Rita Lynch is a household name in the Bristol live music scene. Having been active on the local circuit for 28 years, Rita formerly lived through the punk music era of the 1980s, starting her own band before relocating to Bristol where she found her niche with like minded musicians.
For those of us familiar with Bristol’s Blue Aeroplanes, you might well be aware of Rita’s contributions as bassist for this local band. Prior to this, Rita had her own punk band in the 1980s, which she formed in London having been inspired by the compulsive and political era bubbling beneath the surface and coined by bands including The Clash, The Jam and The Slits. When Rita and the Piss Artists folded, she joined God Bless You, initially as bassist and then as vocalist and eventually branching out to forge her own singer-songwriter career with the release of her debut album ‘Call Me Your Girlfriend’ in 1991.
Attending Catholic school in south London, 10 year old Rita was taught guitar by a nun who planted the seeds of something that would turn out to be much greater than Rita at first might have imagined. Garnering an incentive to take up guitar after being inspired by the likes of Patti Smith, Roxy Music, Iggy Pop and PJ Harvey, Rita dedicated her youth to pursuing the mastery of her music and art:
“When I was about 23 years old I got into Patti Smith, it kind of changed my life, it was completely liberating. I loved PJ Harvey and her earlier albums. She is still the queen of rock ‘n’ roll.” Rita says.
Living in a commune of sorts, Rita would cross paths with the people who would make waves – both politically, artistically and musically – people whom she would form friendships with and create communities based on the mutual passion for music. The ideas generated by the adoration for certain artists, would thread through their conversations and act as catalysts for the musical work they would produce themselves:
“I didn’t actually see Patti Smith live. It was just enough to listen to her records and talk about her with my friends. We were punks, it felt quite revolutionary. She is hugely influential.” Rita recalls.
Having been nurtured by her Catholic guitar teacher, Rita went on to join the Catholic Folk Mass at the local church, and decided to give up the guitar. It wasn’t until the punk rock explosion, that the spark was reignited and she took up the instrument again. This time, with a single minded approach that would carve her a successful and enduring musical career which she now pursues in Bristol.
“It was never something that I planned to do. If anything, I thought I’d go to university, get a degree and see what would happen. I just fell into it. I started my own band in my early twenties, we played a lot of mostly underground, punk venues.” Rita says.
During her time in God Bless You, Rita was asked to cover a Lou Reed song – ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ – at which point, she realised she had a singing voice and wanted to pursue this path. She remained as backing vocalist for God Bless You for two years, during which time she learned the craft of songwriting.
“They were just rock ‘n’ rollers, coming from the punk scene.” Rita says.
The influence of their sound impacted on the Bristol music scene, bringing an intensity and an introspection when they moved to the city:
“We were a bit more romantic than political. The band were from Manchester, so they had an intensity about them, which they brought to bristol. They were so intense, it was quite an emotional experience. Very stripped down. Very sparse, moody and intense.” Rita recalls.
“I will always love Iggy Pop because he meant so much to me when I was younger.”
Rather than opting for the formal route into music, Rita is a firm believer in the power of literally immersing yourself in the local scene, finding your crowd, and learning through osmosis. There is, after all, no substitute for living life and living through the highs, the lows, the darkness and the rainbows.
“It just flowed very naturally, we were all part of the scene, we were all learning from each other. We all had similar ideas – it was art and politics.” Rita says.
Music as a rebellion against the status quo, is something that has informed much of Rita’s music and approach to songwriting. A means to express the ideas that might otherwise have no place to be heard, she maintains this perspective to this day – regularly playing local venues in Bristol and earning herself a loyal following in the wake. She is also a huge advocate of Bristol’s open mic scene.
“I think the open mic thing is one of the best things that has happened in recent years. Anybody can have a go and see what it’s like to be on stage, you’ve just got to get up and do it. I think it can really help people, especially people just starting out. I think they’re fantastic for that.” She says.If you could have dinner with anybody, Rita?
“I will always love Iggy Pop because he meant so much to me when I was younger. I admire his longevity. He’s just a really cool dude. You’d probably get something from having a chat with him.” Rita says.
Although we are living through dramatically different times, these days, with the apparent ease with which young musicians can become famous, make a name for themselves and receive recognition, Rita stands by the ethos that has kept her ploughing her own musical path for several decades – and that is, to be true to yourself and the space in which you live. Trying to be someone you’re not, would be a waste of everybody’s time and efforts:
“You can only be true to your time.” Rita says.
Rita’s Anthology, Story to Tell was recently released (1988 – 2011). For a full discography of Rita Lynch’s musical works, head to her website: www.ritalynch.co.uk
Words: Demelza Durston