Standing prettily centre stage in a prom dress, fresh make-up and strumming on a ukulele, she is reminiscent of June Carter in Walk The Line. Like Carter, Tamara Schlesinger’s music has a country feel. But her band’s sound is more modern, containing influences from klezmer and calypso to Afro and Latin music.
6 Day Riot have been enjoying encouraging reviews since they released their latest album, 6 Day Riot Have A Plan, earlier this month. The band was named as one of the top 10 “pop picks of 2009” by Pete Paphides in the Times and their latest song, Run For Your Life, was recently voted as single of the week by the public on Radio 2’s Radcliffe and Maconie show.
“It feels good that we won single of the week,” says 28-year-old Schlesinger. “I’m really excited and I hope it makes a difference for us. It should increase our listenership.”
Schlesinger puts a lot of her band’s success down to the media’s current love affair with female artists like Little Boots, VV Brown and Florence and The Machine. “If the press decides it’s all about women this year, that’s great,” she says. “A lot of the time men were on top. Now it’s the hour of woman doing well in folk and popular music, and that’s great.”
Schlesinger, who grew up in Glasgow and moved to London to study fashion at St Martin’s College six years ago, cites Emmy The Great and La Roux as those from the current crop she admires. But unlike those women, she has not got the added advantage of a big label behind her. Instead she is running her own record label, Tantrum.
“I have had my label six years. Doing it yourself if you know how to do it, is better than going with a label,” she insists. “The music industry is changing so much that it makes sense. Our structure is the same as any label, it’s just that we don’t have as big a budget. But we have similar coverage to some of the other indie bands like Seal Club and Moshi Moshi.
“We manage ourselves. We have got a PR team and radio team. We have found the right people to work with. We have got a good lawyer and my family is really supportive. They have been amazing. They’re completely behind it. Initially they were sceptical before they knew what it was all about .”
Schlesinger says it also helps that many of her contemporaries are involved in music. She grew up going to Habonim Dror where she met like-minded creative types like the singer Gideon Conn, with whom she has toured. “You have got to have that support from your friends,” she says. “I think Habonim’s very creative, so it inspires people to do music and art.”
Gymnastics got her used to being centre stage before she even reached her teens. “I played piano growing up and singing in choirs but I mostly concentrated on gymnastics when I was younger,” she says. “I broke my ankle so I had to retire at 17. But because of it I was really comfortable performing. I think it’s really important how you perform. People understand your music more if they see it live.”
Which is why as a fashion graduate, her on-stage outfits are important. “I like my vintage clothes. On stage I dress ’40s and ’50s but I’m more ’60s and ’70s in real life. It’s quite good to put on something other than what you would normally wear. You perform better. The way you dress enhances the sound. ”