2019 was an important year for the women of Ġenn. Three of them relocated to Brighton from their native Malta, subsequently undergoing the rebranding that led them to their new name. The latter was a risky thing to do, given that they had forged a decent public perception as Cryptic Street, and had already released their album “Tittymonster” under that name. But the gamble has begun to pay off and Leona, Janelle, Leanne and native Brit Sofia have quickly re-established themselves as one of the busiest bands in the country – and they are starting 2020 with the release of their first tune under their still-new identity.
As the late Irish comedian Frank Carson used to say – “it’s a cracker”.
If you have caught Ġenn’s act, you will already know ‘Du Da Dance’. A favourite from the late Cryptic Street days, it shows that while their name might have changed, their full-on, take-no-prisoners style of music is as potent as it ever was. Filled with big riffs and an uncompromisingly mainstream rock sound, and topped by a solid sing-along ‘HEY-NaNaNaNaNaNa’’ chorus, it will quickly become your next big earworm if you allow it to. (To be honest, once you’ve heard it, you might not have any other option…)
The audio is accompanied by a simple, slightly claustrophobic black & white video that successfully captures the image that goes with the music, and particularly the unflaggingly energetic personality of lead singer Leona Farrugia. As a taster for what you might expect to see and Ġenn live, it serves its purpose admirably.
‘Du Da Dance’s message is not cerebral, for sure. But if you like a bit of jumping around the room music to get you in the mood for a night out (particularly if you’re going to see Ġenn) it’s something you ought to check out more than once. Or twice. Ġenn are out there gigging with commendable regularity at the moment, so you should have plenty of opportunities to do so over the next couple of months…
…And what of the name Ġenn, then? According to group co-founder and lead guitarist Janelle Borg “it means crazy”. Appropriately enough for a bunch of highly likeable women with a crazy year ahead of them. One that’s starting as it means to go on with ‘Du Da Dance’.
‘Du Da Dance’ will be available from all the usual streaming sources from January 27th and will be accompanied by a number of live shows around the country. Follow Genn on Facebook or Instagram for further updates on when and where…
Janelle Borg (of Maltese punk band Cryptic Street) reports on the women at the forefront of the Maltese music scene, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN
I have been raised by the Maltese music scene. From when I started getting involved in bands and musical projects at the tender age of thirteen, my life involved gigs, rehearsals, studio sessions, organizing events, seeing venues in Malta open and close, hanging out in iconic bars and cafes popular with the local scene, and the like. For a country with a grand total of 475,700 inhabitants, Malta’s underground scene has flourished in spite of a lot of obstacles. Being a woman in this scene, it felt natural to continue this series by interviewing some game-changing players in my homeland’s underground scene, that are helping to break the glass-ceiling and promote women’s involvement in music.
Alison Galea – an alternative music pioneer and chameleon who, along the years, has been vital in establishing a couple of Malta’s most innovative musical projects.
Leona Farrugia – a young artiste and arts apasionado experimenting in music and photography.
Yasmin Kuymizakis a.k.a Yews – An electronic musician, sound artist and sound designer. Additionally, she’s the co-founder of Malta Sound Women Network, which aims to connect, support, mentor, promote and educate women and girls in electronic music and sound.
1. >>Can you introduce yourself and your involvement in music?
Alison: My main roles in music are being a part of Beangrowers, formed in the 90s, The Shh, a duo side-project, and Etnika, Malta’s first and most-known Maltese “tripfolk” bands. Over the years I have also participated in other projects, including Phillip Boa and the Voodooclub (Germany) and French jazz band, Festen.
Leona: Generally, I try not to label anything, so I don’t really categorize myself as a ‘musician’. I try to be creative every day, so for me personally, it’s more of a creative thing and a way how to express my thoughts, creating something thanks to these thoughts. I started out with Cryptic Street. Together with the original members, the band started in secondary school as a school project. The girls really believed in what I can offer, and I continued to work after that.
Yasmin: I have my one-woman electronic act called YEWS, plus I am one of the founders of the Malta Sound Women Network which is an organisation affiliated with the Yorkshire Sound Women Network (UK). We aim to bring like-minded women together; to share knowledge and skills in music and sound technology, sonic arts, production, audio-electronics…and anything to do with using a kit to create sound.
2. >>How would you describe the Maltese music scene?
A: The Maltese music scene is very rich in genres and has grown so much in recent years, but it’s comparable to a goldfish in a bowl. It lacks the freedom to be more explorative because alternative artists are not really understood by most. It is also restrictive in terms of performance spaces and audiences.
Y: For a tiny island, we have a lot of talent. We have some good popular music from bands such as The New Victorians, but I’m more familiar and involved in the underground scene in which there’s a pretty good variety of music. For example, some hip hop from215 Collective, industrial techno fromLlimbs, electro/house from Jupiter Jax, classical and experimental from Jess Rymer and Tricia Dawn Williams, quirky lo-fi hits from Bark Bark Disco, and I can’t leave out Malta’s alternative gods: Brodu, Beangrowers andBrikkuni… just to mention a few!
L: It has a lot of potential, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Maltese and I’m in a band….but there aren’t a lot of people who try to go beyond Malta and break internationally. It is easy to get comfortable in Malta. But seeing it from another perspective, Maltese people have a lot of things to offer and it’s such a shame that they just get too comfortable sometimes.
3. >>What is your most memorable music-related moment in Malta?
A: My most memorable music-related moment in Malta was when I got to perform “The Priest” with Beangrowers at the European Film Awards party to Wim Wenders. He danced and sang along to all the words. It was a proud moment for us as a band and for me as a lyricist, because he not only invited us to form part of his film’s soundtrack but he actually really knew and liked the song.
L: I think, for me personally, it’s when I supported The Hives with my other band nosnow/noalps.I mean, meeting them backstage and eating pizza with them is quite a thing….definitely a highlight!
Y: My most memorable moment must be performing at the yearly Xmas event Pudina in 2016. This party is organised by another extremely talented Maltese musician, Danjeli, and has been going strong for over ten years now. When Danjeliasked me to perform, I was nervous as my music was too mellow for a club setting. So I wrote and produced a completely new set specifically to suit the space. And wow! Did that go well! I got a lot of support and encouragement from that gig. It was a beautiful night.
4. >>Do you think that women and non-binary folk are well-represented in Malta’s underground music scene?
A: I am happy to see more female musicians these days because they express a sense of freedom in the way they perform which is way better than a decade or more ago. However, there are still too few women making music out there than I would like to see/hear. Till now, Malta’s underground music scene still remains a very male-dominated scene. I want to see more Maltese women kicking ass on stage!
L: Maybe? I think it’s a yes…but the thing is I really hate these labels. After all, we’re a bunch of musicians…a bunch of creatives. Personally, I support everyone, whoever you are, and whatever you label yourself as.
Y: Malta’s underground music scene, like everywhere else, is very much male-dominated. In the past, I have noticed festival line-ups and events with not one single woman/non-binary on the bill. However, things are changing, slowly, but they definitely keep getting better. Organisations like Electronic Music Malta, for example, organise events that promote women in electronic music and are very supportive to the Malta Sound Women Network. Moreover, more women are joining the underground music scene and performing on a regular basis. I can mention bands like Fuzzhoneys and Cryptic Street, and electronic artists such as Hearts Beating in Time, Sunta and Princess Wonderful.
5. Any future plans for you and your projects?
A: Working on releasing a new album with Beangrowers in 2019 and also hoping to release another video for one our new tracks. One day I would like to create my own solo project comprising of songs I have written in different phases of my life.
L: There’s definitely something cooking. With Cryptic Street we’ve just recorded some material. As a creative, I’m trying to involve myself in different projects. I’m also trying to get more into studying different disciplines in order to have more ‘solid’ work. I think that the job of an artist is not to focus on one specific, boring thing, but to constantly experiment and challenge yourself.
Y: As Yews, I am working on an EP at the moment. With MSWN, we are working on making things more official and becoming a Voluntary Organisation. We have plenty of ideas for workshops. On the 13th of February, we have an event in collaboration with EMM (Electronic Music Malta). We have a screening of the documentary ’Raw Chicks. Berlin’ with an introduction by Jess Rymer and I (founders of MSWN) and a performance by Juliane Wolf.
With the Christmas party season firmly behind us, it’s safe to say that January is a difficult month to get right. Resolutions are at risk of being broken and that person you promised yourself you’d become hasn’t yet materialised. But, you know what? Fuck that. Use these three compilation albums to reassert yourself, KonMari the hell out of your music collection, remind yourself how to say ‘no’, and make you want to start (another) band.
With a change in how we consume music, compilation albums can revive that feeling of buying a CD, rinsing the fuck out of it, listening to songs you know and finding new gems. Like: when I bought ‘Now 34’ from a shop in Sunderland just so I could listen to The Spice Girls, but then discovered Bon Jovi and Belinda Carlisle.
So, yeah, just like that, but it’s 2019, and I’m kicking off with Hell Hath No Fury Vol 2 by Hell Hath No Fury Records. El Knight has compiled 18 bangers for our aural delight. Available now from Bandcamp for £4, of which 50% of proceeds will go to Future Festival 2019, a three-dayer close to Bristol with music and performances by trans and enby artists plus practical and political workshops and more! The album compliments perfectly. Tracks selected from artists such as Wolfgirl, Gender Chores, Colour Me Wednesday, DreamNails, BigJoanie, Charmpit are definitely at the more political end of the spectrum. Listen carefully, and use these as your inspiration for 2019, create your own manifesto and don’t take any bullshit. Turn Big Joanie’s No Scrubs up to eleven and crack open your bullet journal during Dream Nails’ DIY.
HERESY by Ankara-based community, Chaos, I Am Your Mistress (CIAYM), opens with SecondhandUnderpants single ‘Your Little Bitch’. If BarbaraStanwyck started a band, this is what it would sound like. This dark and head-banging opening track is bound to annoy neighbours, so make sure to play it LOUD and LATE. The digital album is available on Bandcamp for the devilish price of €6.66. Proceeds go towards supporting women and other marginalized genders in underground music. The album also features tracks from REVULVA, CrypticStreet and TwinPigs. It’s worth emailing the address on the BC to request the CD, because then you get two extra tracks from GUTTFULL (The Power and That’s What He Said)!
Last, but not least, get your chops around Birds Of A Feather Vol 2 by Anthrax (UK). And before you ask, no, it’s not an album of duets by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson with Lesley Joseph on the lute. Rather, it’s of the classic punk, head-banging-greatness variety. But, it’s loud, proud and inspiring, with tracks from Zombie Met Girl, Kiss Me, Killer, Bratakus, and loads more! Such a great offering from Anthrax (uk) on Grow Your Own Records, it’s out now on Bandcamp, as a digital album or CD. Don’t forget to hold it, embrace the joy and kiss it before putting it back neatly into its jacket.
So, there you have it. There’s enough here to keep you going for a few months. Go forth, find new favourites, enjoy the tracks you know and don’t forget smash the patriarchy.”
Janelle Borg (of Maltese punk band Cryptic Street) reports on the women at the forefront of the Madrid’s thriving music scene, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN
From the first time I landed in Madrid, its music and its people captivated me so much that the city left a permanent imprint on me, and a constant yearning to hop on a plane and go there again. The area of Malasaña, with its colourful aesthetic, picturesque cafes and rowdy crowd at night, encapsulates the essence of the Madrid underground scene. With the meteoric rise to fame of bands like Hinds, I couldn’t help but wonder: who are the women driving Madrid’s scene and what is their story? To explore this, I approached three artists from this thriving scene, and this is their side of the story:
Elena Nieto – a young multi-instrumentalist who’s a member of the Madrid-based Yawners and Estrogenuinas
Hickeys – a glitter-punk band whose latest release is called ‘Diamond Munch’.
Mad Girls – a collective of badass women who run Mad Girls Magazine, in addition to promoting and hosting events in Madrid.
>>Can you introduce yourselves and your involvement in music?
Elena: I started playing the guitar when I was 10 or 11. Finally, after constantly pleading for it, my dad got me my first electric guitar when I was 14 or 15. I started playing and recording myself non-stop since I couldn’t find anyone to play with. I founded my first band when I was in my second year at university… playing drums in that band. I never stopped playing and experimenting with different instruments in several bands at the same time ever since. Now I’m focused on my main project,Yawners, while also playing the drums for the punk band Estrogenuinas. I also work at the record label and booking agency, La Castanya, so my life pretty much revolves around music!
Hickeys: We are basically a group of friends who started playing music while drinking beer at Marta’s two years ago. We know each other from university; all of us had dreamed about the possibility of being in a band, but it wasn’t until the four of us started playing together that we saw that this dream could turn into a reality.
Mad Girls: Currently, we’re Mimí, Virginia and Ana. We also have an occasional collaborator, Celia, with a foodie column. It all started about two and a half years ago when Mími and Elvira (the other founding member) were too broke to get into concerts, and so, they decided to start a gig photo blog. Virginia joined some time after, with Ana being the most recent addition to the team. We immediately had a lot of very positive feedback and Mad Girlsorganically evolved into what it is now.
>> What do you think makes the Madrid music scene different from other scenes out there?
E: I think the guitar bands scene in Madrid is huge right now. I’ve lived in different cities and countries and I can tell that what is happening here is special. The local scene is very strong as there are many well-established bands that sell big venues, but also a never-ending flow of newer bands. There is a solid scene of local bands – not only in Madrid but everywhere in Spain – that is touring the country and playing in festivals.
H: We don’t know any international scenes directly and in-depth but, in relation to the Spanish ones, we are noticing fresh sounds coming out of the different neighbourhoods, a variety of genres and very young artists that have a lot to say. Madrid is a great city where people from other parts of Spain come to make a living and that makes it a perfect cradle for creativity and fusion.
>>What attracted Mad Girls to get involved in Madrid’s music scene?
M: We have always been connected to the music scene in Madrid. Most of our friends are musicians so we spent most of our free time attending concerts or jamming at someone’s place. We wanted to have an active role in the music scene, and after some of our best friends performed at our first-anniversary party, it encouraged us to start promoting musical events.
>>Describe your perfect night out in Madrid.
E: It always starts with a show for me. Lately, I’ve been going to Tempo bar (Malasaña). It’s a sketchy but really cool old cocktail bar run by classic-style bartenders … you really wouldn’t expect to find them in such a place! You get a weird bowl of peanuts mixed with gummy bears with every drink.
Also, if the weather is nice, there’s a big chance that I end up hanging outside drinking beer. If you’re around Malasaña, that’d probably be in Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
H: Fortunately, there isn’t one specific type of a perfect night. It can sound cliche but we don’t really care about where to go or what to do. In the end, the magic happens when we are with a group of people who are in the same mood, are open-minded, and you can talk and dance with them without being judged. One of the feelings we like the most takes place at the end of a night out when we walk down the streets of Madrid in the early morning during those hours when the city is still quiet and peaceful.
M: Our perfect night out would definitely have a lot of music involved. First stop would be a place to eat tasty food and gather all together to drink and chat…most likely at the delicious Italian restaurant Menomale. Then a concert, of course! You can often find us atSirocoor Costello – small venues where upcoming bands often start their careers. Then we would most likely stop at Lucy in the Sky where we occasionally DJ, and where the underground music scene gathers. We’d probably end up dancing to rock ‘n’ roll and 60’s beats at FunHouse Music Bar. At the end of it all, we’d grab some churros ‘con chocolate’ while watching the stunning Madrilenian sunrise.
>>Do you feel that women and non-binary folk are well-represented in Madrid’s underground scene?
E: I believe that in Madrid’s underground and punk scenes, women have been well-represented and supported for a long time. Also, at the moment, there are quite a lot of active female-fronted bands in the local scene such as Las Odio, Repion, Hickeys, Hinds, Estrogenuinas, LadyBanana, Pelícana, Cariño, Yawners…to name but a few. In the urban music scene, female artists such as La Zowi are being acknowledged for their work. Another good example is Clara Te Canta: she creates internet pop, sings openly about ‘taboo’ topics, and speaks up for women in general… she’s fun!
H: We have seen an increase in female presence in the underground scene, and also in different bands and musical ensembles. In the past, women were usually cast as the singers in a band, as opposed to playing an instrument. We think (or want to think) that little by little prejudices are being destroyed and that is being reflected on the stage too. Nevertheless, being perceived as a woman performing in a woman’s body in this patriarchal context is still coupled with some comments and judgements relating to our body/face/movements that wouldn’t be commented upon if we were male musicians. We are progressively conquering this field with our presence but, at the same time, we are still referred to as a Girl-Band when a “Boy-band” is an obsolete term that died with Backstreet Boys era.
M: In the past few years there has been more attention drawn to women and non-binary musicians. Nevertheless, we’ve still got a long way to go. We always try to promote bands with female/non-binary members in them. Also, we don’t only focus on the band members themselves…. For example, sometimes it may be an all-male band, but with a female manager. We like to give attention to the women behind-the-scenes who sustain the industry since it can be a very sexist sector. We can vouch personally for this.
>>Any upcoming plans you’d like to tell the world about?
E: We’re releasing Yawners’ debut album in March 2019. I’ll be performing at SXSW, touring around Spain and doing festivals here. Hopefully, we’ll also have some dates in Europe and in the UK by the end of the year. Can’t wait!
H: Right now, we’re focusing on songwriting and not that much on performing live (even though we’re planning a couple of shows abroad in early 2019, mainly in the UK and the US). Three of us are going to finish their studies, so this is going to be a really exciting, twisted and spontaneous year because, in addition to the above, we are also preparing an LP! It seems as if 2019 is going to be full of surprises. A British record label, perhaps?
…and finally, Mad Girls, can you give your recommendations of some Madrilenian female musicians and artists that we should definitely check out?
M: Our favourite female musicians emerging from this scene include Rayo, Melenas, HoaxFellows or Hickeys, amongst many others. As for other artists… photographer SharonLópez!
All those man-band promoters claim there’s not enough female musicians to play their festivals, yet we went and filled 4 days with awesome womxn-bands without even trying! #accidentalfestival starts today …
LOUD WOMEN presents a night of awesome music, with performances from:
Cryptic Street (Malta)
Maltese 4-piece punx currently taking over the world – so excited to bring these awesome girls to London! They’ve just released their album ‘Titty Monster’ and it’s fawesome. Do not miss this.
Birmingham’s finest garage punks, led by powerhouse Charly.
Cryptic Street are coming all the way from Malta to play for us on 11 August and we can't wait to welcome them! We got to know them a bit better with 10 questions ...
Who would you most like to cover one of your songs?
Anyone covering our songs would be the biggest honour! Though if I had to pick, Bass Drum of Death.
If you could add one member to your band – any person, living or dead, musical or otherwise – who would it be, and what would they play?
That’s a tricky one, though I think having Zack De La Rocha (RATM) on vocals with Leona would be an interesting idea, to say the least.
What was the last song you wrote, where were you when you came up with the idea, what inspired it, and how did it turn out?
The last complete song we wrote was ‘Las Niñas Locas’ – a song which we actually wrote in more than one country (Leona wrote the lyrics on a train in Madrid – as the name implies)! It pretty much started because we were in the mood for a fun track since at that point we were excited and looking forward to a handful of gigs overseas.
Which was your favourite gig you’ve a) played and b) watched?
Either our album launch or our opening performance for Acid Mothers Temple in Glasgow. The former was the latest big milestone for our career, though the latter was equally great because getting to see the main band in the front having a blast while you play is honestly amazing.
Hands down when I went to see Opeth in November 2016. Getting to see that band bringing their songs to life in person was just so beautifully surreal.
Recommend a record you think our readers might not have heard of.
I assume that there’ll be some that know of this, but Fever the Ghost’s Zirconium Meconium is a quirky listen.
What’s your best piece of advice for young musicians?
Listening, learning, and practicing to move forward is the most important thing. Always write and record ideas, go to gigs, talk and listen to other musicians. Learn the importance of moving forward with exposure without neglecting the importance of moving forward musically!
Your top 3 most beloved albums ever – go. The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Watershed – Opeth
Dormant Heart – Sylosis
What are your musical goals?
My personal goals are to see what my musical voice can develop into – as well as to see how far it can reach.
What’s the most important thing we need to know about you/your band right now?
We’re currently working on a bunch of new material that we really look forward to sharing with you!
Give your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians
Opeth – Their prog influenced metal just really resonates with my enjoyment of heavy music featuring fancy melody work.
Gojira – My original ‘angry music with a cause’ inspiration – It’s the kind of stuff you could angrily kick down a door to, with a prominent and consistent message on environmental activism.
Sylosis – Even though they’re sadly on indeterminate hiatus, this is a band that I’ve been well into for the past 5 years at the very least, their guitar melodies and drum work especially.
Tesseract / Amos Williams (bass) – An amazing band all round, but Amos gets a special mention since he’s known from taking inspiration from the likes of Les Claypool and Victor Wooten and adapting their concepts into his own, vastly different genre.
Nolly GetGood (ex-Periphery) – He gets a mention for having the most tightly written bass riffs and the killer tone I take inspiration from.
Cryptic Street‘s record ‘Titty Monster’ sounds like a seductive monster that can talk human beings into some angry sex. Though the monster is not a roaring giant titty, but a titty in disguise of a post-rock lover tomboy (our monster is also a big fan of Warpaint).
The record is delicate and vicious at times, with its dominant basslines (I have to add this: “chuggidy chug” bass, a friend called it), and very desirous other times with the effects that highlight the ambitious self-expressiveness in the vocals and guitars. The insistence on using these moody effects (such as in the instrumental track, which is my favorite, ‘Island Blues’) make the album sound somewhat psychedelic. All the songs invite the listener to join the celebration of joyful and angry creative energy and not care about what “professionals” aka the “mansplainers” think.
But the DIY attitude in the album does not really come from the very well-done production (apparently it is crowdfunded which parallels their punk attitude), but more from the improvisational-feeling song structures and effect choices. In other words, the album is perfectly produced but it manages to sound nicely random at the some time, with a touch of the passion in Savages and fun in some masculine metal. It really sounds like Cryptic Street is interested in collage and collaboration. I love the mixture of pop-rock feeling and aggressive vocals in “Don’t Need No Men” and “Damaged” for example.
Though our monster wants to stay punk even when it is not, thus oscillates between being an adult and a kid.