Category Archives: interviews

Bryony Williams: I Can Be – track of the day + interview

Just what we need right now: some positive, empowering pop! With a message of “be you, have fun, and to hell with what others may think”, Wolverhampton’s Bryony Williams releases today ‘I Can Be’ on London indie label Beth Shalom Records, and it’ll be the lead single of her upcoming 3rd EP, State I’m In. We had lil chat with Bryony.

The song has a refreshingly upbeat message. Was this written before the lockdown? And, if so, do you think the message applies even more so to the world we now find ourselves in?

This song was written before lockdown. In fact it was recorded in January just before I hopped on my one-way flight to Bangkok, where I intended backpacking for a few months round SE Asia and then heading to Melbourne to set up camp and try my music luck in the Aussie scene. So this track was intended to be self-released just to keep the clock ticking so to speak. And the song was intentionally to remind myself while travelling that, what I’m doing, and not having any responsibilities or plans to commit to a career or housing or anything like that is a-okay. Whatever I choose to do is valid even if it isn’t the conventional expectations that are put upon you, and to own it! Be bold. Get that confidence. Satisfy your life, not others. So I think the message definitely still applies and hopefully to more people now during the world we’re in because it’s forced people to reassess their stability and to reflect on where they’re at, what they’re doing, do they want to continue down this route or is this the unexpected get-away card to change direction? So many questions yet zero answers, which again is why this song is important. It recognises that really, as long as you’re having fun and you’re being your best self, that’s all there is to it.

Tell us about the recording!

Since my 2018 EP, Conscious, I have used Matt Pinfield from Grandflat Recordings as my producer. We were first introduced years ago through my first musical venture, Field Harmonics, where he played live drums for us sometimes. Though once disbanded, I then put my solo music as top priority and throughout this time we have developed such a healthy work/friend relationship. His home studio is here in Wolverhampton where we both live. It’s just so nice to be able to pop over for a ‘cup of tea consultation’ where we can bounce off ideas to each other and get so encouraged and energised, that before you know it we are mic’ing up the drum kit and spending the next 2 days bashing out a song and dancing around the cramped, but cute and camp studio.

It’s hard to plan anything at the moment, but all being well, what are your musical plans from here?

Despite it being a very uncertain time regarding the live gig economy and if press are still operating due to furlough etc. I think I’ve struck gold almost. Like I said, this single was just going to be flounced around a bit, where there was going to be very little push behind it and I didn’t necessarily care because I was living my best life backpacking. But I did return home to the UK after a couple months because of Covid-19 and that’s when my friend, Joe Booley, reached out and boom! After one Zoom meeting, he was sending a contract over and not just for a single, but we had excitedly (like little kids) expanded our horizons and committed to releasing my 3rd EP via his label, Beth Shalom Records. This is super exciting for me because this is my first time ever working with a label, where previously I have self-released and found it hard to give up creative control. But I have definitely moved away from that and I am very happy to give away some responsibility. 

So the lead single, I Can Be, comes out July 1st, followed by another single and then the EP itself, which is set to be out on September 25th on my first ever vinyl too! 

Though because of Covid-19, me and Matt Pinfield are currently remote recording the record so I’m very curious as to how this is going to turn itself out (but so far, so good).


Find Bryony Williams on Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp

PETSEMATARY: Get Away With It – interview

Out today on Beth Shalom records, PETSEMATARY release their label debut single, ‘Get Away With It’. We caught up with frontwoman Gaby-Elise for a quick chat about the release.

Tell us about the single!
It’s about mental health, relationships and family. I remember writing the chorus in my last few weeks of uni. I’d just started taking medication for my anxiety/depression and started jamming out the chords with my bassist Luke in my shitty student halls flat. For me and for a lot of my friends as well, family and upbringing has such a huge impact on how you deal with mental health stuff, and I think that going through a phase where all of my mental health issues seemed to come to a head made me really realise that. I wanted to make a song that kind of addressed that frustrating fact but also offered a lot of hope, love and acceptance. Family issues and dealing with the cards you have been dealt is such a massive part of just surviving, and I don’t want to be a person that tries to sweep this stuff under the rug. I want to be able to embrace my fuck ups when they happen and I want to be able to accept other people for their fuck ups too haha. It’s not about finding blame or justification, but about self acceptance and learning from this stuff. Basically it’s okay not to be okay, cause a lot of us just aren’t, and that’s completely okay!!! We recorded the song with our friend and local Oxford talent Chris Barker of Premium Leisure/Willie J Healey. He is super open, creative and just a super nice and passionate guy so I think we all felt really comfortable and inspired working with him. 

What’s it like launching a single during a lockdown?
It was pretty stressful at first especially because the gigging part was initially the main focus of our release plan, and of course like every other artist we had to cancel our tour. However it really gave us an opportunity to work on the campaign in more detail and we are super lucky to be releasing the song on Beth Shalom Records. We were also super lucky to be in the April issue of Flying Vinyl which was another awesome opportunity, and companies like Flying Vinyl are super important for baby bands like us. Another aspect of it is that it seems like a really important time to be releasing music. The whole situation is traumatic and overwhelming – I’ve found it really difficult to indulge in creative stuff just because it feels like there are so many bigger things at stake. People are risking their lives on the daily, our government is inept, people are dying. We have all of this craziness going on in the background, and with that I think people really need art and music right now. It’s peace, escapism and catharsis, and whilst it’s not a massive priority I just hope that the song can offer a moment of respite from the chaos. 

Tell us about the Oxford music scene – what bands should we be listening to?
The Oxford music scene is absolute family – I’ve met some of my best friends and some of the most talented people I know through shows here and it’s just really wholesome and accepting. Bands everyone should be listening to are fuzzy garage punks Self Help and jazzy-art-prog legends Lucy Leave who happen to be some of the loveliest and most creative people I know. Premium Leisure are also one of my favourite bands at the moment – Chris is an incredible songwriter and guitarist and makes the catchiest psychy indie rock tunes ever. Indie pop heart throbs BE GOOD are also one of my favs – their lyrics are extremely relatable and I have found myself crying to their songs whilst drunk maybe too many times than I care to admit.

Gulls: interview

We caught up with our favourite Brighton Litter-punx, Gulls, on the release of their new single, ‘Shame Shame Shame’.

The new single focuses on fighting fascism – always a favourite punk pastime! Can you tell us a bit more about why you feel it’s important to keep the pressure on the alt right? Are there any particular events that inspired the choice to release this song now?

The lyrics came when Johnson wrote his ‘letterboxes’ article. He’s a stain. He has a bumbling persona that detracts from how toxic his beliefs are. He said it at an incredibly divisive time and we just felt he was fuelling racists and bigots; encouraging small minded views by airing his own. While we were writing it, we were reading about his links to Steve Bannon, so our anger kept growing until we finished it. After which, he became the Prime Minister.

Brexit sowed hateful seeds of division and Johnson seemed like he was gleefully watering them. When people see a politician, supposedly well-educated and informed, spewing stuff like this, some listen. And he’s providing people who are poor or scared or struggling someone to blame for the shit in their lives. And if people turn on each other, they’re distracted from the truth: that the tories’ austerity is what’s fucked things up. Johnson profits from the division he inspires. SHAME SHAME SHAME is about saying we see what you’re doing, we’re not having it, we’re coming for you.

The current situation we’re in; watching Johnson stand outside No 10, clapping the NHS he’s been central to destroying, would be laughable, were it not so tragic.

Tell us about the recording!

SHAME had to be the next release because it felt like we were approaching Armageddon: so much bile and hate in the papers and even just on the streets and down the pub. We recorded SHAME at The Chapel in Chichester; it’s an incredible set up in a converted church. We encountered some issues balancing the size of the room and acoustics with the crunchy Gulls sound, so some big lessons learned there. SHAME was produced by Ali Gavan (Cockwomble) who is a stellar human for whom words can’t convey the extent of his audio-majesty. 

What have you been up to since you last played Loud Women and what’s the Gulls plan after lockdown!

Like all of the Loud Women community, we’re negotiating the heartbreak of a summer of cancelled shows. We were so excited to play Loud Women Hastings at the Piper with ARXX, Lambrini Girls and I am Her (what a line up?!) but, along with all our other shows, it’s been put on hold. Of course we hope all the shows we had lined up will be rebooked, but there’s serious concerns about whether our favourite venues and practice/recording studios will even still exist after all this is over. We need to ensure the music scene here, and everywhere else, survives this virus but we’re far from being able to rely on this government to ensure that. So communities like Loud Women are more vital than ever as platforms/forums to keep us connected and mobilised.

Tell us about the Brighton scene right now. Any cool new bands, venues, labels etc that we should all hear about?

Things were so bloody splendid before we were all ordered inside! Genn are a near-permanent lockdown soundtrack. They are THE strut/dance-around-the-lounge band, as far as we’re concerned. We got loads of love for Cockwomble, who are acerbic and biting and as pissed off as we are. There’s no Loud Women in anarcho-feminists Austerity, but their song ‘Nice Guy’ (about the need for men to challenge toxic masculinity) is a banger. We were due to be on a mini-tour with them this weekend (sob) but we’ll do it when the world returns to normal. We shared a stage with Chuck SJ last year and marvelled at how affecting their music and performance was. The three of us were jaws-to-floor the entire set. Vehement and potent AF. Yes.

Find Gulls on Facebook Instagram and Spotify

Belle Phoenix: interview

Interview by Kris Smith

Where are you right now, and what are you up to?

I live in Finland during the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m writing loads of demos with online collaborations.

You’ve recently released the fantastic ‘Glorious Dead’ EP on bandcamp, please tell us all about it. Are these recent recordings from a current band, or the fruits of a previous collaboration?

So glad you like the EP, it was a labour of love that took years to write. Glorious Dead was inspired by personal crisis and transformation and major world events such as what’s happening now with the Covid pandemic. At the time of the economic crash. The crisis began in 2007 with a depreciation in the subprime mortgage market in the United States, and it developed into an international banking crisis with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008. I guess the people on the poverty line, like myself, really felt the impact. I was working a 14-hour-day job as a waitress getting half-an-hour break a day and then at night penning songs and lyrics that would later emerge into a recording. I guess the defining moment was the COVID-19 crisis which once again inspired me to finally create the ‘Livin’ Life Blues’ video which would complete the ten year journey. I guess when we look at the past ten years, it’s been a slow economic decline into darkness.

The wonderful Dave ‘Soulfingaz’ Williams on hammond/mellotron/piano really added the ska flavour which I adore. He had the biggest hands of any man I know. He was tall, dark and handsome like a beautiful, Jamaican ‘Lurch’ and he held my hand so gentle, a caring kind musician. He passed away not long after. [The ska element isn’t foregrounded across the EP, but you can hear traces of it in ‘Livin’ Life Blues’ – Ed]


A couple of songs are available to buy as downloads but are there plans for a full release? Are there other releases in the works such as the Blossom of Love/Devil’s Son single, or an album on the way?

I’m releasing both the EP and a single hopefully by the end of the year. Meanwhile I’m working on a new album “Like Driving Drunk Through A Blizzard”. I have in process an eco-friendly vinyl being printed for both the Glorious Dead EP and also an 8″ vinyl record for the two polar opposite songs I have given the label Dark Tropical; ‘Blossom Of Love’ which sounds like a gothic holiday and ‘The Devil’s Son’ which resembles early delta blues vocally with dark classical and stoner-rock elements. Both were recorded in Melbourne at a small studio with some amazing musicians who I felt would be a good fit for the sound I was hearing. ‘The Devil’s Son’ was written on a greyhound bus in Sacramento passing the cotton fields when an announcement over the radio speaker came on about a shooting in the area.

The EP has a classic melodic post-punk/alternative rock sound, with centered chorus and vocal: no noodling, grunge or shoegazing here; it reminded us a little of bands like Flesh For Lulu and Lords of the New Church, or maybe slightly that mid-period Billy Idol, Siouxie, Danielle Dax sound. Does there any of that resonate or are we way off the mark?

Yeah I think you picked the fusion. I don’t plan what the songs will sound like, they kind of lead the way as well as the chosen band members who also have a say in the sound. I guess it’s more of a feel thing. It’s how the songs make us feel. Vocally, I felt like Iggy Pop in The Stooges. Musically, I felt like a mix of Little Richard, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), The Cramps and possibly Queens Of The Stoneage. I guess it’s epic in the way it resembles the wall of sound. What can I say? One person I know described the sound as The Glorious Dead sound… It was, for the band, natural to end with a fusion. I prefer rock and roll together. We basically jammed in a room together and then recorded the whole thing old-school in one room to get the big sound.


You have a strong core vocal style, but you’ve also recorded in a few different genres and moods; was this EP aiming for a particular sound, as a project, or was it more an organic result of who you were playing with?

I like to let the sound evolve organically and kind of enjoy the ride and see where it takes us. For me, I think that is the best part of being a musician, is not knowing exactly where it will end up.

I like to see it as an adventure holiday. If you’ve got more to say and you haven’t felt like you can be free, you need to get it out and maybe be in another project, because I know the strangulation process too. But in the end it all leads to new places.

I don’t like my voice at all. I hear a man inside but it comes out like a woman so it’s a real headfuck. I have been mostly influenced by male bands and I hear things in a masculine way. So I kinda get a bit sad and confused at the whole process. I feel like Tom Waits inside but it doesn’t come out like that.

What motivates your songwriting?

Well it’s always been there since I can remember. I was always since maybe age 5 years old fascinated with singing, performing, music. I had an small old tabletop keyboard run with a fan inside to cool it down, really loud! I loved it; I spent hours with music and singing and then lyrics from around 7 years old, fascinated with words. [Later] all I had was a shitty casio to write music with, and I thought well, what’s wrong with that? Why not? No limitations. It’s hard to tell when inspiration will hit.

What was the first music you bought? Are there any influences/inspirations you’re happy to talk about?

I didn’t really buy a lot of music. Instead I completely absorbed all of my parents record collection. My father was a huge music lover and wanted to be a guitarist but for some reason couldn’t find the chops. I cherished and devoured all kinds of music I could find from everyone. My favourite music seemed to be of the darker kind that described life and all its chaos, hardships and struggle. I really wanted to also be able to write about fun things but instead I ended up writing about my dreams of fun things. I could never afford music. I stole an Igor Stravinsky box-set and that was one of the most treasured things I owned.

I am fascinated with experimental music at the moment, because I am feeling it. At the moment I am trying to create the new sound for the next album I am currently labeling ‘Like Driving Drunk Through A Blizzard…’ but it’s a difficult sojourn as I am also not so aware of the trajectory I am on with this particular style of music. I guess it’s close to Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten, Rowland S Howard. I guess Waits is a slight influence only because I recognise myself in him. Leonard Cohen. Not to copy or be them but more of a recognition of kindred spirits. I guess somewhere in that territory but who knows, so far it’s ethereal with elements of psych-rock. I try not to be influenced by anyone other that my own expression and the people I work with.

Who else are you listening to?

I am listening to music almost 24/7, all kinds. So much. Neil Young (Crazy Horse) is always a stayer along with Leonard Cohen. A lot of old blues which I return to a lot: Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, all those brilliant pioneers. Loving Keith Richards right now, finding a kinship there. Nick Cave. Ian Lowery. Once Upon a Time. Popol Vuh. So many bands that I don’t know and discovering.. 

What are you reading at the moment?

I have once again started reading ‘The Divine Comedy’ translated by Allen Mandelbaum, it begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense recreation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity.

What’s on your mind right now?

Where is humanity heading? Are we doomed? Will we ever leave our houses again? What happened to Julian Assange?

You’re from Australia originally, you’ve lived in the UK, you recorded in the US and Canada and currently you live in Finland. Does this speak to a certain.. restlessness?

Inspiration comes from many different places and people and I have moved either out of necessity or because I have found amazing musicians to work with that can create the sound I am feeling.

What’s next for Belle Phoenix?

SEX.

I haven’t sent any of my music to any labels yet, so I am 100% DIY and funded via donations. Rock ‘n’ Roll is like an exorcism, it’s about unveiling self and being content with whatever emerges from within the moment, i.e. Iggy Pop with the peanut butter. We don’t know what will happen, it’s always in the moment so whatever I do is a reflection of that; I have always just done what feels right. It’s really hard for me to think third person about the music because I just feel it. Can’t really hear it, if that makes sense. 

All I have here now is a uke so I use that to write the demos and now a new sound is forming from that. But if I was closed minded I would wait until I had my perfect guitar or pianist or whatever, but I like the unknown. And before my cousin gave me this uke I couldn’t play it. It was a wonderful challenge to break my own ideas. It’s completely opposite to everything I have released so far. Actually I just got the idea for the new song from the upcoming album like NOW. I finally settled on a foundation sound. It’s like dreaming in an opium den floating on a vast sea… I guess I really need a holiday, a real one, so I made one in the song. It’s a strange mystery tour of self via the vehicle of songwriting. New adventures on the horizon! 

Thanks for speaking to us. Anything else you’d like to add?

So glad you didn’t ask that generic question ‘What are the highlights..?’ Hah! I would have said “There’s no highlights, only low lights and lowlifes”.



Find Belle Phoenix on Bandcamp, Facebook, YouTube or at www.bellephoenix.org

Bang Bang Romeo: interview

Interview by Jamie Canavan

Bang Bang Romeo is heading on their UK/European Tour following the release of their debut album ‘A Heartbroker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. We caught up with the band after the debut of their latest single ‘You and I.’ (NB the questions were set before the Coronavirus outbreak!)

Stars, you explained that your inspiration for the song ‘You and I’ was the tragic Pulse night club shooting and the homophobia and transphobia that influences hateful acts every day. The lyrics are so powerful. Could you expand on your song writing process for this song?

Thank you! This song came about differently to the rest of the songs I’ve written, I kept the news channel on, and just stared at the tv with tears in my eyes and the song came out like ‘word vomit’ if you like! Started playing between the C and Em chord and the words just came, the song was written in less than half an hour. My partner came home from work, I played it to her, we cried, and that was that.  Emotionally draining that’s for sure, but worth it. 

I see that you are playing London Pride, Pride in The Park, and Queer Festival – there has been a lot of push and pull at the last few prides in London especially regarding the potential inclusion of transphobic organisations. Have you had to engage with conflicts surrounding events such as this before? How do you as a band tackle these issues?

No we haven’t, I’ve heard of this happening a couple of years and it made me roll my eyes big time. The LBGTQ+ community isn’t perfect, there’s dickheads in every community, just ban them from the events and have done with it. 

We as a band have only wonderful memories of Prides, for that we’re thankful and grateful for! 

Your songs and performances offer an immersive experience. Your fans are able to engage with the songs on deep levels. What have been some of your favourite fan encounters?

We have a song called ‘Chemical’, where every time we play live, the whole audience gets their phone torches out and makes the venue look like a night sky, it’s incredible to see! ‘Adore Me’, another song of ours ends up making everyone cry haha so it’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster, especially when by the end songs like ‘Invitation’ gets everyone jumping. We love our audiences. 

Your shout out to International Women’s Day video on Instagram was a 10/10. Are you seeing examples of improvement in opportunity and treatment for womxn musicians and fronted bands?

Thank you! Got a bit told off for the language I used in it but I don’t entirely give a fuck. Ha 

There definitely are changes and improvements being made, more artists that incorporate women are being taken on bigger tours as supports, Glastonbury becoming 50/50, we just need to keep showcasing talented ladies, because they’re talented, not because they’re ladies.  The industry needs to be careful that this doesn’t turn into a ‘female token on a line up’ sorta thing. 

Tell us an anecdote from your European tour with Pink.  

I accidentally flooded our showers at Wembley stadium before a show… it wasn’t TOO bad. They forgave me!


*** Keep an eye on Bang Bang Romeo’s website for tour news ***

Slum of Legs: album review and interview

LP review and interview by Kris Smith.
Photo by David McNamee.

Slum of Legs have just released their debut eponymous album on the Spurge Recordings label. The Brighton sextet formed and issued their remarkable first EP in 2013, followed by the stunning ‘Begin to Dissolve/Razorblade the Tape’ and ‘Doll Like’/’Half Day Closing’ singles in 2014-15, playing select shows in the UK with the likes of Prolapse, Perfect Pussy and Julie Ruin before retreating into the studio to record this unassuming masterpiece of “queer feminist noise-pop”.

The first three tracks alone are unassailable: powerful, evocative, propulsive: the lyrics all steel, glass, pistons, valves and hissing trains. Slum of Legs are also autodidact edutainment incarnate: I knew ‘liminal’ but had to look up ‘lacuna’; I knew about Vladimir Tatlin but I learned about Eero Saarinen. The opening songs on the record seemingly offer an aesthetic collision of early-Slits/Poison Girls vibe, Futurist poetry, long-lost Play For Today-type TV and the kind of hauntology evoked by Scarfolk posters. There are ‘easter eggs’ for observant listeners, intimations of hidden and repressed histories; Tara O’Hara, Wych Elm Bella. They also, be assured, rock. They “calibrate the slum of legs” and Dream of Valves Exploding, while the music doesn’t let up, even during the more measured pace of the closing track. 

What strikes this listener most about Slum of Legs is the voice; not just Tamsin’s vocals tonally (although while I was first playing the album someone came in to ask if it was CRASS’ Eve Libertine singing) or Maria’s violin or Emily’s synths, but the sense of being spoken to, or rather with, with an engaged intelligence that much music simply lacks, either because of the people making it, or perhaps more generously because the musicians concerned have found no way to, or desire to, synthesise content and form in this way. Wisdom from experience; humour from pain.

Also, I like that one of their previous singles credited all the band members on “screaming”.

Everett True has written that Slum of Legs are “like Talulah Gosh if they were the Mekons;” Neil Kulkarni has likened them to The Raincoats. As you’ll read, I fail to avoid the temptation of likening their sound to other Bands With Violins but sensibly they’re not having it and neither were they drawn on musical influences. As an (amateur) interviewer you kind-of have to ask but as a fan I certainly don’t need everything explained. 

Benetint & malevolence

In Debenhams

And tenements

Nurofen and inconsequence

In Peterborough 

In present tense

‘Benetint and Malevolent’ – Slum of Legs

Congratulations on the album. How do you feel about it, did it turn out how you envisaged, and can you tell us something about the process of producing it? How did you hook up with Spurge?

Tamsin: We recorded it at Church Road Studio in Hove, with Julian Tardo. It was really good working with Julian as he’s great at encouraging a good performance without being a dick about it, and never patronised us. We also continued the tradition of communal noise-making for the album that we started with our mass scream-in seance when we recorded our single ‘Begin To Dissolve’. Except this time (for the track ‘White Leather’) we all gathered around in a circle and made sex noises.

It took a long time to get to the finished product but we’re very very happy with it.  Though I find it hard to know what it sounds like to other people.

Re: how we came to work with Spurge. Once the album was mixed we sent it out to various record labels to see if they wanted to release it. We had interest from a few but chose Spurge. Steve Underwood, who is running the label with Paul Horlick also runs Harbinger Sound who has previously put out Nachthexen who we really liked. With Spurge he wants to concentrate mainly on female/queer bands which is cool as there are plenty of other labels that don’t. We met him and liked him and also he has 2 cute dogs.

Emily: We recorded the whole thing a very long time ago, and there were several reasons for the delay in getting it out. For one thing, I had a complete mental breakdown that ultimately led to me having to move back to my hometown, which was fun. Then, I was actually supposed to mix the album myself, but I was learning on the job and after working on it for some time the files got corrupted. It was a massive blow, and for a relative novice to restart work it would have taken so long to get it back to any good state. As I had moved back to Nottingham by this point, it made sense to have the mighty Phil of JT Soar take over the controls, and he polished it up into something amazing that I could never have managed. He’s one of the nicest dudes in music, too, and I highly recommend working with him. On the sad side, though, you have all missed out on some wonderfully obnoxious noise mixes.

It’s been around five years since your last release. Is this album a full stop, a story-so-far, an end-of-Part 1?

Maria: This album is a ‘here we are, this is us’. There’s a partially recorded indie pop EP sitting in the vaults too so if this album does well maybe we’ll get around to finishing that one day.

The first three songs on the record are quite densely packed, reference wise.. [redacted ramble about constructivism, hauntology, psychogeography and other stuff I felt the lyrics evoked]… Is there an intention to challenge the listener with disparate elements, or is there a message in there too?

Tamsin: There are definitely messages in all the songs I write and I like to cram them with literary and cultural references (I love it when I’m reading a book and unexpectedly come across a line I recognise from song lyrics) however I also can rarely resist taking the piss. Empathy and cynicism are probably two of my most defining qualities and my brain is usually at war with itself (when it’s not thinking about food or cats). My lyrics are full of contradictions but contradiction is preferable to constipation.

Everybody loves ‘Benetint & Malevolence’ but in my head originally it was a melancholy synth-pop song and so the words were satirising po-faced pretentious 80s lyrics – in fact the line ‘macabre French sensation’ was the title of a spam email I got sent. But the ‘when you’re sad you’re invisible’ bit is deadly serious. But then I felt bad about it because for some people, like those who suffer hate crime, being invisible is a luxury so that’s why in Baader-Meinhof I sing ‘I know there’s far worse states than invisibility’.

Valves is an even more pointed piss-take of artists who appear enigmatic but once you dig, there’s not much meaning or interestingness underneath – and in fact it’s a criticism of the overuse of terms like hauntology and psychogeography [busted – Ed.] – the word “liminal” is in the song in quotation marks. It’s dedicated to people who use the word ‘long form’ when they only need to say ‘long’.

‘Slum of Legs’ is a manifesto song in the tradition of manifesto songs. The word ‘tuttifrutalist’ is a word I invented to mean brutalist architecture with curly bits. And Slum of Legs is the musical equivalent.

Emily: As an ex-wannabe academic who has written and presented papers on psychogeography, I feel personally attacked every time Tamsin sings these songs and that’s why I put horrible noises on them.

The next few songs (‘RUTHE14ME’, ‘In Yr Face’, ‘Love’s Not Enough’ and ‘Baader Meinhof Always look So Good In Photos’) address online life, dating, sexuality, identity, mental health; huge subjects. Your approach reminds me of ILL slightly in that you’re deadly serious but also clearly having a laugh: there are jokes and puns. RUTHE14ME in particular is very funny, while In Yr Face and Love’s Not Enough are furious. Are they rooted in personal experience that you’re ok to discuss?

Tamsin: Yes they are. ‘In Yr Face’ is a co-write/duet with Michelle and is about the futility of online arguments while ‘RUTHE14ME’ and ‘Baader Meinhof’ are both pretty personal and address problems that I have with self image and self esteem – there’s anger in them too though – like the line ‘do you only date them younger’ in RU and ‘I know I’m ugly cos you remind me daily’ in Baader Meinhof. But I feel shame that I’m the age I am and still feeling these things. It isn’t helpful for potential revolutionaries to feel sorry for themselves the whole time and revel in self pitying songs I’ve written about no one fancying me so I felt I needed to write a rallying anthem too. ‘Love’s Not Enough’ came about after the Pulse nightclub attack and the murder of Jo Cox. I broke down at a band practice cos I felt so distraught and scared. The song references the Queer Nation Manifesto of 1990 and the banal think piece responses that said ‘just love each other’. No, you have to punch Nazis. Obviously since I wrote it everything’s got a million times worse though.

Can you tell us about ‘Sasha Fierce’? At first glance it seems to be a kind of Rebel Girl for our times, but there are multiple subjects in the song.

Tamsin: It’s about taking on another or multiple personalities as a coping technique for trauma but also for confidence or to shield yourself – like the idea of the masquerade in feminist film theory. It’s not about Beyoncé, though Sasha Fierce is her alternative persona.

The multiple subjects thing does happen in some of my songs maybe because my starting point is nearly always a cut-up to spark ideas. So sometimes other things get incorporated.

Also these meanings I’ve talked about here are only my own meanings. People listening to the songs are welcome to interpret them however they want as long as they’re not Tories, terfs or dicks – in which case they can fuck off.

Can I ask about the album artwork – is that a doily on the front cover? Is there an intended juxtaposition between its Englishness and the surrounding, more European-influenced pattern?

Tamsin: All of our covers so far have included my photography of brutalist architecture and a collage element so we wanted to continue that with the album cover. However in the last year or so, brutalism has become a bit of a fashionable cliche and it’s become divorced from its original utopian, socialist context. So for the album I decided to combine some elements of architectural photos with a doily. Doilies are associated with fussy stereotypical femininity – the opposite of the macho clichéd idea of brutalism. But they also symbolise women’s crafts, domesticity, working class industries (like Nottingham lace making) – plus they look a little like snowflakes – so you’ve got another couple of meanings there. After I came up with the basic idea, Emily then manipulated it into a kaleidoscope type design – to bring even more meanings & distortions. It’s once again, Tuttifrutalism.

Emily: Yeah, the collage and kaleidoscoping go with our general sense of fragmentation and fracturing, I think. There were a lot of elements that we wanted to convey, directly or surreptitiously, in the artwork. For me, the doily represented not just work and decor that is coded in our society as feminine, but also a reference to the old-style spiritualism that we also refer to in Begin to Dissolve, middle-aged women in parlours acting as mediums a la Seance on a Wet Afternoon. The banal supernatural resonates strongly with my view of brutalism: a combination of the mundane and the monolithic.

I want to ask about musical influences, while being super-wary of doing so, including about the ‘L’ word, especially as you’re a Brighton band; Maria’s violin is such a prominent, striking element of your sound and does remind me at times of some of the better tracks on the first Levellers album (who I maintain were a good band then – an unpopular opinion – in the Waterboys/Men They Couldn’t Hang tradition) You’ve been likened to the The Ex, Stereolab and the krautrock groups too. Does any of that resonate, does it matter, or is it just an inevitable side-effect of using certain instruments? Was there a particular sound you had in mind when you formed or did it evolve organically from playing together?

Tamsin: All six of us have different things that we’re into and so elements of all of it have probably leaked into our sound. We never had a prior idea of how we wanted to sound we just got together and this is how it turned out.

Maria: I agree with T, our sound is v much just a product of us all playing together and making up parts that fit with the songs. I didn’t consciously bring any particular influences or idea of a sound to my violin playing with Slum of Legs, just made up what felt right for the songs. I remember early on Tamsin asked if I could make some weird noises, so I would try and play weird noises! I’d been playing with a improvised noise-psych outfit for a while before I joined Slum of Legs and using pedals etc. in that and making a lot of weird noises. Also I did a degree in Contemporary Arts an there was a lot of extended technique playing and weird noise making in that too ha ha!

As a teenager in the 90s I danced around a lot to The Levellers and New Model Army etc. It’s funny looking back though, those violin-led songs that I loved most (15 Years, Vagabonds) and were definitely a soundtrack to me growing up didn’t inspire me to play violin in that style and or want to play violin in a band at all, I never made the connection of ‘oh, maybe I could do that too’. At the time I was playing in an orchestra and doing my grades and also learning to play folk tunes, and felt more connected to those expressions in their traditional forms I guess. I loved folk music, but lots of the folk/rock/punk crossovers that sprung up in the wake of the Levellers ubiquity totally turned me off. I’d had a bad experience with a local violinist who played in one of these bands too which didn’t help – a shame because in different circumstances I think it could have been really inspiring for me to watch her play, even if I wasn’t particularly into her band’s music. For a long time it felt like ‘folky violinist’ was the only way to play violin with a band and I really rejected that! Still to this day, when I say I play violin in a band people reply ‘oh, folky stuff then?’, like there’s no other options for a violin! I blame the Levellers for that 😀

To be honest, Warren Ellis has probably been the biggest influence on my playing. I bought a Dirty Three album on a whim after hearing it in a record shop – I liked it well enough and then went to see them live…holy wow! Watching Warren Ellis wring the neck of his violin, making it howl and scream and soar and sing…I came out of that gig thinking, for the first time ever, ‘I want to play violin like that’.

Emily: When I was growing up the Levellers were definitely considered a terrible punchline of a band. Haven’t attempted to listen to them in decades but I can’t imagine I would enjoy it much. People just hear a violin and grab onto whatever a violin connotes for them [busted again – Ed.], whether it’s trad folk or the Levellers or the Velvets or whatever. To me it’s just the sound of Maria being her brilliant self. It doesn’t happen so much with synthesizers, very few people go “oh, a synth, this sounds like Kraftwerk” (I would love it if they did, even though it would be a lie).

Do the labels riot grrrl and queercore mean anything to the band? As traditions, scenes, or influences? Are they important to you; are they useful now?

Tamsin: They do and they are although it can be a bit tiresome being constantly labelled as riot grrrl and only compared to other female bands. Those bands continue to be inspirations for women to make music and to express themselves artistically and without a doubt they’ve helped us too but I do also feel it can typecast and diminish female musicians if anger always equals riot grrrl.

Are there any other contemporary bands/artists you feel a kinship with? Who else should we be listening to?

Emily: I’m listening to a lot of Black Dresses and related projects. I call it ‘tumblr industrial’ but the name somehow hasn’t caught on. A large part of what I listen to is electronic or experimental music but I feel more at home in DIY spaces. Shout outs to Daphnellc, Witching Waves, Marlo Eggplant, Days Fade Nights Grow, Sniffany & the Nits, Rattle, Yumah and Shopping (in fact all Rachel Aggs bands, really, she’s amazing).

Michelle: I love ILL. Always thought that our bands would be a good line up.

Maria: Dorcha, I was on the same bill as them a while back and they blew my socks off. Kinship-wise I’m really happy to be label mates with GG Allen Partridge, Slagheap and Massicot and I hope we all get to play together at some point. I played violin on Porridge Radio‘s recent album and love them a lot, it’s a thrill to see them doing so well. The last Slum of Legs gig we played together was with them too.

Tatlin’s tower was conceived as a synthesis of the creative and the utilitarian: does the same apply to the band?

Tamsin:Tatlin’s Tower was a utopian, impossible structure and that also applies to Slum of Legs.

What’s your considered opinion on Baader Meinhof? There’s this contradiction – which applies to the Black Panthers too – between activism for liberation on the one hand, while in effect promoting totalitarianism (the RAF-Stasi and BPP-China connections). 

Tamsin: To some extent those groups are now part of the heritage industry and are fetishised in the same way as Che Guevara on a t-shirt. You can’t really look at them in a modern context only in the context of their times. A lot of the problem with revolutionary groups though is that they forget to think about all the detail, which is why intersectionality is so useful. In a revolution, typically fighters are celebrated over administrators but speaking as an ex-administrator who will always feel like an administrator, the biggest dicks at work are the bosses who say ‘I’m not a detail person’ and then forget about actual human beings. Bad planning. The detail is important and humans are important.

We’re now living through a health crisis to add to Brexit, the environmental crisis and obviously Austerity, which for a lot of people never goes away. Is the role of artists one of escapism, or survival, or bearing witness? Slum of Legs has a clear oppositional stance. Are there other things we can and should do to resist?

Tamsin: All of those responses are valid. You can only do what you can do. We’re not going to dictate to anybody what they should be doing however I hope that we can be a help to people. That’s the highest accolade I can think of for our music.

Emily: I’m loathe to suggest all artists should be politically engaged because so many have shit politics and/or shit modes of engagement. On the other hand, we’re all trapped in these systems so we can’t really avoid engaging. Avoidance may be a privilege but everyone needs respite, so I don’t feel like escapism is inherently counter to resistance. To speak up and speak out is in itself a strong form of resistance, but you also have to learn when to quiet yourself and amplify other people’s voices instead.

What’s next for Slum of Legs?

Emily: We’ll definitely be touring this album when the pandemic is over, hopefully in November. But as we’re spread out so much, it might not be possible to be together as a band much more than that, which is honestly pretty devastating, as I never feel more whole than when we’re playing together, really together.

Most of us have other projects on the go, though, with Michelle and Tamsin in Lucky Corpse, and me and Maria both have experimental solo acts, her as YOU&TH and me as The Mysterious Monopole.

Maria: I’m going to read the tarot for this. I asked the question and pulled out The Fool: “Let go of preconceived ideas and remain open to change. The Fool advises that you lighten up. Let yourself be spontaneous enough to stretch beyond the realm of logic. There is no advantage to be gained by thinking you possess the knowledge, power, or control to direct reality. Open and receive without question, instead of trying to manage what’s happening right now. The Fool has no ambition to manipulate a specific outcome. Just be happy to be part of the whole.”

‘Slum of Legs’ is out now on bandcamp.

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Songs of sickness and health: Rachael Sage, and the album she wrote during her cancer treatment

Rachael Sage’s new album Character was written in the wake of a life-changing cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery period. Songs of bravery, gratitude, compassion, authenticity and optimism – we caught up with Rachael to find out more.

Could you tell us a bit about how the album came about?

I wrote and recorded “Character” as I was recovering from treatment for endometrial cancer. After I was diagnosed in 2018, I essentially spent the whole of the next year receiving chemo and radiation therapy and recovering from surgery. I had very little energy and wasn’t able to do much creatively, but I devoted all my focus and strength to being the very best patient I possibly could. It was a humbling and overwhelming experience, but as you can imagine, by the time I was almost better every fibre of my being was eager and hungry to get back to doing what I love most – making music!

Once I was well enough, I started to slowly get back into it, playing keyboard, guitar and doing a little vocalizing. Soon that led to me writing a new batch of songs (during winter 2018 and into the new year). By early 2019 I was grateful to be back in the studio with my favorite people – who just happen to be my engineers and bandmates – relishing every moment of answering what has become my most pressing question in the wake of my own cancer experience: “what defines character?”

What are your reasons for wanting to share this very personal experience with us, through music?

I never really think of my writing process as exclusively “personal” to be honest. I mean, we are all inextricably connected, and especially having been raised in the Jewish religion that has been pressed upon me from my first day of Hebrew school! “Every person is a universe…” And here we all are, sharing this collective journey. The personal is also inevitably political, because the freedom we have in our individual lives – as women, as medical patients, as citizens – is tied so inextricably to our larger society and the challenges we face, together.

So my reasons for sharing my thoughts, feelings and questions on this album were not entirely different from on any other, really; my first presumption making art of any kind is that if I am, try to be my own muse and authentic in my expressiveness. It will necessarily resonate and hopefully, help others via some kind of catharsis or uplift –  the way any art is meant to do. That is my job, however personal, and I probably take it way too seriously but this time it really did feel like the most important thing I could possibly do, to turn a difficult time into a meditation on gratitude, hope and simply being human.

What are you hoping your audience will take from it?

I am hoping listeners will hear this album and that in my own chronicle of finding my way through a dark time toward an even brighter light, so to speak, they will find hope, as well as the ability to embrace forgiveness. When one receives a cancer diagnosis it is a natural thing to experience regret: regret that you didn’t exercise more, that you ate poorly, that you didn’t sleep enough, that you were not mindful of others or simply that you didn’t take better care of yourself mentally. Inevitably I experienced those sorts of negative, self-judgmental thoughts, but what my cancer journey taught me was that everything truly begins with your outlook, and with your ability to choose how you interact with the world and the people around you; we all have an enormous amount of power and can inspire others, even at our weakest, physically.

Every day I saw examples of doctors, nurses, administrators, friends, family ‘stepping up’ for myself and many others, being kind and helpful well above/beyond what was required. I also saw patients enduring pain with grace, and others struggling to do so and all of it held a mirror up to my life and begged many questions that hopefully, this album answers compassionately, through the creative process.

It has been humbling to have many people approach me at live shows along my tour dates thus far, and tell me my song ‘Bravery’s On Fire’ in particular has granted them a kind of permission to be honest and vulnerable – whether with themselves or others. So much of our days are spent putting on a brave face, pretending we are ‘okay’, and generally feeling we may be the only one experiencing whatever challenge we may be facing. Likewise, my song ‘Blue Sky Days’  – which is essentially about being present, mindful and grateful for beauty, even amidst chaos – seems to be striking a deep chord with my listeners.

I’m glad that in some way, the experiences I’ve had before making this music, along with the boundaries I’ve found it helpful to create in order to stay healthy and a ‘cancer thriver’, have helped me write material that can be a positive source of uplift, to others!

Right now is a very challenging time for everyone and there is a sense that no one really knows the truth or understands the nuance of so much of what we are seeing in the media. I know that for me, being creative and making music quite literally saved my life and helped me recover from a very dark period, both mentally and physically. In much the same way, my connections with close friends when I was struggling – even if through a computer or social media – were a huge source of comfort.

With much of the world being told to “stay home” and to literally not touch one another, there is going to be a lot of anxiety and stress as well as literal and emotional isolation. I think we are being forced as a collective world community to take the hardest look we’ve ever had to take, at how we’ve been treating one another as well as our planet. It is of course, very painful but it can also be something that helps us make wiser, more positive choices moving forward, in so many realms. I guess what I’m saying is that even in the context of suffering, we have opportunities to find renewed purpose and distill who we truly want to be. My prayer right now happens to be embedded in this music, and it is a message of hope derived from the fact that every single one of us has the ability to be a ‘light’, and to make choices that improve the state of our own well being, our family, our friends, and therefore the wider world.

Character by Rachael Sage is out Friday 24th July 2020 via her own label, MPress Records.

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CLT DRP: Worth It – new single PREMIERE + interview

LOUD WOMEN is delighted to bring you today the premiere of Brighton superkids Clt Drp’s new single, ‘Worth It’ – out today on Small Pond Recordings.

We spoke to Annie (vocals) and Scott (guitar) – to get the scoop.

So, what’s ‘Worth It’ all about?  

Annie: The song has a lot of different themes, I think mainly it’s about learning when to speak up for yourself and also learning when to let things just be. Unfortunately I end up in limbo a lot of the time when making decisions. There’s a lot of pent up emotions in this song, and it was very cathartic to record.  

How did the song come about?

Scott: The main intro riff was something I came up with by ramping up the repeats on a DD7 delay pedal, getting it to self oscillate then putting through a slicer! It’s well fun and definitely takes our sound more into the electro world. 

Daph (drummer) absolutely nailed it with the approach on drums, she started playing some crazy stuttery kick and hi-hat beat that slipped in and around the pattern of the slicer, resulting in the whole thing feeling more intense. Where the verses were spikey and jolty it just felt natural to break into a big phat driving chorus. 

Same with Annie too, she always has a unique way of finding a hook or melody that works well with one of the parts I’ve come up with. 

This track we did with Joe Caple at Small Pond Studios! Joe had some mad ideas by keeping the drum mics set up for when we recorded guitar and vocal. It especially worked well for the vocals, kinda had this weird up close but far away feel. Basically if it sounded odd, it was in. 

We came to the conclusion that it was best to treat the guitar like a synth. Most of the signal is just DI going through some big ol’ preamps. We rarely used close mics on the guitar cab.  

Tell us about the Brighton scene right now.

Friends of ours Libralibra just seem to be getting better and better every time we see them. If you like hard, wonky pop.. check ’em out! 

What’s the 2020 plan for Clt Drp?

We got a UK Tour coming up in April and album launch on June 4th at Green Door Store (Brighton). We should have some exciting international dates to announce soon too.   

bigfatbig: So bored – premiere + interview

It’s a big fat day for music today, and yet another LOUD WOMEN premiere for you now – from the wonderfully-named bigfatbig and their single ‘So Bored’. This lo-fi empower-pop banger gets it radio debut today on BBC Music Introducing in the North East, and we suspect we’ll be hearing lots more from this band this year.

We caught up with front-woman Katie and guitarist Robyn to find out more.

Tell us about the new single!

‘So Bored’ follows the narrative of a relationship gone stale, and plays with the idea of complacency and becoming too comfortable. It actually stemmed originally from a one-sided friendship in which we felt we were putting in way more than we were getting back from. The frustrations and anger that can arise from those types of situations can be pretty detrimental to a relationship if they aren’t manifested in a healthy way, and songwriting has always been used as a cathartic process for us. I feel like dealing with the situation after having written this song allowed us to do so with a much clearer perspective, and almost close that chapter of our lives.

We opened our debut live show back in November with So Bored and it’s really seemed to resonate with audiences ever since. I think because it’s so short and punchy, it must be pretty easy to get on board with – and an easy sing-along chorus never hurts. We’re always thinking about what’s next (literally, constantly) so wanted to strike whilst the iron was hot, so to speak. We’re very lucky in that our session drummer, Joe, is also our producer, so knows the songs inside out. We’re also very lucky in that he’s a wicked producer, and our best mate. All 3 of us lean far more towards the creative and performance side, and find the production process a bit daunting, but he makes it dead easy. We were very aware that So Bored is way pop-punkier than our other songs so really wanted to capitalise on that, particularly in the vocals and guitar tone department. We won’t lie and say it’s anything else than what it is, which is a release of pent-up frustration, and I think that’s been captured perfectly.

How’s the NE scene right now? Any new NE bands we should check out?

My goodness, the North East music scene is THRIVING right now. I think it’s a really exciting place to be, probably because Sam Fender has put us back on the map by pretty much taking over the world. We’re really, really lucky to be mates with loads of these exciting musicians, which is mint when you respect what they do so much. I think it’s specifically a great time to be a woman (never thought I’d say that) in our scene, people seem to be finally taking notice. Some of our favourites are:

Martha Hill, Mt. Misery, Faye Fantarrow, Ghost Signals, Kay Greyson, Fever Days, Club Paradise, Me Lost Me, Elizabeth Liddle, Deep.Sleep, St. Buryan, Cortney Dixon, Many Moons, Tall Shaves… could go on foreeeever.

What’s the 2020 plan for bigfatbig?

We are three very busy ladies this year. Somehow, we’ve blagged slots for This is Tomorrow, Stockton Calling, Hit the North and Heelapalooza festivals, with some other shows dotted all in between (check our socials for the deets!). We definitely want to put out another two tunes before November too. We’re really, really lucky to have been heavily back by BBC Music Introducing in the North East this year and are one of their official 2020 tips – which is a total dream – so hopefully we’ll be working with those guys a lot too. We’re working on booking some shows around the country really soon, so if you see us playing near you, come say hi and get noisy with us. 

We really want to keep the ball rolling for as long as possible, so this won’t be the last you hear from us this year.


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Sister Ghost: Bruised Fruit – premiere + interview!

We are delighted to bring you today the premiere of ‘Bruised Fruit’ – the new single from NI Music Award winners Sister Ghost!

Single launch tonight in Belfast – tickets here

The single will be launched this evening at an exclusive, limited-capacity in-store show in Strange Victory Records in Belfast. 

We caught up with the band for a quick chat…

What’s ‘Bruised Fruit’ all about then?

The first draft of this song was very personal, and all about my first encounter with being a victim of the ‘blurred lines’ around consent as a teenager. It later morphed into a wider concept of feeling bruised in toxic relationships, whether that be romantic or platonic. I wanted the metaphor of a bruised fruit, like an apple that’s been dropped and hit the floor and it leaves that mark nobody likes, to represent how it felt to be used by someone; the mark is left on you and it’s up to you to see the mark as a lesson to not be bruised again or the bruise shows your resilience to come through a toxic experience.

Tell us about the recording of the song

So the music for this final version of the song was co-written with my awesome producer Cahir (of New Pagans and one of my fav bands from NI as a teen – Fighting With Wire!) and it was so great to work with him on that. I record my demos that I send Cahir, in my attic in my flat in Belfast, which my Da and I converted into a sweet little space – it’s my favourite place to create everything from collages to tarot readings on the full moon. I record all my songs as demos on my laptop using my Focusrite interface, LogicPro X and my beloved Telecaster guitar (bought in 2006 with money I saved up from my first job at 15), my bass and a crappy old SM58 microphone for the vocals. So once I finished the demo for Bruised Fruit I sent it to Cahir and he loved it and wanted to try some ideas with it. We then re-recorded an updated demo, sent it to my band and then recorded it fully in a practice space in an old mill in Belfast. It works well having him as a producer because I have a big respect for him and his back catalog and he totally trusts my vision, gives me space and gets what I’m going for. Plus, because both of us are straight-talking Derry folk, we can be very frank with each other and nobody gets annoyed haha! 

How’s the NI scene right now?

I recently posted online about just how much our scene here has changed since I was in the only all-female band in NI between 2011-2013:

“Remember when there was only one all female band in NI or like 2 women playing loud music here? Glad that’s over.”

Because it’s true now that there are so many more female-identified artists playing loud music here; many of which came through or met at Girls Rock School NI! It goes to show that feminist communities do help to empower, diversify and change music scenes for the better. Now it will no longer be a marker of difference / an ‘oddity’ to be a ‘loud woman’ or be in an all-female band here, it’ll just be the norm. That was my dream goal whenever I set up GRSNI in 2016 anyways and I am proud to see that it’s starting to take shape!

What’s next for Sister Ghost?

We just got finished touring Ireland with Petrol Girls which was amazing! They were so lovely and so badass. We’ll be playing some shows in the north of England including Manchester and Liverpool, at the end of April / start of May and I’m so excited for that because I’ve never played there with any of my bands before! This summer we’ll hit up some festivals and in the Autumn we hope to play some shows around London. I’d like to have another single in the summer and again in the autumn, with plans to finish and release the album “Attics” in 2021!

Well LOUD WOMEN also hopes to be seeing them in London in the Autumn … [strokes imaginary beard teasingly…]