'I grew up in North London, England, back when there were these amazing things called all-age concerts. It was set up by this one boy who was underage himself. He did an underage festival as well—it was very expensive because they had to make money off the tickets instead of making it off of the drinks. It was very much the 2000-indie period. It was a cool thing that they actually stopped doing, which is such a shame because it brought people together and created kind of a scene. The gigs were amazing because kids were just going crazy. You couldn’t be over a teen—if you were, you weren’t allowed in. I definitely got the balls from that as a teenager.
I started performing when I was 17 or 18, just for fun. We played show after show after show. We did it kind organically I guess, with the help of the internet. We put songs online as free downloads. Now, almost two years later, things have really come together. I really noticed it the first time we played a show in East London at The Old Blue Last. There was a queue and stuff, and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s more that 10 people here.’ There are two sides of when you first start to notice you’re doing well—you see what’s happening online and what’s happening at your shows. It’s never not exciting.
Tonight is our New York show. We did an American tour a month ago, but we skipped New York for some reason. So we’re playing Le Poisson Rouge. I feel like American audiences are a lot more enthusiastic and a lot more vocal. The whole 'Whooo' thing is less so in England, but then again, our crowd is amazing no matter what. Although it’s a huge honor to play big crowds, it’s always fun if it’s a slutty, intimate gig. It’s always good to keep that kind of vibe going.
I can get into the fun of getting ready, but I think I’m probably more on the low-maintaince side. I go through phases. Sometimes I get into it and I find it fun, but sometimes I really can’t be bothered. Last time we came to America, I lost my whole makeup bag. I must have left it in the hotel. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to do all these photos, all these shows. I have no makeup. I have no time to go to a shop!' So I was just like, 'You know what? Fuck, I don’t care.' That’s when I realized that I don’t rely on it. I didn't need to get to a store immediately and spend a hundred million pounds on new products. I was just like, 'Oh, whatever.' That was the moment for me.
At that point, I decided I only needed the necessities. I just bought a concealer, Erase Paste by Benefit. I bought a mascara from Benefit as well, Roller Lash. Both products aren't really heavy, which I like. The Erase Paste is good because I don’t like being caked in makeup. But then when I have bags under my eyes, I put it on and it’s just natural. Roller Lash isn’t clumpy at all. It's elongating rather than thickening. Then I have Nars Semi Matte Lipstick in Fire Down Below, which sounds weird. I like red lipstick, but I feel like dark red is more like an extreme tint if you know what I mean. I also have Benefit's Benetint because it's easier to get a stained look with, and it's better for performing because you can’t wear heavy lipstick on stage or the mic will smudge it. Then I’m thinking about my lipstick instead of performing. Same goes for fake eyelashes. I can’t wear them on stage because I don’t want to be thinking about it. Instead, I like the Topshop Smokey Eyes Quad in Smouldering. I just use the black on the side. It's like a liquid eyeliner for a good cat eye but done with a shadow. I try to do graphic, and then I smudge it up.
I get ready here at the venue—wherever, really. I don’t need outlets. I think because we’re very energetic on stage, I have to keep all that stuff into consideration. I don’t really want to wear short skirts because I don’t want to bend down and have everybody see my ass. I can’t wear heels because I play pedals, so I have to be clicking on them. I don’t want to worry about breaking my ankle. I don’t wear a big hairstyle because it will come undone when I'm head banging. If I was Lana Del Rey and just singing and being very elegant, I probably would do a lot of more of that kind of stuff because, like I said, it’s quite fun. You can express yourself that way. But I also have to be practical. If I didn’t brush my hair, no one's going to be like, 'Oh my God!' It suits it.
I always say this—‘Everything fashion-wise is secondary.’ Sometimes as the girl in the band, it’s required of you to talk about it, but I don’t really have many answers to those questions. I feel like if I say 'I don’t know,' then it’s like I’ve done a bad job, but I think the good thing about dressing up is that it does work in conjunction with playing a show. Getting ready helps the gig feel like a big deal. It’s a way to pump yourself up. Sometimes when I can't be bothered to go out, I do the same thing. If I go on a run and put on my makeup, then I would feel like I have to go out, you know what I mean? That helps, but yeah, it’s always secondary.
I’m still learning how to put on makeup properly. I like glitter. I wish I had more glittery stuff from 99 pence stores—not actual makeup. We just put Vaseline on our eyes and then the glitter. We used to do it a lot, and we went through a phase where it was like, 'This is fun.' It was easy to make you feel good, especially if you’re on tour and you haven’t brought all your clothes with you. We go out in the same outfit every night, so how can we make it different and make ourselves feel special? We put some glitter on our face. People started to bring it to our shows to wear and give to us. It turned into this kind of thing that was uniting us with our fans. After we did a photoshoot with all the glitter, we started to hate glitter because we kept finding it in our scalps. That was a step too far. I went home and saw glitter in my brother’s hair, and he wasn’t even there! I was like, 'What's going on?' Someone said it's the herpes of the art world, and that's definitely true.”
—as told to ITG
Ellie Rowsell photographed by Tom Newton on June 18, 2015.