INTERVIEW: New Pagans

Filled with urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history, and gender; New Pagans‘ debut EP Glacial Erratic is a powerful blend of alternative sounds. The Belfast band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge, and indie rock and transform them in to abrasive, yet melodic noise.

Formed of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley, and Lyndsey McDougall, the band have cut their teeth playing in different outfits over the years (Girls Names, Rupture Dogs, Fighting With Wire, Jetplane Landing). Together under the New Pagans moniker, they sound louder and more confident, creating a sonic space to explore issues of frustration, defiance, and resolution. We caught up with Claire to ask about the band’s EP, their recent UK tour, and what bands she’d recommend listening to right now…

 

Hello Claire, How are you holding up at the moment?
All good, I think we are all managing to keep it together at the minute. Keeping fit and keeping our brains ticking over. Absolutely bizarre for everything to be so different yet so normal, seeing this out in our homes, familiar surroundings. Absolutely surreal. Worst sci-fi film ever.

For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain how New Pagans came together? We know each of you played in different bands before…
The majority of us have been in bands since our teens with the exception of Lyndsey, this is her first band, unbelievably. We’ve been playing for 3 years. Cahir and Lyndsey had talked about starting to write music together for a while but I don’t think they necessarily had a band in mind. Conor was a good friend of theirs and is an unbelievable drummer, so that was a no-brainer. As for me, I was messing about on a bass set up in their kitchen one night, recorded a rough sketch and thought nothing of it again until it was sent back to me a while later fully fleshed out by Cahir and with Lyndsey’s vocals; and it blew my mind. So that was me in! Allan was the last part of the jigsaw. He came in on guitar when we started to have bigger ambitions for the songs and he rounds of the sound off perfectly.

You released your debut EP Glacial Erratic in March. What are you most proud of about this release?
I think we are most proud that it’s a physical release. We had been releasing singles digitally over the last three years and it’s amazing to be able to find a home for them and there’s nothing like holding your own record in your hand and thinking “we made that”. It’s a beautiful object. I can see why people obsess and collect them.

Many of your songs blend the personal with the political, and I think that’s especially clear on ‘Lily Yeats’ and on ‘It’s Darker’. Can you talk me through the contexts of each song, and how they transformed into these affecting, memorable tracks?
This is more a question for Lyndsey to answer as she’s our lyricist, but I would say that she mines everything around her for inspiration. Her studies for her PHD led her to discover Lily Yeats, day to day experiences like an argument at a party with a man trying to exert his dominance over a female opinion like on ‘It’s Darker’. Everyday conversations overheard on a bus strung together into a Dadaist poem as with ‘Charlie Had the Face of a Saint’.
‘Admire’ is about learning to navigate a long term relationship once the initial spark of newness has gone & appreciate what you have. Politics, history, nature, human fragility, forgotten female voices told from an Irish perspective.

Do you have a favourite track on the record? If so, why?
I think my favourite track is ‘Admire’. Maybe it feels freshest. Or it’s the change of pace it brings on the record. It’s a mature track. I think it really sets a precedent for what we are doing next. Saying that, they are all bangers.

You’ve recently returned from touring the UK promoting the record. What were the highlights from your trip? Favourite venues/moments you’d like to talk about?
It was great for us to get out on the road together and actually great timing, another week and those shows would have been cancelled amid the chaos. Stand out venue would be the Flying Duck in Glasgow for me. They really looked after us and it makes such a difference to arrive at a venue and everything to be easy. Believe me this is a rarity for UK shows. Anyone reading this who has toured the UK will understand. As for the highlight, those drives to the hotel after the shows when we are all a little tipsy or running on adrenaline from the gig are the best craic. Makes you forget you are crammed in a tin box hurtling from one end of the country to the other.

We know it’s an uncertain time right now for musicians, especially in Ireland. How are you looking after yourselves? What’s the reaction from the music community in Belfast been like?
There’s always a real sense of community between bands in Belfast, it’s so small you know everyone. I’m just really loving the online presence that’s keeping us all connected right now until we can all play shows together again.

I don’t know how this goes when we come out the other side, but at the minute there’s a lot of positivity. We are using this time to try and write the album although we can’t get in a room together yet. We just need to ride it out.

Finally, what bands or artists would you recommend we listen to?
Careerist, Problem Patterns, Gross Net, Altered Hours. In fact, do yourself a favour and find an Irish music playlist on Spotify and give that a go. A lot of bands making a lot of great music on this island, as there always has been.

Thanks to Claire for answering our questions. Follow New Pagans on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Track Of The Day: Francis Of Delirium – ‘Circles’

A swirling guitar tune exploring the ever-evolving nature of human emotion; Luxembourg-based duo Francis Of Delirium have shared their latest single, ‘Circles’. Lifted from their debut EP All Change, which is set for release on 22nd May via Dalliance Recordings, the track is a lo-fi, grungy earworm.

“It’s all a circle to me now”, sings Jana Bahrich, as she navigates her way through feelings left behind by the breakdown of a relationship. “On a personal level it felt like every aspect of my life was giving into this circle”, Bahrich explains about the track. “It’s about the first time you really like someone and then it ends, and you don’t know if that sadness will ever go away because you’ve never experienced it before. By the end of the song there’s this light, and desperate claw at trying to pull yourself back and out of the circle.”

It’s this emotional resilience and determined spirit that makes ‘Circles’ such a relatable listen. Together, Bahrich and collaborator Chris Hewett have a knack for crafting atmospheric tunes, and we’re excited to hear more of them on their debut EP. Listen to ‘Circles’ below, and follow Francis Of Delirium on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Patricia Marets

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Indian Queens – ‘God Is a Woman’

Described by lead vocalist & guitarist Jennifer O’Neill as “a late night record”, London trio Indian Queens‘ debut album God Is A Woman is a sublime offering, designed to dissolve uncertainty and soothe anxious minds. Set for release via Cool Thing Records on 3rd April, the band have written thirteen dizzying tracks that are equal parts driving and delicate; shimmering with cinematic flair.

Formed of sisters Jennifer (guitar/vocals) and Katherine (bass) O’Neill, and lifelong friend Matthew Dudan-Bick (drums), Indian Queens were born and raised in Hackney Wick. Influenced by the restless city that surrounds them, the trio’s soundscapes reflect both the darkness and the light on a personal, and a universal scale. This is epitomized on opening track ‘Bubblewrap’, a beguiling lament about the state of the planet. It smolders with dense beats, atmospheric guitar and Jennifer’s captivating vocals. “We were born in plastic bags / conveniently stored / bubble-wrapped indoors”, she muses, conjuring up images of over-protection and suffocation. Despite the track’s haunting context, Indian Queens still manage to lull their listeners into acceptance, and hopefully into action too.

Based on a childhood memory of the O’Neill sisters’ grandparent’s house, the nostalgic ‘Pretty Little Thing’ rings out with warmth and understated joy. Jennifer’s extended vocals in the chorus and the rose-tinted guitar sounds make this a truly uplifting track. The eponymous ‘God Is A Woman’ is a tentative, elusive exploration of tolerance, hope, and faith. “Who wants to start a revolution?” sings Jennifer, with a sharp awareness and those “fingers crossed”. The band’s ability to tap into both the personal and the political with the flick of a guitar pedal is extra impressive here.

‘Some Kinda Blue’ is a frustrated, jaded, but intensely affecting invitation to rekindle the flames of a valued relationship. The guitar seems to reflect the quick-switching nature of emotion; one moment it’s shimmering and atmospheric, the next it rings with distortion. Thudding beats, buoyant riffs and hopeful lyrics permeate ‘Wanderlust’, which is a joyful pact to “live for the day”. ‘Us Against The World’ is an intoxicating blend of all that makes an Indian Queens’ track so affecting. Jennifer’s comforting lyrics, charming vocals and agile riffs, Katherine’s buzzing bass lines, and Matthew’s considered percussion are truly magnetic here.

A restless, searching spirit fuels ‘I Got So Much I Wanna Say’, and continues throughout ‘I Get No Rest’. The sweeping, all encompassing sounds on following track ‘Concrete Lips’ and the repeated lyric “there’s something ’bout you that I can’t forget” combine to make a heady, moody lullaby. The dreamy, gentle ‘Warning Sign’ precedes the lusting, disorientating ‘You Came Over Late’, before anti-party anthem ‘Shoot For Sexy’ kicks in with its intoxicating beats. Despite its suggestive lyrics and smoldering bass lines, it’s a track best appreciated under low light with intimate company. Lust paves the way for adventure and hope on poignant, exhilarating final track ‘Walk’.

On God Is A Woman, Indian Queens have crafted a dazzling collection of meaningful songs that provide a welcome rush of blood to the head. It’s impossible not to be caught up in their captivating sounds. Invest immediately.

Pre-order your copy of God Is A Woman here. Follow Indian Queens on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Kana Waiwaiku

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: Mentrix

Born in Iran but now based in Berlin, Mentrix blends her experiences of eastern and western culture, along with traditional Sufi instrumentation to create her beguiling, bold soundscapes. Her extensive travels and multiple influences – from Latin and French Literature, to The Qu’ran and traditional Persian poetry – give her music a diverse and fascinating edge. She’s set to release her debut album – My Enemy, My Love – on 3rd April via her own (female-led) record label, House of Strength.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Mentrix to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for ‘Nature’ at the end of this post.

Mentrix: “It’s hard to narrow things down to five favourite records. I love soul, funk, blues, rock, punk, hip hop. I have adored James Brown, Mick Jagger, Erykah Badu, Candi Staton, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Patti Smith and Mariah Carey (yes yes, l love Mariah). Who can deny the global phenomenon that was Michael Jackson’s History? And no matter what genre of music you are into, Bob Marley will always have a place of its own in your music-consciousness. As of pop and electronic music; MIA, Santigold and The Knife are among artists I consider pioneers. But when it comes to albums, strangely enough I surprise myself with what popped up. Suddenly, some albums that I had not thought of for a long time came back to mind. I know every note of Smoker’s Delight (Nightmares on Wax) and Fink’s first album Biscuit for Breakfast is a significant one for me. But, as I began to ask myself which were the 5 albums that stood out the most; some forgotten memories returned with their very own soundtrack. Here are my top 5 albums as I remember them today…”

1. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
The first record that comes to mind is the one that blew my mind – although 10 years had passed since its original release, it was a discovery for me and probably my introduction to songwriting. I would teach English lessons to an older lady in Tehran using the lyrics of this album. I miss that woman and hope to find her some day…

2. The Police – Greatest Hits
Another album that had a huge impact on me was The Police Greatest hits released in 1992. Every track an undeniable hit. Probably my introduction to what a hit is.

3. Radiohead – In Rainbows 
I discovered them much later in life and they won my utter most reverence with the album In Rainbows. Radiohead know how to make that kind of record.

4. Bjork – Vulnicura
Bjork has been a constant inspiration and Vulnicura is my favorite album of the artist. Although I m a huge Biophilia and Medulla fan, I relate much more to the love and pain topic of the artist’s most bold album in my opinion.

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
I discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a bit too late to be honest… When I did, I listened to this record over and over again. It gave me the confidence to make music and inspired me at so many levels. I consider Karen O a bit of a guru… And this record remains sacred to me.

Thanks to Mentrix for sharing her favourites with us. Follow her on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Gilles Estève

FIVE FAVOURITES: Party Fears

The creator of some of our favourite DIY art-pop tunes over the last few years, Party Fears (aka Maggie Devlin) has shared her new single, ‘All Is Good’. Released via Babywoman Records, it’s a tender, lo-fi offering that explores feelings of loss, nostalgia and emotional endurance.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking them what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Maggie to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have influenced her song writing techniques. In true Party Fears style, Maggie has put her own spin on the feature, and has shared five songs that are “good for pretending you’re in a film” to. Check out her choices below, and make sure you watch the video for ‘All Is Good’ (spoiler: it’s got a cute dog in it.)

 

1. Duran Duran – ‘Ordinary World’
This song is in pole position on my list both because of the soaring eloquence of its melody and also because of those hyperbolic yet ethereal lyrics that seemed to permeate the 80s, like everyone was constantly carolling epic ditties for the sake of humanity: “I will learn to survive!” We could do with an epic 80s ditty or two about now, to be honest. Musically, there are a few highlights for me. The double tracking or echo on the main vocal, and the snare that nails things down so they don’t get too lofty. The backing vocals are ace. Then at around the three minute mark, Le Bon starts wailing in very cinematic fashion. This is the moment you could stop walking, perhaps, and look up through the rain. Wear a denim jacket with very deep pockets and get the hands shoved in there for effect. There’s also a nice moment where the synth/strings crescendo at about 3.46. Start running here. Very nice.

2. Kate Bush – ‘This Woman’s Work’
Gentle banger. Twin notes, bright on the piano and sparsely played, coax us into the song. This is followed by Bush’s airy howling before she goes right for the throat with the opening lyric, “Pray God, you can cope.” There’s no messing: she’s telling us from the top that she’s here to kick the fuck out of your tear ducts. The warm wash of backing vocals, the melodic acrobatics, how the voices deliver every “t” on “I know you’ve got a little life in you yet”, demonstrate expert precision intended to wound the listener in the most sublime way. The song is best enjoyed while you play back an imagined break up in your head, preferably in sepia tones. Make sure there’s someone on a swing, smiling as they glide through the air. Your hands pressed to absent cheeks, awash with tears. And at least one teddy bear dropped into a puddle. At the climax, why not go to a park and grab your hair and spin round in some leaves.

3. Skunk Anansie – ‘Secretly’
What’s more filmic than loads of jabby, dramatic strings straight from the top?! Who cares if what they play has nothing to do with the song? By the time you’ve realised, the bass tones have already kicked in; rippling across your headphones, anchoring the Bond-like guitar. Then there’s Skin’s vocal. I remember being so impressed that she sang in her own accent. She clips tightly through the verses before opening things up on the pre-chorus. Then the chorus launches, strings and guitar chimes and long vocal notes drawn agonised but perfect: “You wanna do someone else, so you should be by yourself.” And then there’s that bridge and the hanging note… Ooft! For this song, consider wearing a very long black coat and synthesise some spooky green light with a nice LED colour-changing bulb (by remote control so you can still look cool). It is very important that you powerfully grab the air when lip-syncing to the chorus. Shoulder movements will also be very important here.

4. Placebo – ‘Pure Morning’
Okay, so in order to fully appreciate this one, you will unfortunately have to commit a crime of some kind, but fear not! The fabric of society is quickly coming apart and it’s unlikely that if you commit a little heist for the sake of living out your OST dreams, there’ll even be a police force to catch you! From the awkward, stabbing guitar at the very top to the tinny, relentless drums and Brian Molko’s nasal whining, this song is excellent for walking somewhere with enormous purpose. If you can arrange for a glint of sunlight to cut across the air in front of you, maybe even a little gust of wind blowing your hair/coat/scarf back, this is even better. When we reach the refrain, ‘Pure morning’ it’s time to take that briefcase you’ve stolen and just throw it over a bridge. Make sure you achieve a wide arc or it will not have the same effect. Job done? Now it’s time to walk into the city and bump shoulders with pathetic normies who don’t know how dangerous and cool you are.

5. Brenda Fassie – ‘Vuli Ndlela’
This is easily one of my favourite songs. Themed on her son getting married, Vuli Ndlela opens with churchy organs and Brenda Fassie’s confident and gorgeously clear vocal. When the arpeggiator starts, we know the song is going to be a joyful, summery banger. Building and building with brushy drums and a warm bass line, the main melody repeats, the song getting richer and richer all the while, whether with further instrumentation (those backing vocals) or Fassie’s modulation. This is the song where you and your gang (adorned with lots of flowing, colourful things) dance off your previous cares, but not before you exchange a meaningful glance with your bestie over the top of those opening organ notes though. The door to the dance hall bangs open and light spills through. You all race outside, run down a grassy little hill and jump in a lake! Now you’re wet and laughing and someone is wearing a silly hat. There’s that villainous person from before, but it’s okay now; they’ve changed and they are dancing too. It’s okay! Everything is okay! There is no virus and Emma Thompson is president!

Follow Party Fears on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Marlene Thissen

#ThrowbackThursday: GIHE w/ Amaroun 18.01.18

Due to the current lockdown/coronavirus situation, we’re unable to make it in to the Hoxton Radio studio to broadcast our live new music show from 7-9pm for the foreseeable future.

We have plenty of past shows to share with you though! We’re going to start sharing some #ThrowbackThursday sessions, so you can still enjoy 2 hours of new music, and chats with some of our favourite artists each week.

Today, we’ve picked our January 2018 show with Amaroun (who was due to visit us in the studio this week). She joined Kate & Tash to play two live tracks, and spoke about the inspirations behind her music. Music highlights came from ARXX, Black Gold Buffalo, Vivienne Chi and Sudan Archives.

Listen back to the show here:

PREMIERE: Naoise Roo – ‘Sick Girlfriend’

A slow-burning guitar tune that satirizes the representation of women with mental health issues; ‘Sick Girlfriend’ is the latest single from Irish artist Naoise Roo, set for release on 27th March. The track is lifted from her upcoming EP of the same name, due on 24th April.

Produced by Liam Mulvaney (Girl Band, The Radio, Fionn Regan) and featuring Daniel Fox (Girl Band) on bass and Rian Trench (Solar Bears) on drums and synths; Naoise Roo’s new EP is an exploration of women’s experiences in the music industry, and the stereotypes that continue to burden women who struggle with poor mental health.

Speaking about the eponymous track, Naoise explains: “I wanted to write something that showed the objectification that I’ve seen depicted, and in turn, the reality I’ve experienced within relationships having suffered with mental health issues all my life”. Despite these setbacks, Naoise continues to move forward by creating relatable, optimistic indie offerings.

Listen to ‘Sick Girlfriend’ below, and follow Naoise Roo on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut