Like her hero Stefani Germanotta who grew up on the posh Upper West Side of New York and became Lady Gaga, Jade Roche was raised in upmarket Malahide in Co Dublin and became Pastiche.
he sassy attitude, and catchy hooks on her new EP ‘Freak Show’ mark the 24-year-old Dubliner out as a future star. She doesn’t want to do anything ordinary with her time.
She walks into the Grand Hotel on the Grove Road in Malahide like she owns it. She has a sense of humour that owes less to the nuns who taught her in St Oliver Plunkett’s than to her heroes, Dua Lipa, Rihanna, Madonna and Lady Gaga of course.
When discussing that her latest single ‘Disco Junkie’, an infectious electro-pop ode to the liberation that came with the restoration of nightlife in post-Covid Dublin – and one of the best songs on the new six-track EP – Pastiche says it was filmed in The George, the capital’s most famous gay bar.
“And when I was walking in to do the video, one of the guys at the bar asked me: ‘Are you one of the queens performing in the George tonight?’
“I was like, ‘That is the best compliment you could ever give me. I am very happy with that.’”
That people thought you had a penis, I say?
“If someone thinks I have a dick, I am doing something right!” she laughs. “A massive one! One that swings! That is a compliment to me. If I look like a drag queen, I am doing something right.”
Pastiche’s earliest childhood memory was watching her dad and his best friend Uncle Shifty (“his real name’s not Shifty, and he wasn’t my uncle – I just called him that”) rehearsing in the garage at home when she was four years old. “A lot of my early musical taste goes back to him. He loved Bowie, Queen, Elton, Tom Jones. He had eclectic tastes. He would play keyboards and sing.”
On Saturday nights, she would help him carry the keyboard out to the car. “He’d say, ‘Oh, b*ll*x!’ when he was throwing it into the boot of the car. I used to copy him and say, ‘Oh, b*ll*x!’ all the time. They were probably my first words,” she says with a laugh.
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She was enrolled at the Billy Barry Stage School as a child and auditioned for all the pantos.
“I never got any of them. I was always a bit weird as a kid. I was always younger than everyone in my class. They were five and six years of age. I was four. And I was always shorter and a little bit stouter than anyone. I wasn’t the ideal look, know what I mean?
“Because when you do these auditions,” she says, “they always want the kids to line up perfectly and be very similar.
“I felt like I looked different to the other girls. Body image was something I struggled with. I got my big girl teeth quite young and looked a bit like a rabbit. I was very aware of myself from a very early age.”
When she was seven, her parents split up. “It was tough… I wouldn’t be the person I am today if that didn’t happen. My parents are both very happy now.”
At 16, she started to suffer with anxiety. It was triggered by the pressure of the Leaving Cert. She went to see a therapist, but by age 18, when she studied vocal performance at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in Dublin, she was suffering from panic attacks and agoraphobia.
“Being in a quiet room – in a classroom setting with lots of people – would freak me out,” she says. “It terrified me. If everyone was quiet I’d hear my heart beating. I’d hear my body doing things. It’d start to bring on this anxiety.
“And I couldn’t leave the room – because if I got up and left, it’d draw more attention to me. But I needed to leave, because if I didn’t, I’d have a massive panic attack.”
So she would leave and go back home to Malahide.
“It got so bad that I didn’t even want to leave my house, because if I went out I could possibly be put in a situation that could trigger a panic attack. If I stayed home, I was safe. In my safe space – in my pyjamas, under the covers in my bedroom. I isolated myself. “
When did the agoraphobia start?
“The agoraphobia started when I was in BIMM. The thing about anxiety is that it can just happen. I could be sitting here right now and seem perfectly fine and be just chatting, and then I’d get this feeling in my stomach.”
She was in a restaurant last week in the West End of London about to go to see Wicked when she had a sudden ominous feeling in her stomach.
“I hadn’t had a panic attack in months. Everything was great – and then suddenly I went, ‘Holy shit, I’m about to have a panic attack.’ Nothing happened to cause it.
“But something happened to my body. I had to run to the bathroom. I thought I was going to puke. I was crying. I said to the person I was with that I need to fight through this or else it was going to consume me.”
In the end, she did make it to Wicked. “I was crying my eyes out until the interval. I had to try to breathe through it. It comes in waves. It is not consistent. Sometimes it is fine.”
Last year, she released her debut single ‘Chasing Down the Fame’. “It was an introduction to who I am,” she says. “The opening line is: ‘I’m a daddy’s girl with daddy issues/Don’t cry/Hold the tissues. This ain’t a sad story/I’m on the road to glory.’ It’s saying I’m going to give this music thing a shot and see what happens.”
What happened was she released a string of brilliant pop songs that won her comparisons to Dua Lipa, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Fame beckons – and she is aware of the dilemma at the heart of this.
“For someone like me, who suffered a lot with anxiety, the big question is: ‘Why the f**k would you put yourself on a stage and put yourself out there like this?’”
And why would she?
“Because I feel so powerful onstage. I could be feeling anxious, but the minute I get onstage it’s gone. I’m exactly who I envisioned myself to end up being.
“I also think there’s something really powerful in naming yourself. With Pastiche, I wanted something strong and different. I always wanted a stage name – all my idols had stage names, so I thought, ‘Why the f**k not!’”
‘Freak’, from the new EP, is an autobiographical song. “It’s about a cheeky experience I had once with a woman. My mother listened to the song and has no idea what it’s about, God bless her.
“It is about being infatuated by this woman. It’s kind of like my first experience. We’re still friends.
“I had a lot of boy flings at school. It was only when I got older that I dabbled and realised I am a lover of all. I am a queer woman. It means that I identify as a lover of people, a lover of humans.
“I don’t relate to the term ‘bisexual’. I don’t relate to the term ‘lesbian’. I don’t relate to the term ‘straight.’ I feel like I’m a weird mishmash of those. I feel like the umbrella of ‘queer’ just encapsulates me as a person.”
Is her music ‘queer-pop’ then?
“I wouldn’t brand my music as ‘queer-pop’ because everyone can enjoy pop. I feel like the minute you say ‘queer’, the homophobes come out. And they come for you.
“I can go into a queer space and be very myself, but equally I have this privilege of going into a straight space and being able to almost blend in and not be a target, which is very interesting. I struggled with it before.”
“When I’m in a straight situation I feel I’m too queer, and when I’m in a queer situation, I always feel like I have to justify myself because I’m not queer enough.
“So I view my music as dark pop. I love using guitar’s dark beats. It has an edge to it. I never wanted to put out bubblegum pop. I want something with a bit of a bite.”
Pastiche’s EP ‘Freak Show Symphony’ is out on May 20. She plays a headline show at The Grand Social in Dublin on May 25, with support from ROOUE and SJ Talbot
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