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The New Queen: Getting to know the incomparable Miss Blanks

16 March 2017 | 4:16 pm | Emma Jones

Unapologetic, disruptive and a whole lot of fun, Miss Blanks is on a one way ticket to the top and we can't wait to see what she does next.

If there is one artist that should be on your radar, it's Brisbane's MISS BLANKS. Unapologetic, disruptive, and a whole lot of fun, she is an explosive force that has emerged over the past six months and is putting everyone on notice.

From her first ever show in September last year at the iconic FEMPRE$$, to supporting Little Simz, hosting her own club night, bringing said club night to Sydney, being played on triple J, playing festivals and appearing during sets across Brisbane, Miss Blanks has become a force to be reckoned with. Her music is an extension of her - bright, vivacious, infectious and once again, fun, and she is really only just getting started.

With just three official tracks out, and an appearance at Vivid already locked in for 2017, it's safe to say she is set to take this year by storm. Only just getting started, she's intelligent, ambitious and self-aware, and knows what she wants and how to get it. With her producer, TOMTOM by her side, there really is no stopping her, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

We had the absolute honour of getting deep with her recently, talking everything from her club night, FEMME FATALE, to her day job working on fashion PR, as well as her hopes and passions. We have been enthralled watching her up until now, and cannot wait to see where she goes next, but we have a feeling - it's straight to the top!

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I see a lot of the time, people talk about how Brisbane is becoming a new hub of sorts for hip-hop. Do you see it that way?

I think in terms of URL buzz around Brisbane and hip-hop, yes. I think in terms of online spaces and the marketability of hip-hop heads and rappers in Brisbane, it’s easy to lump everyone together like, “Oh, Miss Blanks - she’s from Brisbane. Midas.Gold, from Brisbane. Gill Bates, from Brisbane.” We get all pooled together but really the only thing we have in common is that we all reside in Brisbane. I personally feel like there is a strong disconnect here and it can sometimes actually be really clique-y. Oh my god, crazy amounts.

Do you think that hinders the scene?

Totally. I mean, this is my thing. My first show was in September for FEMPRESS. From that event, while I was still doing all my stuff, what people know about me is I get tunnel vision - I’m just focussing on my next project, what I’m doing next. What anyone else is doing is on them, but at the same time I’m still very observant. What I notice is me doing my gigs, I am very aware that while my gigs were targeting a very specific crowd. There is a big crowd that don’t come to my shows, but from my first ever gig - day one - I was going to all these hip-hop events and club nights that I wouldn’t normally go to. One, I want to support the scene, but two, I want to know who these other rappers are! I want to know where they’re at. I want to be quiet, and sit in the back you know? Pay my $10 door entry and I’m just going to watch. For a long time I was very much like that, just watching. I think there is a disconnect here and sometimes without anyone intentionally making it clique-y, it is. The guys support the guys and go to their events, and the girls… I don’t want to make it a gender thing but for me and the girls that I’m friends with, we go support artists we like, like many other music listeners.

Did you learn anything in those experiences when you were going and sitting at the back?

I’m incredibly observant. Seeing how the crowd reacts to certain songs, what gets them hyped, how the performer is delivering the song, what kind of people are coming through the door and what are they supporting - all these things are very important to me. I don’t have the time or energy to make mistakes right now, so I need to know these things for what I’m doing. Of course there are obstacles that every artists faces when they’re emerging, but if I can prevent, I’m going to prevent it. I’ve always been told, “You only have control over what you have control over.” If I can prevent anything or control certain components that are within my reach, then I’m going to do that. If it’s a matter of me going to some gig to watch other artists play to take note and understand and observe, then I’ll do that.

Who is Miss Blanks?

That’s a difficult one, and it’s something I’ve been trying to answer for myself for some time now. What you see is what you get with me. I’m very transparent in the real life. In the URL life, it’s also very transparent… Sometimes to my detriment. Miss Blanks is me, they’re not two separate people and it’s not so much of an alter ego. Miss Blanks is an interesting space for me to heighten who Sian is. It’s a space for me to be a bit more explorative or unapologetic or raw or disruptive. Miss Blanks is an enigma, that is for sure.

Your songs are so real, or at least they feel really real when I listen to your lyrics. How much of it is art imitating life?  Do you rap about your own experiences?

When it comes to the creative process and me writing a song, it usually only happens one of two ways. One, something has happened and I feel I need to write about it. It can be very sudden, I could be on the bus - okay that’s a lie, I’ll be in an uber going somewhere and I’ll just write something down. I’ll sit with it for ages until the right tune comes along or something else comes about. Secondly, I’ll be working on a song and I’ll have something that I’ll be working on for sometime like an experience or topic I need to get off my chest, and write from there and explore that.

For me, especially when I’m receiving beats or working on a beat with my producer (shout out TomTom), normally it’s very much like, “How can I exploit this? Is there anything else I can do to take advantage of this beat?” Or on the flip side, what can I do for this beat? Is there anything I can give it? There’s been some songs that I’ve worked on where I know what I can do with it, but then there are others where there is nothing I can do for it, or it’s just not me. It doesn’t fit within the Miss Blanks sound. People have asked me, “Well, what is your sound?” And I could give them an answer, but if I feel it and it’s a spiritual connection, I’ll work on it. But for the most part, it’s just heavy bass and claps. I love a good heavy bass and a clap! But regarding my lyrical content, it’s all me.

That kind of turns into a form of catharsis then, almost like therapy in a way. That could also be quite daunting to share that kind of intimacy in some instances to a room full of strangers. Does it ever feel that way for you?

On the one side, it’s very healing to be able to take something that I’ve experienced and share it in my songs and let people connect with it and interpret it however they want. But for the most part, when I’m doing a live show, it’s not so much that I feel vulnerable. For me, it’s about, “Okay, that was an experience,” and getting to a point where I am reclaiming my energy, my body, my voice by performing that song. I’m reliving it, but I’m also reclaiming it. I am allowing me to have the permission to enjoy it and I’m giving you the permission to enjoy it. I hold that energy and power and I give you that permission. That’s how I see it.

In regards to having your clear understanding of who Miss Blanks is, how does that work with collaborating with other people such as TomTom or others? Is it easier or harder to be able to work with someone?

When I was looking for a producer to work with, I was referred to TomTom, I wasn’t super interested in working with people at the time. But then I felt like maybe I was ready, so one day I was just on Facebook and he just randomly popped up on my page and we weren’t friends or anything, so that was weird. I remember hitting him up and me just doing the most and being wild and him being super formal back, but I was just myself and the rest is history.

I’m very much a Plan A type of person, I like to get what I want. Not because I’m cocky or entitled, I know what I want and I know it will work. The amount of times I’ve said to TomTom we should do something, and he’s unsure, we try it and it always end up working. I sit there and am like, “When are people going to start listening to me?” [Laughs].

It’s easier for everyone to just take your opinion straight away! [Laughs]

My thing is, we don’t always have to go with my option. But if we’re sitting in a room and people are giving up options, I want to go with the best one. If it’s between me and someone else, and I think mine is the best, we’re going with that. If their’s is the best, we’ll go with that instead. I definitely don’t think I always have the best options, but so far I’m the only one pulling through with them right now! [Laughs]

I think when it comes to working with other creatives and producers, I’m just relaxed. It’s not in my nature to sit there and be super formal. In my line of work, in my day-to-day work, I might do that. But I’m not here to save lives, I’m not curing cancer. I’m making music, it should be fun and creative and I should be able to have freedom to express myself however I choose. When it came to me reaching out to TomTom, it was very informal, but it was fun and we vibe and we get each other. I’ve been like to other producers, “Yo, pretty sure we matched on Tinder a few months ago, do you wanna work on a track? Send me some beats!” The rest is history!

Going back to what you were saying about your day job, I’m really interested in that. You work in fashion PR and it’s so different to music, but sometimes could be quite similar. Has there been anything from that work that has shaped you to be ready for the music world?

I think my work in fashion PR has definitely prepared me for a few things. Communication is key in my line of work. If anyone knows me, they know they can access me. You will find a way, and if I’m not replying to you, I’m either in a life or death emergency, or I’m intentionally ignoring you! [Laughs] They’re the only two options. I would say I’ve lost my phone, but that is in itself a life or death emergency so… [Laughs]

Me being able to communicate and also interpret and communicate important key messages and being able to articulate things properly is important, especially as a creator and working with other people. I’d also say time management and scheduling. When it’s not myself, I’m great. I kind of had to treat Miss Blanks as this other person on the back end to do planning and stuff like that. There have been a lot of transferrable skills from working in PR that I’m using now. Being able to manage relationships and opportunities and being strategic with that. I’ve only been doing this for six months, and I think it speaks volumes about how much I have done in that time. I’ve done well, and I haven’t wasted any time or energy making wrong moves.

Do you have any aspirations to meld the two mediums of fashion and music together? Can we expect a Miss Blanks empire? Please say yes!

If I’m able to, through my music, videos or shows, create something a bit more artful, then yeah I would like to do that and incorporate fashion. At the moment though, you will not see me releasing a Miss Blanks fashion line. She will not be at fashion week - unless she’s booked to play!

Another facet of that empire would obviously your events as well. Femme Fatale is an exciting club night you also run. Can you tell me a bit about that? Why did you start it and where is it going?

Femme Fatale is a club night I started in Brisbane, and now in Sydney on a monthly rotation. I started it because, as a cute little teenager when I was clubbing, I felt there weren’t any clubs playing the music that I like. That was really the start of it all. I just wanted to dance and have fun and party. I just wanted to put on a dope fucking club night that plays the music that I love, or at least getting on DJs and curating programs so it has interesting talent that I liked and I know other people would like that need to be supported, protected, uplifted and encouraged. That’s where it started.

There was an empty space for it, that’s for sure, and you’re filling it with this amazing thing. I think it’s really important to provide these kind of spaces and nights that play into those interests that just weren’t taken into account before. I love going out and dancing to the likes of Baby Mama or DJ Black Amex, and you’re providing that!

Totally! There are other great club nights around now, but I started this to have a night dedicated to RnB, rap and hip-hop and also dedicated to women and non-binary honeys. Once I started pulling all the pieces of the puzzle together, I remember thinking, “There is nothing like this being done yet.” There is such a gap in the scene that needed to be filled, and while I can’t create a safe space — because I don’t feel that anyone can and guarantee someone’s safety — I can create a more inclusive space. People know that if they’re coming to Femme Fatale, they’re coming to DANCE! They’re coming to party and have fun. There’s good vibes and good music, as well as good people.

When it comes to protocol around this, it’s important to have a female or non-binary honey on the door, and have inclusive and accessible toilets. I would love to have even the security and the people working the bar to be women or non-binary, preferably women of colour. It’s not to create a premise that says, “If you don’t fit in with these boxes, you’re not welcome.” Femme Fatale is all inclusive, however we obviously support, promote, uplift and protect the LGBT community, women, non-binary honeys and people of colour. But just because we are pro that doesn’t mean we are anti everything else that doesn’t fall within that.

You’re only just getting started, and you’re already kicking major goals. It’s been six months, and you’re supporting internationals, playing festivals, being played on triple J and so much more. It’s amazing. I’m interested to know, has there been a moment so far that was personally a big deal for you? Or if not, is there something you’re particularly looking forward to on a personal level?

The reason I started doing music, aside for my love for it, was because I wanted to give myself a voice in a creative capacity, but also put stuff out for other people — whether it be in my music, my club night, anything — I wanted other people to know that they can reclaim their voice, their body, their sexuality. Anything. They can reclaim it and take charge of the power. I think while I do have some longterm goals, I want to be able to work on music and create a sustainable career for myself with this. But, right now, this is where I’m at.

The music I’m releasing is where I’m at in life, and I’m having fun. The process is a journey, and a lot of people dismiss that but I enjoy it more than anything and I think while I’m very happy and appreciative, I’m aware I have a long way to go still. Right now, all I can focus on is what I do have control over. I want to dream big dreams and push out big love and big energy. Right now that’s all I’m doing, and all I intend to do now until I hit that next goal and tick that next box. Once I do that, I can refocus and reframe and figure out what is next. But, right now it’s about releasing music, having fun, performing and seeing other people engage and interact and enjoy my music just as much as I do.

Introduction and questions by Emma Jones

Image: Savannah Van Der Niet