Savages’ Jehnny Beth tells us about going solo for ‘Peaky Blinders: “We need anti-heroes”

"A series like Peaky can help you relate but think, ‘Hang on – I’m not a criminal, am I?’” 

Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth has spoken to NME about the solo track she debuted on last night’s episode of Peaky Blinders – speaking of her of the series’ “anti-heroes”.

Those who tuned in last night to watch episode four of Peaky Blinders season five will have heard Beth’s voice atop a track of dark industrial-tinged punk, backing the scene in which Polly Gray arrives barefoot to Charlie’s yard to discuss the opium shipment plan with Tommy and Arthur Shelby. Beth then shared a snippet of the song on Instagram, teasing more to come in 2020.

“Polly is one of my favourite characters,” Beth told NME. “She’s a badass, so I was really happy that it was connected to her.

“I’ve always been a fan of the show. I knew that Cillian was a fan [of Savages] as well. They were looking for a track and I was in the studio working. They were branching out to other people and they thought about me. I was working on something that turned out to be a really good match.”

Speaking to NME about how an artist comes to be selected for the show’s renowned soundtrack, lead actor Cillian Murphy said: “You just know when a song is ‘Peaky’. The artists are outsiders. They have resisted the tyranny of the mainstream, shall we say?”

Responding to Murphy’s assessment, Beth told NME: “I definitely feel like an outsider, for sure. It’s not just in music. I appreciate him saying that. Being an outsider is a compliment. I enjoy being able to see things from outside and bring in a perspective that isn’t necessarily expected. I’ll hold on to that position for as long as I can. I don’t have a choice really, I think that’s just who I am.”

She continued: “An outsider is the definition of the artist. You have to be an outsider to be able to say something about the world. It’s not worth hearing unless you surprise people. I don’t see any other reason to do it. Why would you want to tell people something that they already know?

“That’s why I like Peaky Blinders, because these characters are flawed. They’re not trying to sell you a perfect picture. They’re criminals and they’re doing bad things, but they’re still human. That’s why I wanted to be a part of the show, because I felt connected to that. I feel connected to Tommy Shelby, I feel connected to Polly. We need anti-heroes like this.”

Tommy and Polly in ‘Peaky Blinders’

Elaborating on her relationship to the characters, Beth explained: “I grew up in a Catholic background where even a thought can be a sin. That’s reprehensible, because it’s only in your head. The worst thing that can happen is to censor ourselves in our heads. Drama and watching a series like Peaky can help you open those doors and help you relate but think, ‘Hang on – I’m not a criminal, am I?’”

Having previously teased that a solo album is in the works, Beth said that we’d be hearing plenty more from her various projects in 2020.

“I’m always making music,” said Beth.  I just finished a soundtrack with Johnny Hostile for the Chelsea Manning documentary. There’s definitely new music coming out in the next year or so. I’m finishing a lot of projects. I’m living between London and Paris. I think you’re about to find out!”

And what of her work with Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie?

“We’ve made some music together, yes,” she replied. “I’ve been working so much on various projects, not just music. Part of our life is to create things. It’s one thing to create something but then you have to remember to put it out. That’s just another thing we need to put out! It’s in the charts and it’s coming!”

Peaky Blinders season 5 continues on Sunday September 15 on BBC One at 9pm.

There will also be the first Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival taking place in Digbeth in Central Birmingham on September 14 and 15 with Slaves, Anna Calvi, Primal Scream, Mike Skinner performing, and many more to be announced.