INTERVIEW: Softcult

Inspired by their love of 90s alternative music icons Bikini Kill and Smashing Pumpkins, Ontario-based duo Softcult blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and bittersweet vocals to create their hazy, antagonistic sounds. Formed of twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn, Softcult cut their teeth playing live shows in their local town of Kitchener, before moving on to bigger audiences on the North American tour circuit.

Their experiences of playing and working within a male-dominated music industry formed the foundation for their current sound, which is born from the desire to resist and relieve the pressures of existing in a patriarchal world. We caught up with Mercedes (guitars, vocals) and Phoenix (drums, production) to talk about their debut single ‘Another Bish’, their last gig before covid-19 hit, and what their dream festival line-up might be…

Hello girls, how are you both doing? Are you in lockdown in Canada at the moment?

Mercedes: We’re doing alright, we’re locked down like you guys are in the UK. It’s a lot of time to focus on music and writing and recording, so we’re very lucky that we have a home studio right now. I feel very blessed right now, because for some people I know, being in lockdown has meant they’ve been very unmotivated and unable to write, whereas that hasn’t been our experience at all. We’ve been writing and recoding loads and it’s been a God send to us, it’s kept us sane and active and motivated.

That’s good news! Let’s start at the beginning, who or what originally inspired you to start making your own music?

Mercedes: We’re twin sisters and we’ve been making music together forever. We’ve been in different bands over the years playing and getting some experience, but for this project we felt motivated by everything that’s going on right now. Having been in the music industry already for some time, we’ve experienced misogyny and sexism. At this point, I feel like this band has been put on this planet as a voice against abuse, or for people who don’t feel seen or feel like they don’t have a voice. A lot of our songs are about that.

We speak to lots of women who have unfortunately experienced misogyny in the music industry. Do you think your experience of it is somewhat heightened because you’re twin sisters? I only ask because I have younger sisters who are twins, and when we’ve been on nights out together before people have made inappropriate or creepy comments towards them without any hesitation…

Phoenix: Only another person who really knows twins would ask that, and it is so true. There’s a weird fetish around twins and it’s very creepy.

Mercedes: We find a lot of the time there’s insinuations about incest and weird stuff like that. I know a lot of women in bands who aren’t even related who have experienced that. Heart are a good example actually. The sisters in that band are constantly being pitted against each other and I think that happens a lot with women and siblings in the industry and it’s just so weird. It’s a definite downside to being a twin, but there’s also an up side too.

Phoenix and I have such a close connection and that helps a lot with our music. She’s always a step ahead of me, or finishing my sentences creatively for me. She handles all of the production side – everything we make is recorded and produced from our home studio. Then I handle all the stuff on the video/visual side of things and it just makes for a good team. There’s a closeness and and understanding and an empathy that we have from being twins, it’s not all just creepy dudes!

That’s true! Talk to me about your debut single ‘Another Bish’. What’s it about? How did you put the video for it together etc.?

Mercedes: The song is about misogyny. Phoenix and I hate the word “bitch” so we couldn’t even put it in the title, we literally felt skeeved out writing it down! The lyric “I’m just another bish that you’ll never tame” was supposed to be aimed at that typical misogynist dude who thinks all women are the same, and they’re there to be controlled and conquered. The song is from the perspective of the woman who’s sick of it and feels like the dog who’s finally going to bite its owner. It’s about fighting against that but also owning it. We noticed the type of guys who often say “she’s such a bitch” are just saying that about women who they think are outspoken. They just label them as “aggressive.”

For the video, we used paper cut-out clips of different women’s facial features – eyes, lips, nose – which we replaced with dog mouths. The dog mouths reflect the feelings of those guys who think that when you speak out about sexism you’re just some yappy dog who never shuts up. They’re also supposed to be a comment on how there’s so many double standards for women, not just in music but in the beauty industry as well. Women are having to basically try and be something that’s unattainable and if you’re not that thing, then they make out like you’re not trying hard enough. So we took those themes and put them into the video.

Are there any women in music at the moment who you admire who are standing up for themselves and not taking any sexist bullshit?

Phoenix: Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! – big time. We were just little teeny boppers when we first found out about Against Me! and we were obsessed. She’s a huge icon for a lot of reasons, but something I’ve always admired about her is that she is really outspoken about who she is. It’s so brave to go through the transgender transformation when you’re in a very male dominated space in a very male dominated music genre, and just rebelling against all expectations and being yourself. That’s a huge inspiration.

Do you remember the last gig you went to before Covid-19 hit?

M & P: Yes!

Mercedes: It was another music project that we in at the time and it was at this dive bar. It was in March (2020), right after the stay-at-home orders happened and we were trying to play our way home, but we realised we had to cancel everything because it was just not responsible to have shows. So it was our very last gig and the vibe was very depressing.

Phoenix: People obviously didn’t show up, quite rightly, and we just wanted to go home.

Mercedes: We actually ended up staying over at a girls house. Up until then we were just crashing on floors on the tour, we didn’t have hotels booked or anything like that. So this girl kindly let us stay at her place and made us pizzas.

Phoenix: We were like “are you sure you still want us to stay? It’s totally cool if you don’t, we can sleep in the van!” but she still let us crash.

Mercedes: Her Dad had all these cool guitars so we just had a jam session with her. So after a kind of depressing show, we had this jam session in her living room and it was probably the most uplifting thing ever. That was probably the last real hang time we had with anyone outside of our house since lockdown started.

When we can all hang out properly at a festival again, who would be on your dream line-up?

Mercedes: I keep watching all these old videos from Reading & Leeds festival and wishing we could play that somehow…one day!

Phoenix: We’ve watched the Reading & Leeds Veruca Salt set a million times!

Mercedes: We love the UK. Every time we’ve been there we’ve had such an amazing time. I think the scene for music in the UK is sort of unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The fans are so in to the music. They know the lyrics, they know about the meaning behind the little pieces of art on your albums covers – I feel like they’re really into it and that’s really cool. Our dream line-up would be a dope festival somewhere in the UK and we’d have Bikini Kill, Veruca Salt, Against Me! playing…

Phoenix: …and Radiohead, they’re one of my all time favourite bands.

Mercedes: We’ll play the opening slot at 11am so that we can watch all the other bands.

Good decision! Finally, if you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Mercedes: Rebellious would be one, empathetic might be another. It’s not all just angry stuff though, sometimes it gets pretty feelsy and sad.

Phoenix: Fuzzy? (laughs). On the production side, people always think that distortion and fuzz are for loud music, which typically they are, but you can also make super dreamy, fuzzy distorted music and we try to do that as best as we can.

Huge thanks to Mercedes & Phoenix for answering our questions!

Follow Softcult on SpotifyInstagramFacebook & Twitter for more updates

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

#ThrowbackThursday: GIHE w/ Petty Phase (15.03.18)

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and new lockdown in London, we’re unable to make it into the Hoxton Radio studio to broadcast our weekly live new music show from 7-9pm. Instead, we’re sharing previous GIHE radio show recordings as #ThrowbackThursday sessions, so you can still enjoy 2 hours of new music tunes & chats with some of our favourite artists each week.

Today, we’ve picked our March 2018 show with Essex-based Riot Grrrls Jen & Alyx from Petty Phase. Kate and Mari spoke to them about playing live for GIHE at our first ever Finsbury Pub gig, the unique “subtle anger” experienced in the queue for Wetherspoons, and the pair played stripped back versions of tracks ‘The Jesus Touch’ and ‘Chinese Whispers’

Listen back to the show here:

Tracklist
Chromatics – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper cover)
The Blow – After Party
Faber – Nasty Woman
Bella Barton – Reflections
Henry Green – Another Light
Abie Wade – Reasonable Doubt
Suzie Stapleton – Negative Prophet
GOUX – Over You
MORGAN – Hells Paradise
JAAYNS – Monitors
Rebecca Lou – Under The Moon
Post Louis – Little Jack
Petty Phase – You’ll Be Dead
**Interview & Live Session with Petty Phase**
Honey – Rapunzel
Glam Skanks – Bad Bitch
Smerz – No Harm
Pillow Queens – Favourite
Frankie Knight – Day By Day
Steele – Know Her
Odina – Nothing Makes Sense
Brooke Law – Hidden
Cosy Slippers – Not Hard To Say Goodbye
Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

Get In Her Ears w/ PELA 03.09.20

Tash and Kate were raging and raving in the Hoxton Radio studio this week, playing tunes by some of the female artists they believe should have made the cut for the Reading & Leeds Festival 2021 lineup (six headliners, all of them male…JOKERS.) They also caught up with Hannah from London/Brighton duo PELA to talk about the singles the band released during lockdown, and how much they collectively love Arlo Parks.

Listen back:

Tracklist
Wolf Alice – Yuk Foo
Chelsea Wolfe – Deranged For Rock & Roll
Chartreuse – Enemy’s Belly
BE – Oh Helen
Vanessa Richardson – Spider
FKA Twigs – Sad Day
CATBEAR – Girl Crush
Silly Boy Blue – Hi It’s Me Again
Billie Eilish – all the good girls go to hell
Verity Holloway – Spill My Guts
LADA – Suicide
Eimie – Not Enough
Nova Twins – Vortex
Lizzy Waps – Thanos
Lizzo – Good As Hell
PELA – South Of
Tolu Makay – Don’t Let Go
Girlhood – Queendom
Nina Cobham – Solar (remix ft. BiPolar Sunshine)
Wife Patrol – Let’s Hang Out
Daniela Andrade – Puddles
Hanya – Texas
I See Rivers – Dying Moon
BAXTR – Feathers
Mawpit – Eat A Corpse
HAIM – My Song 5
Beyonce – Who Run The World (Girls)

INTERVIEW: White Ring

Cult followers of the “witch house” movement will be familiar with industrial outfit WHITE RING, who are set to release their new album Gate Of Grief via Rocket Girl Records on July 27th. After an eight year hiatus, the band have returned and are ready to bewitch their fans with more of their corrosive sounds. We caught up with Adina & Bryan to ask them about their recent gig in London and their upcoming album…

You recently played a free gig at The Shacklewell Arms. Did you enjoy the show? What did you get up to whilst you were in London, aside from supporting God Is An Astronaut?
We had a great time playing shows again. We were really busy doing press stuff between shows. We didn’t do much.

Your stage presence is pretty intense – do you have any pre-gig rituals that help you prepare for your set?
We usually do some meditation, stretch and pray to our ancestors for good luck, very important.

You formed on Myspace and helped to develop the “witch house” movement, which dedicated fans keep track of online. Do you think the internet is crucial when it comes to forming a band, nurturing a scene, and sharing your music?
It’s definitely a blessing not having to be physically connected to any particular city’s music scene, but the pendulum also swings the other way too, and can make some people really locked in on what others are doing, and I think it’s making them lonely.

Your new album, Gate Of Grief, probes at difficult and uncomfortable territory. What are you most proud of about this record?
I’m proud that it’s done and that we are all still alive.

Do you have a favourite track? If so, why?
I really do love how this album functions more like the albums I grew up listening to – where track selection and placement are kept in mind. If I had to pick one it would probably ‘Do U Love Me 2?’ just because I don’t remember writing it. I woke up after crashing from a 3 day bender in like 2012 and found this 11 minute song that I vaguely remember working on. I just made it a non-offensive length and released it as is. I feel like that one found me.

The image of the gate in the title refers to the real gate between Africa and Saudi Arabia, which is believed to be the place where the first humans migrated and went on to populate the rest of the world. How do you take a concept like that and turn it in to densely electronic music? Do you have a process that you follow, or do you create each song differently?
We came up with the concept when putting together our first EP, Black Earth That Made Me. The only idea we have for WHITE RING is to keep changing. We like too much shit to get weighed down with any one ideology. We kind of just want to tell a story that helps people realize they are not alone. Trying to tell a story about struggling to survive. We have had 6-8 different setups for recording. As soon as we get comfortable with something we get rid of it.

As we’re a new music blog, we always ask bands what other new bands or artists they’ve been listening too. Who can you recommend to us?
I’ve just been listening to a lot of The Soft Moon, John Maus and Korn lately.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
We just started recording our next EP, touring the album and we are working on launching a manufacturing company.

Finally, if you weren’t creating music as White Ring, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I would be making music in my room doing a job that I don’t like as much!

Thanks to WHITE RING for answering our questions!
Pre-order Gate Of Grief here.
Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Jason PD

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut