WHEN Angela Basson takes the stage, you know about it. Like a giant force oozing energy, her stage presence is a sight to behold.
She shouts, screams, whispers, snarls, prowls, parades the stage like a theatrical superstar. But it’s no whimsical gesture.
As frontwoman of Sheffield band Black Cat White Cat, Angela’s stage presence has been a magnet for gig-goers across Sheffield.
“I think out of respect you should perform for an audience and harbour all your energy for them,” says Basson. “You can tell a good band because you don’t go away questioning whether you like them or not – you just like them. I’m not a young singer but I don’t go on stage thinking ‘Oh my God, what are they going to think? I love people who let rip on stage; I can believe in a performance when they seem to be living the song out in front of people.”
Basson’s possessed on-stage persona nods to Janis Joplin, although the Sheffield-based singer also name-checks Siouxsie Sioux, Dusty Springfield, Diamanda Gallas (in her jazz period) and Billie Holiday.
Basson is also in a band with some of Sheffield’s finest musicians, including session musician Simon Stafford – her partner, drummer and co-writer, whose musical accolades include writing with Joe Strummer and Jarvis Cocker.
Basson explains: “I met Steve Albini, the man who produced Nirvana’s Nevermind, once and the first thing he said to me was that Simon Stafford ‘is a very talented man’. I knew Simon was happiest playing the drums so it made complete sense to me to put him on the drums.
“Chris Saunders and Mickey Dixon have been writing music with us for the past year. Simon and I had already written a few songs and we wrote some others with the band.”
“I am so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing musicians,” says Basson, who writes many of the songs with Stafford. “People ask us what it’s like writing music with your partner but it’s an amazing thing to do together and we really enjoy it.”
Basson writes the lyrics for Black Cat White Cat’s songs, presents them to Stafford and the pair then thrash out ideas with the band: “I keep a book of poems and drawing that I call the book of Paradise.”
As a former arts student at Psalter Lane Art College, Basson says she thinks visually: “When I’m writing I don’t think in words. I have a very visual mind so I imagine a film and through that I’ll push through what I’m thinking to see what’s going to happen next.”
Despite this dreamy, artistic method of songwriting, Basson bases her lyrics on observations of the grittier, universal realities of life. “Lyrics take on a narrative between real life and fantasy. I take inspiration from issues such as small town politics, based on my experiences of growing up in Goole”
In one song, Daddy Bap Bap, Basson writes about the idea of young naïve girls flocking to older men with cheap cars as a get-out card from their provincial existence.
“I come from a small town and as a child it felt very isolating. Don’t get me wrong, small towns are great places to be if that is what you want in life, but I wanted to see more of life’s diversity, if you like.”
Black Cat White Cat’s moniker comes from the Yugoslavian romantic comedy of the same name. “I loved the film and I thought it worked well as a band name, plus I’m mad about cats (I have two of my own). I also love women who take on catlike personas like Eartha Kitt.
“I thought there could be a lot of scope with the name Black Cat White Cat and cat-themed things. I even considered wearing a tail for a while.”
Sheffield graphic designer Martin Bedford, who produced Black Cat White Cat’s poster, beat her to it. “Martin Bedford has drawn me wearing one and I quite like it – it’s very phallic.”
Black and White Cat release two singles next month, Lucille and Fridge, on the Sheffield label Club 60 Singles Club, which was launched earlier this year.
“Fridge is a real dancefloor single – it’s something to move to and I really hope we get some radio play. I’d like to hear how people respond to our music when they’re not at a gig.”
She won’t have to wait long for a response. The singles, are released at the start of June and are available from the band’s website and download sites such as iTunes.