FIVE FAVOURITES: Ren (Petrol Girls)

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Ren, frontwoman of the brilliant Petrol Girls, to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have kept her going whilst she’s been busy fighting & fundraising for a defamation case against a man in music industry for statements she made concerning his treatment of women.

Ren has written an intro to her favourite tracks, and we urge you to donate to the Solidarity Not Silence campaign – whether it’s £1 or £100 – every penny counts!

Ren: I’ve picked five tracks by artists that I really respect for the way that they’ve handled the issue of sexual abuse within the music industry. Many of them also faced defamation cases very similar to the one we are currently fighting as Solidarity Not Silence. We are still trying desperately to cover our legal costs and appreciate any donations that people can give, or awareness that people can raise of our crowd funding campaign

We are determined to win this case because the use of defamation law to silence survivors and their allies is yet another deeply unjust part of a legal system that is utterly stacked against survivors. In the wake of #MeToo this is more important than ever.

1. The Tuts – ‘Tut Tut Tut’
The Tuts are the other band involved in Solidarity Not Silence. During 2016 both bands spoke out about the behaviour of the man that is suing us, in solidarity with the survivors that we were aware of at the time. We received the first letters from his lawyers just before Christmas that year, and have been fighting it ever since!

I have so much respect for how outspoken the Tuts are about inter-sectional feminist issues and left politics more broadly, and super grateful for the huge amount of hard work they’ve done during this legal case, including organising a huge benefit gig at the end of last year! I’m so proud of all of us for how well we’ve been able to work together and support each other through this.

2. Taylor Swift – ‘Shake it Off’
I remember sticking on 1989 and leaping around the room when I heard about Taylor winning her case against David Mueller. She alleged that he groped her whilst they posed for a picture and consequently got him fired from his job. He then tried to sue her but she counter sued for a symbolic $1 and won following an incredible testimony in court, where she refused to take any bullshit: “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is in any way my fault, because it isn’t.”

3. Alice Glass – ‘Cease and Desist’
Alice Glass left Crystal Castles in 2014 but as #MeToo gathered momentum she gained the confidence to speak up about her reasons why. In a post on her website she described horrific and sustained sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her former bandmate Ethan Kath. He then sued her for defamation but the case was dismissed in February 2018. When he appealed it in May 2018, he was ordered to pay Glass almost $21,000 in legal fees.

4. Venom Prison – ‘Immanentize Eschaton’
Vocalist Larissa Stupar wrote a public statement in support of survivors that spoke out about her former bandmates in Wolf Down. In her post she detailed some of her own experiences and ended with: “Enough is enough. I stand with the victims.”

5. Kesha – ‘Praying’
Kesha’s legal case against her former producer Dr Luke and record label Sony has been long, drawn out and bitterly unfair. It was overseen by a Judge that is married to a partner in Sony’s legal firm. Somehow Kesha pulled herself back to her feet and was able to release some hard hitting new music including ‘Praying’, which came out in the summer of 2017, just before #MeToo started gaining momentum.

Huge thanks to Ren for sharing her favourites with us. Follow Petrol Girls and Solidarity Not Silence on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: TWEN

Nashville-via-Boston duo Twen are gearing up to support Seattle rockers TacoCat tomorrow night at Hackney’s Moth Club (29th Aug), and we’re convinced their celestial, angular sounds will impress their London crowd. Comprised of Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones, Twen came to life over the space of two years as the duo toured the Boston DIY punk scene. Now, they’re getting ready to share their debut album Awestruck, which is set for release on 20th September via Frenchkiss.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Jane to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to Twen’s track ‘Baptism’ at the end of this post.

1. Central Heating – Heatwave
This is a classic that has stayed with me since I was 14. Before streaming, I would check out CDs at the library and rip them into my iTunes library. I found Heatwave while trying to listen to every funk/disco band I could find (thinking I could somehow listen to the whole genre). This whole album has a playfulness that packs some serious joy. The title track is the star of the show; the vocals are so strangely melodic but carry major rhythmic weight. I just love the concept of making people groove out with a vocal melody rather than the beat. Also the most silly and beautiful intro and outro I have yet encountered. James Guthrie (of Pink Floyd The Wall fame) produced this album, which I don’t really care about but something to note.

2. Bibio – À tout à l’heure 
I put this song on a mixed CD I made for Ian when we were sophomores in college. We would make so many mixes for each other, a different type of language than our early awkward convos. I would meticulously decorate them with sharpies and would spend hours deciding how to make the perfect “flow”. This was a song I found out he loved too, and he even knew how to play them to my amazement. The beyond beautiful and intricate finger-picking is so delicate but this song is a BANGER. The beat and funky bass line pair perfect with the acoustic layers and nonsensical lyrics (“À tout à l’heure”, French for “see you later”). There is such emotional and hypnotic value to this song, without making logical sense of it. Bibio still and always will have the best production sounds on the block, mixing analog and digital to make more of a sound tapestry than just a mere song.

3. Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Los Vegas
I found out about Cocteau Twins through my friend Matt, who DJ’d a college radio show called “Folk U” with me for two years. We had inherited the show and both slowly started to move out of the genre till Death Grips was playing. He played ‘Cherry-colored Funk’ and I nearly lost my damn mind, I had never heard anything so perfect. I read once that Elizabeth Fraser’s voice was ‘the voice of God’ and I don’t dispute it. Her ingenious melodies put me in a trance and make me feel like I’m understanding something outside words. Also, I have sweet memories with this album since it was one of the few albums I brought with me on an iPod on a trip to Iceland. I had gone by myself after college to camp 10 days in June when it’s daylight 22 hours a day (the only way I felt safe to camp by myself). I brought an old ass iPod that only had room for a few albums and this one of them. So, I listened the shit out of it while looking at the insane Icelandic landscape and I still love it.

4. Lijadu Sisters – Horizon Unlimited 
I had first heard the Lijadu sisters while working in a vegetarian restaurant in St. Louis, where I’m from. I had just moved back home for a quick quarter-life crisis. The owner and chef, Bay would sometimes make the playlists for the restaurant and loved blasting Lijadu Sisters. Being surrounded by an inspiring woman with a fountain of culinary creativity and listening to this album most days made a hard time a little less unbearable. The power of music. The beats and melodic riffs will make any day great and the two sisters feel exponentially BIG singing in unison. I really enjoy listening to music in different languages, it makes me notice the melodies better and the variety of vocal sounds possible that aren’t even used in English.

5. Mercyful Fate – Melissa 
I’m not super metal literate, but Mercyful Fate is THE metal band in my little world. On a tour probably a year ago (I only remember it was cold outside, they all start to blend together) a sound guy played this in the venue after the lights went on, probably to make everyone leave. A classic move. It made me want to STAY and to find out everything. Better known as King Diamond, this was his first band and Melissa is their first album. The vocal range is inhuman and the diversity of sounds that merely one person can make is an inspiration. Also I was raised Catholic, so hearing about covens and satanic rituals brings me a twisted joy.

Thanks to Jane for sharing their five favourites with us! Follow TWEN on Facebook for more updates.

Photo credit: Alexa Viscius

FIVE FAVOURITES: Velvet Volume

Sibling trio Velvet Volume have turned a DIY attitude and the power of sisterhood in to riotous sounds reminiscent of Veruca Salt, The Donnas and Sleater-Kinney. Comprised of twins Noa (guitar) and Naomi (bass), drummer sister Nataja, the Denmark-based band released their debut album Look Look Look! back in 2017 to crticial acclaim in their homeland, and are set to re-release the record via Nettwerk internationally. 

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is to ask them what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with the Velvet Volume sisters to ask them about their “Five Favourites” – five songs which have influenced their songwriting techniques. Check out their choices below, and make sure you watch the video for their track ‘Pretty In Black’ at the end of this post.

Last Shadow Puppets – ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You’
Nataja:​ I always get very emotional when I hear this song. I almost always play it when we sit in the tour-bus, it sets the mood when we have been driving through Switzerland. The composition of this song is absolutely perfect, and I adore the way they manage to use such romantic strings alongside such extreme western guitar sounds. I don’t think that anybody can pull off such a sound, mixing so many different moods and genres together. Which is why I have so much respect for their songwriting skills, and I always try to pull it into our own songwriting process.

Grace Jones – ‘Walking In The Rain’
Noa: Grace Jones is one of the most important artists in my development as an artist. I remember watching her for the first time on Vh1, performing ‘walking in the rain’, wearing a dark suit illuminated by a spotlight. I was so persuaded by her energy and character and how she almost appeared like an alien-like creature. She had so much power and confidence that it almost confused her audience. I had never seen a female artist like that before! And then I just really started digging her whole career as a musical artist, actor, and model.

David Bowie – ‘Starman’
Nataja: Again, a professor in brilliant songwriting. Starman is one of my all-time favorite songs, mostly because it has the best chorus ever written… Period. In general, we actually have a saying, that comes from some of the more “epic” Bowie songs which we call “higher than life – feeling”. Especially on songs like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Space Oddity’. It’s the very emotional and sad but at the same time, happy and uplifting feeling you get when you listen to it. It’s is the “everything is sad right now, but it’s gonna be alright” – feeling, hahah… if you don’t get it, then just listen to the songs, and the feeling you get is THE “higher than life – feeling”. And it’s something we’re trying to incorporate into some of our own songs. It could be cool to give people that same feeling by listening to our songs.

The White Stripes – ‘Blue Orchid’
Naomi: I remember when my father played The White Stripes for me as a little kid, and I immediately fell in love with the energy and the power of just two instruments. It blew my mind! It was a huge inspiration for me. To experience how you can make two instruments sound like many, and make the music sound big, but yet minimalistic at the same time! I loved Jacks simple and powerful riffs like this one in Blue Orchid, and I definitely wanted to write riffs like that as well!

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – ‘Some Velvet Morning’
Noa: okay the whole album is just a true masterpiece. But especially this song. It really captures the thing I love the most about the album. The very romantic and dreamy/dramatic vibe, in the lyrics and the grandeur compositions, – and then the very traditional female/masculine dividing in the melody and the responding/conversation between them, which we use a lot in our own songs. I really like to use both the masculine and feminine side, which kind of symbolizes the fact that we all carry both around in oneself, and we use it in both singing and playing our instruments!

Thanks to Velvet Volume for sharing their favourite songs with us! Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Daniel Aude

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Five Favourites: Grawl!x

Having previously received acclaim for their previous three albums, including last year’s Appendix, Derby-based Grawl!x, aka James Machin, has now shared their bewitching new single, ahead of playing at Indietracks festival later this month.

A collaboration with Umbilica’s Jo Lewis, ‘Epicene’ is a soaring, cinematic soundscape exploring discussions of gender, sexuality, feminism and the role of allies. Flowing with twinkling electronic hooks and spellbinding harmonies, it’ll send shivers down the spine, oozing its poignant, sweeping emotion. Of the track, Machin explains: “… [gender] is an issue I’ve wanted to explore in a musical dialogue for quite some time. It’s quite alarming when you realise how great the gender disparity is and how our culture is divided in binary terms.”

We think one of the best ways to get to know a new artist is by asking them what music inspired them to write in the first place, so we caught up with James to talk about their ‘Five Favourites’. Identifying as non-binary, they have recently started performing as ))Maria(( too, and so has chosen five inspiring tracks that reference or subvert gender in some way. Check out their choices below, and watch the new video for ‘Epicene’ at the end of this post.

Anna Meredith – ‘Varmints’
In life, one is rarely afforded the opportunity to have a proper “WHAT
THE F**K AM I LISTENING TOO?!!” moment, but this was definitely one of them. A DJ friend of mine Russell played this at a local bar called Sudz &
Soda, and I was just blown away. It has such a majestic, foreboding
quality. Even when the beat drops, you don’t quite know whether to Dirty
Wine Squat or crumple into a husk of tears. Strictly speaking, I don’t
think it’s about gender but given the lack of vox, it could be! This definitely inspired our song ‘Epicene’. Meredith is an incredible composer
who never fails to make me feel like a backwards country bumpkin’
creatively speaking.

Princess Nokia – ‘Tomboy’
What a banger!! I asked my pal Ruth Hindle (who did the artwork for
‘Epicene’ as it happens) what the kids were listening too. She said she
didn’t know, but gave a lovely list of grime & trap tracks she likes. I
love this track so much. Princess Nokia just seems like such a strong role model.
Apart from embracing that age old gender stereotype with thoughtful
lyrics; she does it such aplomb and fun, it’s impossible to resist.
Although, dancing to this, a person of my age tends to
silence my desire to yell “my little titties & my fat belly” at the top
of my lungs. Awkward!!

Michelle Gurevich – ‘I’ll Be Your Woman’
ANOTHER friend of mine turned me onto this. Come to think of it, all my
friends tend to have pretty great taste! Gave me some proper Lynchian
chills. This song is just sooooo sultry, and the imagery masterfully plays with
gender assumptions, albeit in a slightly off-kilter kinda way. Her voice
is super androgynous too and, being non-binary I just love the both-ness of
it all. Top job Chinawoman!!

Charli XCX – ‘Boys’
Considering how crazy popular she is, it’s probably somewhat unnecessary
for me to help out, but I just love this song so much! Despite being everywhere, I missed it when it first came out then found the video on YouTube and had to rewatch it several dozen times. Once I got over how fun and lovely and
saucy it is, I then realised how clever and sparse the composition was with the 8bit business at work. Really amazing production. BANGER!!! And, although in the context of this list, it doesn’t so obviously subvert gender (the title clearly defines that), the idea of kinda objectifying men is done really well, and switches things around a bit.

SOPHIE – ‘Infatuation’
Speaking of amazing production, here is someone who again is properly
taking electronic music to a new level. By virtue of her current status,
I think she is helping change folks’ perceptions about gender. I could
have picked any off the record but this track is my favourite, mainly because
of the opening chords. Quite melancholy – what I’m a sucker for. It takes
you on a proper sonic traverse somewhere horrifically pretty. YAYAY!!!

Massive thanks to James for discussing their Five Favourites with us!

‘Epicene’ is out 19th July via Reckless Yes. Watch the new video here: