ALBUM: New Pagans – ‘The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All’

An intuitive rumination on the personal and the political, New Pagans‘ debut album The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All is a gritty, deeply poetic consideration of inequality and social injustice. Released via Big Scary Monsters, the Belfast band’s first full length record dives into the paraphernalia surrounding religion, romance and women’s pain, and resurfaces having transformed these tired archetypes into aural talismans of strength and defiance.

Formed of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley and Lyndsey McDougall, New Pagans blend elements of post-punk, grunge and pop to explore internal & external conflict in their music. On their 2020 debut EP Glacial Erratic, the band crafted six abrasive, yet melodic tracks that have formed the foundation for their first full length record. With the addition of five new songs, The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All is a sharper, fully fleshed out vision that sees the band’s scathing, yet sensitive approach to song-writing flourish with defiant flair.

“The demand for perfection is disturbing,” sings vocalist Lyndsey on opener ‘It’s Darker’. Based on a real life confrontation she had at a party with an aggressive male musician, the track will strike a chord with anyone who has had their opinion publicly devalued. “Everyone’s looking and I’m upset” she reveals, working through the unsettling feeling of being spoken down to via relentless riffs and commanding percussion.

Informed by overheard conversations on a Belfast bus, ‘Charlie Has The Face Of a Saint’ flows with a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Throwaway phrases like “I’m doing my part” or “You’re easy to have when you’re down on your knees” float above the loud/quiet verse/chorus structure, with the conflicting voices unable to provide answers, they simply exist in the ether. The spiralling ‘I Could Die’ follows, with its manic riffs and urgent vocals, before the powerful ‘Bloody Soil’ breaks through. It feels like the soundtrack to a social uprising, with its intense riffs and chant-able chorus.

A tribute to the sister of artists William Butler and Jack Butler Yeats, ‘Lily Yeats’ is an aural confidence boost to the song’s protagonist, and to the women who need encouragement to step out of their brother’s shadows. “My daughter needs to know that she can do the same,” sings Lyndsey over erratic riffs and pummelling beats, before dual male/female vocals drive home the message that it’s everyone’s responsibility to amplify the volume of women’s stories.

Lyndsey’s sharp focus on weaving her own stories of pain, self-autonomy and motherhood with other historic female narratives is the lyrical lifeblood of the album. She allows her own joy, grief and frustration to run parallel to others, with the band’s driving rhythms creating a musical space for the resilience and strength of these women’s histories to shine through. Singles ‘Harbour’ and ‘Yellow Room’ epitomise this.

On ‘Harbour’, Lyndsey celebrates the joy and the struggle of her own pregnancy, while on ‘Yellow Room’ she unravels the conversations around women’s mental health and the lack of support that new mothers often receive. Inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s semi-autobiographical short-story The Yellow Wallpaper, ‘Yellow Room’ is a racing, urgent exploration of female isolation. Through the medium of Gilmans’ text, the band traverse these underlying doubts via crystalline vocals and charged, powerful riffs, challenging and updating the narrative around women’s mental health.

A humble, shimmering ode to the perseverance that’s needed to keep a long-term relationship going, the band’s treatment of love and its many faults on ‘Admire’ is far more romantic than any Valentine’s bouquet. “Let’s preserve our old ways / let’s preserve them always” sings Lyndsey, her voice floating above atmospheric guitars and swirling bass lines. The song builds to a cacophony of shoegaze noise, removing all sense of doubt about remaining faithful to your partner.

On ‘Ode To None’, the band rip up more outdated traditions of conventional storytelling, declaring “We’re the new pagans / dedicated to nurture”, while on the aspirational ‘Natural Beauty’, Lyndsey dismantles what it means to be an ambitious artist. It serves as a reminder to take your art seriously and to have confidence in your abilities, which is wonderfully expressed in the empowering sentiment: “It’s in her destiny to be better than you.”

A riotous, refreshing call for accountability and a take down of sexist double standards, ‘Christian Boys’ seethes with righteous fury against the unfair judgement of women who are involved with hypocritical men. Based on the experiences of Lyndsey’s friend – who had been having an affair with a Christian leader in Northern Ireland before his marriage to a virgin bride – The urgency in the repeated lyric “Christian boys are the worst I know / Christian girls should take it slow” exposes the hypocrisy underscoring the track’s narrative, calling out those who blame others for their own mistakes. It’s a powerful and necessary statement to close the record with.

On The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, New Pagans uproot musical genres, challenge stunted narratives around social history, gender and relationships and manage to cultivate a powerful sonic resilience against them. It’s a hugely refreshing and impressive album that deserves all of the praise it’s received so far.

Order your copy of The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All here.

Follow New Pagans on bandcampTwitterInstagramFacebook & Spotify

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: M(h)aol – ‘Asking For It’

An ominous, much needed anthem that pulses with relatable fury, Irish inter-sectional feminist post-punk band M(h)aol have shared their latest single ‘Asking For It’. Originally set for release in May, the band have shared the track earlier than planned after feeling a collective anger at the reporting of male violence against women in the current media. All profits from ‘Asking For It’ will be donated to Women’s Aid Ireland, a charity who aim to end domestic violence against women and children.

Currently based between Dublin, London and Bristol, M(h)aol (pronounced “male”) are formed of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Constance Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoe Greenway and Sean Nolan. Together, the band aim to shake up the male dominated post-punk scene with their urgent, shadowy sounds, with previous single ‘Laundries’ being the perfect instigator for this pursuit. Now with ‘Asking For It’, M(h)aol aim to dismantle the external and internal narratives that perpetuate the behaviours behind gender-based violence and victim-blaming.

Led by a thudding bass drum that feels like it’s mimicking the panicked heartbeat of a woman being pursued by her attacker, ‘Asking For It’ unravels the toxic thoughts and questions many women are faced with in the aftermath of harassment and sexual assault. Crystalline vocals and direct lyrics are paired with unsettling bass lines and urgent riffs, propelling the track forwards as the variations of the lyrical motif “Was I asking for it?” become louder and more visceral with each repetition.

A vital, lurching anthem that provides a moment for rage and reflection during this overwhelming International Women’s Month, M(h)aol’s ‘Asking For It’ is a damning aural statement that ought to make listeners think twice before they point the finger at victims of gender-based violence, instead of directly at their perpetrators.

Listen to the single below & donate what you can via bandcamp.

 

Follow M(h)aol on Spotify, bandcampFacebookTwitterInstagram

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: Grandmas House

Since we heard the opening riff of ‘Always Happy’ by Bristol trio Grandmas House, the Get In Her Ears team have been hooked on their sardonic, thumping post-punk sounds. Formed of guitarist & vocalist Yasmin Berndt, drummer & vocalist Poppy Dodgson and bassist Zoë Zinsmeister, the band combine gritty guitars, powerhouse percussion and visceral vocals to create intensely relatable anthems. They were busy cutting their teeth on the UK gig circuit before Covid-19 put an abrupt stop to live music. The trio decided to use their time in lockdown constructively, quickly writing and recording new material, including recent singles ‘Always Happy’ and ‘Small Talk’.

We caught up with Grandmas House to talk about recording fun music videos in lockdown, where they’re looking forward to playing once the current Covid-19 restrictions have lifted and the context behind their latest singles…

Hello Grandmas House! For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain how you met and originally formed as a band?

Yasmin: We all went to uni together in London. Then me and Poppy moved to Bristol afterwards and then we dragged Zoe along with us well.

Poppy: Yeah, we were like “you’ll love it here!”

Yasmin: We did have a different bassist before Zoe actually, who we also met at uni. She lived in London still and she was commuting so much and that didn’t really work out. Then Zoe moved to Bristol and became our new bassist, so that worked out pretty well. We’ve all been living together now for three years.

Does living together make things easier in terms of recording and writing songs?

Yasmin: We usually go into the studio now that we’re getting a bit more serious about music, but when we started the band it was just demos recorded on all of our phones. We didn’t know how to edit music so we just cropped all the recordings together. But now we try to go to a professional and take it into a studio and stuff. Obviously because of Covid-19 and all the studios being shut, we did have to record a few things from home. We did a few vocals on the mic from home, but that’s it.

You’ve recently released two single, the first of which being ‘Always Happy’. I read that you came up with this track really quickly and unanimously agreed on the context. Is that usually the case when you’re writing songs?

Poppy: I feel like usually it does happen like that, it just flows out. We’re very much on the same wavelength, but there are occasionally times where we get stuck on a song for ages.

Yasmin: I think I think if it doesn’t flow, it’s just not the one. If we’re working on a song and we have to kind of really, really try to make it work, we usually just take ourselves away from it and try something else. I do feel like our really good songs are usually the ones that literally just completely flow out of us though.

Poppy: We know if we’re working on a song for more than an hour, it might be time to put it on the shelf. Sometimes we come back to them of course, but we usually get a good feel for whether a song is working or not quite quickly.

‘Always Happy’ is a song about the misconceptions we have about people’s confidence in social settings and also online. Talk me through what the track’s about, as I know it’s based on your own experiences of performing on stage as well.

Yasmin: I feel like everyone is a bit taken aback by how we are onstage and how loud our music is, especially because our name is Grandmas House, which is quite calm…

Zoe: The track is a mix of thoughts about social anxiety, performing on stage and how people perceive you online, as well as how you show yourself online too. In between songs when we’re on stage, people have said we’re always so smiley, and then we suddenly just start screaming again. There’s been a few gigs where Poppy has been on the drums, looking really, really into it and angry and then as soon as a song ends she’s doing this cute giggle.

Yasmin: I think we’re definitely confident off stage as well. The song is definitely more about mental health and social anxiety that is generally present, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be talkative or chatty after a show. I think you definitely just see a snippet of us, or any other band, when we’re on stage. You don’t see how nervous we are before as well.

Zoe: That adds to the adrenaline we get whilst we’re playing  though. It’s been built up beforehand which is great, so performing is definitely an outlet for that.

The accompanying video you directed for ‘Always Happy’ definitely showcases the fun and the more serious sides of the track. Talk me through it…

Poppy: Originally we were going to film it with some other people, but because of lockdown we suddenly had to try and make it ourselves, but it was so so fun!

Yasmin: We’re quite good at coming up with ideas – if I do say so myself. We love coming up with visuals and talking about would look good aesthetically. So for the video we had three main shots in mind and we were just really lucky and happy with how it came out, exactly how we imagined it.

Zoe: We were really able to create the atmosphere that we wanted for the song. It’s quite a personal song I think, so the fact that we could make it ourselves with no other kind of creative input was really nice.

You’ve also released a new single ‘Small Talk’, which forms part of your two-track cassette release on Brace Yourself Records which Zoe designed the artwork for. Tell me what this track is about…

Yasmin: It’s just about not really liking small talk. It’s one of the first songs we ever wrote. It’s quite a straightforward, snappy, loud, quick song – which I think a lot of our songs are. It’s a bit of a contrast to ‘Always Happy’, it’s a bit rougher and a bit more like our earlier sound.

That’s to the point, I like it. The UK government have teased us with the potential lifting of lockdown restrictions & return of live music if their step-by-step plan over the next few months. If it does work, is there a particular venue or festival you’re keen to play?

Yasmin: We’ve announced that we’re playing Dot to Dot Festival which is so exciting. That’s in Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester. We’ve never played in Nottingham before, so that’s gonna be fun.

Zoe: I honestly feel like we would take anything and play anywhere right now?

Yasmin: I mean, we usually take any gig that gets offered to us because we love playing, but especially now I think we would take anything!

Poppy: I think if we were dreaming big we’d love to play End Of The Road Festival. But yeah, honestly anywhere….

That sounds good! I know we’re all approaching 2021 with caution, but do you have plans to record or release more music this year?

Zoe: We’ve recorded an EP, which will be coming out this year. That’s very exciting.

Yasmin: We’re almost done with it. Covid-19 got in the way of it once again, the studio we were recording it had to shut, but it’s nearly get ready to go. Hopefully we’ll do some more music videos as well.

Looking forward to hearing that! Finally, can you recommend some new music for us to listen to?

Collectively: Ooooh yes! Grove, they’re from Bristol and they’ve just released an EP. Sinead O’Brien, deep tan, LIME, Katy J Pearson – always a favourite! We’re just playing all of these bands on repeat at the moment…

Thanks so much to Grandmas House for chatting with us!

You can buy a copy of ‘Always Happy/’Small Talk’ on limited edition cassette here.

Follow Grandma’s House on bandcampSpotifyInstagramTwitter & Facebook

 

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: The Paranoyds – ‘Egg Salad’

Following the release of 2019’s album Carnage Bargain and tracks such as ‘Pet Cemetery’ and ‘Hotel Celebrity’, LA four-piece, Staz, Laila, Lexi and David – aka The Paranoyds – have now shared a new video for album track ‘Egg Salad’.

Oozing a jangling post-punk scuzz fused together with a sunny surf-rock energy, ‘Egg Salad’ is filled with fuzzed-out hooks alongside the band’s trademark languid insouciant vocals. Propelled by a seething angst-fuelled drive, it juxtaposes poignant lyrical observations and a scathing wit with a compelling, playful musicality. Building in tempo throughout, a striking grunge-fuelled anthem is created, with shades of the raw grit of the likes of Courtney Barnett.

Of the band’s name, The Paranoyds explain:

We’re living in the dystopian future. Our lives are completely tracked and programmed, our extension of ourselves is a handheld computer with a microphone and camera that stays on while were unaware, and, on top of everything, the extreme right is gaining continuous world power… What isn’t there to be paranoyd about?”

‘Egg Salad’ is accompanied by a brand new video depicting “the glitzy & glamorous world of a teenage girl who, after accidentally catching a beauty pageant on TV, dreams of her rise to stardom & subsequent downfall…” (director Nicole Stunwyck). Watch here:

 Carnage Bargain, The Paranoyds’ latest album, is out now via Suicide Squeeze. Listen here.

Mari Lane 
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Little Ghost