Five Favourites & Video Premiere: Piney Gir – ‘The Seventh Dial’

Following acclaim for her otherworldly latest EP Alchemy Hand, and having recently shared stages with the likes of Gaz Coombes and Noel Gallagher, London based artist and self-proclaimed witch Piney Gir has now shared a magical new video for latest single ‘The Seventh Dial‘.

Having always been a little witchy, rebelling against her super strict Christian-Kansas upbringing – finding comfort in nature, connecting with creative souls and sensing different energies – she has only recently publicly defined herself as ‘a witch’. And what better way to celebrate this than to share a mystical new video. Floating with a lilting energy and resplendent grace, ‘The Seventh Dial’ oozes a majestic effervescent splendour and colourful ethereal aura as Piney’s honey-sweet vocals flow with a swirling psychedelic allure. A bewitching offering that’ll draw you into the soothing, sparking majesty of Piney Gir’s world.

To celebrate the release of ‘The Seventh Dial’, we spoke to Piney about her Five Favourites – five songs that have inspired this release the most; the witchiest tunes that she relates to and have influenced her on her magical journey. Read about her choices below and make sure you watch the beautiful new video for ‘The Seventh Dial‘ at the bottom of this feature!

This Is The Kit – ‘Moonshine Freeze’
I love this song, firstly because it has that kind of magical-mystical groove thing moving throughout the track that just keeps going like a perpetual-musical rolling-river. Lyrically she talks about the cycle of three, which is literally a reference to Neopaganism; she talks about natural order which appeals to my inner green witch. This Is The Kit will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first gig I saw after all the Covid lockdowns. It was a show at the Barbican and masks were mandatory, only every 3rd seat was full – it was certainly a ’new normal’ at that point… It was such an emotional show, and they were the perfect band to see for that moment, my gateway back into live music. I may have had a little happy cry.

 Nina Simone – ‘I Put A Spell On You’
Nina Simone puts a spin on this classic blues song originally by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with lush string orchestration reminiscent of Gerswhin. She smooths out the track with her bewitching, jazz-piano skills, and her voice preserves the raw energy of the original version – it has a gritty, almost other-wordly quality to it! Nina Simone walked among us, but she was not one of us, she was like a voodoo high priestess on another dimension channelling her magic that sometimes feels a little bit dangerous. 

Kate Bush – ‘Cloudbusting’
When I was a kid I used to pretend to make a witch’s potion in the garden – I’d get the biggest pot I could find and fill it with flowers and leaves, berries and twigs. I’d stir the pot and say “Drink the brew… he he he…” in my witchiest voice… One thing I used to fantasise about was having the ability to change the weather – I wanted so badly to unleash sunlight on the grey days. It’s in this song that Kate Bush fantasises about the same thing, and in this video she’s a child too! This song makes me feel more connected to her and also connected to that happy memory as a carefree witchling trying to change the weather! These lyrics say it all and I believe this to be true: “I just know that something good is gonna happen… but just saying it could even make it happen.”

Aldous Harding – ‘The Barrel’
There’s something kind of otherworldly about Aldous Harding and this song summarises her off-kilter, elegant style perfectly. Her lyrics are like poetry, so I’m not entirely sure what she’s on about, but the great thing about poetic lyrics is that they can mean whatever you want them to mean. For me, Aldous represents an outsider, and back in the day she would have definitely been burnt at the stake in Salem along with me and all my friends (she’s dressed like a Salem witch in this video!). Perhaps that scar in our matriarchal history is not something to celebrate, but it’s important that we don’t forget the suffering of the women that paved the way for women today, and it’s songs like this one that helps me find a way to honour our herstory.

The Warlocks – ‘Song For Nico’
As a believer in equal opportunity, I thought it might be nice to celebrate our brothers from another mother – The Warlocks – because not all witches identify as female, and not all warlocks are male – it’s not really about gender, it’s about equality. This song celebrates Nico, goddess of The Velvet Underground, and is a deep cut from The Warlocks second album Rise and Fall. It came out a long time ago now, but the psych-rock, reverb-drenched guitars sound timeless; Nico will always be a will-o’-the-wisp for me, and apparently she inspired The Warlocks too!

Massive thanks to Piney Gir for sharing her witchy Five Favourites with us! Watch the beautiful new video for ‘The Seventh Dial’ below:

Alchemy Hand, the latest EP from Piney Gir, is out now via Reckless Yes.

Five Favourites: Dyan Valdés

Having been involved in the music industry for twenty years, Berlin-based Cuban-American artist Dyan Valdés has played in esteemed bands such as The Blood Arm and Die Sterne, and has just released her poignant debut album, Stand. Written at home during lockdown and made with an exclusively all female team, the album offers immersive reflections on both political and personal issues. Fusing together a post-punk ethos with delicately shimmering soundscapes, the album flows with gritty layers of synth and driving beats alongside Valdés’ luscious vocals – a truly stirring collection.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them. So, to celebrate the release of her new album, we caught up with Dyan Valdés to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that she loves and have inspired her sound. Check out their choices below and scroll down to watch the video for latest single ‘Irregular’.

Bratmobile – ‘I’m in the Band’

I came of age in the ‘90s, when Riot Grrrl was at its height. As an adolescent and young teenager, I suddenly started seeing girls on stage, being loud and taking up space – it was hugely formative for me. After the pendulum swung back in the other direction and hyper-masculine music started to take over the mainstream again, it was too late…I already knew what we were capable of! So it was a huge honour when I got to interview Bratmobile singer and Riot Grrrl co-founder Allison Wolfe in 2020 on my old radio show, The Mexican Radio Radio Show on KCRW Berlin. During our chat, she talked about writing lyrics that connect the personal and political, about having the courage to present herself and her opinions exactly how she wanted to, and about how meaningful it was to work with an exclusively female team on the festival she co-founded, Ladyfest. Our conversation lit a fire under me, both in terms of what kind of music I wanted to make and how I wanted to make it. Inspired by her, I chose to work with a team of women at every level of my project – production, management, promotion, artwork, video, and so on.

Bratmobile have a great back catalogue, but I chose this song because it speaks out against a music industry that implicitly and explicitly tells women that we don’t belong here, which is something Allison and I talked about in our interview. I love how playful the song is, you want to dance and sing along to it – it’s not easy to make a protest song that is so much fun, I hope I was able to do it on my record once or twice too!

Kate Bush – ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ 

‘Running Up That Hill’ is one of my all-time favourite songs, it’s undeniable. Almost every moment of every track of that recording is a hook – the production is incredible. Her performance is so unique and 100% her, you get the feeling that she wasn’t holding anything back. I listen to this song a lot anyway in normal times, but I thought about it a lot from a songwriting perspective when I was working on my record. I was worried that if I allowed too much emotion to come through the songs, the end result would somehow be cheesy. Kate Bush was able to walk that line perfectly – this song is emotional, honest and deeply moving without ever coming across as trite. I also found the music very inspiring. I played everything on my album myself, and since I’m trained as a pianist, it was natural for me to gravitate towards a keyboard- and synth-heavy sound with beats that I either programmed or played myself on a keyboard. Naturally, that made me move towards an ‘80s sound, not only because I loved the style but because I could play it with the instruments I had! This song was an important sonic reference for the album, and I love her beautiful and powerful vocal performance.

Peaches – ‘Fuck the Pain Away’

Peaches is an incredible artist and performer. She also lives in Berlin, and I’ve been fortunate to see her perform in both small and very large-scale settings. She is always bold, unapologetic and in-your-face in a way that is somehow not intimidating at all, but rather inviting and cathartic. Her presence is always commanding, whether she is in a lo-fi stripped-down setting (like in the context of the simplicity of this song) or surrounded by dozens of dancers and musicians on a massive stage. I love her message that everyone – regardless of gender, sexuality, size, age or whatever – has a right to be loud and proud about who they are and who they want to be. I also find her career trajectory really inspiring – she is constantly pushing new boundaries in her work and refusing to be shuffled off to irrelevance. She’s running a marathon, not a sprint, and as a woman working as a professional musician for 20 years now, I really appreciate seeing other women with longevity.

I brought Peaches’ music in as a reference to my producer Julia Borelli. Little did I know, Julia was also working with the musician/producer Maya Postepski (Princess Century), who plays drums live for Peaches. We brought Maya on board to co-produce the album, so I’d like to think that there is some Peaches magic on the recording. Maya will also be playing drums with me when I play live, so Peaches and I will be sharing a drummer. What an honour!

Tracy Chapman – ‘Fast Car’

This is another one of my all-time favourite songs, which I can listen to on repeat every day and never get sick of. The music and melodies are simple and beautiful, and are so effective at making the lyrics feel like a thumb pressing on a bruise on your heart. Tracy tells a sad story in such detail – I think oftentimes songwriters try to abstract their experiences in order to appeal to a broader audience. But what Tracy does brilliantly is make a very singular story feel universal, which I think is only made possible by telling a story that is true and specific, with extreme honesty and vulnerability. I struggled a lot with writing about painful past experiences on my record, I didn’t know whether they would resonate with other people or whether I would even have the strength to open up about them at all. ‘Fast Car’ was like a light guiding me down that path, showing me a way to tell stories that might hurt but that could ultimately end with a hopeful message, like Tracy’s song does.

We recorded my album at a studio on the Spree River in Berlin, and took breaks sitting by the water and watching the sun set. There was a busker on the other side of the river who played ‘Fast Car’ every day, sometimes more than once. My producers, Julia and Maya, and I developed a really emotionally close bond during the recording process – something I’ve not experienced before when working on a record. Whenever the busker played this song, we just sat together and listened closely, smiling at each other and feeling all the feels. I like to think we carried that energy from ‘Fast Car’ back into the studio with us.

Fleetwood Mac – ‘Landslide’

I listened to a lot of Stevie Nicks when writing this record, in particular her solo songs ‘Stand Back’ and ‘Edge of Seventeen’, which had a musical vibe that I really wanted to incorporate into my sound. I love her strength as a singer and how powerful those songs make me feel. But ‘Landslide’ ended up having the most direct effect on the recording.

We were struggling with getting the right vocals for my song ‘Fade Away’- I kept delivering a more powerful vocal performance, and my producers Julia and Maya wanted something more vulnerable from me. We took a break for a long lunch and talked about the meaning of the song: it is about looking around you and having the courage to say “this isn’t good enough,” about realising that you are trapped yet having hope that things will change. We came back and then dimmed the lights in the studio and did a guided meditation together, watched a video of ‘Landslide’ (at their suggestion, they didn’t know I had a personal connection to the song: this was my parents’ wedding song that I had previously recorded a cover of with my dad). Julia asked me if I thought that Stevie sounded vulnerable, and I said yes, of course. Then she asked if I thought she sounded weak, to which I replied, absolutely not! “See?” she said, “there’s strength in softness.” With the lights still low, she had me close my eyes and do the lead vocal again, in one single take. When I got to the end of the song, Maya’s face was covered in tears. That was the take that we used on the album. ‘Fade Away’, the ‘Landslide’ version!

Massive thanks to Dyan Valdés for sharing her Five Favourites with us!

Stand, the new debut solo album from Dyan Valdés is out now, via R.I.P Ben Lee Records.

Track Of The Day: Tall Poppies – ‘Big Shake’

A playful reflection inspired by a walk of shame and the ‘me too’ movement, Tall Poppies are back with new single ‘Big Shake’. The danceable track is filled with jangly guitars, catchy vocal lines and oozes a nostalgia as it captures the fun sounds of ’80s pop music.

Tall Poppies can be grouped along with artists such as Belle and Sebastian and Kate Bush. The London-based band, fronted by twin sisters Susan and Catherine who are originally from Australia, are back with their first new music since 2019 and it’s as dreamy and fresh as we could have wished for. The self-produced and self-mixed alternative surf-pop song glistens with a slick shimmering allure.

The track is filled with the energy and excitement of a revelation followed by a big release; the violin and guitar play in conversation and burst out in a vibrant joyous expression. Shades of Pulp come through in the buoyant string melodies and catchy vocal hooks, which are beautifully airy as both Susan and Catherine sing in unison accompanied by luscious harmonies and bouncy ad-libs, as the lyrics are direct and packed with witty anecdotes – “I woke up on someone else’s floor/I’m not doing this anymore”.

It really sounds as though Tall Poppies were having fun whilst recording this latest offering and this comes through in the music, making it feel refreshingly easy-going. ‘Big Shake’ is accompanied by a colourful art-pop video, made using Catherine’s art supplies and fashion design skills. Watch now:

Jaz Kelly
@surfjaz

Five Favourites: Oh Baby

Having charmed our ears with the slick sounds of their last single ‘Cruel Intention’, London-Manchester duo Oh Baby are set to release their new album Hey Genius later this month.

Consisting of Jen Devereux and Rick Hornby, the duo have now shared another taster of the forthcoming album. ‘L.I.A.R‘ flows with a swirling, euphoric haze as Devereux’s rich, sultry vocals are accompanied by a majestic, ’80s-inspired glitchy drive. An utterly captivating, truly blissful, summer anthem leaving us eager to hear the album in full.

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. So, to mark the release of Hey Genius later this month, we caught up with Jen to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have shaped her as a musician. Check out her choices below and scroll down to listen to new single ‘L.I.A.R’.

Philip Oakley & Giorgio Moroder – ‘Together In Electric Dreams’
As far back as I can remember I have had a major thing for this song and it still has the same effect on me now when listening to it that it did the first time I heard its muffled tone playing through my bedroom wall from the next door room. It made my world stop for a second. It’s melancholic but euphoric and romantic all at once, a combination I still find fascinating. Right from the first notes of the intro, I swear my heart beats a little faster wherever I am. The rising chord progression is totally addictive. The other worldly “together in electric dreams” lyric captivated me, whilst the melody underneath was lifting, the sentiment was lost lovers and missed nights together – this juxtaposition turned something on in me which has never turned off. The classic fade out where the vocal continues makes you feel like you’re being dragged away from the party early, doing its job brilliantly. For me it’s been an unfaltering musical constant, showing that perfection can exist in its own way, and this for me, is it. I guess this was my first introduction to Phil Oakey, Giorgio Moroder and electronic music in general, little did I know how important the tiny markers this song would leave on me would be. 

Cole Porter – ‘You’re The Top’
I got taken to musicals in London when I was young and I found the excitement of being inside a theatre pretty intoxicating. I suppose that, coupled with seeing the cliched ‘big city lights’ in sharp contrast to the endless grey North I mostly experienced growing up, made it all the more attractive. The smell of it, the sounds, the stage, the orchestra pit, the hum of a settling audience, the lights through darkness, I loved it. It was three hours of escapism and like a shot of liquid gold. Granted, the music written for musicals is pretty far removed from the stuff Rick and I are writing now but Cole Porter especially has a mesmerising way with words and how he marries them together – it’s a pure joy to listen to. I’m not ashamed to say I still know every word from this musical Anything Goes, but this particular song stands out. It’s totally relentless; it illustrated to me rhythm, rhyme and humour, also the art of the call and answer, how the opposites, the dark and light, are all so important in good music. He’s a clever sod. 

Madonna – ‘Borderline’
So this track evokes the smell of hot tarmac pavements and roadworks, petrol fumes, long hot summers when the back door seemed to be constantly open – carefree hanging around, freshly mown grass, back to back houses on endless streets, but most importantly being in love with a particular older girl on the street who just so happened to be obsessed with Madonna. ‘Borderline’ naturally became my soundtrack to all of the above. Her young American voice sounded so exotic, cutting into my life like a bolt of lightning. It woke me up to what I wanted on many levels; back then I had no way of knowing how I could get it, but knowing you actually do want something is a bloody good start. The sound of that bass line coupled with her high vocal riding over was so alluring and so sexy. I had no clue what it was all about but as a result of that feeling it gave me, I was and still remain totally hooked. 

Kate Bush – ‘Running Up That Hill’  
A huge amount of what intrigues me and makes me feel something, also scares me. Strong women, whilst being totally inspiring, also scared me half to death, and Kate Bush was no exception. Watching her red lips and masses of dark hair and her untouchable womanly persona – the strangeness of this music video too – I found it wonderfully terrifying. I liken it to sitting through a horror film with your eyes closed and fingers in your ears, you don’t want to see or hear it but you can’t switch it off as there’s a part of the whole experience that is totally thrilling. This track is the one that is just too damn good. I’m not a massive fan of the over used label ‘genius’, but I think this track certainly warrants the word to be close by. As soon as I hear the first beat it’s slightly overwhelming to be honest. The drums, that lyric, those sounds she’s recorded using a bloody Fairlight. Oh bugger it, it’s genius. Now, she really is a clever sod. 

The Police – ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’
My older brother had a house party – I’m seven years younger, so this for me was brilliant. For a lot of his friends it was their first proper party they’d have been to with girls and boys and music and stolen alcohol, so that electric young teenage excitement was palpable. I felt and heard it all through the floorboards of my bedroom and I totally soaked it up. They played The Police Greatest Hits – loud. I didn’t sleep, I just listened – I can’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old. I asked some of the older kids about the music they’d been playing the next morning and that was my introduction to one of the greatest bands I know. This particular song is just wonderful. Only three people, making that sound, the way he sings over that fade out outro with yet another melody – “it’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet” – what can I say. The way Copeland smacks the living daylights out of that snare, the weird piano, I mean come on. Let’s hope even a tiny amount of greatness from this possibly seeps into what we do as Oh Baby, ‘cos put this on and I. Will. Dance.

Massive thanks to Jen from Oh Baby for sharing her Five Favourites! Upcoming album Hey Genius is set for release on 23rd July via Burning Witches Records. Pre-order here and listen to new single ‘L.I.A.R’ below:

You can also catch Oh Baby live at The Lexington to celebrate their album release on 23rd July. Tickets here.

Photo Credit: Karen Hornby