Colour Me Wednesday's album Counting Pennies in the Afterlife is out now, and who better to talk us through the track than the band themselves ... the Doveton sisters, Harriet (Hat) and Jen
Hat: This song is about a relationship ending, and even though it ended because of choices and mistakes your partner made the burden is still on you to remain the strong one and keep them in a healthy place mentally. Their emotions are kind of holding you ransom and means you’re not allowed to be angry and upset with them for what they did, they’re protecting their own mistakes by physically showing you how badly they’re doing as a reaction to their mistakes. The lyrics also talk about letting your guard down and feeling like you you’re usually great at reading signs and seeing things coming but you’re kind of blinded by love and the trust you’ve invested in someone over many years.
Also it’s about the sensation of feeling like you’re falling and the person that would usually stop that from happening and hold you up is the person that is causing you to fall. A bizarre feeling, which means you can only rely on yourself to feel level headed or positive again. Which is where the title ‘Sunriser’ comes from – you can’t rely on other’s actions, apologies or regrets to give you closure or raise the sun for you. The song kind of flips between feeling like you’re falling apart and then being hopeful like “hang on, I think I can do this, but I don’t wanna tempt fate”. And going back in time trying to capture the comfort of the past or make things back to how they were before isn’t what will help you feel alive again and move forward with your life. Shortly after this all happened I went on a sunny European tour with the band.
Jen: This song was inspired by a dream I had, it was quite a standard post-apocalyptic Walking Dead influenced dream where the streets were empty, the streetlights were off, society had collapsed and there was a general feeling of dread but also I have to admit, excitement. It got me thinking about how often this scenario is played out in the popular imagination – the collapse of society and return to fighting for basic survival. I think as much as it is a fear, it’s also a fantasy (albeit a naive one). Burning it all down, starting over, or just us all letting go and letting it crumble, finally being free of society’s rules and for many, finally being free of capitalism.
Of course something that extreme would be awful but it’s so hard of anything less than a zombie apocalypse doing away with capitalism. I think a lot of people feel the tension of a system that isn’t working, that’s barely held together and feels like it could collapse at any moment (like with the financial crisis), but never fully does. It’s held together by the people at the bottom rung being forced to settle for less and less (including hours and hours of unpaid labour, going into debt to subsidise their low wages, and begging for scraps of government welfare) while the people on the top rung talk about ‘growth’ and what a good and efficient system capitalism is.
I worked as a shop assistant for a large high street chain, and the company memos always boasted about how high the profits were and how many shareholders they had. But every closing shift in every store had 3 or 4 workers doing an hour of unpaid overtime to get the shop clean and tidy for the next day. Of course all our labour was bought at a much cost lower than it was worth, that’s how capitalism works, but think how many companies get away with squeezing workers for extra hours that are not on their books just so their CEOs can boast about how well they’re doing and what smart and fair business leaders they are? And that’s a minor thing, relatively.
Edge of Everything
Jen: This song started as a basic song about how it feels to live on the very edge of London, in Uxbridge but then ended up being a bit more poetic. It feels like I’ll never leave Uxbridge and everyone else who lives in London is appalled at how far away it is but obviously to us it feels like the centre of the universe. But even within Uxbridge Harriet and I have felt like outsiders, being those weird vegetarian left wing boat girls, we feel like we’ve been living in this undefined marginal space for our whole lives. I think that West London is kind of erased from contemporary cultural narratives about London. It’s like it lacks an identity. But it’s not like it’s a barren wasteland, loads of cultural stuff happens and has happened here (famous films made, legendary records pressed, huge South Asian communities, Eastern European communities etc.) and a huge chunk of London’s workforce live here but it’s like… who’s gonna feel proud saying they’re from West London? It’s almost a meaningless identity.
Heather’s Left for Dead
When you’re a DIY band everyone says that 90% of the experience is sending emails and 10% is the music. This is true, but there’s also SO much more admin and details to keep everything running smoothly and on time that no one talks about and are actually too boring to list. The DIY ethos and work ethic has been running through our blood since we started the band. But a pretty terrible side effect is not having time and space to be creative- which is why you’re playing music in the first place! This song is about neglecting the creative, carefree part of yourself- kind of like your inner child or alter ego. There was a point where band work took up so much of my time I felt like it was killing my creative side. Which I called Heather, because when people get my name wrong they call me this haha. As soon as I’d stop doing the planning side of things I’d freak out as stuff would start falling behind schedule, we’d miss out on opportunities and in turn band members would feel a bit freaked out too. The chorus is also about how female musicians don’t go down in history, they don’t make it into the ‘hall of fame’ then men occupy. They’ll go down in a small part of musical history as a niche, a footnote. So if Heather was left for dead, not many would really notice.
Jen: This song comes from a frustration at people who have so many opportunities and so many resources but refuse to put themselves on the line – to expose themselves by doing the right thing and taking action. It’s about when men find success but put off helping to create more opportunities if it might mean sharing or giving up some of their privilege – for example within the music industry. It’s also about people who have a platform not using it to make change. And it’s also a bit about people who have amazing talents but are too scared of what people will say if they really went for it, so they play it safe.
Jen: This song is a conflicted one about having social anxiety, paranoia and shutting yourself in because of it. When I first wrote the lyrics I thought I was writing a song to someone else, but when I listen to it I feel like every line could be me nagging myself to not stay in and get bitter.
Hat: I used to have reoccurring nightmares that I’d suddenly be married to someone and I feel like I was suffocating or stuck. In the dream it would either be my wedding day or I’d have been married to them for years and just was planning my way out. This isn’t a diss on everyone’s experience of marriage, just how I feel about it. And I also think about how many of my friend’s parents are divorced…sometimes I wonder if they hadn’t got married and felt that pressure if things would be different – a divorce seems like such a painful and expensive thing to go through, but no one thinks about that when they choose to swear to be together forever, a promise that seems irresponsible and unrealistic for two adults to make. The song opens with ‘it’s my big day, not my birthday’ because tradition and society dictates to us that it’s almost a rite of passage from birth that one day you will be with one person forever, so we’re giving into history and tradition by following the rules of monogamy. There’s a reference to Tammy Wynette in the middle 8 as Jen and I grew up listening to her music- particularly her classic ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’. Also Sad Bride likens a wedding to a funeral within the themes of the song. The title is actually named after when my dog sits behind this sheer white net curtain at home and he just looks like a sad bride dreading the big day.
Hat: This song is about accidentally overrating men when you first meet them. Your brain projects interesting traits onto them when you’re chatting and you get caught up in compliments which keeps you interested. Then in hindsight you realise that in your interactions YOU were the funny one all along and they were just bouncing off you to please you and perhaps just sleep with you. Also you realise their compliments may have been a bit creepy and you’re only just coming to terms with that. The song likens this type of man to tinfoil, because they reflect your own personality back at you and they’re kind of light, flimsy and do not have much substance themselves. And they kind of blag their way through getting things because gender is on their side. This may not be their fault, but the patriarchy’s, as always. When you give into these men and spend hours talking to them you kinda feel like you’ve failed as a feminist haha, but you justify it and try to gain the higher ground again by kinda laughing about them with your friends when secretly you still love the attention from them. How embarrassing!
Hat: The song starts off talking about the feeling of being self-employed and you’re doing 5 people’s jobs at once. Which means a neglect of self-care and repeating bad habits.
Jen: I’ve been in a lot of business studies lectures for work and there’s a really unrealistic optimism (I wanna call it propaganda, really) around this new economy, the huge level of unemployment has been rebranded as an ‘entrepreneurial’ economy. Many people are excluded from unemployment statistics because they are classed as ‘self-employed’ or they were forced to sign zero hours contracts – most of these people are not making enough money to make ends meet but they are essentially on their own, free to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to do the lottery. All the ‘entrepreneurs’ listed as heroes by these business studies lecturers are the exception, not the rule, and they are not admirable people. One example being Richard Branson who was allowed to fail again and again before he succeeded because he was born rich.
Take What You Want (And Then Leave)
Hat: The song starts off talking about the dynamics between some friends. That if you do too much for someone without asking for anything back eventually they feel so guilty they’ll try and find something to be annoyed with you about. And you don’t want to have to sit there and list all the things you’ve done for them and sound petty and give into that, as that’s not why you did those things in the first place.
Jen: Then it becomes about rich Tories who seem to want to grind the country down, selling off the public services bit by bit to their mates (like Richard Branson) with no consequences for themselves because they don’t have to live here, really, not in the same way that the rest of us do.
Not My Turf
Hat: This is an anti-TERF song. When we were writing the album we were saying we wanted a song about gender. But we felt like a lot has already been said, which is great, but felt like we could bring nothing refreshing to the table. Another huge problem when trying to put lyrics together about the experience of being female or non-binary is that TERFs have occupied a lot of feminist language for themselves. And we disagree with them completely, but naturally some feminist ideologies will still cross over even if you fundamentally disagree on important stuff. But the point is, that’s not our turf as our feminism is intersectional and does not exclude the trans experience. The lyrics are about spotting a TERF in feminist scenes through red flags and dog whistles in their language and how we are not on the same side as them or fighting the same fight.
'Counting Pennies in the Afterlife' is out now.
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