Join us on 17 March for a LOUD WOMEN takeover at London’s Royal Albert Hall! Headliners ILL will be performing a one-off “witchy queer cabaret”, with a collage of dealing with the topic of identity (with added bits from ILL videos) on a loop as a backdrop to their killer set. Here’s a sneak preview of the video:
Support on the night will come from:
* Nun Habit – London-based five-piece, whose fuzzy garage rock sound places a heavy emphasis on loud noises, pop-y tunes and having a good time.
* Lilith Ai – a DIY singer-songwriter, who performs poignant tales of modern city life. Born in northeast London Ai grew up streetwise. In her early teens with only £70 in her pocket, she ran away to America and spent the next few years living on the streets Queens New York which has heavily influenced her music.
* I, Doris – Mummycore riotpop kitchenpunx. “One of the most radical and fun bands we’ve ever seen … they take a glittering disco punk meat cleaver to the gender challenges that no-one else is talking about. Armed with a keytar, a wealth of wit, and a communal I, Doris pledge, you can imagine these Londoners going down a storm at any kind of event.” – Kitmonsters
The event is part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Unstoppable Voices series of events, in partnership with LOUD WOMEN and The Quietus.
ILL were the much-deserved winners of the LOUD WOMEN 2018 HERcury prize, and we couldn’t be more excited that this awesome band is travelling down from Manchester to play our next London show on 9 Feb 2019 at the Hope & Anchor Islington, along with The Hysterical Injury, I, Doris and Gender Chores. To get us in the mood, we asked them 10 questions.
Who would you most like to cover one of your songs?
We did a really abstract cover of an IggyPop track that we still really enjoy, we’d love to hear Iggy’s interpretation of us! A Gnod version of ‘Slithering Lizards’ would be super cool.
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?
We like to experiment, maybe we’d have Bjork on the giant pendulum/ mind-controlled ipad, or whatever she’s cooking up these days. And Diamanda Galas on vocals, we could always be scarier.
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?
We’ve been touring and we have had a few changes of guitarist as people have gone to pursue solo projects, so we have been playing existing tracks and are now itching to write new songs! I think the last song we wrote was ‘Kick Him Out The Disco’. Harri was going through a complicated break up and the lyrics came from the advice they received from friends, siblings and band mates around that time. The music was jammed out in the practice room as always, but it came together quite quickly. Tamsin was with us on guitar at the time and the song has a more solid rockiness than some of our earlier ones. I think it turned out well, we really enjoy playing it live and hope to include it on the next album. [Ed – you can listen to a live version of the song from the BBC 6 Music session ILL did for Marc Riley last sumer, here!]
Which was your favourite gig you’ve a) played and b) watched?
Ooh, there have been so many great gigs over the years! One of the best ones we played was Sea Change Festival in Totnes couple years ago – we were on first at 4pm, at a venue out of town centre, so our expectations were pretty low to start with, but then all these people turned up, and cheered through out our set, and then formed a long queue and bought all of the merch we had brought with us. We couldn’t believe how well it went! And the festival organisers were very lovely and they treated us like proper rockstars.
As for the best gig we’ve watched, one which immediately comes to mind is Jack Off Jill’s farewell tour show in Manchester in 2015. It was a sold out night and the atmosphere was absolutely electric! It was very inspiring watching Jessicka giving it her all in the performances, and speaking openly about mental health and body positivity in-between the songs. Some moments just grab you and lift you above the mundane struggles of being in a band and fill you with love and gratitude for all the music in your life, and this was one of them. Pure riot-goth feminist magick!
Recommend a record you think our readers might not have heard of.
[Harri] I’d reccommend Nummo Twin‘s album ‘Deep Sleep‘. It is a really unique mix of low-fi electronica, folk and noise, creating this fuzzy dreamscape where occasionally beautiful songs bob to the surface and then sink away.
What’s your best piece of advice for young musicians?
Be open minded. Music is a mysterious connection between minds so find the minds your mind works with rather than just other fans of the same bands. Be close to the people you play with, tell eachother stories. Don’t tone it down, in any sense, ever. If youre not visual-arty, find artists who understand you, be an audio visual experience, being seen helps you be heard. Do not sign too early, know who you are first, or you might get chewed up. Dont let anyone try to dilute you. Don’t wait to ‘get good’, just go out and start playing. Be authentic. Practice a lot. Record yourselves. Have snacks at practice.
Your top 3 most beloved albums ever – go.
Can we have 4 – 1 each? [Ed – sure!]
(Harri) White Light White Heat by The Velvet Underground, (Fiona) Gold by ABBA, (Whitney) Ocean Rain by Echo & The Bunnymen, (Ben) Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane.
What are your musical goals?
We dont really set out with a goal in mind, but I guess we are aiming at emotional truth, music that is really felt in the guts, music that shocks, entertains and inspires. ‘Noisier and heavier’ is a phrase that’s been said a lot as we head back into song-writing mode. What Whitney sometimes refers to as ‘dinosaurs having sex in space’…that sound that takes your mind back in time. We are all capable of doing more complex and rigorous things than we were when we started out, so we want to try different beats and basslines.
What’s the most important thing we need to know about you/your band right now?
We have a new guitarist, our friend Ben. And we are really excited to play gigs all over the UK and beyond with him! We are also working on new music and this is an incredible feeling. And our disco-themed breakup single ‘Kick Him Out The Disco’ will be hitting the airwaves soon. Watch this space!
Give your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians (and say why …)
Glove – because they are creating astoundingly original music with magical stage presence, QueenZee – because they have a shit ton of swag and super fun live shows, BigJoanie – because they are fiercely political and their music is cool as fuck, LoneTaxidermist – because her music and her art are pushing so many boundaries and she oozes confidence and power and sexuality, and she’s a radical feminist, and LesButcherettes – one of the most exciting live bands in the whole wide world.
The 2018 LOUD WOMEN album of the year is therefore shared by five artists; and if that wasn’t enough we’ve inaugurated a spanking new LOUD WOMEN People’s Vote Readers’ Choice Award chosen by LOUD WOMEN readers themselves (who are clearly better at making decisions!)
Without giving too much way at this stage let’s just say that it’s been a good year for block capitals: here goes!
With stellar gigs performed all over the London-based DIY scene that they call home and extensive radio play on shows like BBC Music Introducing, it’s been a big year for Big Joanie. The feminist punk trio have certainly ended 2018 with a bang thanks to the acclaim that’s already been given to their debut album Sistahs…By allowing their true feelings to be at the forefront of their songwriting, the band create tracks that truly empower the listener; not only to rebel but to check their own activism, to continue growing, and to do better. [Read full review here]
“An irrepressible sense of fun runs through Tits and Nails, in spite of everything its lyrics address. GUTTFULL has created a brilliant and uncompromising summation of the trials of being ‘other’ in 2018 and they’re ready to shout down their oppressors – with wit and with groove.” [Read more from this review]
They write songs which are both silly and serious, and they attack them (as well as each other) playfully. You can make a case for pretension in art, but there’s none with ILL; like so many of the best bands they seem like a gang you’d love to join, but ILL go one better and make you feel like you’d be welcome: friendly if not quite family-friendly (unless the family in question is more Addams than Partridge, perhaps). … A perfect storm of enigma, whimsy and controlled violence, and a genre-straddling state-of-the-nation address. With added bear growls. [Read more from this review]
‘Long-awaited’ might be a cliché, but in the case of LIINES‘ debut album, it’s a fitting description for a band that’s evolved steadily from fin-de-siecle Manc post-riot grrrl stalwarts Hooker: the tightest, heaviest rhythm section in DIY supports Zoe McVeigh’s emotional vocals and haiku-like songwriting, together conjuring an atmosphere of taut, claustrophobic menace like a UK postpunk time capsule. [Read more from this review]
A perfect ten tracks of no wave-disco electropop on a brilliant debut album from this Norwich duo. Described by The Guardian as “Thrillingly chilly, perfectly funky, no-wave straight out of early 80’s NYC…except that Sink Ya Teeth are a duo from Norwich. In a different era they’d have been all over TOTP” 4/5
The LOUD WOMEN People’s Vote Readers’ Choice Award:
The Menstrual Cramps is an anti-capitalist feminist band, therefore expect direct attacks on Tories, Neo-Nazis, big brands, business owners, famous idols who shouldn’t be idols anymore, and of course, “boyz-who-will-be-boyz”. The songs are so catchy that half of the album will get stuck in your head after giving one listen to the whole album. They produce music rapidly, though diligently. This rapidity actually shows itself in the guitars as fast riffs, playful strokes and abrupt small silences and it just sounds so good and steady. [Read more from this review]
The Top Twenty in full:
Big Joanie – Sistahs
The Breeders – All Nerve
Colour Me Wednesday – Counting Pennies in the Afterlife
LOUD WOMEN’s 2018 HERcury prize shortlist is a bakers’ dozen (whittled down from 30) of albums released between July 2017 and July 2018 by British-based, (self-identified) female, female-fronted and female-driven bands. Votes cast by Team LOUD WOMEN. Not much crossover here, you’ll notice, with lesser, so-called music prizes.
“Raw and fragile and urgent in all the best ways,” to quote Loud Women’s review; Argonaut’s third album presented last year’s new material and revisited key tracks from their first two albums, serving as a liminal release before the unveiling of their revamped band line-up for 2018.
Probably the best Scottish sibling bass ‘n’ drum grunge album since, well, The Twistettes’ LP the year before, Bratakus are just one of many Caledonian bands rocking Loud Women’s world right now. Short sharp punk soundbites and catchy-as-hell chant-a-longs on this well-received debut, like a charmingly-gnarly hybrid of The Exploited and TheDistillers.
No inverse snobbery around these parts: Chvrches’ third Top 10 album has one firm foot in 21st Century stadium pop and the other in 80s electro, and Loud Women love it like we love our Taylor Swift and Yazoo albums. Lyrics like ‘Graves’ hint at political bite beneath the glossy perfect-pop sheen.
Debut album from this Leeds-based ‘funk post-punk disco pop party pack’ fourpiece. They’ve got the stripped-down, melodic tunes, they’ve got the best song titles (‘Stockport Syndrome’, ‘Ciggy Stardust’) and they’ve got a place in the 2018 Loud Women Fest line-up!
A deserved Top 30 chart placing rewarded Goat Girl’s eponymous debut, an unexpected delight of an album from a young, all-female group sounding wise beyond their years and uncategorisable to the genre-fixated. The band traverses a range of moods across 19 song-sketches held together by a deceptively lazy-hazy vocal. Did that song really recommend several methods for literally executing the Tory government? Yes. Yes it did.
“A perfect storm of enigma, whimsy and controlled violence,” according to our reviewer, ILL’s debut album has only been blowing minds for two months, yet already feels somehow like it’s always existed. A genre-straddling state-of-the-nation address, with added bear growls.
‘Long-awaited’ might be a cliche, but in the case of LIINES‘ debut album, it’s a fitting description for a band that’s evolved steadily from fin-de-siecle Manc post-riot grrrl stalwarts Hooker. The tightest, heaviest rhythm section in DIY supports Zoe McVeigh’s emotional vocals and haiku-like songwriting, together conjuring an atmosphere of taut, claustrophobic menace like a UK postpunk time capsule.
“Catchy lo-fi garage pop” says our reviewer, and it’s the third album in only as many years from this DIY Leeds trio. One of three albums in the shortlist from Cardiff’s Odd Box Records, Nervous Twitch present 14 tracks of surfy guitar and Headcoatees-esque vocals, with a 60s girl group influence.
Perfect indie-punk-power-pop with clear riot grrrl influences from this Oxford trio, fronted by Connecticut native Angela Space. The title track tells you everything you need to know, but there’s not a bad song on Rainbow Reservoir’s varied and entertaining debut.
DIY queercore supergroup-success-story Shopping show no signs of running out of credit (yeah we went there) on their third album in five years. With Edwyn Collins back in the producers’ chair, the pace is faster, the bass is heavier, Rachel Aggs’ vocals have a newly-won confidence and their ability to paint propulsive-yet-plaintive pictures (ref. ‘Asking for a Friend’) is in full effect.
Soundbites like “instantly catchy guitar work”, “strong singalong chorus” and “lush harmonies” litter our review of this self-titled debut from Suggested Friends. Something of a supergroup featuring members of Standard Fare, Chorusgirl and WolfGirl, the band brings some of the sensibilities of those groups to this record, mixed with 80s/90s influences and an epic quality unusual for the DIY indiepop scene.
ILL – WE ARE ILL (Box Records, May 2018)
Review by Kris Smith
The internet reminds me that I first saw ILL live in Manchester in 2013. Their apparent frontwoman (Rosanne, since departed but credited here as writer) played a series of objects into the mic throughout the gig, including a handsaw and some kind of electronic gizmo that issued forth evil waves of industrial noise. In the background were vocals, drums, bass, guitar and songs including their just-released Pussy Riot-supporting single ‘Kremlin’, but it was clear that ART was centre stage – which is unsurprising when you learn that the band was one of several musical offshoots from Manc queercore artists collective Womb.
Seeing ILL again at their London album launch this week was to see a band making an equally huge, enticing, genre-defying racket and having genuine fun doing so. They write songs which are both silly and serious, and they attack them (as well as each other) playfully. You can make a case for pretension in art, but there’s none with ILL; like so many of the best bands they seem like a gang you’d love to join, but ILL go one better and make you feel like you’d be welcome: friendly if not quite family-friendly (unless the family in question is more Addams than Partridge, perhaps). Songs are introduced self-deprecatingly by Harri, anchored on Whitney’s gnarly bass, driven by Fiona’s death-disco drums, embellished with Tamsin’s guitar and shredded by Sadie (who inherited the aforementioned sonic screwdriver, and plays more guitar) while it seems like everyone sings; Harri’s keyboards add a carnival-from-hell/B-movie soundtrack vibe to the beautiful chaos.
ILL have cited influences from punk rock through Britpop, but there’s all sorts of post/avant/prog ingredients in their unique musical brew, too. You can hear some of that early-Slits defiance of trad song structure, but to me the band’s wall of sound evokes no-one so much as hardcore pioneers Flipper, alongside some slightly-more-overt Fall references, with perhaps Lou and Alice from Chumbawamba’s vocals on top [check Manchester-to-Leeds distance – Ed.] No doubt such touchstones could be way off the mark – they often are – but they serve to stress that there is MORE THAN ONE THING GOING ON here, not to say something for everyone. As with the live set, so too with the album.
‘ILL SONG’ is the introduction: a (mental) health crisis in musical form: “You’re putting stress/On the NHS/Sort yourself out, mate!” (Did I mention that this band is sardonically but unmistakably political?) ‘SPACE DICK’ is next, the anthem you didn’t know you needed about objectification in zero gravity: “I’m here for the science, check out my appliance!” (Did I mention that this band is *funny*? Check out the song’s brilliant DIY youtube vid.) The album returns to terra firma/firmer terror with the dance-y, indicatively-entitled ‘STUCK ON A LOOP’ and the superlative, intense-yet-melodic groove of ‘BEARS’. I’ll be honest here, I’ve missed exactly who or what the latter song is about, but its intriguing chorus of “I’ll feed you to my bears!” is the album in a nutshell: a perfect storm of enigma, whimsy and controlled violence. And oh! The sound effects you’ll hear!
‘BUS SHELTER’ is a landscape of the lost souls you can meet in any city centre at night and a powerful portrait of homeless youth, interpolated with a litany of the impoverished northern towns whence they came. They chorus “where are you going to?” as the buses depart: it’s the album’s most moving moment. ‘I AM THE MEAT’ swerves the album back into left-field, keeping matters unsettled, before 9 minute epic ‘SLITHERING LIZARDS’ crawls into view: “I’m so busy/My life is not pretty/I wake in my dreams/As my teeth are all crumbling down”; if this song isn’t an allegory of Brexit Britain, its carcass picked clean by Tory austerity, I’ll eat my deluxe-edition Stooges albums. It climaxes with a chant of “Shut them down/Lock them out/Give them guns/Kill their sons!” a Lou Reed-esque verse that also recalls the ambiguously-targeted vitriol of early Clash lyrics, an influence evidenced by Whitney’s stencilled bass guitar.
‘POWER’ follows, another unsettling, witchily-hypnotic groove, the band demonstrating by now a solid gift for channelling pure noise that makes me want to segue this record into something/everything by Crime or Pere Ubu or Faust. After 40 minutes of pummeling, righteous vitality, the album peaks with the furious ‘HYSTERIA’, an almost Crass-style rant linking patriarchal history to the contemporary reality that church and state still seek control of women’s bodies, globally, from the US to Russia to Eire to China.
ILL are an all-female group, a fact that’s both irrelevant and inescapable given the fiercely feminist politics of this material. You could connect the band via fellow Womb member Debbie Sharp (also of earlier riot grrrl band Valerie) to a barely-sketched history of the UK underground, or trace their defiantly-uncommercial style through an alternate postpunk canon: LiLiPUT, Androids of Mu, Hagar the Womb, Witchknot, Gertrude, Slum Of Legs. ILL sound too focused to care about anything of the sort, but in my view? As special as it can undoubtedly feel to be in on a secret, perhaps the time has come for this music to go overground. It’s time to get ILL.
In 1968, German activists SPK pathologised alienated society as the source and essence of poor health; they vowed to “turn illness into a weapon!” Fifty years on, with this album, ILL have done just that.