I made the acquaintance of PersonalBest for the first time at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4. Their set was exhilarating – a sequence of beautifully constructed instant classics that made me a fan for life before their set was more than two songs old. It also made me angry with myself that I had never seen or knowingly heard them before, despite having been to gigs at which they had been on the bill in the past couple of years. As a penance for my oversight, I got up the following day and immediately bought every PB single, EP and album I could find. And I have been playing their latest LP “What You At” incessantly ever since.
A four (and, on record, sometimes five) piece based in Bristol, PB are fronted by Katie Gatt, energetic and personable with a clear and powerful voice and a smile a mile wide. The twin guitar attack of Gatt and fellow loud woman El Morgan has the stellar jangle of history’s greatest pop groups, from the Searchers to the Byrds to the Hollies to the Flamin’ Groovies to the Bangles, and Gatt and Morgan’s harmonies score pretty high on the ‘to die for’ scale too. PB’s superb rhythm section of Tom Baker (Bass) and Jason Cavalier (Drums) have the engine room on lockdown and provide the perfect base for Gatt and Morgan to build their joyful noise on.
On the face of it “What You At” is an album full of radio-friendly anthems, busting out all over with immediately ear-catching riffs and choruses that stick and stay in the mind right away. It’s only when you start listening to the verses that frame those choruses that you hear how deep these songs are and the full extent of the hurt that each one lays out, a chronicle of what one or possibly more broken relationships that can only be described as heartbreaking in the extreme.
The painted smiles of each 3-minute masterpiece here mask an
ocean of tears that nobody should have to swim. If you’ve ever felt wronged in love, your grievances will pale
into insignificance next to the knife-in-the-chest double whammy of the album’s
closing tracks ‘One Damn Thing’ (‘Do You Both Sleep At Night In The Bedding I
Bought You?’’) and ‘Salute’ (‘You Never Will Come Through For Me’). Nobody
deserves that level of hurt. (Well, other than a member of the Conservative
That said, tracks like ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Every Day She Kills Me’ are the kind of perfect pop that mainstream radio would have once fallen over itself to play, before it got hooked on the aural tedium it pumps out hour after hour in 2019.
“Classic Rock For Tragic Lesbians” may be Personal Best’s
strap line, but it’s really not necessary (or indeed obligatory) for anyone to
be either or both to appreciate just what a superb album “What You At” is. It’s
been out a couple of months now, but it’s never too late to catch up on
something this good.
This interview took place a few weeks ago, and sadly since then it’s been announced that Beth will no longer be playing with The Menstrual Cramps for practical reasons (but they’re all still best buds – this FB post explains it). Beth is cool with this interview still being published today though, and you can come say hello to her/wave/buy her a pint at LOUD WOMEN Fest this Saturday as she’s kindly stepped in to help our crew so look out for her in a groovy high vis vest!
Part-time solo artist and full-on Menstrual Cramp, Beth White has a lot to say! Beth White is a busy woman.
Having vacated the position of drummer for our beloved The Menstrual Cramps earlier this year, Beth now plays rhythm guitar and adds her voice to the group’s front line – a change that has added a further dimension to their always vibrant and totally compelling sound.
as being part of one of the best bands on the planet, Beth also has an
occasional solo career that she somehow manages to work around the group’s busy
Gregarious, outgoing and all-round good person that she is, Beth was only too happy to submit to LOUD WOMEN’s 10 Question Interview, upfront of TMCs’ upcoming appearance at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4. Here’s what she had to say:
1. How do you find time to create your own music while being a full member of one of the busiest and most popular bands out there?
To be honest, the vast majority of my material was written during the ages of around 13 to 19 – new songs can occasionally fall out while I’m practicing but these days I don’t usually set out to write an entire song – initial ideas might come out and I’ll work on them at a later time. Sometimes if I’m really lucky, a really good idea or hook will fall out of me that makes me need to write a whole new tune from start to finish then & there. I love when that happens.
As a teen I used song writing as an outlet for pretty much any emotion I felt, so I have a repertoire of about 50-plus songs at my disposal from that time! I’m bad with dating my songs but I must have written at least 15 more between the end of that time & now.
Lately I’ve felt it’s been a shame I’ve not ever been 100% happy with any demo records I’ve made throughout the years, so I’m finally working on an album. I give credit to being in The Menstrual Cramps for giving me the confidence to do it.
2. When/why did you decide to move from behind the drums to a more upfront role in the MCs?
Our drummer AJ became available and, as a much more skilled drummer than me – try 15 or so years, compared to the matter of months I had when I joined TMC – it was a no-brainer to get AJ on board and for me to switch to guitar.
Sometimes I miss the feeling of nerves and not knowing necessarily how a show would go that made me feel sick when I was the drummer – but being on guitar is a much better fit, having played rhythm guitar for 14 years now. It’s been cool to help out with backing vocals too – especially on Cull The Tories, the song that by that point in the set never fails to convince any reluctant factions of a TMC audience.
3. Does being based in a different part of the country to the band ever present any logistical problems?
Absolutely!! Being in London, I don’t get to be with the band as much as the rest do with each other – which can be expected as they’re all in Bristol. Between working full time and being in two different cities we don’t get to practice together too much, but honestly as we’ve been on the road playing gigs, we’ve gained the confidence we need playing with each other at shows week in, week out.
I’ve also had to adjust my life as far as expecting to be on a coach to Bristol most Friday evenings after a full week of full time work, and scheduling anything else in my life around that – it’s been tiring stuff, but worth it to be in this band with my best friends. Working Mon–Fri in London means there’s been shows midweek that I couldn’t attend, but the other four made it work without me.
As I see it, having fun with your buds should always overcome any logistical problems, so we all do what we can to make the band viable even though we’re in different places on the map.
4. That’s a very nice T-shirt you’ve got there. Could you envisage our unelected ‘leader’ as a fan of the band?
Boris saying he’s a fan of TMC would truly be the first sign of the apocalypse – the simulation would have to go very, VERY wrong for that to happen.
Formore info regarding my shirt, please see these articles:
4. Can you name two other bands that you would like to be, or would like to have been, a member of, if TMCs had never existed?
In another life I stayed in Brighton after university and joined ARXX. I believe I was at the first everARXX show, and have followed them since, I love Hannah & Clara loads, and will forever wish I’d asked to join as a bassist or something while I was still living in Brighton. Hannah has asked me to manage the band a number of times as well – but as I’ve not done the best job managing my own solo career, and ARXX are destined for world domination, I thought it would be best they go for someone who knows what they’re doing…!
I also nearly became a Cosmic Something with Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something shortly after I switched to guitar for TMC, as I also dabble in smashy untidy piano playing, though I have never performed on piano live – unfortunately I couldn’t commit, due to TMC’s schedule.
5. The best and worst gigs you’ve played to date are…?
The best has got to be with Kate Nash, supporting her on tour – she’s a really exceptionally talented artist & singer/songwriter and a really amazing, kind & warm human. Our shows at The Fleece in Bristol & Concorde 2 in Brighton will be experiences I will never forget and always be grateful for. The worst that comes to mind is an open mic gig I did solo once, where they stuck me on at the end of the night – the night was busy but by the time my set came around it was only me, my friend, and the sound guy. I was happy to pay my dues in those days, but those kind of shows are completely disheartening and can make you seriously question why you put yourself through performing or being an artist. It’s all good though – that show inspired my song ‘Gigs’ which is about people actually coming out to shows instead of just clicking “Going” or “Interested” online!!
6. Who inspired your original ambitions to make music?
I distinctly remember being inspired by seeing Britney Spears in her video for Oops I Did It Again… I wondered as a 7 year old how to get into the TV by singing and thinking I wanted to do that too.
I also should say in part my brother inspired me too (for fans of thrash metal check out Overthrow, as I got it into my head that I couldn’t just be a singer without also knowing how to play an instrument so I could write my own songs – my brother Jay lent me his first acoustic guitar, with two strings missing, and I began to teach myself from there.
7. Name three current singers/bands who you think that LW readers and gig-goers should check out, as well as the Menstrual Cramps?
If you don’t check out ARXX and Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something then who even are you?? They get featured in LW quite a bit though, so I’m hoping they’re already covered, trying to think of bands perhaps outside the London scene…
Werecats are definitely one to watch/check out, saw them at Boomtown and played with them at Toxic Wotsit fest – they’re a great band & a really nice bunch.
Amyl & The Sniffersfor a proper punk fix – TMC supported them on their UK tour at The Louisiana in Bristol and they were just featured on the front page of Kerrang!! So that’s pretty cool. Again a great bunch of humans too.
Another TWO I’d like to recommend are Pussyliquor and Peach Club – I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them recently, both are a bit younger than me/TMC I believe but they carry themselves with a similar energy to when I first discovered TMC as a fan – I have every confidence those two are gonna go places!! LW, if you’ve not already, let’s have them on the same line up please?? Make it happen!!
Can I name two more?? Check out Brighton bands Sit Down & Lazybones – both put on absolutely incredible live shows that will change your life, if you can catch them live you won’t be able to comprehend why more people don’t already know about them.
Another one to check out is The Baby Seals: Kerry, Amy & Jaz are all really exceptional people who are great fun to hang out with, and I remember thinking when I first discovered them that they so brilliantly make serious feminist topics accessible through humorous but totally relatable songs. They do this so intelligently – because of the topics they cover and how they go about it, in this really obvious way they don’t explicitly need to mention feminism or even identify as a “feminist band”, just a band made up of three wonderful women writing songs about their experiences as women and the wider patriarchal world beyond. They have such brilliant energy on stage and make you feel great when you see them – another band to check out that will totally change your life.
Sorrynotsorry – that was nine bands not three, go run check ‘em all out!!!
8. Your all time top three favourite albums are?
again three isn’t at all a big enough number… but three albums I’ve been
listening to on repeat since approx age 14 are:
Riot! – Paramore
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out – Panic! At The Disco
Speak For Yourself – Imogen Heap
But other all time lifelong fives include Take This To Your Grave/From Under The Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy, American Idiot by Green Day, Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder, For All We Know by Nao… there’s more to that I’m sure… like there’s just too many, Tony! Three isn’t enough haha…
9. And three current favourite tracks/albums that you would recommend without reservation?
Dreamspace (album) by Glacier Veins – AJ showed me this band and I’m in love with the lead singer’s voice
Outrageous (track) by Calva Louise – saw this performed live at Boomtown and my body went full fangirl
Same thing happened at Boomtown when I also saw Bassline Bitch by Nova Twins – an oldie of theirs now I must’ve seen a bunch of times live but there’s no arguing with the fangirl feels!! Their track Devil’s Face is more current & more evil though, definitely another one to check out
Also highly, highly recommend Daughters of Daughters EP & Iron Lung from ARXX, thank me later x
10. Finally, do you have any closing words of encouragement for any Loud Women who have the will to make music but might be struggling to find the way?
Please please please please please for the love of God, do it!!!!!
miracle of time and space that you even exist as you are – if the randomness of
the universe culminates in a desire within you to pursue music, you can’t shy
away from that & I can promise you – it will never go away.
an instrument, or if you’re too nervous to or can’t sing, front a punk
crap is not an excuse, as everyone has to start somewhere. “Goodness”
or “ability” is relative and meaningless anyway.
not an excuse and it’s never too late to start.
excuse yourself from trying it because of self doubt, imposter syndrome, lack
of support from anyone else around you – just follow that musical desire in
you, pick something up and get playing! See it as a gift from you to you and
treat yourself to it.
And if you or your band need further encouragement, get in touch with me @WRTWUK on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so I can hype you up!!
Beth’s solo shows are always worth catching, and there will hopefully be more to come later this year.
It’s been a busy time for Brighton power duo ARXX. Having released no new music since 2018’s astounding ‘Daughters Of Daughters’ mini-album debut, Hannah Pidduck and Clara Townsend have generously served up two singles in the last couple of months. Both have been thoroughly road tested in 2019, and both are highlights of ARXX’ current live set. You can catch up with the menacing, broody ‘Iron Lung’ on the new upcoming “Loud Women 2” CD compilation. Their upcoming offering ‘ Y.G.W.Y.W. (You Got What You Want)’ reaffirms the compulsive qualities of its predecessor, and might just be their best recording yet.
Taken at a slightly slower pace than it’s performed live, YGWYW is quintessential ARXX in every respect. A big, booming salvo of sound, with straight-to-the-point lyrics and one of those ferocious ‘terrace anthem’ choruses that Hannah seems to be able to conjure up at will, it will immediately become your new favourite earworm.
Hannah’s vocals never lack in confidence or power, but the studio seems to bring the innate soulfulness in her delivery to a next level. Not to be outdone, Clara hits every part of her drum kit – and hits is the right word, believe me – with a show of percussive power that most other drummers would be hard pressed to match, even with a second or third set of arms.
A fantastic, full on, firmly in-your-face show of musical aggression that doesn’t so much invite your attention as demand it, YGWYW might be the last new studio music we hear from ARXX for a while as they are about to embark on an extensive European tour, which includes an appearance at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4on 14 Sept in London, which will keep them busy elsewhere till the end of October.
All the more reason, then, why you should play it loud, and play it often. …
Even though they have been around for a few years now, Nervous Twitch may well still be Yorkshire’s best-kept musical secret. Largely because of day-job commitments, the trio of Erin (lead vocals & bass), Jay (guitar) and Ashley (drums and occasional backing vocals) are rarely spotted south of the M6/M1 split, so any opportunity so see them should be grasped with both hands. Unless they add any more in the meantime their upcoming slot on the bill ofLoud Women 4will only be their second ‘Southern’ gig of 2019. You won’t want to miss them, I assure you.
Prior to the band’s recent support slot for the great Japanese trio Shonen Knife – at what was for them a hometown show at Leeds’ most excellent venue, the Brudenell Social Club – NT’s resident Loud Woman Erin Van Rumble kindly subjected herself to LW’s 10 Question Interview…
Who would you most like to cover one of your songs?
Oooh, I dunno…I always find these sort of questions really hard because there are so many (favourites) but, maybe Television Personalities? I’m a big fan and I’d like to see how they would produce our songs.
If you could add one member to your band – any person, living or dead, musical or otherwise – who would it be, and what would they play?
To be honest, I like how it works at the moment and I probably wouldn’t want us to add anyone – we used to have a fourth member at the start, but maybe someone from the B-52s on keys might be good.
What was the last song you wrote, where were you when you came up with the idea, what inspired it, and how did it turn out?
That’s an easy one. As you know, we’re working towards (finishing) our fourth album and the last song I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, came after I sat in with the Wharf Street Galaxy Band. Their songs are more overtly political than ours and I thought I’d like to write something that was inspired by what I was doing with them. It’s about capitalism and how you’re always sold the dream… It’s not quite finished and I haven’t brought it to the table with the band yet but me and Jay have messed about with it a bit. ‘Selling The Dream’, that’s probably the working title really.
Which was your favourite gig you’ve a) played and b) watched?
I’ve got loads of favourite gigs we’ve played, but I think the one that stands out as a turning point for me and the band was when we played Indietracks in 2016. It was the first time we’d done something like that, and it really sunk in for me that, y’know, I was doing this and this was really my life, people were coming to see us and I was part of it…favourite watch? I went to Spain a couple of years ago to see Southern Culture On The Skids, one of my favourite bands. I expected to come away pleased because I loved all their albums but they made me love them even more than I already did, that would have to be the one.
Recommend a record that you think our readers might not have heard of.
Anything by Helen Love. She’s amazing and her songs are so great.
What’s your best piece of advice for young musicians?
Never let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Oh, and always have fun – because if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing.
Your top 3 most beloved albums ever – go.
This is tough because I love such a lot of different music, but I’m going with.…
Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual
The Vaselines – Dum Dum
The Bobbyteens – Young And Dumb
What are your musical goals?
For the band to keep getting better at what it does and for me personally, to become more of an accomplished writer…
What’s the most important thing we need to know about your band right now?
Well, we’re working on a fourth album and it’s really exciting! We’re not trying to do anything different to what we already do, just to improve on what we do all the time.
Give your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians.
Again, there’s a lot to choose from, but I particularly love Duck, the Wharf Street Galaxy Band, Enids, Das Clamps and Wolf Girl (R.I.P). I was a real shame when they split up, they had so much more to come. I’ll probably think of another ten when this is over…can I let you know if I change my mind (laughs)?
Keel Her is Winchester’s Rose Keeler-Schaffeler, and “With Kindness” is a long overdue, full follow-up to her eponymously titled debut album. She hasn’t been inactive since then, with releases of collections of demos finding their way from her London home base to Bandcamp on a fairly regular basis. But with the assistance of former Charlatan Tim Burgess’ O Genesis label, this is her first proper album in over four years and very nice (and more than welcome) it is too.
Rose’s voice is pure and clear, and recalls the wistful melancholy of some of the UK’s better singers of the past half century, including two former front women of Fairport Convention in JudyDyble and the late SandyDenny. I might be on my own with this, but I can also hear some vocal similarity with a less likely kindred DIY spirit in the wonderful LorraineBowen, particularly on some of the more romantic and melodic offerings like ‘Aloof’ and the opening ‘No Control’.
There are 17 tracks on “With Kindness”, many of them
clocking in at little more than a minute to 90 seconds which is a guarantee
that none outstays its welcome. Nothing
here really gets much above midtempo, and that works very much in its favour as
a complete concept. It’s pretty much all Rose’s own work, apart from the
drumming, and was over a year in the writing and recording. There are a few
strategically placed, lightly psychedelic instrumentals such as ‘The Astral
Plane’ and ‘Life Admin’, but it’s the vocal tracks that immediately beg for and
receive your attention – pretty and frequently poignant little glimpses into
Keel Her’s persona, performed in a way that makes the listener feel as though
she or he is eavesdropping on a private and personal musical moment in the
singer-songwriter’s life. As a late
great Small Face precisely put it more than half a century ago, it’s all too
Another commendably warm and wonderful listening experience, “With Kindness” is the kind of album you can plop in your CD player on a hot day, open your windows and allow to envelop your neighbourhood with its warmth and intimacy. If you get a knock on your door from a neighbour, it’s more likely to be to ask what you’re playing than to request that you turn it down or off…
Although there’s a physical release in the works, you can
currently hear the whole thing up on Bandcamp (and of course buy it as a
download if you’re not a CD person).
And if you can make it, there’s a gig celebrating the official launch
for the album on Saturday July 6th at New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, N4
(nearest trains either Harringay or Stamford Hill)
We’re a little late in bringing this to your attention, as it’s been out since the end of May – but it would be a shame not to highlight one of the best female-fronted albums of 2019.
Mavis Staples made her first recordings in 1953 with
the Staple Singers. She was 13 years old, and had already been fronting her
family group for two years by that time. Although not a Loud Woman in the
‘current’ sense, Mavis’ was always a voice that spoke up – and spoke out – for
equality among humanity, and that’s surely a message for the ages if ever there
The Staple Singers were at the peak of their commercial popularity in the first half of the 1970s. It would be a lie to say that Mavis’ voice has not lost a little of its power in recent years. Heck, she’s 80 years old. Nobody in the world sounds as good at 80 as they did at 35. She’s still unmistakably Mavis. That is what matters above all and if you can’t deal with that, you’re probably not reading this anyway.
‘We Get By’ is Mavis’ 14th solo album since 1969. Produced by the estimable Ben Harper (who joins her in duet on the title track) it’s her best so far of the 21st century. The 11 tracks, all written or co-written by Harper, suit Mavis’ octogenarian voice to a T, and sensibly allow her to exhibit maximum soulfulness without taxing her upper range unduly.
Her three accompanists are also outstanding, particularly Rick Holmstrom whose heavily reverb’ed guitar work is modelled on that of Mavis’ late father Pops, and is never less than outstanding – particularly on the album’s most gospelly track ‘Sometime’ which also highlights the excellent backing vocals of C C White, Laura Mace and Donny Gerard, a super set of substitutes for Mavis’ now sadly deceased father and sisters. Holmstrom also excels on the slower, reflective ‘Never Needed Anyone’ and ‘Heavy On My Mind’, on which he is Mavis’ sole accompanist.
Pick tracks? Besides those already mentioned, if you are not profoundly moved by the quiet intensity of ‘Hard To Leave’ – quite one of the saddest and loveliest songs I’ve heard in a long time – I politely suggest that you may need a personal emotional review. But really, it’s one of those albums that you’ll be able to listen to from start to finish without reaching for the ‘skip’ button. It’s on Bandcamp anyway, so why not taste and try before you “Get By”?…
Mavis just appeared at Glastonbury. She’s also playing the Roundhouse in London on July 4th as part of the Innervisions Festival and is in Bath on July 2nd, Paris at La Cigale on July 5th and in Lyon on July 6th. “We Get By” is available digitally via Bandcamp or as a physical CD or vinyl LP from all the usual online sources.
If you have never been to a gig upstairs at central London’s Betsey Trotwood pub, nothing will prepare you for what greets you on your first visit. With a capacity of 40 – and that’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder – it has to be one of the smallest venues anywhere in the UK. A tiny bar and an even tinier stage (holds exactly 1) on opposite corners of the room, no stage lighting at all, and bags of atmosphere as a result.
It was the perfect venue for a double-header featuring two women, two guitars and a sackful of super songs and performances. The evening was promoted by former Chefs and Helen and the Horns front woman, Helen McCookerybook. She and headliner Pauline Murray are old friends, and thus Helen was able to coax a rare solo show out of Pauline prior to the string of dates she’s playing in the next couple of weeks with her long time band, punk icons Penetration.
Of course, when you are the promoter it makes it easier to sort out support of the calibre of, well, yourself. Thus we got to enjoy not one, but two of the best singer-songwriters of the past 30-odd years.
Helen is a friendly, giggly woman with a way of making everyone in the crowd feel like she’s been our mate for years. Her melodic, commercial songs address a variety of topics, always in an upbeat way but sometimes with darkness at their heart. Among her ‘protest songs’, the attractive tune of ‘21st Century Blues’ embraced a pithy lyric about liars (and was inevitably dedicated to ‘Boris…and Donald…and…’). ‘So Long, Elon’ offered a blatant dig-in-the-ribs to the Space Race and the money wasted thereupon while homelessness is at its highest-ever peak.
Other highlights of her 11 song, 40 minute set included ‘Heaven Avenue’, a song about Helen’s first and only acid trip and the closer ‘Daisies’, which below its message that ‘no matter how often you pull them up, they always grow back’ hinted at an altogether deeper and more sinister outcome. She reached back to her days as a Chef to resurrect the witty “cosmetics advice for teenagers” of ‘Let’s Make Up’, and probably got her best response of the set for ‘London Saturday Night’, a song for all of us who have been drawn back to regular gig attendance in this new Golden Age for great bands, after sitting out a decade or two for any number of reasons.
The majority of those in attendance may have been there primarily to see a solo Pauline, but Helen will, I hope, have been pleased with the genuinely warm and enthusiastic way in which each song in her 40-minute song was acknowledged. She was charming, and we were charmed…