Personal Best promise 'classic rock with tragic lesbians'

Katie Gatt of Personal Best. Picture by Mathew Schwartz (penandcamera.com).
Katie Gatt of Personal Best. Picture by Mathew Schwartz (penandcamera.com).
Southsea Bandstand

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The Torpedoes, taken at Southsea Common War Memorial, March 2018. Picture by Shaun Nightmare.

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Released back in 2015, Personal Best's debut album, Arnos Vale was a brisk, 10 tracks of perky power-pop that didn't outstay its welcome.

In the intervening years, the band has grown from a trio to a four-piece, but the only constant member has been frontwoman Katie Gatt. And while she is the driving force of the band, 'it is very much my baby,' says Katie, ' but I don’t see the others as interchangeable, like hired-hands, they all very much want to be in the band  as far as I know!

'They all get to do their own thing creatively, I don’t tell them what bass lines to play, or whatever, it’s more like: here’s a song I wrote, can everyone now do their cool thing and make it sound a million times better? And they all chip in with their ideas.

'But if everyone were to quit tomorrow, Personal Best would still exist.'

Originally from Newport in Wales, she now lives in Bristol after a stint here in Portsmouth, but is often back this way and considers it her 'second home.'

The line-up which is now recording the band's second album may be completely different to the debut, but it's not down to any acrimony.

'We slightly changed how I wanted the band to sound, I wanted it to sound a bit more classic rock, and a bit bigger, rather than the power trio. I’ve known El (Morgan, vocals/guitars) for a long time and always thought she’s brilliant, and then the other members changed over time as well.

'To go from a three-piece to a four-piece, it had to be the right person, and as well as being an amazing player El’s a great singer, she’s got this magic trick of making harmonies appear out of nowhere.

'Everyone in the band is a songwriter as well and they've all got their own other projects, which is nice. There’s a really nice musicality.

'I’ve always said to everybody in the band, don’t do it any longer than you’re enjoying it, don’t feel you owe me anything, you haven’t signed anything in blood,' she laughs. 'I want people to play because they’re enjoying it and unfortunately I’m not at the stage where I can pay amazing wages, we just cover our expenses.'

Katie's says they're about two-thirds through recording the new album at Southsea Sound, the studio co-owned by El and Tim Greaves. 

'Tim's the engineer, and he’s an absolute dream to work with. He’s got this nice balance between encouraging and: "Come on, you can do a better take," without making you feel like you’re not good enough.

'This album is going to be more classic rock – the sort of headline I want to go with is classic rock with tragic lesbians. There’s a lot of guitar harmonies, the lyrics are much more dark, Arnos Vale was quite poppy and upbeat.

'Arnos Vale was very short but that’s because that’s all the songs we had. I mean, I’m not interested in recording some rock opera or something, but I wanted to make this one a bit more filled out, a little more thought through. Arnos Vale we did in three days, it was a blast, it was energetic, but I wanted to take my time with this one.'

As on openly gay artist, Katie doesn't see there being a great deal of separation between her music and her personal life.

'It gets to the point where you can’t really separate it, of course I’m going to sing and write about that sort of stuff, rock and pop songs are all about love and sex, so yeah. 

'I’ve realised, it’s not like we’re a huge band, but we’ve got a few followers on Twitter. Compared to others it’s a tiny platform, but it is a platform. And when you’re in a band, even a small band, you get people who proper look up to you, and I still get surprised by that.

'You should be using those platforms to say something positive and empowering. It doesn’t mean it has to be serious and moody, you can make it a celebration.

'Even like saying everyone’s body is good, or everyone’s sexuality is valid, it’s so simple but sometimes you just need to be reminded of that.

'People need to realise we have a little more power than we think, so we need to use it responsibly, like Spiderman or something.'

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