Category Archives: interviews

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…]

Kate Stapley: interview

Kris Smith catches up with Bristol singer-songwriter Kate Stapley ahead of shows in London (20 Feb) and Bristol (27 Feb).

What’s happening in the world of Kate Stapley right now?
At the present moment I’m listening to a storm happening outside my house, in the bigger picture I’m working on finishing an album and trying to gig as much as possible as far afield as possible.

You recently had a second release on Bristol’s Breakfast Records, how did the launch go, what kind of response did you get?
It was lush. I put out a double a-side and had quite an intimate 60-capacity release show. It was sold out which I was over the moon about and the atmosphere was really lovely. Had a great response so far from the tracks which makes me happy as they’re my proudest work to date. 

Is there an album on the way too?
Yes!!! Long time coming but we’ll get there and I can’t wait.

Are there any themes you’ve found yourself exploring in your current songwriting?
I write very personally and I guess what I’m listening to or how I’m feeling affects it quite a lot so I can never really tell what’s going to come out. I try not to force myself in a certain direction too much. I find it helps me to check in with myself by seeing what comes out, but I always try to have an angle or direction or underlying message in mind. I’m a big fan of layers in songwriting. The most recent material I’ve released is quite observational but I also wanted to have it as open and relatable without sacrificing any integrity or personal catharsis (self-involved songwriters eh?)

You’ve been described as ‘folk’, a label that sometimes gets used lazily for any female singer with an acoustic guitar; you seem to have a stronger connection though and we’ve seen you play folk gigs. How did you get involved?
So I wandered into the folk scene when I started playing when I was 15/16 with my love for John Martyn, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. For me folk music is passing on and telling stories through song and that’s how I find myself identifying within the genre however I’m not sure it always suits me and I like to play about with ‘genre’ according to the songs message. I strayed away slightly as quite a lot of ‘folk’ nights were for folk trad purists. It’s beautiful music I appreciate but it’s not the music I make. 

You’re from London originally; from your semi-outsider perspective what are your impressions and experiences of the Bristol DIY scene in general?
Egoless, inviting and encouraging but you need to stick your neck out and make your mark. It’s a small city so it’s easy to get to know people and people don’t have to fight for a platform. I think DIY shows are invaluable as a performer to get you to loosen up and roll with the waves a bit as you have to work harder to sound better.

What else should we be listening to, from Bristol or anywhere else?
HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU GOT?! I share a lot of stuff I like on my Instagram. Currently I’m besotted with Rebecka ReinhardDogeyed and Emily Isherwood. My friend PMS Casualty is an incredible poet and DJ. Mouse and Mercy’s Cartel are also making great infectious pop. Slagheap are a great band. My friend Ariana Brophy is a wonderful songwriter and has just launched a fantastic project called FemFolk for non-binary, intersex, trans and female musicians that I was thoroughly recommend checking out. 

Are you influenced mainly by any particular tradition or genre; who were you listening to while growing up and who in the last month?

To be honest it hasn’t changed much but I keep it as broad as possible and try to open it up as much as I can. I do love my 60s/70s stuff. I’ve been listening to loads of Self Esteem and Aldous Harding

One occasional highlight of your set is the song ‘I’m Walking Here’, but it’s not available on your solo releases. Can you tell us about it?
I wrote it a few years ago for a different project when me and my friend Kaeley got catcalled when on holiday. We were in the habit of yelling ‘I’M WALKINN HERE’ as a response. I was on my period and I just got thinking about juxtaposition between the overt over-sexualisation of women and the repulsion and secrecy that menstruation gets treated with. We were out later with my Kaeley’s dad Rod who is awesome. We got catcalled again and her dad joined in and screamed “Hey she’s walkin over here in her high heeled boots and her fuckin baby” (there was no baby) and the song just spun out from there. A friend had just had a break-up after her partner called her inconsiderate after her period leaked onto his sheets, so that’s built in too. It kind of feels like a battle cry and was about me learning not to be afraid to get angry about things and is great fun to perform. 

We’re going through a long period of political austerity; is the role of artists one of escapism, or survival and bearing witness, or are there things we can and should still do to resist?
I think we need to keep an open dialogue, look out for our neighbours, use your voice to make space for those who are being oppressed if you’re in a position of privilege. It’s been rough and we need to support each other but when we have the emotional strength engage in those conversations to try and make change. 

What’s next for Kate Stapley and what should we look out for?
I’m playing some shows that are all on my social media and I’ll probably chuck a few singles out soon why not!! I love playing live so trying to make sure I dot up as much as possible. Thanks to the Eat Up Collective I’ve done my first few workshops on songwriting for beginners so trying to make sure more of these happen! 

Thank you Loud Women you are awesome!

Pics by Ania Shrimpton Photography/Bristol In Stereo used with thanks.

Kate Stapley and band play The Social, London W1, Thurs 20th Feb; and Friendly Records Bar, Bristol, Thurs 27th Feb.

A WOMAN OF MANY BANDS: Jade Ellins in conversation

Interview by Tony Rounce, photos by Keira-Anee and  Neil Anderson

It may have been all quiet on the DOLLS front of late, but Jade Ellins has not been resting on her laurels.  Currently in two active bands, the duo’s charming, affable front woman took time out from her ever-busy schedule to tell our Tony all about herself, and to bring LW up to date with what she’s been up to recently…

I suppose the first question that everyone would like an answer to (myself included!) is what’s become of DOLLS?

Well it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster as Bel had to go back to Spain last year. However, we will be releasing our 2nd EP this year, hopefully in the spring. We recorded it with Margo Broom producing, and it’ll be coming out with the same team who released Pop The Bubble – I can’t wait! I’ve been writing too, and working really hard on new songs that I think are really strong and I’m so excited for people to hear them!

You’re still in two top notch bands that we know about, in Abjects and Big Sea Creature. Obviously BSC is an outgrowth of the late, lamented Long Teeth, but how did the hook up with Abjects come about?

I got a message from Kelly Chard of We Can Do It, saying that Abjects were looking for a bassist and would I be up for a jam – so I said yes! Then Noemi (Abjects) got in touch, we had a jam and that was it! I enjoy playing with the girls so much, and think their songs are fantastic!

How does being a part of a bigger band (as you are with BSC and Abjects) differ from being its lone frontsperson for you?

I generally feel a lot more relaxed at gigs if I’m not fronting, and I love supporting front people and getting to watch them on stage. I feel like when you front a band you give all your energy to the audience and it feels very personal, almost like a form of therapy. There is nothing quite like that feeling. With fronting though you feel the highs and lows of performing a lot more. I love doing a mix of both, as they are very different experiences.

What and who inspired you to aspire to a career as a musician originally?  Were your family musical/supportive/influential, for example? Did you see someone on TV and think ‘I Want To Be Them?’

Both my parents are musicians, so I was always encouraged to be musical from a young age. I started piano when I was 4 and could also hold a tune, so luckily I got my parents musical genes. I feel so fortunate that I get to earn a living out of music, as well as be creative and write my own music. Thanks Mum and Dad for pushing me to practice when really I just wanted to play Barbies all day!

Your favourite and most influential singles/albums are?

  1. Made in Japan – Deep Purple
  2. To bring you my love – PJ Harvey
  3. Push the sky away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

And your favourite five most influential artists?

  1. Nick Cave
  2. PJ Harvey
  3. Bikini Kill
  4. Mitski
  5. Talking heads

First record you bought? And the most recent one?

First record I think was ABBA Gold and honestly I mainly listen to music on Spotify now. My partner Sam loves listening to records so I listen with him, lately we have been listening to ‘Be the cowboy’ by Mitski which I have been loving!

First band you saw? And your most recent one (that you’re not a member of, obviously…)

My first band was Bjorn Again, I loved ABBA when I was 6 (and still do!) and recently I saw Mango at their single launch, which was ace!

And your most memorable gig to date with any band you’ve been a member of?

Long Teeth’s final gig was a really wonderful evening for us, I honestly felt like I had to prepare emotionally for that gig for about two months. When I was there I was like right let’s do this! It brought me such happiness to be able to play those songs for people again and to remember our lovely Al. I also loved the DOLLS EP launch at Rough Trade. It was a Monday night at 6pm, and I thought ‘Oh it will be a small crowd’. I could’ve cried when I came on stage and saw it so full! (TR – having been present at the show I can happily confirm this to be true…)

You play guitar with DOLLS and bass in every other band I’ve seen you with. Which is your preference, and which came most naturally to you in the first place?

I started guitar lessons when I was five so I have been playing guitar for a really long time now. I started on double bass (I know I’m 5 ft 2 and I only got to play a half-size) then naturally moved onto bass guitar. I guess guitar will always be my first calling, but I love the discipline of bass and crafting functional parts. I also seem to get asked to play bass in bands way more than I do guitar. Bassists always seem to be the ones that are in demand.

As a songwriter, what part of writing comes easiest to you, lyrics or melody?  And how much input do you have to the creative input of a band like BSC, where you are not the main or sole songwriter?

I find coming up with the guitar riffs/chords the easiest. I write lyrics with Sam, and he always helps me come up with melodies. With bands like BSC and Long Teeth, Sam writes the core of most songs and we add to it. Sometimes I might heavily influence a song with a bass line but I’m also happy to support Sam’s ideas.

You’ve already played for and with some notable names outside of what we think of as the DIY music scene. Is there anyone special on your wish list that you’d like to add to your CV?

I would like to support Nick Cave and the Pixies, please!

Has there ever been a time in your life when you have considered an alternate career path?

Yes! Being a musician is tough and not always the most stable of careers. But it’s the only thing I really love doing so I keep on going.

What do you do when you’re not being Jade the professional musician (assuming you have time to do anything else…)

I watch a lot of films and TV, if I’m honest. Characters I see in shows inspire a lot of my songs. I also make an effort to be social, as I feel like when you are writing and working from home you can become bit of a hermit and slowly become more and more uninspired.

Do you think it’s getting any easier for women in music, now that there are more bands out there comprised predominantly and/or exclusively of women/womxn?  Both at the DIY level and in general?

I think at a DIY level definitely. There are so many female fronted nights in the UK, which I think is brilliant. I think at a professional/mainstream level it has definitely got better, but there is still some work to do. I can think of some incredible female singers, but when it comes to instrumentalists I can struggle. I find there are very few female guitarists I can show my young female students for inspiration. I’m hoping this will change soon.

Any closing advice for those who aspire to the life of a singer/writer/musician?

I think my main thing is don’t become too complacent. It’s very easy to get a tiny bit of success and think ‘woo I made it!’  and then become big headed and very quickly realise the success isn’t growing as quickly as you think. Being hard-working and polite is also so important!