LISTEN: Divide and Dissolve – ‘Denial’

An exhilarating, powerful soundscape that aims to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for black and indigenous communities, multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve have shared their latest single ‘Denial’. Taken from their upcoming album Gas Lit, which is set for release on 29th January 2021 via Invada Records, the track is an eerie cacophony of thunderous riffs, ear-shattering percussion and uncanny saxophone notes that aim to eradicate white supremacy.

“Sometimes we don’t need to talk in order for others to understand what’s going on,” the duo explain about their intense instrumentals. “We are communicating with our ancestors through the music. Our ancestors help us to communicate with each other on a deeper level as well. This deep connection is able to be achieved without words.” Through their blend of visceral noise and captivating visuals, Divide and Dissolve – formed of Takiaya Reed (Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and Sylvie Nehill (Māori) – dismantle the social frameworks that prevent black and indigenous communities from thriving in an equal society.

The accompanying video for ‘Denial’ was shot in Taupo, Aotearoa by indigenous director Amber Beaton. “I’m a huge fan of Divide and Dissolve and so happy to have made this video for them,” Beaton explains. “I understand and appreciate the message behind the music and I wanted to make sure the video held the same intentions no matter how subtle.”

“For instance, we start off with a shot of a Kōwhai tree. Native to Aotearoa, Kōwhai in bloom signifies to Māori that some seafood is ready for harvest, the roots can be used to make fishing hooks, the sap on the sunny side of the tree can be used to heal wounds… but the vibrancy of the yellow flower was also the first thing Captain Cook saw when he arrived on the shores of Aotearoa signalling the start of colonial violence on this whenua/land. The changing colours of its flower in the video represents our change as a country and as people since that fateful arrival.”

Dedicated to shining a light on social injustices both past and present, Divide and Dissolve continue to demand equality on thunderous new offering ‘Denial’, which serves as another reminder of the duo’s talent for creating abrasive yet graceful soundscapes.

Listen to the track below.

 

Follow Divide and Dissolve on bandcampInstagramSpotify, Twitter & Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Billy Eyers

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Interview: SKIN

Having had an epic, inspirational career as front woman of Skunk Anansie, and as a solo artist, Skin has just released her autobiography It Takes Blood And Guts – named after the album track on 1995’s Paranoid & Sunburnt. Our Tash caught up with Skin and music journalist and writer, Lucy O’Brien, who co-wrote the book.

Not to fangirl too hard, but we love Skunk Anansie and your solo work at Get In Her Ears! Your music was so integrated into my teen year – growing up, throwing myself around to your songs, from my bedroom and the dance floor, to strutting down the street. But I’ll never forget when I found out that you were into women, and it just blowing my mind as a young gay kid who literally didn’t know anyone else who was gay. To see someone who I admired and respected being so open, it was incredible. 

You’ve made such a big impact on peoples’ lives by simply being you, openly yourself. And I mean that in all aspects of your identity, as a black gay British woman in music… And I wondered what that feels like for you?

Skin: Embarrassing! If I’m honest, I’m not very good at taking compliments. You just want to be yourself and that’s in your mind – this kind of drive to do what you want to do, the way you want to do it. And you don’t really think about everybody else and what everybody else is doing. For a lot of people in rock music, it’s angsty music, it’s aggressive music, it’s “I JUST WANNA BE ME” music. So, if I’m honest, I don’t really think about that a lot. I mean, it’s great when I hear your stories, it makes me think – “Ah that’s good, it’s worth all the struggles, that’s good.” But yet I’m still inside, a little bit timid and I get a little bit bashful. 

Let’s talk about ‘It Takes Blood and Guts’, co-written by both of you – how did this project come about, and how did you both end up working together?

Lucy: I first met Skin in about 1995 when Skunk Anansie were sent over to LA to film a scene in Catherine Bigelow’s film Strange Days and I was writing for Vox Magazine. I was commissioned to travel out with them and interview them and we spent three or four days in LA and it was brilliant, we got on really well. Got up to all sorts of mischief, and stayed friends! 

*Both laugh*

We didn’t throw the hotel TV out the window, but we did throw plant pots out the window, God knows why… We were young! Fast forward to two years ago and we were on the phone, and Skin was talking about how she’d been to see ‘I, Tina’ the musical in the West End and what an amazing story Tina Turner had had as a black woman in music. And I was thinking “bloody hell Skin, your story is really inspiring, you should tell your story.” It grew from that really, starting off as a series of conversations, then drafting chapters, sending them back and forth. Skin was in New York and I was here – we were doing everything through Skype, talking through all the stories, and it just grew from that. 

Skin: I think I went to your book launch, the Dusty Springfield one. I was round the corner. Did you say something to me then? I can’t remember…

Lucy: By then you had tentatively agreed. But I had to woo you a bit! The thought of writing a memoir is quite a scary thing – to put yourself out there and tell everyone about your life.

Skin: I mean, yeah, it’s a scary thing to talk about personal stuff for me because I’m quite a private person. But also, how else would we do this? I definitely wanted to co-write it and not have it written for me, and I think it took about three months before I started returning your emails.

*Lucy laughs*

I just felt I like I didn’t have anything to say – like “what am I going to talk about?” Then you sent me three chapters and I was like “ok, this is a start…” You wrote something and sent it to me, which was the catalyst. 

Lucy: Yeah, I gave Skin something to work with – drafted out the first section, sent it to her and naturally she then looked at it, and amended. 

Skin: Yeah, for me I needed a template because I’ve never written a book before and you start editing, and writing – that was the first explosion and it just got better and better from there. 

How does it feel to reflect back on the book with your perspective now, especially throughout the pandemic, where everyone is doing a lot of reflection? 

Skin: I have to say, sadly and happily, that the silver lining of Covid actually gave us the time that we needed to get into the book and I’m not sure if we would have had that time otherwise. I would have been on tour and it would probably have been a very different book. But it is a silver lining: I was in New York, Lucy was in London, and I was writing up to fourteen hours a day, especially nearing the end when we were editing. Literally writing until my brain stopped functioning and I don’t have that time normally. I think if I were to take something out of Covid that was positive, that would be it. 

The book spans your life, from growing up in Brixton, through to the present day – was there a particular period that was more difficult than others to write about? 

Skin: All of it! It’s one thing remembering things, but it’s another thing writing things down. What’s interesting in writing a book with Lucy is that your memory works in mysterious ways – you’ve remembered that thing over and over constantly for a long time. For example, I thought I went to university/polytechnic from 1989 to 1992, actually it was 1986 to 1989! It’s so funny how in your head you’ve lost years, so I wanted to write the book from my memories of what happened rather than trying to actually pinpoint what actually happened, which Lucy did very well. “Is that what actually happened, Skin? Is that the right date?”

Lucy was making sure everything was researched and correct. My role I guess was to write about how I remembered things and how I felt about things, especially grabbing stories from other people – other witnesses – which makes you have a much more wholesome version of what happened. Which is interesting when you start to dissect how memory works; memory doesn’t actually work in this lucid perfect way, it actually works in snapshots, snapshot after snapshot. When you are looking back at things you have to try and collate those snapshots in the right way. But really how you feel, or how you felt, is what’s more important. 

Reflecting back on the actual memory. But of course, every time you remember something you are just remembering the last time you remembered it?

Skin: Exactly, I remember how I felt. There are things that I remember very distinctly and very clearly because that is what you remember over and over again. Some things you sort of put aside, and some things you have to go back and remember. I would say that at this point in time nothing really hurts me in terms of memories because it’s all so far away. So far away that it doesn’t really re-hurt you, it doesn’t hurt you again. It hurts for five or ten years, then it’s over. Time is a healer, and that’s what makes things feel better.

Lucy: Skin, don’t you also think that also your music is a healer and it’s healed you, and other people when they go to your gigs? I thought Rochelle put it so well when she said you leave transformed because when you are in that live performance you give your all. Your songs are about that, there’s an element of catharsis isn’t there?

Skin: Yeah, when you write a song about something that happened it’s the same kind of snapshot. There are songs that are written about one specific thing, like ‘Hedonism’- it’s all about this one particular thing that happened, you know. But ‘Secretly’ isn’t: ‘Secretly’ is like a snapshot of lots of different people and things, it’s not about my personal experience because I never had an affair, but it’s about that personal experience of maybe being in that situation and what that would be like. 

What songwriting is eventually really about is writing a really fantastic song, and how you get to it is interesting and not interesting, but the result is much more interesting. How you get there is interesting for me and for some people, but the actual resulting song is more crucial and more important than anything else. 

Lucy, you have already touched on this – Skin, there is so much in your music and in your book about embracing your emotional reactions to things. Talking and shouting about what you are experiencing: from sexism, racism and homophobia, to general inequality. As Lucy’s mentioned, it’s so empowering and inspiring how you own those experiences, through your work and live performances. 

Watching you on stage performing there is so much passion, power – it’s infectious and it’s electrifying. How does it feel to perform in that way and have such a reaction from the crowd?

Skin: How does it feel? It feels fucking great! There are two sides of it. The first side is that you manage to pull it off, you manage to actually be on stage singing songs with a successful band which is really quite a difficult thing to do. There are only a few people in the world who actually manage to do it, and even less people who are able to make a career out of it – especially a lot of British bands from the ‘90s, there’s not very many.

So the first thing I think is that it feels really great and although a lot of the songs are difficult and sad, when I’m on stage I feel this is the best thing ever – this is all I’ve wanted to do and this is how I’ve wanted to do it. And how you want to do it is important. I was in lots of bands before I was in Skunk Anansie and I didn’t like it – I was back up singing, I was singing jazz and all of this stuff that was not what I wanted to do. You know the difference when you finally get there, you’re like “yes, I’m finally here.. in my own band singing songs that we’ve all written and it feels great.” You never really forget that feeling – it’s a real honour and a privilege to be in that position. We’re lucky that we can continue it. It feels wonderful when you get that circle of love from the audience and it spurs you on! 

But I can only imagine how that was met in the music industry run predominantly by middle-aged cis white straight men…? 

Skin: You know, I don’t really worry about them, I really don’t. I’ve never been concerned what people who didn’t like me were thinking and doing. The beautiful thing about music is that there are so many different types of artists and styles and genres, and different kinds of people, and I’m just not going to worry about the people who weren’t into it. So, I’m much more concerned with what we are doing and how we feel, and making ourselves happy. In turn, I know that people who see and understand it are going to get it and it’s great – we’re all in our bubble together. The white male industry is in every industry in the world: whatever you do in this world you are going to be caught by that circle, so why overly concern yourself with it and destroy your own creativity worrying about it? I think the most important thing is to do what you do to the best of your ability and do it really well and people will see it. They will get it, and if they don’t they don’t. None of my family like my music *laughs* – literally none of them – but if they don’t like it, they don’t like it!

You’ve got to have big broad shoulders and allow things to roll off you like water from a duck because it’s hard, and some of the insulting or negative things stick to you like velcro. I prefer to have a waterproof back than a velcro back, because you just get weighed down by it and none of it’s yours. Other people have stuck their stuff on you and you’ve let it stick – fucking weird analogy, I have no idea where I got that from! But that’s what it feels like; it’s not my problem, I’m about being happy and everyone else can join in. Our way of  beating that kind of mentality was being five or ten times better than everybody else. And stop seeing it as a competition – we talk about it when we talk about the NME tour in the book. If Cass did some of the things that 60 Ft Dolls did (it was this whole attitude of let’s smash things up, take fire extinguishers, take pictures of it all and write about it in the NME and it will look really good) – if Cass had done that he would be in prison, if I had done that I would be in prison. The 60 Ft Dolls can run around and smash things up and they’re just rock stars, rock stars being silly, being immature and behaving badly. If Cass and I did that we’d be criminals, and I think as a black person you have a strong sense of what you can and can’t get away with. Who is going to clean it up as well?! The NME isn’t going to clean it up, it’s going to be some underpaid worker who’s got five kids at home – as I say, rock vomit. 

Lucy: We did clean up the plant pots though!! We  picked up the earth and everything.

Skin: Not very rock ‘n’ roll is it Lucy? Smashing up these plant pots and then sweeping it all up, not very rock ‘n’ roll! 

Lucy: Going back to the question: what struck me in recent years is there’s been a lot on ‘90s and Britpop, and lots of books coming out with the usual suspects: Oasis, Blur, Elastica. Very white, very ‘cool Britannia’. And I started getting annoyed on behalf of my friend. I was thinking “Bloody hell, Skunk Anansie was such a big part of that ‘90s story…” And not just Skunk Anansie, but Drum ‘n’ Bass, Jungle, all the different kinds of music… The Prodigy. Lots of bands and different kinds of music has been overlooked in that mythologising of the ‘90s. I just felt there was a way in which the ‘90s music industry didn’t quite know how to deal with Skunk Anansie because you didn’t play the game in the usual way.

It’s like if some old record company guys don’t know how to market you, especially as a woman, they just kind of don’t market you. Well, don’t market you properly – if they can’t sell you in a way that’s obvious.

Skin: Yeah, if it involves them thinking outside the box, thinking differently. A lot of these guys aren’t trained to do that – they are trained for everything to be given to them on a tray, especially white males. They are trained for everything to be handed to them on a plate and they’ve just got to do their job and take the glory. And now it’s different, they’ve had to do the work, they’ve had to learn how to speak to different people of different genders, and work out how to deal with black artists more. In those days, there was none of that going on so they didn’t have to do the work. So, if they didn’t understand it and it made them feel awkward, it made them feel uncomfortable because it was taking away some of their power. They just didn’t know what to do, and that made them lose some of their masculinity or whatever, so they’d just ignore it or talk about it in negative ways. 

One of the things that those people say to me when they don’t understand me (they can’t criticise the songs, they can’t criticise the band because we’re amazing live, the songs are huge, they can’t criticise our look, so the ultimate diss is) is “I just don’t like her voice”…  Madonna doesn’t have the best voice in the world, everybody knows it but who cares, it’s the songs and the attitude and the dancing, and Madonna that counts. So, when they say “I don’t like her voice”, what they are saying to me is “I’m going to reject you because you make me feel uncomfortable and that makes me feel vulnerable and I don’t want to put any work in, so I’m just going to say – ‘I don’t like your voice’”!  

Like you said earlier, projecting all their issues, insecurities and putting it back onto you…

Skin: My analogy, which I have had in my head for over twenty five years now, is that what this racism, fascism, transphobia, sexism – all of these things – are about a group of people who have all these feelings of insecurity, vulnerability and losing confidence because they don’t know what to do or how to understand these other people. It’s outside their remit, so what they do is they take all that shit like a boulder and they hand it to these other people who then have to carry the weight, so they can continue being who they are. So I was just like, you know what? I’m going to give that straight back to you. I don’t have any chips on my shoulders, my shoulders are clear, and I’m happy, and if I carry the weight of your insecurities and you not being comfortable with me, I’m going to weigh myself down because, how many boulders can you carry? You can’t even carry one. 

You know, it’s not my problem. It’s not up to the black woman to help the white man feel good about the black woman’s music. It’s so important to not get weighed down. For example, if you are trans, you feel happy now; do not take on the weight of anyone else now that you feel happy, keep your shoulders free and clear. It’s a very simple way to be able to fight for the things that you want to fight for because you are coming from a place of confidence and strength.  

And I also think you have to give people time to get there, not everyone gets there as fast as we do. I think when it comes to gender politics, and things like Black Lives Matter and Me Too, not everybody is there yet. Not everyone is on social media, you also have to give people a minute to get there. 

Lucy: What’s interesting about this – what you’ve described there Skin – is the old music industry and the new music industry. The old music industry is like the boulder becoming a bit fossilised and actually starting to recede, and I’ve got a lot of hope post-lockdown that it’s going to be quite a different industry that is going to emerge from this: one with all the brilliant artists who are black, female, non-binary, trans. I think that is the future of the industry, and it’s creating a lot of new and really exciting music.

Definitely, we have this calling out culture, but a positive move to a calling in culture as well. Like you were saying Skin, not everyone is going to get there so quickly – if you feel able to explain and help them understand, that’s great. But not everyone feels able to do that of course.

Skin: Yeah, but I think it’s important to be able to call the right people out about the right things. Some of it just drives me fucking crazy – I think there is a certain section of people that are  really drunk with power, they’re drunk with the fact that they can call people out over a wrong comment. I think the trouble is that left wing people tend to call out each other because it’s easier; because it’s more effective; because you’ll see results. But really they should be calling out the fight against white supremacism – that’s what’s been allowed to ride out free, with very little push back because no-one wants to deal with them because they are so fucking toxic. It’s easier to deal with our own, easier to call out the person, in your house, than someone you don’t know.  

We can be our own worst enemies. I just want people to call people out for proper serious things, not irrelevant nonsensical things. Nobody cares if Adele just got a Jamaican bikini when you’ve got the Proud Boys who want all of us dead. Call the right people out, find the racism and the fascism – call them out, get their power taken away from them. Not our allies, people who might make mistakes or aren’t there yet: we need our allies, we need to be in this together. That’s my two pence worth. 

I think this speaks to a wider point on history, and what you were both saying earlier about telling Skin’s story. Within the queer community, especially the British queer community, so much of our history goes untold. Today is the first day of UK Black History Month, add into that the fact that so many women, so many black queer British women are written out of the past – both within music and outside of that. I think this book and this story is changing that, and uplifting these voices. 

Lucy: We were talking about this when discussing the clubs like Venus Rising and its documenting a whole part of lesbian history that could have just disappeared, fade away. Not just lesbian culture and gay culture,  but also in terms of black British culture and music, and it was like a big blossoming in so many different ways, yet it was still under the radar. And that’s what I’ve really enjoyed in doing the book with Skin; uncovering that history again. It was also nice because Skin gave me contact numbers for friends – the guys in the band, her mum and dad. That was really great. getting their stories and talking them over with Skin, working their way into the book.

Skin: I’m reading a book at the moment called Black British History and one of the things that it talks about in erasing black histories is the fact that black people came to England with the Romans – Afro Romans from Algeria, from Senegal, the Arabic Moors, They didn’t come as slaves, they came as Romans. So, we have this idea that black people didn’t arrive in England until the 1950s. It’s like “actually, no, we’ve been in this country from before the Vikings, from before a lot of white people can take their heritage back. Why does nobody know this?” Black history just gets erased.

That’s one thing that really struck a chord with me when Lucy was talking to me about the book – she’s right it wasn’t just all Britpop, there was Drum ‘n’ Bass, Hip Hop,  a massive black R&B scene. I do think you can draw a line from Goldie and his album Inner City Life all the way up to Stormzy – on the way there you will hit 2 Step, Drum ‘n’ Bass, Jungle, Dubstep, and then you get to Grime. All these  electronic styles of music – that’s British history, all British history, it could not have been made anywhere else. If I think about Drum ‘n’ Bass and the way that it’s impacted music today,  it’s so much more influential than anything Britpop did. Think about the samples in Dubstep and Jungle – music now is watered-down reggae. 

Lucy: It’s really part of pop music now.

And now it’s becoming known as Black British History but it’s so integral to all of British History and it shouldn’t be erased from that bigger story.

Skin: Yeah, when black people do something and it’s amazing, white people then do it and it becomes pop. If you listen to some of the music now, what’s pop now? It’s what black people have been doing, but they’ve put a white face on it and cleaned it up a bit and then they take it as their own. And that’s a typical thing that has happened in music throughout history – from the 1920s onwards. This is where the difference between appreciation and appropriation comes through. 

And finally, I have to ask, as we’re talking about music and blurring into today, what music are you both listening to at the moment?

Skin: I’ve been listening to loads of music for my new radio show with Absolute Radio, so I’ve been listening to Sevdaliza’s new album. Serpentwithfeet. He has a very strange voice, bit of an acquired taste – high vibrato.

Lucy: Yusu who does electronic music – Chinese-born, now based in Vancouver. I love her stuff. And there’s Landshapes whose new album is fantastic, it’s called Contact and they’ve really hit their stride. 

Massive thanks to Skin and Lucy for answering our questions, and for such an insightful chat!

It Takes Blood and Guts, by Skin and Lucy O’Brien, is out now  in hardback, audio and e-book, via Simon & Schuster UK.

Photo Credit: Marco Ovando

Interview: Zebede

South London five piece Zebede were set to take 2020 by storm, but obviously Covid 19 had other plans… However, despite the difficulties of navigating lockdown, they’ve just released their new single ‘Love Me Enough’.

We caught up with lead singer Leah Cleaver to discuss music’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement and what changes we all need to see in the music industry. 

Hi Leah, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Starting from the very beginning, how did the band come together? Did you all know each other from before?
Before I moved to London I was in one of those really tacky uni bands and we all decided to meet up at a party in Fulham. I started talking to a guy called Henry and we became very good friends – we ended up basically getting into bands with each other. He was a drummer and we were doing soul covers and writing a little bit. We had booked this one gig in AlleyCat, which was one of the last good venues left in Denmark Street. It was our first gig in London, and the biggest deal ever. Henry tells us that he has just broken his arm, so I told him that he’s out the band! I was so savage! I already had a replacement as I had been playing in university as part of group work, and so I got in a drummer called Max. He was in the band for a little while. About a year later, Henry got back to me and told me that he had started playing on keys, so the three of us just started writing songs and hanging out for hours and hours. We also needed bass and guitar. In fact, I could have just had bass – you need bass! I enlisted Mike Jones which is just the best name for a bassist. He was so quiet but then he would play and it would be enormous. I had also been watching a guy called Charlie play in class who was just so good. I knew I had to poach him. 

Zebede’s music is a very gentle blend of so many genres, so do you all bring different influences to the song writing table?
100 per cent, we all write the songs together. Sometimes I’ll write a melody and bring it to the boys, or one of the guys will have the chords. To be honest, 80 to 90 per cent of the time we’re all in a room and we all chip in with everything. I love Soul, Motown, Blues, R&B and Funk. Charlie is a massive jazzer – he loves Jazz. Mike is a Motown King, and Max is completely ’90s Hip-Hop. Max is my ‘go-to’ guy; I don’t know what it is about drummers but they’re always the coolest people in the band. Henry doesn’t really have a set genre, but as a pianist he writes very beautiful melodies. We never try to go for a certain genre, it just comes out as it comes out. 

What can we expect from your new single ‘Love Me Enough’?
‘L.M.E’  is the first single which we recorded in the new studio. The song is about the classic thing of you love someone, and they love you, but you have the moments of “do you love me ENOUGH?” It is absolutely crazy and irrational but you get yourself into this wormhole. The song is a complete journey because you can turn it on at 3 minutes and then 3:55 and it will sound like two completely different songs – which we love! Recording this song was like “we’ve paid for this session, a lot of money and lot of great equipment – I want to use everything!” Zebede has been up until now figuring out we want to record, but looking at it now ‘L.M.E’ is like a new start point. 

You’ve all been pro-active in your support of the Black Lives Matter movement across your social media, are you hopeful that music can be a positive force of change?
Yeah, 100 per cent. I feel that people listen to music more than they do to people and it’s that comfort, it is everywhere. I do think that people have these massive platforms now, especially with Instagram being so big. All of our references and all of our inspirations come from black music in Zebede – also generally because all music comes from Blues. right? With us it’s how we feel, and hopefully the rest of the world will feel too. If you feel a certain way you should always write it down, in a haiku or chords and just release it. It doesn’t matter if some artists feel that they can’t talk about these topics because they don’t have a big enough platform. If you have ten people who are following you or like your music, they are going to listen to what you have to say. You just have to say it and put it at the forefront of your art. At the end of the day, I am black and the boys are very freethinking, so our music has these topics. I don’t think we’ll ever not talk about it. 

What changes would you like to see in the music industry?
I would actually like to see women represented better across all genres. At the Brits there was only about four women nominated out of twenty categories and it was like – what are you listening to? We are half of the population! There are so many great women artists who are underrepresented, and I think black and minority artists are underrepresented too. We keep them to their ‘genres’ which is a problem, we label everything. People say “oh, you want to listen to black music? Oh, that’s Hip-Hop or R&B.” That’s not true! There’s some of the biggest in Pop, Techno, Drum & Bass – all kinds of people in there. We need to get rid of the labels. All of the major radio stations and Spotify playlists need to be representing this because they have so much reach. 

Despite the lockdown, what are you all hoping to achieve by end of the year?
I think we want to grow our fanbase and following. We want more people to hear us, but it’s obviously very difficult right not because we’re not gigging. I would love for us to start planning a tour with some of our favourite local artists like Brother Zulu. We love them so would love to plan a show. We just want to release music and just keep releasing. We also want to keep expanding on our message. As each song goes by, we’re figuring more out about ourselves. I want to experience everything with Zebede, so we’re putting that into place for next year. 

Massive thanks to Leah for answering our questions!

 

PLAYLIST: Pride 2020

With no marching, no gatherings and no physical prides this year, it’s more important than ever to remember why Pride started. Remember the lengths the LGBTQIA+ communities have come, but more importantly, how far we still have to go. The LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies need to stand strong and united with each other, but especially the black and transgender and gender non-conforming communities.

This period of lockdown has been, and is an incredibly difficult time for everyone, with increasing levels of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, where I am Co-Chair, has seen a 40% increase in contacts to their services, and a 42% increase in people who are transgender and gender-non conforming getting in touch. People have been reaching out for support all across the LGTBQIA+ communities, from young people feeling the pressures of the closure of schools, to trans people self-isolating within transphobic families, to the elderly – an already isolated group – who felt they may not see a friendly face for a very long time.

The lockdown has had an unimaginable impact on all of us, especially folx from marginalised communities – magnifying any existing situation people may be in from domestic violence to transphobia, biphobia, homophobia but especially loneliness and isolation. Something members of the LGBTQIA+ communities have been battling heavily against for a while now.

What Pride means to everyone within the LGBTQIA+ communities will be different, but as a queer person I stand and I protest for every single one of those people’s rights. For LGBTQIA+ rights, for anti-racism, for black people, for people of colour, for transgender and gender non-conforming people and every intersectionality in-between. We have to learn from our history and we have to work together where we support the human rights of each and every one of us. People should be free to live without fear of judgement or discrimination. People should not have to fear for their lives because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, socio-economic class, disability or religion.

If your pride flag doesn’t include black and brown stripes, it’s outdated. If your pride flag doesn’t include the transgender flag, it’s outdated. So wherever you are, at whatever Pride you are supporting, spread the word and make it known – equality is for everyone, but most importantly, black lives matter, trans lives matter, black trans lives matter.
Tash Walker (Co-Founder of GIHE & Co-Chair of Switchboard)

 

The GIHE grrrls have put together a playlist full of their favourite LGBTQIA+ artists to help celebrate Pride 2020. Read about their choices below and scroll down to the end of the post to listen to the playlist on Spotify

Janelle Monae – ‘Pynk’
A brash celebration of creation. Self love. Sexuality. And p-ssy power! Need I say more. (Tash Walker)

Amaroun – ‘Perish’ 
Amaroun talks about the themes she evokes in her music which consistently touch on her journey of being a black queer woman, overcoming struggles with sexuality, and the importance of emotional honesty in music. In Amaroun’s words, “this track is an autobiographical reintroduction of myself”. It’s one of my faves. (TW)

Foxgluvv – ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’
A sparkling, sultry tune inspired by the 1985 film of the same name, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ is another example of Foxgluvv’s natural ability to create “hungover pop” tracks that celebrate her queer identity. We’re big fans here at GIHE. (Kate Crudgington)

TABS – ‘Love Like This’
We had the pleasure of having TABS on our radio show back in 2019, where she sang the original of ‘Love Like This’ and we savoured every moment. Whilst signed to major labels (Polydor, BMG) TABS felt misunderstood. As a club promoter of Butch, Please! – an amazing lesbian club night which we love – she connected with butch lesbians all over the world and began the journey of making her EP of the same name. Seeking authenticity, she self-released this EP with the support of her queer community, and we are so glad she did. (TW) 

Lido Pimienta – ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’
When I interviewed Lido Pimienta earlier this year, she described herself as “the grey area” in Colombian culture – “but very gay, very queer, very feminist.” I’ve been captivated by her music and her artistic vision since listening to her second album Miss Colombia, and feel that no-one else makes electronic music sound as warm and meaningful as she does. (KC)

Arlo Parks –  ‘Black Dog’ 
I cannot get enough of Arlo Parks and her mesmerising music, so full of emotion I get lost in every second. Her latest release ‘Black Dog’ is no different, a frank, heartbreaking insight into the the darkness of depression. Mental health awareness within the LGTBQIA+ communities is so important, especially with rising levels of isolation and loneliness. From talking, to supporting, to asking and reaching out for help is so important and totally OK to do. The more we can look out for each other, the more we can encourage and show people that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness, the more we can combat these rising numbers. (TW)

Brown Belt – ‘Lamplight’
Brown Belt self-described as the non-binary boi band of your dreams, and we couldn’t agree more. I’ve only just come across them with their latest release ‘Lamplight’ a super catchy number, with a rad video to accompany it. Looking forward to hearing more from this trio, certainly ones to watch. (TW)

Personal Best – ‘This Is What We Look Like’
Headliners at one of our last Finsbury gigs, Personal Best perfectly brand themselves as “classic rock for tragic lesbians”. Closing their set for us in December, front person Katie dedicated this track to the queer community. As a sea of buoyant voices joined in with “I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see /’cause this is what we look like”, the poignancy of the lyrics in these uncertain times was overwhelming, and an empowering sense of unity took hold as the crowd danced and sang in solidarity. A perfect anthem for love between anyone and everyone. (Mari Lane)

Bitch Hunt – ‘Spaceman’
Since first meeting at Roller Derby, London based all queer/non-binary band Bitch Hunt formed at First Timers Fest, and have been going from strength to strength ever since. Filled with catchy, scuzzy hooks, a subtle tongue-in-cheek wit and the gritty deadpan vocals of front person Sian, ‘Spaceman’ is an observational and relatable slice of punk-pop. A spot-on reflection on the sickening arrogance of all those cis male ‘splainers and ‘spreaders we so often have to endure in our day to day lives. An uplifting raging anthem inspiring us all to take those men down a peg (or four). (ML)

Kermes – ‘Time To Shut Him Up’
Self proclaimed “anxious rock for the gay agenda”, Leicester band Kermes were due to headline for us at The Finsbury in August, and I’m desperately hoping we can get this rescheduled for as soon as it is safe to do so! Addressing issues such as gender dysphoria, sexism and dysfunctional relationships, their infectious emotion-strewn punk-pop oozes a raw, angst-driven energy and scuzzy shimmering power. ‘Time to Shut Him Up’ is taken from Kermes’ 2018 album, We Choose Pretty Names. (ML)

Ms Mohammed – ‘Pandora’
‘Pandora’ and its rolling, rumbling drums – such a tune by Ms Mohammed who we had a total blast with in the Get In Her Ears studio last year. As well as being an artist in her own right, Ms Mohammed founded the Clit Rock movement in 2013 as a way of speaking out against female genital mutilation. As a champion of cross-cultural tolerance and an out queer artist who advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights and visibility, Ms Mohammed is challenging prejudice through her music and we stand by her every step of the way! (TW)

Le Tigre – ‘Hot Topic’
Pioneers of queer culture and ultimate faves, Le Tigre’s ‘Hot Topic’ is a celebratory ode to those who’ve inspired us. Paying homage to some queer feminist champions of the ‘90s and earlier, it’s an empowering and joy-filled protest in the face of adversity. (ML)

Planningtorock – ‘Non Binary Femme’
This track is take from one of my favourite albums of all time, Planningtorock’s Powerhouse. Unarguably paving the way for not only a better understanding of what those words mean, but also leading in acceptance for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Planningtorock and their music, has unquestionably helped me on my own gender identity journey and I’m sure many others. (TW)

Bishi – ‘Who Has Seen the Wind’
Last year as part of the Southbank Centre’s 2019 Meltdown Festival, Kate and I had the privilege of meeting Bishi. An incredibly talented singer, electronic rock-sitarist, producer and performer born in London of Bengali heritage. She is also the co-founder of WITCiH: The Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub, a platform elevating Women & Non-Binary in tech through commissions, performances & panels. (TW)

Blonde Maze – ‘Hold On To Me’
NY based GIHE fave Blonde Maze consistently writes heartfelt shimmering electro-pop reflecting on life and love. Taken from last year’s EP Hold On, ‘Hold On To Me’ is an example of the utterly enchanting euphoric soundscapes Blonde Maze is capable of creating. I listen to Blonde Maze whenever I need to feel calm; I just can’t get enough of the iridescent hooks and blissful, emotion-filled romanticism. The perfect soundtrack if you need to take a break this Pride to stop and refuel before continuing to protest, organise and celebrate. (ML)

Husk – ‘Below The Neck’
“I would never change being trans. I would never change being a trans musician. And the industry should support us. Book us. Play us. Listen to us. We have so much to offer.” A poignant sentiment this Pride from Trans, Non-Binary artist Husk, who combines ’80s synth-pop nostalgia with fresh leftfield pop to create their signature sound. A colourful, high-energy offering, recent single ‘Below The Neck’ is the perfect danceable anthem for any Pride party – though, for now, sadly, dancing around your bedroom/living room to it will have to do. (ML)

Bronski Beat – ‘Smalltown Boy’
This track was released in 1984 at the beginning of the AIDS crisis by openly gay Bronski Beat, ‘Smalltown Boy’ is a heartbreaking story given an empowering beat. In 2020 it may feel like we have come so far from the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s but those lost will never be forgotten, and we, the LGBTQIA+ communities still live with the impact today. (TW)

Lady Gaga – ‘Born This Way’
I know I add this Gaga track to our GIHE Pride playlist every year, but it’s such a BANGER and so fun to dance to. She’s always celebrating being the best version of yourself, and for that reason, I can’t leave Gaga out! (KC)

Hercules & Love Affair – ‘Blind’
Taken from their self-titled album released in 2008, the same year I attended London Pride for the first time, this is without a doubt the theme tune to me fully embracing my sexuality, feeling proud of who I was and strong enough to come out happily in all aspects of my life. (TW)

Princess Nokia – ‘Sugar Honey Iced Tea’
Openly queer rapper and all round inspiration, Destiny Nicole Frasqueri – aka Princess Nokia – writes powerful, feminist anthems promoting self love and body positivity. A strong advocate of intersectional feminism, having founded the Smart Girl Club with Milah Libin, a podcast where she discusses healthy living and urban feminism, Princess Nokia offers a hopeful and empowering presence in these times when pushing for change is so important. (ML)

Lotic – ‘Burn A Print’
Born in Houston USA but now a familiar face on the Berlin underground club and electronic music scene, Lotic (aka J’Kerian Morgan) shared her debut album, Power, in 2018. The record showcased her vocal and songwriting abilities for the first time, consolidating her skills into a coherent message about transforming fear in to fierce autonomy. ‘Burn a Print’ continues this narrative, as Lotic explains: “to burn your print into this Earth, because when you go, you need to remind the future bitches that you was here.” (KC)

Mykki Blanco (feat. Devendra Banhart) – ‘You Will Find It’
Queer pioneer and musician/rapper extraordinaire, Mykki Blanco has been an inspiration for the GIHE team for quite some time, and their voice is more poignant now than ever. ‘You Will Find It’, their latest offering, oozes a glistening, soulful splendour as shimmering hooks and swirling atmospherics provide the backdrop for Blanco’s trademark gritty power. Replacing their usual glitchy energy with a soothing aura, they have created a perfect tranquil interlude; an alluring soundscape to immerse yourself in and find blissful cathartic release. (ML)

kate can wait – ‘to be alone with you’
Molly Kate Rodriguez – aka kate can wait – is a collective member of Grimalkin Records, a US-based benefit label and queer artist collective. Rodriguez lives in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico and she crafts dark, haunting folk sounds. She’s not on Spotify, but you can listen to ‘to be alone with you’ via bandcamp. (KC)

Phantómódel – ‘Passing Through’
Another band on Grimalkin Records‘ roster, Phantómódel are a post-punk three-piece who explore the internal struggles of gender dysphoria and body image, systemic oppression and mental health through their dark sounds. Phantómódel describe themselves as a “TRANS GOTH POWERHOUSE of darkness dismantling white supremacy at every turn. We are phantoms of the night, goblins who lurk in the shadows, and demons of chaos and magic, here to enchant everyone we meet.” (KC)

Gordian Stimm – ‘Miscellaneous Body Parts’
The solo project of Maeve Westall of itoldyouiwouldeatyou, Gordian Stimm’s sound is visceral, distorted, yet at times totally dance-able. They remind me a little of early Passion Pit or Crystal Castles, and I recommend listening to their debut album, Your Body In On Itself, released via Amateur Pop earlier this year. (KC)

Perfume Genius – ‘Jason’
Having been a huge fan of Perfume Genius for many years now, it’s been wonderful immersing myself in his poignant latest album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. Reflecting on a one night stand he had with a straight man over fifteen years ago, ‘Jason’ resonates with its twinkling musicality, nostalgic lyrical story-telling and the raw emotion of Hadreas’ trademark heartstring-tugging vocals. Throughout changes in his musical style over the years, Perfume Genius never fails to captivate and inspire. (ML)

Antony & The Johnsons – ‘My Lady Story’
A strong advocate for trans rights, feminism and climate action, Anohni (formally of Antony and the Johnsons), is a necessary and powerful voice that we need now more than ever. On identifying as transgender, Anohni once said in an interview with The Guardian: “I was never going to become a beautiful, passable woman, and I was never going to be a man… It’s a quandary. But the trans condition is a beautiful mystery; it’s one of nature’s best ideas. What an incredible impulse, that compels a five-year-old child to tell its parents it isn’t what they think it is. Given just a tiny bit of oxygen, those children can flourish and be such a gift. They give other people licence to explore themselves more deeply, allowing the colours in their own psyche to flourish.” (ML)

Jackie Shane – ‘Any Other Way’
We’ve played Canadian soul-singer Jackie Shane multiple times on the GIHE radio show, and included her on many a playlist and we’re certainly not stopping now. Jackie was a pioneer for transgender rights in the 60s & 70s, a time when being your true self was not always welcomed, or accepted. (TW)