Guest Blog: Potpourri (‘Love Letters’ to Sisters Uncut)

In the wake of events such as the murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and the recent passing of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, organisations such as Sisters Uncut have been doing vital work in uniting people to fight injustice, providing a strong voice to highlight diminishing funds and government representation that leave people vulnerable, protecting those in need.

Sheffield band Potpourri have recognised the immense of importance of Sisters Uncut, and so wanted to show their gratitude and love for the organisation by putting together ‘Love Letters’: a compilation of beautiful tunes by DIY artists who feel strongly about the cause. Including favourites such as PINS, Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business, Y.A.Y MARIA and The Crystal Furs, amongst many others, it’s a heartfelt ode to not only draw attention to Sisters Uncut’s vital work, but to raise funds for them at a time when they need it the most.

We spoke to Lauren from Potpourri about the decision to release Love Letters… Have a read and buy on bandcamp now!

Sisters Uncut is an incredible British feminist direct action group that has catalysed a current of empowerment, creating accessibility for people to come together, find the confidence to open dialogue, and express their right to be free and equal citizens. The Kill The Bill coalition established consciousness of the danger against Roma, Traveller, and Gypsy communities, and unveiled the increase of tools of state violence against communities that already bear the brunt of a racist, sexist criminal justice system.

It felt important to send love and gratitude to the people working tirelessly to end violence against women and non-binary people. Their graft couldn’t go unnoticed and we felt that if there was a way we could use our art to stand in solidarity, we would.

The lockdown meant that a fundraiser gig couldn’t take place, but we could still contribute and act in a different way to fight the rollback of human rights. I wanted our first Love Letter compilation to reflect the Sisters Uncut feministo, reaching out to female and gender-variant artists who themselves are creating gorgeous music with a DIY ethos and building their own pockets of togetherness. It was a blessing to connect with fellow bands, especially when bands haven’t been crossing paths for the last year, and together support a movement we feel so dearly about. Everyone who contributed to the cassette condemns the awful systemic violence that Sisters Uncut work so hard to draw attention to and fight against.

Massive thanks to Lauren for talking to us about this vital and beautiful compilation. Buy Love Letters on bandcamp now, and find out more about Sisters Uncut here. And below see the accompanying ‘love letter’ from all the bands involved to Sisters Uncut.

ALBUM: YAY MARIA – ‘OYEZ’

YAY MARIA is the supremely talented Maria Machin – a trans and queer musician from Derby, who you probably know as the front-woman of Grawl!x. With this solo electronic pop project, Machin has created an outlet to explore her gender transition. And after listening, you’ll be grateful that she chose to invite us on the journey.

Her long-awaited debut solo album is nothing short of magical. Ambitious and accomplished, OYEZ is a DIY pop record that transcends its humble origins. Its beats, bleeps and harmonies will fill your heart and send pure joy racing around your body. It feels like a celebration of otherness; breaking boundaries with lush orchestration, samples and driving beats without losing sight of its pop sensibility.

The album feels truly immersive. The giddy dancefloor stomper ‘TRU CRUSH’ is a standout, as are ‘PLASTIK PINK’ and ‘SHOPPING CENTRE’ – both sassy, grown-up slices of electro-pop that would be killer singles. Meanwhile, Belper’s Town Crier pops up halfway through the record too, just to let us know that YAY MARIA hopes we’re enjoying ourselves in a cute little nod to Machin’s Midlands’ roots!

Yet, despite these highlights, it’s the anthemic (and brilliantly named) ‘EPIPHANY (IN A CHARITY SHOP)’ that’ll stay with me. In it, Machin reflects on YAY MARIA’s purpose. “This isn’t about me,” she says. “It’s about so much more than me.” And she’s right. At a time where the trans community faces so much hostility, I really hope this album finds its way to the ears, hearts and minds who need it.

A joyful, powerful and important album, OYEZ offers love, solidarity and the inspiring message that being queer is beautiful. Yay to that, Maria!

OYEZ is out now. Buy the digital album on bandcamp now.

Vic Conway
@thepicsofvic

ALBUM: She Drew The Gun – ‘Behave Myself’

Personifying the spirit of rebellion, She Drew The Gun‘s uncompromising, genre-defying third LP, Behave Myself, is a rallying cry of fuzzy psych-pop hooks and lyrical protest, unafraid to fight the social and political dystopia we find ourselves heading towards.

Founded by Merseyside-based songwriter Louisa Roach, She Drew The Gun’s musical evolution parallels the decline of our political climate; beginning with 2016’s optimistic indie rock of Memories of Another Future, through to the political dissent of psychedelic sophomore effort, 2018’s Revolution of Mind, and now the immediacy of Behave Myself‘s punk flavoured pop revolution. Opening with the infectious basslines and disorientating synth assault of ‘Origin Song’, Roach introduces her lockdown long play with a certain degree of restraint, before tearing into the persistent inequality promoted by the societal mainstream on track number 2, prompting the question: “Who do you think is ‘Next On The List'”?

The anthemic title track ‘Behave Myself’ is for everyone standing together in feminist solidarity. Exploding into a cataclysm of throbbing basslines, true shred guitar, and spoken word social commentary, Roach shows off her strong pop sensibility but does not shy away from her deep-rooted punk rock attitude – “Get ready for my dangerous soul”, You can’t control her… Louisa Roach will not behave herself! “I am the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion.” 

The dreamy melodies of ‘Diamonds in Our Eyes’ are followed by ‘Cut Me Down’, a grungey, post-punk protest anthem inspired by the Las Tesis feminist protest song of Chile, known as ‘The Rapist Is You’ or ‘A Rapist in Your Path’. Amplified by hard-hitting drum strikes, driving basslines, and a piercing guitar solo, Roach fights “deeper, faster, harder, cheaper, stronger, further, smarter!” And her frustration doesn’t falter during the scathing lyrical observations of ‘Class War (How Much)’, a psych-pop war song on class divide and “the parasitic vampires sucking our blood.”

The shimmering electroclash of synth and spoken word stream of consciousness on ‘Panopticon’ further showcases Louisa Roach’s evolution of sound; distorting any preconceived opinion of She Drew the Gun through eclectic inspiration and experimentation. The raucous fuzzy soundscape of ‘Innerspeak’ leads into dystopian mood shifter ‘All Roads to Nowhere’ – a juxtaposition of metallic melancholy and ethereal psychedelia – before closing with the vocal warmth of ‘The Rose’s Tale’.

Produced and mixed by Ross Orton at McCall Sound Studios, Behave Myself‘s intelligent, socially-charged lyricism, justified anthemic angst, and DIY political pop amplifies the voice of dissent through punk rock rebellion with a feminist vibe. Challenging us to observe, analyse, and critique a failing system, She Drew the Gun’s unsettling, authentic record is the unstoppable soundtrack for the rebel to revolt to; the sound of collective conscience awoken.

Behave Myself is out now via Submarine Cat Records.

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

INTERVIEW: HAVVK

Having been huge fans of HAVVK since they headlined our first gig at The Finsbury back in 2016, we were massively excited about the release of their stunning new album, Levelling, a few weeks back. With support from the likes of Radio X, BBC 6Music and Wonderland Magazine under their belts, the album showcases the Dublin trio’s knack for creating truly immersive offerings, oozing a swirling, ethereal splendour, intertwined with a grunge-tinged grit. Propelled by the haunting, celestial power of front person Julie’s vocals, each track ripples with a captivating grace, creating a collection of exquisitely cathartic soundscapes.

We caught up with Julie to find out more about the album, Dublin’s live music scene and HAVVK’s plans for the next few months… Have a read!

Hello! Hope you’re all well at the moment… Your new, totally beautiful, album Levelling has recently been released, which is super exciting! How has it all been? Has it had the reaction you were expecting? 
Honestly, it’s been so, so nice. It’s been hard to connect with listeners for the last couple of years and it’s made releasing music a bit surreal sometimes. It’s all been a bit Black Mirror. But the reaction to the record was so tangible – we’ve had so many kind messages. And we were really lucky that we got to have an album launch – that one night that we got to scream at each other (from a safe distance) really made up for a lot of that lost connection. People knew the words and were doing their best to break their necks moshing from their seats. It was gorgeous.

And how was it recording and promoting an album during such unpredictable times? 
We were super lucky as we’d literally done our last in-person session in Belfast just before the restrictions got serious. There was still a lot of production work to do but we managed it all through zoom calls during lockdown, with lots of pets (our side) and kids (Rocky’s side) running around in the background too. Even though promoting the tracks during lockdown was really strange and a bit lonely at times, I’m so grateful that we had something so important to focus on during those eighteen months. It really kept us grounded.

You recorded the album with Belfast legend Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios, and have worked with him quite a lot previously. What is it that you love about working with him, and marks him out as different from other producers? 
Rocky has become such a good friend of ours. He has such an amazing ear for how to bring out different layers of our music and his knowledge of synths and pedals and plug-ins is astounding. The first time we recorded with him, he had set up a wall of amps for Matt and we’d never seen or heard anything like it. They’ve created such a welcoming, inclusive space at Start Together which can be rare to find in studios and honestly, anywhere in the industry.  

You’ve described the album as being about growing up and how our perceptions change over time – can you tell us a bit more about this and the themes running throughout the release?
If you include the age gaps between us, we’ve spent almost all of our collective 20s and 30s together as a band. And along the way, we’ve gone through major life moments together – losses, moves, break-ups, and we’ve had some big, big conversations along the way too. We’ve seen how much your priorities can change. We wanted to make a record that started at one end of a life and ended at the other, and broke out some of those moments where you have to make a choice that will probably stick with you for the rest of your life. A lot of the songs are about the important relationships that crystallise us as people (even if we didn’t know it at the time), or the ones we have to let go of and make our peace with. It’s really about trying to get perspective on how much time we have in the world – which is a massive, scary, silly thing to think about, but it can really magnify the moments that matter. And we’ve tried to capture some of those in Levelling.

‘Home’ or ‘Hold On’ may have to be my faves on the album – they just really seem to resonate (though every song is beautifully majestic!). Do you have a favourite song on the album, and if so why?
For me it’s ‘Automatic‘. That song just made me so happy from the minute we started recording it – I felt like I was in the band that fifteen year old me always wanted to be in. I love the humour in the lyrics, the playfulness of the verses before we smash into the choruses, and the absolute wall of sound from Matt’s guitar part and Sam’s drums in the chorus. And I just love that it’s a love song about friendships and some of the most important women in my life. That’s a very satisfying thing to shout about on stage.

I was just alerted to the fact that the first ever gig I hosted, which you headlined at The Finsbury, was five years ago today! That was such a dreamy night. But over the years, has there been a particular show you’ve played that stands out as a highlight? 
I’m gonna throw all of my previous answers to this question out of the window now because we’ve just had our album launch in Dublin after eighteen months of zero gigs and it was an absolutely magic night! Finally being back in a room with humans and playing the new songs for the first time was incredibly special to us. I had just forgotten how much it meant – and not just to ourselves. There were so many people in that room who also hadn’t been to a live show yet – so really, I felt like the gig was about way more than just ourselves. It was about everyone remembering how much the live music community meant to them.

And how is the live music scene in Dublin at the moment? Would you say it’s back on its feet after the pandemic? 
As I type, we’re waiting for the Irish government to ‘clarify’ a bizarre new easing of restrictions which is allowing clubbing to re-open while live music still can’t go on at full capacity and all audiences still have to be seated. Yes, you did read that correctly and no, that does NOT make sense. I think that illustrates the situation pretty well – I’m delighted to see clubs opening and that there’s some changes happening (and obviously that we got to have any kind of album launch!), but every time there’s an update live music and theatre seems to be at the bottom of the priority list. Promotors and musicians are really confused and frustrated over here – it is such a slap in the face as a country that really prides itself on culture, that this isn’t reflected back by the funding and decisions made at government level.

You’ve been a band for quite some time now (and we’ve been fans all the way!) – would you say the music industry has changed much over the last few years? And, in particular, do you think it’s improved in its treatment of female/non-binary/LGBTQIA+ artists? 
It’s hard to measure any kind of change in the industry just now as it’s been such a strange couple of years. Yes, there’s definitely been some progress and I feel like my identity is more reflected back in the industry than it was when we started out – there are more women, NB and queer folks on stage, on the radio, on panels etc. but there’s miles to go. I’m more excited about what’s next. As a community, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our needs over the last couple of years and we’re kind of at a point of ‘restart’ right now. I personally feel more empowered now to put up boundaries and to call out discriminative behaviour – speaking to other artists I know in Ireland especially, there’s a mutual feeling that if we’re getting back to business, we are going to have higher standards for ourselves and for each other. I hope this will have an upward effect on the industry.

As we’re a new music focused organisation, are there any upcoming bands or artists you’re a fan of that you’d recommend we check out? 
Yes! I am currently swooning over M(h)aol, Runah, Pretty Happy, Fears and Bobbi Arlo.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for HAVVK? 
You’d think I’d be sick of my house by now but honestly, we’ve been looking forward to a bit of a rest and a refuel before next year. We’ve not just put out our own album this year, but we’ve also worked on a tonne of releases on our label, VETA Music. So apart from a few live sessions, I think the priority is to get back to basics: eat well, rest up and maybe do a little writing – hang out with the cat! My brain still doesn’t quite understand how to switch off at the moment, so that’s my biggest goal for the rest of the year before we get on the road next year (spoiler). 

Massive thanks to Julie for answering our questions!

Levelling, the new album from HAVVK, is out now via VETA Music.