English Teacher

Lily Fontaine on her band English Teacher, Leeds, and Black Lives Matter

by Northern Life

Lily Fontaine is a rising star. Not only can she tap out words on the keyboard, she can also carry a tune. In fact, she carries a tune rather well, so well in fact that she is leaving her hometown of Colne for the bright lights of Leeds with her band English Teacher. Not only is our Lily on the road to a new city, she’s also on the road to stardom.. this band is going to be big!

Here she chats to Emily Smith about her love of words, both on paper and vocally…

An exceptionally talented singer, Lily has been gigging professionally since secondary school, where she would perform in local pubs and venues. She told me that she was so excited when her passion became her part time job, “I was working in the local Chinese take-away, which I loved, but being able to earn money from music is even better.”

Wanting to further pursue her love for music, Lily attended Leeds College of Music for three years, the place where English Teacher would begin. Lily told me the story of how the band began, “There was a trip to Valencia for the DIY Musicians Conference. I ended up talking about song writing with Dan, one of the other students on the trip. When we got back, I started putting my music on Soundcloud, expecting nothing to happen, and then I got a message from a Leeds promoter asking if I wanted to play a gig. I didn’t have a band so I decided to ask the guy I met in Valencia, and a month later we played our first show. The trick is just saying yes to as much as you can and eventually something takes off.” Lily and the band’s hard work has clearly been paying off as they have recently recorded with Ken Scott (The Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd) and are set to play the festival Live at Leeds this November 28th. It’s held in different venues around Leeds and has been running for 13 years. “I hope it still goes ahead because I went when I was studying there – it’s great, and some of my favourite bands are playing it this year too,” grins Lily.

Lily told me that there is an accidental tradition in her family in which many members have, at some point, been an English teacher. Realising this, Lily decided what better way to keep the tradition alive than to name the thing she is doing professionally English Teacher! She also went onto tell me that there is another reason for the name, “I feel like I’m a better writer than a musician sometimes. Obviously, I write for Northern Life magazine and I do a lot of creative writing. I got into that through English teachers and all my English teachers have been amazing people.”

English Teacher have a beautifully unique sound that, for many, feels somewhat nostalgic and familiar, making for a stunning listen. I asked Lily where she gets her inspiration from, ‘I’m a big fan of Alex Turner’s lyricism; Arctic Monkeys were one of the first bands that I really got into when I was growing up, after The Beatles. But, a lot of the inspiration for the themes in my songs come from non-musical stimuli – films are a big influence, and the latest releases are all inspired by Colne, Lancashire where I grew up. Our first single The World’s Biggest Paving Slab is written from the perspective of the pavement outside the town hall, and we created a music video for it featuring the town’s most recognisable beauty spots. Our latest single is an ode to Pendle Hill, which is probably the most famous local landmark. I studied The Romantics in English Literature at college and their appreciation of nature is also a main theme of the song.”

“The trick is just saying yes to as much as you can and eventually something takes off”

Speaking of their new release, You Won’t Believe How Beautiful She is When it Has Snowed is now available on multiple streaming platforms. We talked about the release and how the band are donating the profits from the single to the Black Lives Matter movement. I went on to ask Lily if she could tell me a bit about the powerful stance, “I couldn’t change the release date of the single and I was worried that it would distract or seem ill-timed to release it, as the cause means so much to me, given my heritage, it’s personal. I just realised I could use it as a way to raise funds. Also it gets people thinking about it, which I think is the most important thing, as it’s easy to re-post articles and say you care about a topic, but I think the most important thing is to take the time to educate yourself on it, encourage others to educate themselves and to take action when people are being discriminated against. The more people that decide to speak out, the more people like me who feel affected by it feel supported. It’s been, at times, terrifying but heart-warming in many ways as well.”

Before wrapping up our talk, I wanted to ask if English Teacher have any more music in the pipeline. Lily assured me there was more to come, ‘The single has just come out and we have a track on Come Play with Me’s compilation album Come Stay With Me, called The Treacle Trapdoor.” The album was created to support several Leeds based bands through the difficulties of lockdown. In addition to moving in together this July due to some exciting upcoming opportunities, Lily also told me that the band have more music planned to come out later this year! Going on to say that “it’s going to be all themed on Lancashire, which goes well with Northern Life!”