THREE years after their split, American dance-punk band Gossip, fronted by the mega-voiced Beth Ditto, have reformed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their hit album, Music For Men.
‘We’re just saying, “Hi everyone! We are all ten years older and thanks for changing our lives so dramatically!”’ says Beth.
Music For Men was the band’s most successful album — becoming a hit throughout Europe and Australia, while single Heavy Cross spent more than 97 weeks in the German charts.
The band were also very popular in the UK. The title track of third album Standing In The Way Of Control was a Top Ten hit in 2007 and Beth was a ubiquitous presence on TV and radio.
‘When that did what it did in the UK, we thought, “Well, this is never going to happen again.” And then Music For Men came out. We’d joke about being a one-hit wonder and then we were like, “What? There’s two hits now?”’
It turned Beth, 38, into a celebrity, with her own agony aunt column in a broadsheet newspaper and a plus-size clothing range at Evans, as well as raising awareness of body positivity and issues affecting the LGBT+ community. ‘Doing the clothing range was really cool. The fat positivity movement in mainstream culture was very new and there was a younger aesthetic starting to develop in plus-size clothing,’ says Beth.
‘But the highlights were the surreal part of it all and, looking back, how stupid and ridiculous we were. There were bands with other queer women around, like CSS and Le Tigre, and a lot of dude bands, so festivals were a lot of fun backstage. Everyone must have thought we were the most annoying people ever as we were always setting up limbo competitions in the VIP areas.
‘Once, a woman left her eight-year-old daughter with me at a festival. Her mom wanted to go and see a band and the daughter didn’t. I said, “You can hang around with me, I don’t want to see that band either.”
‘Since I had a special pass, I asked if she wanted to meet anyone. She said The Horrors, so we walked around and found them. That was fun. She hit me up on social media a couple of years ago and said, “It’s me from the festival!”. So I guess it was a memorable day for both of us!’
Recording their fifth album, A Joyful Noise, proved to be a difficult experience. Guitarist Nathan Howdeshell had decided to move back to the band’s native Arkansas and Beth went to Los Angeles to work on songwriting sessions by herself.
‘When he moved back, it was difficult, at first, to logistically make music. I don’t think it’s a bad record but I don’t think it was a good Gossip record. I was sick of working on stuff and it going nowhere. I was like, “f**k this, I’m out of here.” It was like beating a dead horse.’
Although everyone enjoyed rehearsals, issues underlying the band’s break-up may still be there. ‘Arkansas is definitely a point of contention. I love my family, and there are good people there, but as a whole I feel really f**ked over by that place. I feel chased out. Not by people with torches and pitchforks — but I feel it’s somewhere I could never thrive or belong.’
Beth says a new Gossip record is unlikely and is focusing on her acting career, for now. She starred in Gus Van Sant’s comedy Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot last year, and also appears in new TV series On Becoming A God In Central Florida, which stars Kirsten Dunst.
‘I spent six months filming it in New Orleans,’ says Beth. ‘It’s really fun to learn how to do something new. I never thought about acting, but it’s been really fun and fulfilling. I got to learn from Kirsten Dunst, which was incredible. The people on the show were so awesome and willing to help me because I didn’t know the first thing to do. I didn’t know sh*t.’
■ Gossip play Somerset House Summer Series on Sunday, bethditto.com