INTERVIEW: Fears

An intuitive artist who transforms her darkest moments into graceful electronic soundscapes, Fears aka Constance Keane is days away from sharing her debut album, Oíche. Set for release via her own label TULLE on 7th May, the Irish-born, London-based musician balances her intense ruminations on trauma alongside delicate synth loops and tentative beats to shine a light on the fluctuating nature of mental health and the resilience that she’s gained from an honest approach to her on-going healing process.

GIHE Features Editor Kate caught up with Constance to talk about TULLE, the anticipations and events that went into creating Oíche, the importance of friends and family in that process and the hugely supportive women in the Irish music scene who help keep her going…

Hello Constance, last time we spoke in December 2020 you had just launched TULLE Collective. How have things with the label been since then?

Really good. Really, really good. I don’t think I expected the level of support that we have actually had so far, which has been quite reassuring. I kind of had no idea if people would actually respond, or if it would even be viable in any way – I just really wanted to do it. We’ve released a few singles now and the reaction’s been really nice. We’ve felt this community building around us which feels really special. It’s weird, because I’m using my own album as a guinea pig for this, so there’s double layers of emotional investment. So when when anything good happens, I feel it twice as much and it’s the same as when rejections happen too.

It’s not long now until you release your debut album Oíche out in the world. What are you most proud of about this record?

Finishing it was a really big deal. When I started writing music for Fears, I knew I wanted to put out just singles until I had an album ready. I wanted it to be an entire body of work, whenever it was ready. I feel like a lot of it is tied in together thematically.

Sometimes when you work on something for years – it’s been over five years I’ve been working on this – it can be really hard to decide when something’s done. Especially when you’re writing something and creating something that is so personal. Your life continues on, but you have to decide where you draw a line with packaging art made out of your experiences. It’s kind of been like deciding, for me personally, this one chapter can end and now I can begin work on the next one. It feels like not just tying up making an album but it’s like tying up a whole load of experiences as well.

You’ve been open about the context for many of the tracks on Oíche and how they are rooted in your experiences of trauma. When I listened to the album I found it quite uplifting – I noticed a genuine buoyancy to the music, even though lyrically it’s quite sad. Do you do this consciously to balance these contrasting emotions?

I enjoy listening to music that has a level of juxtaposition in it. I like listening to things that if you’re in one mood, you’re going to interpret it as devastating, but if you’re in another mood you’re open enough to hearing the uplifting parts of it. I’m really interested in how art in general is interpreted, so allowing space for the listener to project their own feelings that day onto my music is quite important to me.

I tried to create a sonic landscape that reflects what’s going on in my head at the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to write really upsetting guitar lines, it’s more to do with when I’m in a certain headspace, I get very repetitive intrusive thoughts. So I like having the same beat going for the entire song or having a guitar line loop the entire way through to reflect that. The lyrics might be bringing you on a journey of progression, but the music might keep you stuck, or else I like to do it the other way around.

When I was writing the album I was processing complex PTSD and before that when I was in an abusive relationship, but I was still going to work and the world was still happening. I think in real life, we do have these heavy things happening to us but I think it’s important for my music to reflect the kind of day-to-day experiencing of these things.

The repetitive thought pattern was a big thing for me, because I’m a person who takes so frickin’ long to process anything. I’m a person that needs to talk about things loads and I need to sit with things in order to then move past them. I’ve pretty much always been like that. So having that repetitive nature in my music and lyrics is just a realistic depiction of how I deal with day to day life.

I mean, there’s points on the album where everything did stop. I think that’s important to acknowledge as well. A lot of the time we keep doing the day-to-day things as the situation is getting worse and worse and worse, so you end up not having a choice to keep going anymore. I wanted that contrast as well. I wanted to show the times where I had to keep going, but also where I had to absolutely pause and where I did basically nothing for months after having a breakdown. Then it’s about rebuilding yourself after that.

To me, Oíche is kind of funny to listen to, because there’s stuff that happened pre-breakdown, breakdown and post-breakdown. I mean, I didn’t organise the songs in that order, but I know where each one sits and that gives me a lot of hope – to have a full picture of it for myself.

It sounds like you’ve worked incredibly hard to get to a place of such resilience. When you decided to write about your experiences, were you nervous to put them out into the world? Of course, there’s a level of excitement and pride that comes with releasing a record, but have there been moments of hesitation about releasing music that’s so personal to you?

Yeah, I mean, parts of me still are. I’m very open to talking about mental health issues or trauma. I have no issue talking about what happened to me and my experience of things, I’m very comfortable doing that. To me, it’s actually easier to be honest about it, rather than having to come up with ways of down-playing things or making excuses about where I was at certain times.

I think it’s really important that when you’re doing that, you’re doing that knowing the other person’s interpretation of you is not actually anything to do with you. So, if somebody gets freaked out when you’re like, “Yeah I was on a psych ward for six weeks blah blah, blah,” that’s their own freak out to have, that’s not yours. You can let them hold on to that rather than them passing it on to you. But it takes a certain level of work to even get to that point. So I guess, at this point, I still have waves of feeling like, “Whoa, how am I putting this out after all this time? really?” But overall, I’ve just worked so hard on this.

I don’t really have high expectations for how anybody is going to listen to it. I would like people to enjoy it, but it’s more for me. It’s more of a personal goal of mine. I mean…obviously, please listen to my album and if you want to give me a 10/10 review, I’ll take it! But it’s more about me doing this thing that I said I was going to do, and me doing it in a way that I’m most comfortable with and that I feel I can enjoy the process of.

Well, I think it’s a beautiful record, so you will be getting a 10 out of 10 review from me…

Thanks! I’ve been super lucky in that I’ve had such a solid support system around me the whole time. So while people weren’t physically writing the music with me, I did have so much support from a really good friendship circle and a very supportive family to help build me up throughout this.

For my family as well, it almost feels like a success for them for this to be coming out. Because, you know, a few years ago – I was planning on not being alive. So when I was writing some of the songs on the album, I wasn’t writing them for anybody to hear them. We kind of feel almost giddy about it – it feels like such a huge thing to release work that was made at a point when the idea of releasing anything just wasn’t even on the cards. It feels like a personal victory.

My family are so excited. My Mum reads my different interviews and listens to my stuff on the radio and she’s buzzing.

I know your family help you with so much behind the scenes as well – shooting music videos, featuring in them etc. Do you think it’s strengthened your existing relationship with them?

Definitely. Going through stuff like that as a family can almost break you. When I had a breakdown, it was a really bad time as a family and they were super supportive. To see your family member that unwell is a really scary thing. I think that having them so involved in building this thing afterwards has been really nice, it’s been a really wholesome point of connection.

Filming my videos with my brother has just been hilarious to me. He didn’t film anything before this and he’s just done so much for me and this project. I think it was nice for him to be excited about a creative thing during Covid-19 as well. A load of this also just came out of the fact that I moved home when Covid hit in 2020, I moved back to Dublin for lockdown and…what else were we gonna do?

Do you have a favourite track on the album and if so, why?

I mean, it changes, but I have one at the moment. My favourite track is the opening track ‘h_always’. It’s my favourite because I haven’t touched it. I recorded it completely at the time of writing it, and that was in the music room of the hospital I was in.

I listened back to it and I almost – not in a mean way – but I almost laugh at myself, because I wrote it at a time before I’d realised a lot of things. I guess listening back to something where you were so sure of a different narrative and now you know the truth can actually be really good, because it reminds you that just because you think something is one way right now, doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that forever. So, for me to listen back to that song now and to be able to prove myself wrong – it brings me a lot of comfort.

There’s also just random bits that are recorded in it near the start of the song, if you listen really carefully, you can hear the noise of a tram going by outside the walls of the hospital. I recorded the whole thing just on my MacBook mic, because I didn’t have any recording equipment in there. I haven’t even tried to re-record it. I don’t want to. I just like it left that way.

You have been working on Fears for some time now, but I know you’re involved in other musical projects too. You’re in post-punk band M(h)aol, you’ve also been in one of CMAT’s music videos and you’re friends with Julie from HAVVK – who we also love here at GIHE. You’re part of this amazing community of female musicians in Ireland. Just take a few moments to tell me how great that is, because it looks great from an outsider’s perspective…

I love it so much. There’s such a level of women supporting each other in Irish music at the moment, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I started making music when I was 18 and if this had been the case then, I think I would have started out with a completely different level of confidence.

Back then, if you were on a line-up of four bands and there was one girl in one of the other bands, you were doing well. You used to go into venues and during soundcheck just feel quite uncomfortable and like you’re being judged. Whereas now I feel like there’s this network, even online, during Covid where no-one’s even playing shows, where everyone is supporting each other. There’s a real sense of camaraderie in it.

I think we have all grown-up around a similar scene and at a similar time. We’ve all had those experiences of feeling very alien to the norm in the Irish music scene. I feel so grateful that there’s now a space for celebrating something else and a real community where we’re sharing stuff that’s from completely different genres – like wildly different genres. My music sounds nothing like CMAT. At all. It doesn’t sound like HAVVK’s music, it’s totally different. But yet, these women are just really supportive. I think we all recognise how hard everybody works and we have a huge level of respect for each other in that sense.

I genuinely think that’s amazing. Here in London, aside from the GIHE community that I’ve surrounded myself with, I don’t see London or UK bands support each other in the same way that Irish bands do.

I think maybe it’s because we have such low expectations for success. Not in a bad way! I think that frees you up a lot because you just don’t interpret anybody as competition. Because you’re all just doing your own thing. In Ireland, there’s such a long history of gigs that you go to with three or four bands on the line-up that all sound very different because there’s not that many places to play. There are great places to play, but there’s just not that many. So the scenes in Ireland aren’t even necessarily built around the genres at all. I think that is kind of responsible for how there’s such an even crossover with stuff.

I find here in London, because I work in music here in London, a lot of the time people don’t share stuff that they didn’t work on and that’s so weird to me. I remember when I put out a song, I was really confused as to why people were privately messaging me being like “yeah, good job!” but no one would actually share it. I was talking to one my best friends about it and I was like, “it’s just so weird,” and they were like, “no, that’s how you do it here.” I think it’s a very different approach.

The Irish music scene is tiny, so if you’re mean to each other, it’s very awkward when you see each other in the shop the next day, you know? But you also end up getting to know people so well that any kind of preconceived notion you had of them beforehand is wiped away. So it’s hard to be jealous when you’re like “I know that person and they’re really sound.” There’s also a higher chance of actually getting signed here in London. The stakes feel like they are higher here.

That makes sense. As we’re a new music blog, we always ask artists to recommend an artist or band for us to listen to. You’ve mentioned CMAT and HAVVK, is there anyone else you’d like to give a shout out to?

Mia Sofia. She writes songs really poetic songs about literature and Irish history. Her lyrics and her voice are really beautiful and really honest and I feel very connected to them. I have essentially been friending her online for almost two years now. I’ve never met the girl, but that’s fine! I love her. I think she’s absolutely amazing.

There’s an amazing rapper and producer called Celaviedmai who I absolutely adore. I think she’s incredible. She just feels so authentic and so herself and that’s a wonderful thing to see. I always like to look up to people like that.

My friend Sarah Merricks is in a band called Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra. They released a song on Valentine’s Day called ‘I didn’t love you when I said I did and I don’t now,’ which is so, so good. Her song-writing is great, she’s just so clever. You can imagine her singing with a kind of smirk and I love that.

Thanks so much to Constance for chatting to us!

Pre-order your copy of Fears’ debut album Oíche here

Follow Fears on bandcampSpotifyInstagramTwitter & Facebook
Follow TULLE on Instagram & Twitter

Photo Credit: Bríd O’Donovan

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

WATCH: CMAT – ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’

Inspired by Nestlé TV adverts, K-Pop music videos and the Oscar-nominated 70s film Five Easy Pieces, Irish pop icon CMAT has shared a new video to accompany her fourth single ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’. Adorned in a fabulous snake-skin blazer & skirt combo, the pop starlet performs an impressive and joyful dance routine opposite a mute bearded beauty who’s Instagram followers are set to double in the next few hours.

“The director Eilís approached me some time ago to make a music video, and I really wanted it to be for ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’ because I knew she would be able to capture the high energy mood of the song, and also we are into the same old, niche and ugly design stuff,” CMAT explains. “The dream sequence was inspired by a Nestle ad from the 1980s. The choreographer, Nick, made my dreams come true. I was like, ‘I want to dance like Blackpink, but I have absolutely no technical ability whatsoever.’ I think that much is evident in the video but we pulled it off!”

Full of CMAT’s lush, yearning vocals, relatable lyrics and Americana-tinged guitars, ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’ is a song that sees her swallow her pride and admit to sometimes being “the bigger dickhead in a relationship.” The witty set of accompanying visuals show CMAT at her finest, exuding a charisma that lights up the screen as she leans into “the Marian Keyes of it all.”

Watch the video for ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’ below.

 

Follow CMAT on bandcamp, Instagram, TwitterSpotifyFacebook 

Photo Credit: Sarah Doyle

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

GIHE: International Women’s Day 2021

Happy International Women’s Day! A day to highlight and bring awareness to the issues facing women around the globe, as well as a time to celebrate the women we love too. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge – and here at Get In Her Ears we take that to mean that in order to create a more equal world, we must be constantly challenging accepted ‘norms’; constantly seeking to change and improve society in any way we can. In the words of the inspirational Angela Davis: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.

At Get In Her Ears this International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating both women and non-binary folk who have inspired and motivated us throughout this particularly challenging year. We want to make clear that we are inclusive of ALL women. Inclusivity is at the core of what we do: it’s the reason we started, it’s what drives us, and it’s something we will consistently strive for as long as we exist. To be explicitly clear, we always have and always will stand against transphobia – it is unacceptable. We send our love, support and solidarity to ALL women out there, and celebrate those gender nonconforming people fighting for acceptance. 

Have a read about the consistently inspiring women and non-binary people who have been keeping us going this year, and listen to the accompanying playlist – including tunes by, or linked to, the people featured. And feel free to get in touch with us on socials about the women who have inspired you this year!

Kathleen Hanna
I couldn’t really put together an International Women’s Day feature without including Kathleen Hanna. Being a constant inspiration always, throughout the last year I’ve needed to find strength in her empowering charisma and motivating force more than ever, and treated myself to the 20th anniversary re-issue of the Bikini Kill EP on one of the amazing bandcamp days last year. As well as inspiring me with the riotous power of music, over the last couple of years Kathleen has also set up ‘Tees 4 Togo’ – a business that sells t-shirts designed by and depicting different artists, with 100% of the money raised going to Peace Sisters, a non-profit started by Tina Kampor. Peace Sisters’ mission is to provide equal education for girls in Tina’s hometown, Dapaong, Togo. Each shirt sold is $40, which is how much it costs to send a girl to school in Togo for one year. The sweatshop-free tees are collaborations between the artists and the performers who inspired them.
(Mari Lane)

Big Joanie
Is it even a GIHE feature if we don’t include Big Joanie? Authors, activists, musicians and all round punk icons, these grrrls are a constant source of inspiration to the GIHE team. From organising Decolonise Fest, continuously speaking out against racism and sexism in the alternative music scenes, to creating the perfect soundtrack to rage and rejoice to, Big Joanie are an unstoppable force for change. Their work on and off stage is remarkable. Vocalist & guitarist Stephanie Phillips is releasing her new book Why Solange Matters later this year, drummer Chardine Taylor Stone will be releasing her book Sold Out: How Black Feminism Lost it’s Soul in 2022, and bassist Estella Adeyeri is busy recording podcasts and working with the Girls Rock London team.
(Kate Crudgington)

Lucy O’Brien (author of She Bop)
Getting to interview and virtually meet Lucy O’Brien twice this year was such a pleasure. 2020 saw the release of her book She Bop in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the original publication, a book that shows how much Lucy has documented, highlighted and pushed for better representation of women, transgender and non-binary people in music through her writing. Most recently she has co-written Skin’s Memoir It Takes Blood and Guts, which was also released in 2020 (read our interview with Lucy and Skin here). Lucy O’Brien – an inspiring woman, with an inspiring career who, lucky for us, shows no sign of slowing down.
(Tash Walker)

I will never get over seeing the Get In Her Ears name in PRINT and that’s all thanks to author & music journalist Lucy O’Brien. She included us in a new chapter in the 25th anniversary edition of her book She Bop last year and I’ve been making my way through it since then. Tash interviewed Lucy for one of our radio shows and I was so impressed by her knowledge, articulation and kindness when it comes to reporting and acknowledging the often forgotten history of women and non-binary people’s contribution to popular music. Definitely pick up a copy if you’re able to. (KC)

Kae Tempest
Coming out as non-binary last year, Kae Tempest not only completely blew me away at the last gig I went to (exactly a year ago at BBC 6Music’s International Women’s Day celebration at The Roundhouse), but their recently released book On Connection has been a wonderfully insightful, and strangely comforting, read in these worrying times. Reflecting on the connection between people and the unifying feelings that art can create, they discuss how connection should be a collaborative, communal feeling. Sharing deeply personal experiences and discussing times that they’ve felt particularly disconnected, it’s such a relatable and moving piece of writing. It is also the only book I’ve managed to read properly this whole year; I’ve really struggled with just the things that they discuss throughout – with feeling focused and connected – and so to be able to read something that is both poignant but also short and simply put together, has been just what my mind has needed. (ML)

Peaches
Last year, I interviewed the trailblazing Peaches for a Nine Songs feature on The Line Of Best Fit. She spoke about her favourite music and I spent most of the time nodding enthusiastically at her reasons for loving The Runaways, Missy Elliott and Roberta Flack. One thing that’s got me through the last year – and every other year, really – is talking to people who are not just passionate about the music they make, but the music they love by other artists too. The unfiltered admiration you can have for a band or musician is so pure and so important, and it’s definitely something I have grown to cherish over the years. (KC)

Beth Cannon (LibraLibra)
International Women’s Day happens to fall in Endometriosis Awareness Month (a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, causing many painful symptoms and often affecting people’s lives significantly). And, as someone who has struggled with the symptoms for a number of years, I’m always inspired by talking to other people who have gone through similar experiences. This year, I discovered that Beth from one of our favourite bands, LibraLibra, has suffered with incredibly severe Endometriosis – to such an extent that, at the beginning of this month, she has had to have a very significant and invasive operation. However, throughout all the pain, treatments, stress and life-changing decisions that she has been under this year, she has continued to fight – to be an incredible force of nature, through both the immense power of her musical creations, and her openness and effervescent strength of spirit through her inspiring and motivating social media posts. (ML)

Planningtorock
I remember being in the Hoxton Radio studio in 2018, listening to Tash talk so passionately about how Planningtorock’s fourth album Powerhouse was resonating with them. Tash’s joy was infectious and I found myself listening to the record and hearing this incredible artist dive deep into their own gender identity with such playfulness and charm. Tash & I saw Planningtorock live at Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre in 2019 and it was marvellous. We even ran onto the stage with loads of other fans at one point, looking around in disbelief and loving every minute of it. (KC)

SOPHIE
With full acknowledgment that SOPHIE’s identity was rooted in being SOPHIE, by naming SOPHIE in this piece I am not placing any identity on SOPHIE understanding that SOPHIE asked to be identified as SOPHIE. Someone who pushed the boundaries of music, of sound, of electronica, of what it means to be queer – a person who changed music for the better, by not living and reflecting in a nostalgia but pushing, reaching for a future. A future that SOPHIE saw through SOPHIE’s lens and through SOPHIE’s music; we got a glimpse of it too and for that we should be forever grateful. (TW)

FKA Twigs
I’ve been a fan of FKA Twigs since first been utterly captivated by the innovative sweeping sounds of ‘Two Weeks’ from 2014’s LP1, but I never knew that much about her. That is until I listened to her speaking with Louis Theroux on his Grounded podcast earlier this year. Not only was hearing her speak about her latest album Magdalene and how she found its inspiration in strong women – namely Mary Magdalene and her little known strength and achievements – particularly poignant, but hearing her speak openly about her experiences of abuse was immensely moving. Her honesty and openness about what she went through with Shia LaBeouf has been incredibly inspiring and a source of strength for many who are going through similar experiences. Public figures such as FKA Twigs being vocal about the issue of abuse is essential in enabling others to feel able to do this, and I feel a huge amount of admiration and gratitude to her for telling her story; opening up this vital conversation and giving a voice to survivors who so often remain unheard. (ML) 

Divide and Dissolve
Fuelled by Takiaya Reed’s doom-ridden saxophone notes and Sylvie Nehill’s phenomenal percussion, instrumental activists Divide and Dissolve have a sound that flows with a unique gargantuan grace. Designed to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for indigenous communities, their recent album Gas Lit smoulders with a righteous fury. Not only are they immensely talented musicians, they are also incredibly kind. Each time I’ve reviewed their music for our website, they’ve been quick to message via the GIHE socials to say a sweet and sincere thank you. (KC)

Sarah Lay (co-founder of Reckless Yes)
For a few years now, the label Reckless Yes has been a source of some of our most favourite artists – currently home to the likes of LIINES, Breakup Haircut, Bugeye, The Other Ones, The Crystal Furs and more – and co-founder Sarah continues to inspire us with her hard work and consistent dedication. Working ethically with all the artists on the label, making sure they are paid and treated fairly, Reckless Yes is supported by a membership that fans can sign up to and receive benefits, and is continually working on how it can be a force for social good: not only benefitting the artists on the roster, but holding environmental values as a fundamental part of their work. A one of a kind label run by a super wonder woman, who deserves to be celebrated for the consistently exceptional work she does and the invaluable help she gives upcoming artists. (ML)

Amateur Pop Inc.
A small record label based in Leicester working exclusively with artists of marginalised identities, Mari & I are huge fans of the musical output of Amateur Pop Inc. Run by Emily & Alex, it’s been a joy to interact with them and the artists they support. I recommend listening to Gordian Stimm and Boarder, and Mari would recommend listening to Kermes too! (KC)

Babywoman Records
We had Babywoman Records founder Charlotte Carpenter as a guest on our GIHE radio show a few years ago, and it’s been wonderful to see her create her own label and platform to help other women release their music. To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Babywoman Records are launching a special four episode podcast series celebrating women in roles across the music industry. Each day between 8th-11th March, they’ll have a guest discussing their work. Speakers include Producer Steph Marziono, Warner Brothers’ A&R rep Holly Manners, musician Eliza Shaddad and Managing Director of Palm Bay Music Kimberley Anne. Visit the Babywoman Records website for more info here. (KC)

Amaroun
A long term favourite at Get In Her Ears, Amaroun consistently delivers a stirring power juxtaposed with an impassioned energy in each of her creations, and – throughout 2020 – she released a a number of poignant and empowering reflections on being a queer woman today. As well as captivating us with her tunes, over the last year Amaroun has also shared some of her insightful inspirations and thoughts on the industry with us in two of our Instagram Live sessions, and continues to be a massive inspiration in all she does. This year, in addition to working on her debut album, Amaroun has been running Black Queer Joy – a series of queer led sessions harnessing the power of community to call upon our ancestors as we heal, reclaim and find self-acceptance. The next session is this Wednesday, 10th March – details here. You can support Amaroun and her innovative journey at her Patreon page. (ML)

Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks has already achieved so much, especially over the last year, where we saw her release her debut album, Collapsed In Sunbeams, and her songs becoming the go-to hum on everyone’s lips. But what has resonated with me above all else is the depth of her lyrics – her mastery of language that she uses to delicately tell these stories with such feeling, as the music envelopes around you. So beautiful and often so sad. (TW)

Stereo Sanctity PR
Kate & Frankie who run Stereo Sanctity PR are absolute diamonds. Not only are their press releases informative, well-written and superbly formatted, the artists they represent are some of my personal favourites too, so it’s always a good day when I see an SS email at the top of my GIHE inbox. They’re assertive without being pushy and genuinely take the time to get to know your music taste so they can tailor their pitches to you. They represent an immense amount of talent, including Noga Erez, Hilary Woods, Penelope Trappes, Debby Friday, Desire, Anna B Savage, Spellling, Jenny Hval, Lotic, Katie Gately, Skating Polly, Zola Jesus and more. (KC)

Bimini Bon Boulash
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about who Bimini Bon Boulash is, but I have been falling more and more in love with them (and Tayce, but that’s another story…) throughout the latest season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. As someone who has watched all the previous seasons of the competition, I have found this latest UK series to be a real breath of fresh air, largely thanks to Bimini. Openly discussing their non-binary identity and how this has affected their life, as well as supporting other contestants with discussing theirs and their struggles with society’s imposed gender norms, Bimini has given a voice to many and has apparently inspired a number of young viewers of the show to come out to their parents. Innovative not only in what they stand for, but in their incredible talent on stage, and their exquisite, unique style, Bimini has opened many people’s eyes as to what drag is, and what it can be: “I consider the concept of gender as a spectrum and I float somewhere in the middle… With drag, I don’t see what I do as female impersonation or illusion, more an expression of my identity and how I feel on the inside...” (ML)

Melanie Simpson (The Irish Jam)
I’ve been contributing to The Irish Jam’s New Music Sunday section for just over a year now. Based in London but celebrating music by Irish artists, the crossover of favourite bands between the GIHE team & The Irish Jam team is huge. I’ve enjoyed chatting to hosts Kealan, Niall, Rob and Mel on and off air for a while now, but Mel in particular is always quick to join me in fan-girling over Kynsy, CMAT and Celaviedmai. From drunkenly telling her about my admiration for Taylor Swift at The Jam’s 2018 St. Patrick’s Day gig when we first met, to buying tickets to CMAT’s debut London gig this November, Mel & I are well on our way to becoming true music gal pals. (KC)

Julia Woollams and Angela Martin (founders of The Croydonist/Bugeye)
Having been ‘locked down’ for pretty much a year now, I’ve come to value my home and its surrounding area in a new light. Being limited to the local area, it has been wonderful to discover new places for my daily walk, and it is has been thanks to The Croydonist that I have discovered a number of hidden Croydon gems; I had never known about Selsdon Woods or South Norwood Lake, for example, until seeing them featured on Croydonist’s Instagram, and they are both beautiful spots, unlikely rural escapes close to home. So, thank you to Croydonist founders Julia and Angela for keeping my love of Croydon going throughout the pandemic! Angela also contributed the most essential and uplifting of soundtracks for 2020 with her band Bugeye’s vibrant, energy-fuelled album Ready Steady Bang. (ML)

Girls Rock London
I wish Girls Rock London had existed when I was a teenager. They do incredible work to support girls, trans and non binary youth who have an interest in making music, but who may not have the funds or confidence to take that interest further. Through mentoring schemes, workshops and band camps, they provide an incredible level of support whilst offering attendees an opportunity to make friends and enjoy learning a completely new skill set. Find out more about their work here. (KC)

Mary Anne Hobbs
Having to work from home for the most part of a year has had its benefits. One of which has been being able to listen to BBC 6Music during the quieter moments of the day, especially my favourite show – Mary Anne Hobbs. Playing such a diverse range of music, from obscure electro to raging metal, she exudes such a passion and enthusiasm about all the tunes she showcases that is both refreshing and uplifting to hear. Hearing someone with such a genuine love of new music and sincere dedication to promoting upcoming artists is wonderfully inspiring, and I think more people in the industry could do with being a bit more like her! So, thank you Mary Anne, for being such a positive force – a consistently elevating accompaniment to my days – at a time when I need it more than ever. Also, what’s not to love about a show that has an ‘All Queens Mix’ at the start of every week?! (ML)

You Know Who You Are…
This last year has been a challenge for everyone, of varying degrees, but what comes out of difficulties endured collectively is a strength in connection. The end of 2020 was one of the most challenging times for me, but I have never felt more loved and supported in my life. So, to all the women and non-binary people who have been there for me over this last year, from family and friends, to all those in between, as someone who has struggled to love themselves for so long, you have all shown me the way, thank you. That includes my two GIHE babes – Kate and Mari, I love you two dearly. (TW)

Mari & Tash (GIHE babes)
Typing through the tears as I think about how much I have learned from you both, and how much I’ve laughed with you both over the last five and a half years. Here’s to many more weekends of gigs, chats about our favourite music and fancy beers with names I can’t pronounce properly. I’ll love you both forever. (KC)

Cindy Crudgington (My biggest fan)
Hi Mum! Probably wouldn’t have made it this far without your eternal love, patience and support. Thanks for always listening to our radio shows, reading my reviews & interviews (you’re welcome for the Noga Erez intro) and for listening to me rant on about how many emails I have to get through every weekend. I love you. (KC)

Holly and Sarah Crudgington (My younger sisters)
Hi Twinny Pigs! Thanks for holding my hand as I get over emotional at Wolf Alice gigs, raging with me in the mosh at the Ho99o9 shows and for always taking the +1 spot on the guest list for bands that I’ve bored you to death about for years. Here’s to many more conversations about how banging the soundtracks to the first two Twilight films are. Love you both. (KC)

GIHE Super Women, Tash & Kate
I couldn’t talk about the women who’ve helped me survive the year without including these two. Not only are they the best friends I could ask for, but they really do inspire me every day. They have both overcome the many challenges this year has brought with a grace and strength that I continue to admire, and both have an unwavering commitment to what they are passionate about. Tash’s work supporting LGBTQ+ people as co-chair of Switchboard and now sharing the community’s stories with the insightful and informative The Log Books podcast is absolutely incredible, and has taught me so much. Kate’s dedication to sharing new music through her amazing writing, and managing to remain so brilliantly organised, is admirable, and being able to regularly rant and rage with her about the world is something I’m forever grateful for. Tash and Kate, you’re a dream team and I cannot wait to see you at a Get In Her Ears gig one day soon, and hatch some exciting ventures for the future!

There are so many more women – both who I know and love personally, who have supported me through this year, and more well-known (Michaela Coel, Adriene Mishler, Phoebe Bridgers, Nadine Shah, Reni Eddo-Lodge) – who I could write about here, but there are only so many hours in the day… For now, I will leave you to celebrate the amazing women in your life!
(ML)

Massive thanks to ALL the wonderful women and non binary people in our lives – we see you, and we love you!

Listen to our accompanying IWD playlist here:

GIHE: Ones To Watch 2021

Whilst 2021 may not be looking too promising in the grand scheme of things at the moment, the array of amazing new music to look forward to is giving us some hope. So many fantastic bands and artists over the last year have been getting us through the nightmare of 2020, and here we’ve selected just a few who’ve made a particularly lasting impression, and who we’re hoping to hear a lot more from over the next twelve months.

Following our Tracks, Albums and Highlights of 2020, here’s our Ones To Watch in 2021…

deep tan
With acclaim from the likes of The Quietus, NME, So Young and BBC 6Music already under their belts, Hackney based trio deep tan have been enchanting our ears this year with their immersive, hypnotic splendour. First capturing our attention with the swirling grace of 2019’s ‘Air’, they continued to cast their majestic spell over us with this year’s ‘deepfake’ – a poignant comment on the worryingly sexist ways the strange internet phenomenon is used in society. Fusing together the cold-wave side of post-punk with their trademark eerily captivating allure and illustrious, swooning French and English vocals, deep tan have already shown their knack for creating utterly bewitching, sonically complex, soundscapes. I expect their dreamy, effervescent charm to continue drawing in more listeners throughout 2021.
Listen to deep tan on Spotify or bandcamp now. 
(Mari Lane: Co-Founder/Managing Editor)

CMAT
I have The Irish Jam radio show to thank for introducing me to CMAT! The pop sensation released some stellar singles throughout 2020, including ‘Another Day (KFC)’ – a bop about crying your drunken heart out in a chicken shop – and ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ – a witty, melancholic anthem about struggling with urban isolation. I interviewed her via Zoom earlier this year and she was just a joy to chat with (read the full thing here.) Even though things still look shaky for the music industry in 2021, I reckon CMAT will release more singles that manage to hit the nail on the head, and I hope that she’ll continue to be a stand-up comedian via her Twitter and Instagram accounts too.
Listen to CMAT on Spotify or bandcamp now. 
(Kate Crudgington: Co-Founder/Features Editor)

Amaroun
Having already caught the attention of BBC 6Music and BBC Introducing, Jay Brown – aka Amaroun – spent the first part of 2020 releasing a new single each month. With each single touching on a different theme surrounding life as a queer woman, she has had us hooked on her scintillating alt-pop. From the poignant, swirling power of ‘Rise’ to the gentle romanticism and playful wit of love song ‘Scarlet’, and the grimey groove of latest single ‘Highest Head’ (a collaboration with Jung Mergs), Amaroun never fails to impress with her unique creations – in equal parts soulful and gritty. I can’t get enough of her stirring, effervescent power, and I’m excited to hear what she has in store for us in 2021.
Listen to Amaroun on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)

Divide and Dissolve
Formed of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, Divide and Dissolve create eerie, thunderous instrumentals designed to rouse their listener’s state of awareness into questioning what it means to be truly free. I was thrilled to see the duo were back releasing new music this year and that their new album Gas Lit – the follow up to 2018’s Abomination – will be released in January 2021. With their dense and intriguing sounds, Divide and Dissolve are instrumental activists who seek to disrupt toxic white supremacy, reclaim indigenous rights and invite others to join their fight. Their elegant, doomy battle cries will be the perfect soundtrack to 2021.
Listen to Divide and Dissolve on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Nuha Ruby Ra
With her diverse range of influences, background in art and satire, and the unique style of both her fashion choices and music videos, Nuha Ruby Ra feels at once a familiar composite of acts from the darker end of alt-pop, and something completely fresh. With two singles released earlier this year, Ra has recently dropped what looks to be a breakthrough. ‘Sparky’ is a tale of escapades in a post-punk, dark synth-pop style, the track is her first release on her new label, Brace Yourself Records, and is taken from the forthcoming EP, How to Move. Ra has been a burgeoning, if slightly less prominent artist for sometime, having appeared on stage with a number of indie favourites, including Warmduscher, but the spotlight seems to suit her perfectly. With her latest release having got radio airplay almost from the minute it was released, and a string of tour dates already planned for live return, don’t be surprised to see Nuha Ruby Ra’s name up in lights in 2021.
Listen to Nuha Ruby Ra on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(John McGovern: Contributor)

KIN
Having first charmed our ears when they played their second ever gig for us at The Finsbury back in January 2019, London trio KIN are already receiving plenty of acclaim for their euphoric alt-pop sounds. As evidenced by receiving over 70,000 streams on Spotify for recent bewitching single ‘Sharing Light’ (and nearly that many for other singles ‘L.O.V.E’ and ‘Wander & Lost’), they seem to be quickly rising to success; their alluring majesty providing a soothingly cathartic listen for fans of all genres. Consisting of Grace, Ritu and Adam, KIN have already completely stolen our hearts, both with their exquisite celestial soundscapes and their unwavering dedication to consistently championing fellow females in the industry. I cannot wait to hear more from them in 2021, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in my excitement!
Listen to Kin on Spotify now.
(ML)

ZAND
Self-proclaimed “ugly pop” star ZAND creates delightfully wicked tunes that take down slut-shamers and whorephobes, whilst revelling in the joyful feeling of not fitting the mould. The Blackpool-based artist has cultivated a defiant sound and image for themselves, mixing their sweet vocals with savage rap verses laid across warped and wonderful electronics. They’ve got a lot to say and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021.
Listen to Zand on Spotify now.(KC)

King Hannah
Although I did feature King Hannah as One To Watch last year too, I think it’s completely necessary to include them again. Not only does 2020 not really count anyway, but I think it’s fair to say that, with the immediate success of their recently released debut EP Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine and signing to City Slang Records (also home to Noga Erez, Lampchop and Laura Gibson), King Hannah are now on the cusp of something very, very exciting… I first fell in love with the Liverpool band (thanks to our writer, John!) on hearing their debut single ‘Crème Brûlée’ (which now has over 60,000 streams on Spotify) back in 2019 – its sweeping, ethereal power and majestic musicality completely casting me under its spell on first listen. And now the entirety of the EP remains utterly compelling; with shades of the likes of War On Drugs propelled by the unique melancholic splendour of Hannah Merrick’s vocals, it’s an emotion strewn listen, oozing a stirring, bewitching allure.
Listen to King Hannah on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)

CIRCE
London-based dark-pop artist CIRCE had me under her spell from the moment I read that her track ‘Ten Girls’ was inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Her debut EP She’s Made Of Saints is a majestic blend of her bittersweet vocals, cinematic electronics, her feminist awakenings and obsession with the dark side of LA glamour, epitomised by tracks like ‘Dancer’ on which she explores the dangerous allure of Californian cult The Source Family. She’s crafted this mysterious, David Lynch inspired image that fits her sound perfectly too.
Listen to Circe on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Ailbhe Reddy
Ireland-based artist Ailbhe Reddy made her debut appearance on the indie circuit in 2016. However, it was 2018’s beautifully poignant single ‘Shame’ which introduced me to Reddy’s sharp songwriting. Having completed the checklist of performing at various UK festivals, Ailbhe Reddy was poised to make the leap across the pond with a slot at SXSW festival before 2020 pressed pause on the live music industry. Despite the setback, Ailbhe Reddy provided the soundtrack of my lockdown 2.0 with her debut album Personal History. An introspective snapshot of everyday emotional turmoils, coupled with a polished production, Personal History is Ailbhe Reddy’s armour to march back into the live music scene in 2021.
Listen to Ailbhe Reddy on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(Nicky Lee-Delisle: Contributor)

New Pagans
Another Irish Jam find! Belfast-based New Pagans’ debut EP Glacial Erratic is an impressive collection of urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history and gender roles. The band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge and indie rock and transform them into beautifully melodic noise, and this is epitomised on ‘Yellow Room’, the single they released shortly after their EP. They’re currently working on a full length record, so fingers crossed they’ll be able to share that with us in 2021.
Listen to New Pagans on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Fräulein
Having only come across Fräulein earlier this year, through seeing them perform a stripped back ‘live’ set for Hanni from ARXX’s Coming Out Staying In festival back in April, I’m already a big fan of the duo’s raw, visceral sound. Oozing a captivating dark energy, this year’s singles ‘Drag Behind’ and ‘Mary’ are propelled by the gritty power of Joni’s raw sweeping vocals, as abrasive, grunge-infused hooks steadily build an increasing tension with the help of Karsten’s immense beats. With shades of the mysterious allure of underrated ’90s band Slint, Fräulein offer a unique, spellbinding majesty. A new favourite, in ‘normal’ times, I’d be booking Fräulein for a gig with us at The Finsbury as soon as possible, but for now I will have to settle for listening to ‘Drag Behind’ on repeat, and dreaming of the day I can witness their dark energy live in a room full of sweaty fans.
Listen to Fräulein on bandcamp now. (ML)