Mesadorm's Blythe Pepino chats polyamory, community, and making music with friends
Angie Needham speaks to the lead singer of the left-field electronica act 🎼
One of my favourite things about being a journalist is having the opportunity to listen to people talk about their passions.
When talking to musicians, artists or even your average Jolene about their passion or their work, all of their senses come alive at once. Their smile is brighter, their voice humble, and as an interviewer, it’s usually here that I find the really good stuff.
When I spoke with Blythe Pepino, the lead singer of electronica act Mesadorm recently, that good stuff came when we spoke about her bandmates.
Mesadorm. Photo by Sarah Cresswell.
The conversation up until this point is polite, pleasant. When asked about her band though, her tone changes in an instant. The way Blythe talks about her bandmates is as if she is talking about family.
“I just felt so happy to go back, and to be making music with friends that I had gone to uni with, and doing everything that we had done when we were much younger, you know?”
“We just so enjoy making music, and we love to play music together, it's so easy. We had a couple of days in the studio and we came out with 14 different ideas over a very short period of time. It's been marvellous, and who knows how long it can last for, but it feels inspiring, and this is what's important."
Before Mesadorm came to be, Blythe was once a member of the pop art trio, Vaults. The group were known for their energetic pop anthems, and were even given an opportunity to cover One Day I’ll Fly Away for the John Lewis Christmas ad in 2016.
While Blythe says the project was fun at the time, the singer felt the itch to produce music that was more authentic to her.
On Vaults, Blythe says, “While I was in Vaults I carried on writing my own music. It was a very cool project, but a lot of the material that I naturally came out with didn’t really work with it. It was very much trying to get on Radio 1, and that’s the first time I’ve ever tried to get into something mainstream.
“I can have fun singing pop songs sometimes, and I wanted to see if I could make it really good. I thought maybe I could be strong enough to kind of carve out that, maybe something really cool like Lady Gaga or, you know, something that was really pop, but also really clever and great.
“It turned out that I just didn't feel right doing it. They were lovely to work with, but it didn't really jam in the same way, and I realised that I’ve always made my favourite music with my close friends.”
Photo by Sarah Cresswell.
Speaking of the media, a lot has been said of Mesadorm’s lead singer. Despite her success with Vaults though, the attention she received was mostly due to her personal life — Blythe has openly spoken about being in a polyamorous relationship.
While the idea of polyamory is something many still have little knowledge of, listening to Blythe’s personal take on the identity provides a fresh perspective.
“It's to do with consent, and with sexuality and being ok with being sexual. And naturally a lot of the questions I get asked are around sex because people find the idea of not having ownership over your partner's sexuality difficult, and that really comes back to a lot of very religious ideas.
"It really comes back to the patriarchy as well, like ownership of land, ownership of property, ownership of partner.”
It's clear that the attention that came with her sexual identity is still something that makes the singer uncomfortable, something which is evident when asked if she herself identifies as queer.
“I like the idea of identifying as queer, but I'm also a bit reluctant to say, I'm this or I'm that, because when I was talking about being polyamorous, I realised how easily that became an unhelpful label.
"It kind of gets in the way of the nature of what that is supposed to represent, which is moving away from needing to be something fixed and allowing space to change if needed.”
Alongside Blythe in the group is drummer, Daisy Palmer, who recently became engaged to her longtime partner, Rachel. Blythe gushes over her friend, “I just always felt so proud of her.” She continues, “I think Daisy is such a fucking legend.
"There's just something about her - the way she carries herself, and even on stage, people are like, ‘Wow, that drummer!’ I think a lot of women struggle to be completely themselves in the moment.
"So much gets in the way of actually being here in our bodies and doing our thing and really fucking loving it, but Daisy manages to be an astonishing drummer, a canny business woman, and have all the fun too - no questions asked.”
It’s clear that the group blends well together, when you hear the music you can tell how much their chemistry impacts their vibe.
The group launched their new album, Heterogaster, this summer. It’s a project Blythe is proud of – displaying a variety of genres and styles from the high impact Yours And Not Yours, to the soft and simple Easy.
Through the many different tones, beats and flows – the album presents the diversity of talent the group has to offer. On the new album, Blythe explains, “Every song on that album had to come out in a certain way.
"It's almost like there wasn't really much choice in the matter. It was like those songs came from a place, each one from a moment in my life, like a thought or feeling, and the voice that goes with it, is the voice that is necessary for that song.”.”
According to Blythe, the key to becoming a great artist doesn’t always necessarily happen in the studio. Rather, she claims that all artists would benefit from doing some form of community work.
Blythe herself has worked with people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, as well as running choirs. She currently helps run the "protest friendly" Fire Choir, formed by Sam Lee and The Foundling Museum in London, and has frequently worked for Help Refugees in Calais.
She explains, “I think the link definitely has a lot to do with empathy, being honest with yourself and being able to be open. I think most people have that ability, and great potential to be very empathetic but not everybody receives the experiences that encourage them to be like that in life. And it's a burden as much as it is an amazing thing.
“Through community work, you realise that there is more to life than what's going on in your own head and it's a combination of the two, of looking inside yourself and appreciating the amazingness that's going on in every human. You realise, ‘Wow there's this whole other existence that this person is [experiencing], and I think the music that comes out from that perspective is much more interesting.”
We end our conversation, but before I let her go, I ask if she wanted to add anything – or to say something to DIVA's readers, perhaps?
Her response, “I have a question I liked to ask. Do any of your readers have hairy legs and are totally fine with it? I have had very naturally hirsute legs for a year and haven’t reached a lack of self-consciousness over it yet!”
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