PLAYLIST: May 2021

The GIHE team have unearthed some more new music gems for you to listen to on our May Playlist! There’s an eclectic mix of indie tunes, dark-pop gems, electronic bangers and gritty guitar tracks. Take some time to scroll through our track choices below and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post.

Follow GIHE on Spotify to hear all of our previous playlists too.

Solidarity Not Silence – ‘This Is Sisterhood’
With members of The Tuts, Petrol Girls, Personal Best and Colour Me Wednesday collaborating, as well as a snippet of the legendary Kathleen Hanna speaking about the cause, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ sees members of the DIY feminist music community come together to raise funds for the legal costs of a group of women who are fighting a defamation claim made against them. A truly impassioned and empowering creation, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ is a totally necessary call to arms; a plea to unite in solidarity against the patriarchal norms seeking to hold us down. Find out more about the cause and how to donate here.
(Mari Lane)

LOUD WOMEN – ‘Reclaim These Streets’
LOUD WOMEN’s ‘Reclaim These Streets’ is an uncompromising feminist anthem that centers women’s experiences of harassment and fears for their safety in public spheres. The idea for the collaborative charity single was sparked by the conversations around the deaths of Blessing Olusegun and Sarah Everard, which prompted LOUD WOMEN’s founder Cassie Fox to invite a collective of female and non-binary musicians to rage alongside her on this vital musical statement. The track features over 60 female voices from the independent & alternative UK music scenes and all proceeds from the track will be donated to UK charity Women’s Aid.
(Kate Crudgington)

Deep Tan – ‘Hollow Scene’
Following their uplifting last single ‘camelot’, Hackney-based trio deep tan have now shared another stirring taste of what’s to come from their upcoming debut EP. Propelled by glitchy beats and twinkling hooks, ‘hollow scene’ captivates the ears with the vocals’ compelling seductive allure. (ML)

Krush Puppies – ‘Slay The Dragon’
Establishing themselves on the London scene for a few years now, Krush Puppies’ latest offering comes in the form of the medieval-inspired ‘Slay The Dragon’. A poignant reflection about “transcending the monsters we’ve all had to endure”, the track builds with a gritty, swirling energy and a raw, haunting majesty reminiscent of fellow London post-punkers Goat Girl. (ML)

CIRCE – ‘Going Down’
I’ve been obsessed with London-based, dark-pop sensation Circe since the release of her debut EP, She’s Made Of Saints, last year. This new offering is all about celebrating female sexuality and embracing the head-rush that comes with a new romantic infatuation. (KC)

Girl Ray – ‘Give Me Your Love’
The new single from total faves Girl Ray, ‘Give Me Your Love’ is filled with funk-fuelled beats and swirling synths, alongside the distinctive soothing allure of Poppy’s vocals. Produced and mixed by Joe Goddard and Al Doyle from Hot Chip, the track offers a more electro-driven sound than previous releases, whilst maintaining the band’s knack for creating lilting sonic delights, fizzing with plenty of vibrant, uplifting vibes and even some twinkling steel pans. Watch the new video for ‘Give Me Your Love’ here. (ML)

Ladyhawke – ‘Mixed Emotions’
This fab new single is taken from Ladyhawke’s upcoming album Time Flies, which is set for release on 8th October. It’s a buoyant exploration of the turbulent feelings you can experience with one person, sometimes over the course of a single day. (KC)

Mumble Tide – ‘Sucker’
Formed of Gina Leonard and Ryan Rogers, Bristol-based Mumble Tide originally met through a Gumtree ad and everything they create is entirely self-produced, including their own videos and artwork, proving that all you need is good company and a comfortable atmosphere to make meaningful art. (KC)

Talking Violet – ‘Superego’
The latest single from Ontario band Talking Violet, ‘Superego’ captivates the ears with its shimmering, shoegaze-inspired allure. Tackling unhealthy friendships, it flows with a brooding splendour as reverb-strewn riffs sizzle alongside dreamy harmonies, building to a perfectly scuzzy, angst-driven climax. (ML)

CIEL – ‘Never Alone’
I love this new offering from Brighton dream-pop trio CIEL. Front-woman Michelle Hindriks penned the song about her own feelings of anxiety and isolation, which will strike a chord with many of us in this post-lockdown world. (KC)

MAITA – ‘Dumb’ (Nirvana Cover)
One of my favourite Nirvana songs covered by Oregan based MAITA, fronted by Maria-Maita Keppeler. This is the second cover track the band have shared as part of iconic Riot Grrrl label Kill Rock Stars 30th anniversary celebrations. Maria said she wanted to cover ‘Dumb’ because she feels like Nirvana gave her “permission for unadulterated release” back in their heyday, and that’s what she wants listeners to embrace now. (KC)

PinkFiz – ‘Pleaser’
18 year old, Cambridgeshire artist PinkFiz penned ‘Pleaser’ after feeling the unwanted pressure of trying to satisfy someone else at the expense of her own self-esteem. This track is taken from her recent EP The World Of PinkFiz, which explores her experiences as a young, bisexual woman. (KC)

Fräulein – ‘Pretty People’
Having been winning us over since we first became pretty obsessed with last year’s single ‘Drag Behind’, South London based duo, Joni Samuels and Karsten van der Tol – aka Fräulein – have now shared their first single on Practise music, ‘Pretty People’. Reflecting on the shallow world of fashion, the track builds with a captivating dark energy and visceral, grunge-infused splendour. I cannot recommend these two strongly enough; I really think they have something wonderfully nostalgic, yet ultimately unique to offer. (ML)

Alice Hubble – ‘Power Play’
Described as “the closest thing (she’s) written to a protest song”, ‘Power Play’ is London artist Alice Hubble’s response to the #MeToo movement. Flowing with a euphoric, synth-driven energy and glitchy ‘80s-inspired musicality, it flows with Hubble’s majestic soaring vocals as the lyrics offer a poignant reflection on the disparities of sexism and gender-based violence. (ML)

SPELLLING – ‘Boys At School’
Taken from her upcoming album The Turning Wheel, set for release on 25th June via Sacred Bones, SPELLLING’s latest single sees her step back into her younger teenage self and explore feelings of angst, desire and disillusionment. I can’t wait to hear the album in full. (KC)

Janette King ft. DijahSB – ‘Cool Me Down’
The latest single from Canadian artist Janette King, ‘Cool Me Down’ flows with a funk-fuelled groove as rapper DijahSB’s gritty spoken-word lyricism complements King’s luscious, soulful vocals perfectly. What We Lost, the debut album from Janette King, is set for release 25th June via Hot Tramp Records. (ML)

Alex Loveless – ‘Idk U’
I’m a big fan of everything London-based artist Alex Loveless releases and this new super chill single is no exception. (KC)

Deap Vally ft. Jennie Vee – ‘I Like Crime’
Two names that need no introduction and a track that speaks for itself! I can’t wait to hear Deap Vally’s upcoming EP American Cockroach when it’s released on 18th June. (KC)

Tokky Horror – ‘Eden On Acid’
This banger is lifted from Liverpool-London trio Tokky Horror’s debut EP, I Found The Answers And Now I Want More, released via Alcopop! Records. It’s a wild blend of drum & bass beats, dance music rhythms and punk-infused energy and their whole EP gatecrashes multiple musical genres with pure anarchic flair. (KC)

Cherym – ‘Listening To My Head’
The new single from Derry trio Cherym, ‘Listening To My Head’ is inspired by the Netflix series Dirty John. A jangling slice of punk-pop, it’s propelled by driving beats and an uplifting, empowering energy, as swirling hooks accompany luscious angst-driven honey-sweet vocals. Oozing a wonderfully fuzzy sense of nostalgia as the tongue-in-cheek wit of the lyrical storytelling and a colourful charismatic musicality flows, ‘Listening To My Head’ is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, a clench in your fist and a spring in your step in the face of cheating men everywhere. (ML)

Fightmilk – ‘Hey Annabelle’
The latest single from faves Fightmilk, ‘Hey Annabelle’ is a perfectly scuzzy ode to an ex, oozing jangling melodies and the band’s trademark anthemic power-pop energy. Of the track the band explain: “Putting the ‘angry’ in ‘Shangri-La’s’, this is arguably our pettiest song. ‘Hey Annabelle!’ is about that very specific thing you do when you’ve split up with someone and part of moving on entails just very casually asking mutuals what they’re up to and, more importantly, whether they’re also miserable.” Contender, the new album from Fightmilk, is out now via Reckless Yes. (ML)

Track Of The Day: Solidarity Not Silence – ‘This Is Sisterhood’

“Using my platform for the greater good. I stand in solidarity, this is sisterhood.

This poignant refrain sums up all that the powerful new release from Solidarity Not Silence stands for. With members of The Tuts, Petrol Girls, Personal Best and Colour Me Wednesday collaborating, as well as a snippet of the legendary Kathleen Hanna speaking about the cause, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ sees members of the DIY feminist music community come together to raise funds for the legal costs of a group of women who are fighting a defamation claim made against them.

The Solidarity Not Silence movement was started to raise money for the legal cost for this group of women, after each of them spoke up about their accuser’s alleged abuse. A number of his former partners, as well as feminist musicians who spoke out in support, including Nadia Javed of The Tuts and Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls, are facing a libel claim. Their case is immensely relevant in the aftermath of #MeToo and could affect legal precedent on how similar cases are treated by the law. 

And ‘This Is Sisterhood’ marks the perfect way to bring the case to people’s attention; as Nadia Javed explains: “… we’re musicians not lawyers. We can’t fight this case without the help of our lawyers, but what we can do, is use our skills and resources as musicians to tell our story, and build the momentum that we need to expand our fundraising campaign and keep covering our legal costs.”

A truly impassioned and empowering creation, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ is a totally necessary call to arms; a plea to unite in solidarity against the patriarchal norms seeking to hold us down. Starting with the glistening, honey-sweet vocals of Javed telling the story of Solidarity Not Silence, it builds with swirling riffs (courtesy of Katie from Personal Best) and a stirring energy to a rousing anthem.

As the poignant, spoken word from Ren (Petrol Girls) states some of the disturbing facts surrounding gender-based violence against the heartrending backdrop of a sweeping chorus of harmonic voices (all powerful voices from across the DIY punk community), we’re left to reflect on the track’s resonant sentiment – “When will the reputation of men stop being valued over our safety?”.

Propelled by an immense, stirring splendour, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ sends shivers down the spine with its emotion-filled sweeping power and urgent sentiment. An utterly necessary, and deeply cathartic, listen; a beautifully compelling way to bring attention to such a pressing issue, showcasing the true power of women and non-binary people coming together to unite and fight back against the powers that seek to control us.

Watch the emotive new video, created by Martyna Wisniewska and featuring footage of the community recording the track, for ‘This Is Sisterhood’ here:

Engineered by Simon Small and produced by Patrick James Pearson, ‘This Is Sisterhood’ is out now via Alcopop! Records.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Martyna Wisniewska

More information about Solidarity Not Silence and the defamation case:
The group of women has been fighting this case for over four years, and is desperately trying to fundraise enough money to maintain their legal representation. Since launching their crowdfunder – and again since identities were made public – they have received an extraordinary amount of support. It seems that their case resonates with many people who have had similar experiences of being silenced by someone with more power, fame or financial backing. 
However, they have now reached a crucial point in the case, where costs are escalating rapidly. Therefore, in an attempt to reach out beyond their usual networks they wrote and recorded this powerful single, which tells the compelling story of their legal battle, in 2019 and are now releasing it into the world. Their strategy in releasing the track is twofold: firstly they hope to raise money directly through digital downloads and merch sales, but ultimately the goal is to tell their story and get as much attention, and therefore donations, to their crowdfunder as possible. 

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:

Interview: Celeste Bell

With the release of the documentary Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché set for early next month, we caught up with Celeste Bell – Poly’s daughter and co-director of the film (along with Paul Sng) – to talk about the inspirations behind the film, her relationship with her mother and the sexism that still prevails in the music industry. Currently based in Barcelona, where it sounds as though things are a little less fraught than in the UK right now, Celeste seems in good spirits – looking forward to the film’s release, despite not being able to promote it in the usual face-to-face ways. 

Anglo-Somali artist and punk maverick Poly Styrene (or Marion Elliott as she was born), of the band X Ray Spex, was one of the first women of colour to lead a successful rock band, and was a truly innovative figure both in music and for women generally. Chronicling her remarkable, and often troubled, life, Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché includes never-seen-before footage of Poly throughout her life, and tells her moving story predominantly through the eyes of her daughter, Celeste. 

Discussing the inspiration to make the film, Celeste explains that it was the idea for the book Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story that came first – a collection of archives put together and written about by author Zoë Howe (Typical Girls? The Story of the Slits; Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumours) and Celeste. “The original inspiration for the book was my mother’s diary entries. She had created a retrospective look of writing the album Germ Free Adolescents – for each track she had written a short diary entry, which she planned to publish all together with the title ‘Diary Of The Seventies’…”  Sadly, Poly Styrene passed away before she was able to do this, but sharing it has always been something that Celeste has wanted to do – “… And so I decided it would be nice to match the diary entries with her artwork. She had done all the artwork for the band herself, including an amazing collection of original posters and art she’d done by hand.” That’s when Celeste decided to get in touch with Zoë Howe: “I knew Zoë as she had interviewed me for a book before (How’s Your Dad? Living In The Shadow Of A Rockstar Parent). She interviewed me for that in 2008/9 backstage at a gig at Cargo – my mum was actually there in the audience. And I just have a clear memory of Zoë being a really lovely person, and that’s why I wanted to work with her again.”

It was whilst Zoë and Celeste were working on the book that the idea for a film came about: “Zoë introduced me to Paul Sng – the co-director of I Am A Cliche – who was looking to make a music documentary, and he had asked Zoë if she had any recommendations, and she mentioned our project. And it went from there – after that first meeting, two months later we’d started our crowdfunding campaign. It was like a runaway train – things moved very quickly after that. So, the first book project was actually happening in parallel to planning the film.”

For those of you that haven’t seen the book, Dayglo really is a wonderful collection: featuring some incredible artwork by Poly, alongside some stirring insight into her personality and life through diary entries and letters, it’s not only a moving read, but a visually exciting journey. Of her mum’s artistic skill, Celeste explains: “She had never had any formal art training – she was always self taught, and just had a natural creative ability. She did go to drama clubs and performing arts when in school, that was mainly what she was into as a child. But she just seemed to have a natural gift for visual art. And not just visual art, but also fashion design – anything she put her mind to, she was good at!” 

The film Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché draws on the diary entries used in the book, as well as Celeste’s own memories, and plenty of never-seen-before footage of Poly throughout her life. “A big part of the journey of making the film was sourcing archive. This was very challenging as we obviously wanted to use as much archive from the time as possible, to bring my mum to life. There were a few sources that we had to go to and we used, for example the Arena documentary made in 1979 Who Is Poly Styrene? – there’s great footage that we used from that. There were also various other bits of my mum performing, in Top Of The Pops and things and interviews that she did at the time. There was also a great interview from ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company), so we used footage from that.” As well as sourcing this archive, Celeste and Paul were also gifted some unseen footage of Poly Styrene by the widow of her manager, who had happened to also be filmmaker and shot a lot of her and the band throughout the time they were together. “So, we had lots of different archive sources, but it was challenging in terms of finding everything that was out there and then negotiating with the various owners in terms of paying for it, except for the archive we were gifted. Gathering it all together was a big part of the journey of making the film – it probably took us a lot longer to do this than to actually shoot contemporary footage.”

Throughout the film, it is evident what a pivotal figure Poly Styrene was, and continues to be. In addition to interviews with those that knew her personally, it features various people from the industry (including Kathleen Hanna, Pauline Black, Neneh Cherry) talking about her and the impact that she has had on their lives. Celeste explains the process of choosing those who they featured in the film: “We got in touch with the people that we wanted to interview. There were three categories of people that we interviewed: People who knew my mum – so contemporaries of hers in the punk scene, for example – or musicians who had worked with her; then friends and family – people who knew her in a more intimate way; then the third category was people who didn’t necessarily know my mum, but who were inspired by her – we learnt who they were through research, they may have mentioned being fans of hers in an interview, for example.”

Going through all this footage of her mum, and hearing people talk about her so fondly, was both an emotional and cathartic process for Celeste. Throughout the film, it’s not only inspiring to hear about all the incredible steps Poly Styrene took as a woman of colour in the world of punk, but it’s particularly moving to hear Celeste talk about her mother and their relationship. It’s wonderful to hear her talk about Poly Styrene not only as the innovative figure for women in music that she remains to this day, but as a mother and a person. Of the process of gathering all the information for the film together, Celeste adds: “Looking at all the interviews together and the process of writing the script (Zoë Howe and I were writing script for the film whilst making the book) really helped me build a much clearer picture of who my mother was before I was born – this whole process of researching and discovering really enabled me to understand my mum a little better.

Alongside the interviews, throughout the film extracts from Poly Styrene’s diary are narrated by the actor Ruth Negga (Preacher, Loving, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D ). Of the decision to cast Negga as the voice of her mother, Celeste explains: “It was a really fortuitous moment – one of those moments that fate puts in your path. I met Ruth Negga on a night out in 2017 or 2018, and it was shortly after we’d started on the film project. I was in Soho with my cousin Soloman – we’d been out, and just ran into her in the street. My cousin is very outgoing and a great people-person – he just started speaking to her, and it came up about my mum. Ruth said that she was a huge fan and my mum was inspirational to her. So, we ended up spending the evening with her and we had a great time. After that night I thought to myself that Ruth would be a great person to do my mum’s voice.” Although originally the plan had been for Celeste to narrate the diary entries, she then decided that this could get confusing as you hear her voice a lot throughout the film anyway, so a different voice was needed. “Ruth is such a great actress. She is so talented, and she was able to really nail my mum’s voice. I think it was the right choice, I can’t think of anyone else who would have done it justice in the way that she did.”

It is through these diary entries and Celeste’s own memories that we gain a poignant insight into Poly Styrene’s ongoing struggle with mental health difficulties throughout her life. Eventually diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, after a previous damaging mis-diagnosis of Schizophrenia, the film charts her difficulty with being in the public eye, so often scrutinised by the media. One diary entry references her feeling that being “broke and famous was the worst of both worlds”, and we see that this feeling eventually culminated in her deciding that “Poly Styrene had to die so that Marion Elliott could survive”, bringing an end to her time in X Ray Spex. Discussing what may have triggered her mother’s breakdowns and deterioration in mental health, Celeste reflects: “The general experience of being in the public eye and having that brush with fame I think really tipped her over the edge. She was predisposed to having a mental illness – she told me that there were signs when she was very young, and she always had an understanding that there was something not quite right. But I think that if she’d never been in a band and hadn’t had that success and fame, I don’t think that it would have necessarily manifested as a full-blown disorder.” 

Throughout I Am A Cliché, Celeste also talks about her own experience of having a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the difficulties this could bring, including having to go and live with her grandmother on and off throughout her childhood. However, as is somewhat tragically highlighted in the film, her and her mother’s relationship changed as she got older; they became closer, working together to create Poly Styrene’s final album Generation Indigo, and Celeste even joined her mum on stage at the Roundhouse in 2008 – the footage of which is particularly moving, clearly a moment of joy and pride for them both. Talking about the experience of working together, Celeste tells me: “It was a great experience – we had a lot of fun. My mum was in a really good place when she was writing the songs, and we wrote a couple of songs together. And it was just pure fun. My mum didn’t put too much pressure on herself that time.” Having always felt an enormous amount of pressure in terms of having approval within the industry throughout her career previously, and having been very affected by criticism, by the time she started working on Generation Indigo, Poly seemed to be a lot more relaxed and comfortable with who she was – “… She’d reached a place of acceptance. And it was just a real pleasure for me to be on that journey with her and participate and see her in that environment – to see her be happy, relaxed with it, and it not stressing her out. It was just a joy to work with her and Youth, the producer – we would go to his home studio, which was a very warm and comforting environment. It was very different from going into a more corporate recording studio. So, the whole experience was very enjoyable.” Despite Generation Indigo being a step away from the raw punk sounds of X Ray Spex, its eclectic fusion of genres, futuristic themes and vibrant energy are equally as innovative as Poly Styrene’s previous projects and imply that she would have shared a lot more creativity had she lived longer. “I think after making that album she had a new lease of life and was feeling a lot more positive about the music industry. She’d had so many negative experiences before, that I think it took a lot for her to say ‘right, I’m ready to start making music again’. So, I think that if she hadn’t gotten sick, she would have continued to make music without a doubt. Hopefully she’s still making music, wherever she is now…” I’m sure she is. 

Poly Styrene was, and continues to be, a role model for many – as such an innovative woman in music, and a woman of colour, at a time when ingrained sexism was rife in the industry. We see snippets in the film of interviews with her, comprising questions that seemed to focus solely on her appearance or relationships rather than what she was creating, and she was repeatedly described as “not conventionally beautiful” in the media – something which understandably was a source of much frustration for her, and affected her own self-esteem. And the moments in the film where you see how explicitly she was treated differently from her male peers are certainly some of the most powerful – Celeste expands: “… The scrutiny that she came under from journalists and the focus on her physical appearance was really tough. There’s a moment in the film when my mum recalls that the record label had slimmed down her image on the Germ Free Adolescents cover – the cover where they’re in the test tubes. That really upset her. Also, there was this insinuation that she was big or chubby, but she wasn’t at all – she was actually very petite, just curvy. She just had a natural woman’s body! Even though she never played on being sexy and never wanted to use her body, she still came under all this scrutiny about the way she looked and it had a huge impact on her and her self esteem. It was something she was struggling with throughout her life – feeling that she wasn’t pretty enough or slim enough, or feeling that she had to make herself more elegant. So much attention was on her and the way she looked. Even though she was this prolific writer with so many important things to say, journalists would often ask her really stupid questions about why she wore braces and whether the braces were real, as well as comments about her being frumpy, or questions about her romantic life.”

It’s easy now for us to dismiss the way that Poly Styrene was treated by the media as symptomatic of society’s attitudes towards women in the ‘70s, of how sexist the music industry used to be, but Celeste feels that this is still very much an issue for female artists today: “It hasn’t changed for women. It hasn’t got better – it’s still the same bollocks. It’s a huge issue. In fact it may be even worse today.” A strong statement, but one which is hard to disagree with, and is evidenced by the fact that organisations such as ourselves at Get In Her Ears are necessary today: we’re forever fighting the ingrained sexism and sexualisation of women that is still so rife in the industry. “Women are more sexualised than ever. We’re sexualising ourselves. But you have to ask why – why are so many successful women today so overly sexualised? If you think about any pop star in the last twenty years – whenever they’ve put on a bit of weight, they’ve all ended up losing weight again, getting surgery. There’s always this beautifying journey. It always happens. It’s almost impossible to resist. It’s easy enough to sit back and say ‘I would never do that, I would never get surgery etc’. It’s easy to say when you’re not on the screen, when your picture isn’t everywhere all the time.” Reflecting on this begs the question, how can we go about changing this? “This won’t change until society changes. A drastic structural change. Entertainment just reflects society. Until we see some major societal shifts in how women are perceived in society, I don’t think it’s going to get any better in the music industry.” 

A somewhat depressing, but undeniably true, thought. However, the fact that we have strong role models to look to, such as Poly Styrene, is a definite comfort – the pivotal steps that these women before us have taken in a quest to be heard continues to inspire and motivate me every day. The songs that Poly wrote still seem so relevant and her lyrics are so poignant today, perhaps more so than ever before – take ‘Germ Free Adolescents’, for example – Celeste’s current favourite song of her mother’s: “It’s the most perfect song for this age of ‘antiseptic’, where we are all germaphobes and kind of OCD all of a sudden. Mum was actually inspired by OCD for the song, which wasn’t something that was talked about back in the ‘70s, but something that she was well aware of. So, ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ definitely seems like a very prescient choice.” It does – such a poignant and prescient sentiment when looking back now, and further evidence that Poly Styrene was somewhat ahead of her times in her awareness of mental health struggles and associated issues. 

Continuing to inspire women in music years on from the release of Germ Free Adolescents back in 1978, I wonder what current bands or artists Poly Styrene would be a fan of today. “There are so many great bands out there at the moment….”, Celeste begins, “I really love Big Joanie –  they’re just lovely people as well a great band, which helps! There are so many great underground punk bands around right now – Screaming Toenail are another one that I like. A really fabulous band.” Both fantastic bands that we love and promoted many times here at Get In Her Ears! “And there are so many artists that I see and can see my mum in them – often more in the pop world. People forget that X Ray Spex was more of pop-punk band really – very catchy, quite commercially successful. They did really well in the charts. So, Billie Eilish, for example – I see a lot of parallels with my mum in her. The main parallel being in the way she refuses to dress like a more ‘conventional’ pop star, and also the way the media have responded to that. Sadly, she seems to face the same sort of problems that my mum faced about her appearance now.”  Again, although the issue of the sexualisation of women in the industry continues to be a problem, there are plenty of women who are going against these patriarchal expectations of them and not holding in back in being who they want to be – “I see a lot of my mum in all these maverick, very independent women that are making music on their own terms: people like MIA, Grimes… There are just so many powerful women in music who are really original.” There really are, and I’m sure this is – in part – thanks to the innovative women, like Poly Styrene, that have paved the way for them in the industry. 

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is both emotion-driven and informative; an insightful and poignant look at a true pioneer. It is not only deeply moving to hear Poly’s story and Celeste reflect on her mother’s life, but seeing some of the original footage of her playing live – the vibrant energy and ferocious charisma that she brought both on and off stage – is truly joyous; an inspiration to watch. As well as looking back, the film highlights how far the industry and society’s attitudes towards women still have to go, and evokes a feeling of motivation, a desire to revive some of Poly’s punk spirit – to unite, overcome adversity and bring about change, we could all do with being a bit more like her, to start to undo the bondage that binds us into this patriarchal society. In the words of Poly Styrene: “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”.

Massive thanks to Celeste for taking the time to talk to us!

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng, and will be released via Modern Films from Friday 5th March. By purchasing a ‘virtual ticket’, viewers will be able to support a participating local independent cinema – the revenue will be shared with the venue. The World Premiere is the week before at the Glasgow Film Festival (details here). And, if you like the film and want to find out more about Poly Styrene, I strongly recommend you also check out the beautiful book Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story (by Zoë Howe and Celeste Bell), still available to buy now.

 

Mari Lane
@marimindles