times of the night between the DJs. The crowd loves a singer. There’s a different energy when they come on the stage isn’t there? So I’d love to see promoters bring more vocal elements into line-ups. When I first started getting into raving you’d have Baby D, Kosheen, EZ Rollers. They were amazing, this was the days before Tali and Jenna G, but there’s so many of us now you could have something like that at every rave and, it goes without saying, I’d also like to see more diversity on line-ups.

Of course!

It’s getting better but whenever I look at flyers the women are almost always at the bottom of the line-up. Not people like Koven or Harriet Jaxxon, but generally – they’re put at the bottom. I think all flyers and bills should be A-Z and that’s that. It takes away that issue.

Also, as SHOSH mentions in a recent interview, not booked as political hand out, either…

Definitely! Choose the girls because you want to book them not just for tokenistic measures. There are so many amazing women doing bits out there right now, it’s not bloody hard to find someone who will fit your line-up and your crowd. Just do the research.

Amen. So what’s up next from you?

My next release is on Seba’s album next month. I’ve been such a fan of his for so long and never thought I’d get the chance to work with him, so that’s a real honour and that’s coming out at the end of January. Then after that I’ve got a bunch of things I can’t quite mention yet but I’m working on my next EP.

Oh wow. Your last EP had the best of the best on there. How you going to top that?

Yeah I had Calibre and Marky and Random Movement… How can I get bigger than that? So this time it’ll be underdogs and rising talents I’m really feeling so I can put the spot light on them.

Great shout. Will that drop on Carnelian Music?

Definitely. The idea of that label is to release our own music on there, music from other vocalists, and hopefully a VA at some point. Either an EP or an album. We’d love to do some writing camps as well at some point with some songwriters and producers and go away for the weekend and write loads of stuff for the label.

Sick! So there’s an amazing influx of awesome singers and songwriters right now… Can you pass on any advice for aspiring or rising singers?

Sure! My advice to anyone is always be aware that you’re going to get a lot of rejections. I still get them to this day and you have to be able to accept them and move on. And get out there and network. Meet producers to work with, be nice, stay grounded and believe in yourself. Find your own sound, too. Don’t try and sound like Charli or Riya or Charlotte. Be you!

Wicked advice. Any final shouts?

Yeah, shouts to every single person in drum & bass! I feel it’s the most special genre in the whole of the music world. There’s no family like it. It’s not just music, it’s a religion for some of us. So yeah huge big up and love to everyone in the scene. I know hard it’s been for people, we’ve all struggled at different points but we keep each other inspired and we stay united. There’s no other scene like this.

Collette The Dots are performing NYE at Lakota for Alternate alongside Andy C, DJ Zinc and many more.

Follow Collette Warren: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud