Having been a pretty massive fan of indie-pop superstars Fightmilk for a couple of years now, we’ve recently been excited to hear that Lily from the band’s solo project Captain Handsome have just released their debut EP.
Exploring everyday anxieties and all-too-common awkward situations with an intimate twinkling emotion, the EP’s filled with sad lo-fi bangers and effervescent indie-pop sounds that tug at the heartstrings in all the right ways.
We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. We caught up with Lily, who has shared her “Five Favourites” – five tracks that particularly resonate with her. Check out her choices below, and make sure you take a listen to brand new EP I Am Not An Animal as soon as possible!
The Proclaimers – ‘Over And Done With’
I don’t know how many kids have a ‘Proclaimers phase’ but mine was FORMATIVE. I was about ten, still one of the tall kids in class and extremely sensitive about my bad skin, when I started listening to my parents’ cassette tape of This Is The Story – which I thought I’d try out because I thought the nerds on the cover looked funny. The best song on their debut album is ‘Over And Done With’. It was the first song I ever learned to play on guitar, and I loved it so much that after months and months of practicing C, E, Am and F, I covered it and made a music video for it, long lost to the toilet of history.
“This is the story of our first teacher Shetland made her jumpers and the devil made her features” – It’s just a series of little awkward, unfair or tragic moments, completely mundane but weirdly existential and funny. It’s a mood I absorbed as an angsty kid and have probably transferred, knowingly or unknowingly, into almost every song I’ve written since. I love how it’s upbeat and simple, completely stripped down to just two voices and a guitar, a singalong tune about shag ennui and low-key worrying about death and how, in the end, it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s over and done with.
Did you know the Proclaimers have ELEVEN albums, one of which is called Angry Cyclist? There you go.
Kirsty MacColl – ‘Free World’
Ahhhh fuck the Tories. This song came out in 1989 as a way of saying “fuck the Tories” and lo and behold and quelle surprise, we (at least in the DIY scene) are still saying fuck the Tories 31 years later. This is my favourite fuck-the-Tories song. Sick of bands doing Political Songs and then skirting the issue in interviews? Here’s what Kirsty said about ‘Free World’:
“The subject matter is Thatcherite Britain – you know, grab whatever you can and sod the little guy. That’s a fashionable way of looking at things, and I don’t agree with it.”
Kirsty’s abilities as a political songwriter are unfairly overlooked. Very often hits like ‘They Don’t Know’ and ‘Soho Square’ are cited as her best writing, same as it ever was with female artists and big love songs. ‘Free World’ sounds like it’s been playing at breakneck speed forever, urgent and fast and present, and that massive, effortless, vibrato-free note at the end is still unnerving today.
“And I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again // Women and children united by the struggle // Going down with a pocketful of plastic // Like a dollar on elastic // In this free world.”
I’d love more than anything to be able to write and sing half as well as Kirsty, but I don’t think anyone but her could write ‘Free World’.
Bruce Springsteen – ‘Bobby Jean’
For such an ecstatic sounding song, ‘Bobby Jean’ is a real bummer. It’s about Bruce/The Boss/Daddy as a young misfit, falling in with another young misfit and running wild, listening to rock music and being little punks that everyone looks down on. So far, so Stand By Me.
But kids grow up, and BruceTheBossDaddy and Bobby Jean fall out of touch. Years later he goes to call on her (or him – Bobby Jean’s gender is never specified, which is an entirely different dissertation and one that I hope you write one day), hoping to shoot the shit and remember their halcyon days of throwing rocks at trains and wearing jorts. But Bobby Jean has disappeared. Where does she go? Does life get too much for her? Does she go on the run? Does her mother send her to a convent school for girls bewitched by Bruce Springsteen?
“And I’m just calling one last time not to change your mind // But just to say I miss you baby, good luck goodbye, Bobby Jean.” – Bobby Jean is just gone, and it’s fucking brutal. BruceTheBossDaddy never got the chance to say goodbye in person but, absolute human being that he is, craves closure so much that he writes a song, effectively leaving a voicemail.
As far as happy-sounding pop hits about devastating blows to the heart go, this is one of the all time greats. Just when you think that BrucetheBossDaddy howling his guts can’t get any more powerful, there’s a sax solo.
Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Funeral’
Phoebe Bridgers is ruining my life. Aside from the fact that she successfully KOed an abuser’s career with a pop song, Phoebe writes the kind of gloom-country I can only dream of. ‘Funeral’ is a track from her debut album Stranger In The Alps, and it’s such an amazing move to position a song ostensibly about pulling perspective on your own sadness so near the start of a record about your own sadness – like punching a hole in your ego before it can even begin to inflate.
“I have a friend I call // When I’ve bored myself to tears // And we talk until we think we might just kill ourselves // But then we laugh until it disappears” – I love this song because as someone who finds it hard to write happy lyrics, I often find myself mining for things I know make me sad and this is a reminder to never, ever take the dark stuff for granted or to trivialise it. Of course you should be sad – there is so much to be sad about – but Phoebe is a master at self-awareness. This song, about going to a funeral for someone the same age as Phoebe, is about there being some things you can’t have.
Dolly Parton – ‘Little Sparrow’
To know Dolly is to love her. ‘Little Sparrow’ is a pretty recent Dolly drop, taken from her 38th (38! Who has the fucking time?!) studio album of the same name. It’s a small, spooky song in the fine tradition of heartbreak and bad men, but there’s no self-pity – it sounds old and folky, bluegrass violin fluttering and soaring like a second vocal, but also angry and young and impetuous, too late for hellbent revenge on the cold false-hearted lover and his evil cunning schemes and so just doomed to be a cautionary tale. It’s one of my favourite Dolly vocal performances, powerful and fragile and uuuuggghhhhhh. It’s one of those songs that sounds like it’s been around for centuries and it gets to you HARD. And I love Dolly for continuing to make gorgeous folk music into her ACTUAL 70s without falling into the trap of feeling like she needs to reinvent herself and make glitzy country-pop. Dolly is the top of her game. She is the best at this. She is the heavyweight champion of the world at making lighter-than-air country songs that fuck you up.
Also, I really like the line “they will vow to always love you // swear no love but yours will do”. It’s probably completely unintentional and Dolly is far too cool to self-reference – there’s no way Dolly’s flipped the coin on her most beloved song to reveal an absolute misery-banger on the other side… Right?
Massive thanks to Lily for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Captain Handsome’s debut EP I Am Not An Animal is out now via Reckless Yes, and make sure you catch them live at The Finsbury for us on 14th February, along with Piney Gir, Grawl!x and I Am HER.