PLAYLIST: Love & Solidarity

It’s safe to say, each and every one of us right now is going through a hard time; a scary, strange time filled with uncertainty and fear. A time when feelings of anxiety are heightened and we need to seek refuge in our favourite music more than ever.

So, we wanted to put together a few tunes to soothe the soul; to calm and to motivate. Some music to aid positive thoughts and relaxation, and taking time for yourself to switch off and de-stress is so essential right now. Take a deep breath, unwind, and let us send you all a big dose of love and solidarity as you hit play and follow this playlist.. (link below)

Le Tigre – ‘Eau D’Bedroom Dancing’
Because I need Kathleen’s voice more than ever right now. This chilled number from one of my favourite albums, Le Tigre’s Deceptacon, just oozes so much twinkling heartfelt emotion from Hanna that my heart bursts a little more on each listen. Also, we will all no doubt be doing plenty of ‘Bedroom Dancing’ over the next few weeks/months…(Mari Lane)

Noga Erez – ‘Global Fear’
I listened to this track at least once a day on my commute to work pre-pandemic because, despite its melancholy context, I find it really relaxing. I’m a big fan of Noga Erez anyway, but I find her music extra impressive at a time like this, because it makes me feel both alienated and connected at the same time. She’s set to release her second album at some point this year, and that’s a small thing I’m holding on to. (Kate Crudgington)

Nilüfer Yanya – ‘Tears’
One of my favourite tracks from Nilüfer Yanya, and a slight move away from her guitar heavy tunes, ‘Tears’ captures you and takes you along with its bouncing beats and sad reflective lyrics. It’s been great to watch this artist reach the acclaim she so rightly deserves, and it reminds me of a personal highlight seeing her play at Primavera 2019. It was the definition of sun-drenched guitars. (Tash Walker)

Sink Ya Teeth – ‘Breathe’
Taken from their latest album Two, here our favourite Norwich duo create a soothing, sparkling majesty; oozing the soaring, calming vibes that we all need right now, it’s a truly exquisite offering, highlighting that it’s more important than ever now to make time each day to switch off, to simply breathe. And if you do that whilst listening to this euphoric soundscape, I guarantee it’ll make you feel a little better. (ML)

Massive Attack – ‘Safe From Harm’
This Massive Attack tune never fails to calm me down. The snaking bass lines and Shara Nelson’s mesmerising vocals override the threats being explored in the lyrics, making it an oddly soothing listen. (KC)

Portishead – ‘Roads’
Taken from my most listened to album of all time, ‘Roads’ is one of those tracks that never fails to calm me. With a cathartic raw emotion and whirring energy that builds with each throbbing beat, I find something deeply therapeutic about it. It’s the same with the whole of Dummy, but this song is probably just a notch above the rest. Listen, close your eyes and let the impassioned grace of Beth Gibbons’ heartfelt vocals take you down a road of healing. (ML)

Elsa Hewitt – ‘Tiny Dancer’
Whatever your mood, electronic artist & producer Elsa Hewitt has a tune to accompany it. I was so caught up in her live set when she played for us at Notting Hill Arts Club in 2018, I could’ve listened to her mixing and triggering her ambient tunes all night. A perfect distraction in these strange times. (KC)

Amahla – ‘Old Soul’
Hackney-Native Amahla blew us away ‘Old Soul’ at the beginning of 2019 and has just kept getting better. It was a complete pleasure to see her perform for our IWD x Sofar Sounds gig a couple of weeks back. Listening to this song now, it leaves me reflecting on the older generations of our society, who we must all rally around as a community to help support through this uncertain time. (TW)

Babeheaven – ‘Seabird’
A perfectly dreamy accompaniment to gazing out the window at the beautiful blossom and budding dafs swaying in the breeze; a reminder that nature carries on, birds will continue to sing, flowers continue to grow, even when everything else is in disarray. I’ve found it really grounding over the last couple of weeks to focus on this, to seek solace in nature. And the luscious, soulful energy and beautifully rich vocals of ‘Seabird’ couldn’t be more welcome right now. (ML)

Connie Constance – ‘English Rose’
I first heard this cover about a year ago, but it’s really resonating with me at the moment, especially with the moments I go outside. Originally by The Jam, for me Connie Constance’s cover is the soundtrack to my daily stroll, enjoying every second I can of being outside at a time when we really value the things we used to take for granted. (TW)

Christine and the Queens – ‘Mountains (We Met)’
This track has been playing on repeat in my flat over the last couple of weeks, loved so much by my girlfriend who it brings a real sense of calm to. It reminds me of how lucky I am to be in lockdown with my loved ones, and the importance of staying connected week to week. Connected, we are a community, and communities can survive anything with love and solidarity. (TW)

Sharon Van Etten – ‘Beaten Down’
A poignant reflection on “love, patience and empathy”, Sharon Van Etten’s voice smoulders across dark synths, atmospheric keys and sparse echoing beats on this track. “‘Beaten Down’ is about making life-changing choices and remaining strong enough to see them through”, Etten explains. I think it’s okay to admit that the current situation has beaten most of us down, but I think you’ll be surprised how resilient you can be in the face of adversity too.
(KC)

Rilo Kiley – ‘A Better Son/Daughter’
With its twinkling emotion strewn splendour and heartbreakingly raw honesty, this is my go-to cathartic motivational soundtrack in life generally, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve pretty much been listening to Rilo Kiley on a loop. And I feel like this song in particular, with its impassioned and relatable lyricism, is a pretty spot on mantra of hope for getting through these strange times: “… You’ll fight it, and you’ll make it through… You’ll be awake, you’ll be alert // You’ll be positive though it hurts // And you’ll laugh and embrace all your friends…” (ML)

Mazzy Star – ‘Fade Into You’
One of the most beautiful and touching songs, from ’90s slow-core band Mazzy Star. ‘Fade Into You’ is so slow, considered and full of emotion, it’s hard not to get completely mesmerised by it. Escapism at its best. (TW)

Wolf Alice – ‘Blush’
I can’t listen to a Wolf Alice track without experiencing a flood of emotion. Most of the time it’s a giddy feeling that makes me want to stomp about and sing Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics really loudly; but with ‘Blush’, I always get a bit choked. It’s such a soft, romantic, sentimental tune. I’m looking forward to singing “Punch drunk, dumb struck, pot luck, happy happy” into my sisters’ faces again when all this blows over. (KC)

Kate Tempest – ‘People’s Faces’
There is so much that is so perfectly poignant in this song – the glaringly honest and completely relevant social commentary showcases Tempest’s unique poetic skill at creating relevant and hugely emotive social narratives. But a subtle glimmer of hope also shines through; the comfort we gain from those we love, and the comfort we can offer them just by being there (even over a Zoom or Skype meet!). So, even when it feels like the world is ending, we can still find happiness in each other: “… then we smile at all our friends… Even when I’m weak and I’m breaking… I can see your faces. There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.” (ML)

Track Of The Day: Petrol Girls – ‘Big Mouth’

Always at the forefront when it comes to fighting for equality and fair representation; Petrol Girls have shared a powerful new video for their new single ‘Big Mouth’. Supporting the ongoing defamation case for Solidarity Not Silence – a group of women who are being silenced for speaking out against the behaviour of a man in the music industry – their new single is a necessary shout-back and a call to arms to support their activist sisters.

Vocalist Ren Aldridge explains more about the track’s context: “[Big Mouth] focuses in on voice as a physical sound that comes directly from our bodies, and also more generally as self-expression. There’s a lot of politics around who is heard and what that means, and many marginalised groups are only tolerated when they’re quiet. When they refuse this containment and control, they’re met with attempts to silence them.”

“Just one example of this is the defamation case which aims to silence the Solidarity Not Silence girls…whilst the case is ongoing, we are limited in what we can say about it, but encourage everyone to spread the word and donate to the crowdfunding campaign for their legal costs. They are determined to not allow their case to set a precedent for silencing marginalised voices in the music industry and beyond. There’s no legal aid for this kind of case – they need money to pay for their legal representation in order to pursue justice. You can get a Solidarity Not Silence t-shirt, as worn by Joe in the ‘Big Mouth’ music video, here.”

As well as Ren’s own powerful voice, the new single includes a sample of Poly Styrene’s iconic intro to X-Ray Spex’s ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!’- with lyrics that still resonate with activists and musicians over forty years later. ‘Big Mouth’ is taken from Petrol Girls’ upcoming album Cut & Stitch, which will be released on 24th May via Hassle Records. A companion Rough Trade Publishing ‘Edition’, written by Ren, is also available to pre-order via the band’s official store.

The band will be touring extensively from the beginning of May, including in-stores at Rough Trades in the week the album is released, tours with War On Women and La Dispute, plus appearances as festivals like The Great Escape, 2000trees and Roskilde. Watch the video for ‘Big Mouth’ below and follow Petrol Girls on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: Queen Zee

“I could do a Morrissey…” threatens Queen Zee, as we sit outside of Hackney’s Sebright Arms chatting before the band’s headline gig at the venue that evening (April 26th). She’s referring to his recent controversial interview in which he makes more weird and divisive statements for (seemingly) no reason. I know it’s an idle threat, but her dry wit puts me at ease. I begin by asking her about what she’s expecting from the show that evening…

“The great thing with Queen Zee gigs is that you never really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes we turn up and it’s absolute mayhem, and sometimes we turn up and people are ballroom dancing. You can’t predict it, and that’s what I love about it”

It’s this unpredictability that drew me to the band in the first place. I saw them support Marmozets on the 2017 UK tour at The Garage, and I was blown away by their ability to get the crowd stirred up in to a mosh pit with their songs ‘Boy’ and ‘Fly The Pink Flag’. Their combination of pop-punk anthems and activist attitude has laid the foundations for a community of fans to unite and celebrate in style and safety when they attend Queen Zee gigs. I ask her whether fans approach her after shows…

“We do have some fans who prefer to message us after the gig on Twitter which is always nice, but I make a point when I’m on stage of saying “come and say hello”, because I love sharing and I see Queen Zee as a collective, not just as an extension of my ego or as my project. I like people getting involved. People have been customising their clothes and getting tattoos…”

I tell her that I saw a fan had posted a picture of a “sass or die” tattoo they’d had inked in honour of the band on the Queen Zee social media accounts. I then asked her about the flipside of this, the trolling she experienced on the band’s posts on International Transgender Day Of Visibility (31st March). I ask if shouting back (which she always does) takes its toll at some points? Or do posts like the one about the tattoo make things easier to deal with?

“Cis people will see these things online and be really shocked by that, but one of the main things for trans people is that you go through things like that every day anyway, it’s just not always online. I actually love people trolling, it’s my favourite thing. I know that I have offended them, and that my existence offends them – and I think that’s brilliant. I don’t want those people to like me, I don’t want them to come to our shows if they’re that bigoted.

Going back to the tattoo though, I absolutely love that. I think it’s bizarre that people would do that. It blows my mind. We played this huge punk show in Liverpool last year, where all the DIY punks get together as a collective and play to about 300 people. We played that and my guitar broke, so we just had to play cover songs, and after that the fan came up to me and showed me the “sass or die” tattoo – and that was the way we ended 2017: it was absolutely amazing. I loved it”.

I broach the subject of mental health too, as this is also an issue she speaks openly about online. I ask if she has any advice for other bands who find themselves feeling mentally drained whilst on tour…

“The big thing for me was that I was originally really anti-meds. But actually, just starting on meds has totally changed my life and I feel so much better for it. I don’t want to be ‘pro-meds’ – whatever your stance is, it’s your stance and that’s totally fine – but I would advise people to come to their own decisions, and don’t close your mind off to it. Especially if it’s something that could potentially help you.

General advice and stuff for bands is to eat well, sleep well, and look after each other. It’s dead simple. When we first started touring it was like “Yeah! We’re on tour, let’s go out every night!” and you end up being destroyed by day ten. You get physically ill too.

The thing that made me really ill whilst touring though was that the band consumes your life, so it takes away your social life and even though you’re with your best friends in a band, you don’t see your family, or your other friends, or your partner. And on top of that you’re constantly tired, so it all adds up. I would advise keeping in contact with friends as much as you can. Get your friends to come to shows in the different cities that you’re touring, which is what I’ve done on this tour. A bit of life outside of the band whilst you’re all on tour is great, and it will stop you killing each other.

Our band is formed of five of the most annoying individuals ever. Our bassist is obsessed with meme songs, so on the way here we were listening to Toto – just Toto. It’s funny to start with, you’re like “you’ve played ‘Africa’ a few times, okay” and then he played another Toto song, and another one, and another. He played them for the entire journey – which was an hour. He’s lucky to still be alive. So yeah, no Toto songs on tour…

After establishing a strong “No Toto” rule, I ask if she can remember the first time she crowd-surfed or got involved in a mosh pit at a gig, as I know both of these things occur at Queen Zee shows…

“The first time I crowd-surfed was as Queen Zee. I never had the guts as a little queer kid to get down to the front and do it. I can’t remember the first time I moshed really, but I was always in to punk and thrash bands so I definitely moshed at those gigs. It was very macho though, so I didn’t feel very welcome in to any of that and there was never really any girls in the pit. So it’s great now when we play shows that I see a mix of girls and guys in the mosh.

I highlight what a great achievement that is, to have created the safe space that she felt was initially lacking at gigs…

“That’s what it’s all about. People know at our gigs that we won’t tolerate any nonsense either. We stopped a show in Nottingham on this tour because our bassist Frankie’s Mum got punched in the face. It was the last song of the set, so I was like “if you want to move about, this is your chance to do it!” and this guy thought it was a great idea to just to swing round in to me, hitting Frankie’s Mum in the face in the process.”

I point out that of all the people that could’ve happened to, what are the chances it would be the Bassist’s Mum?!

“I know! I was like “you need to leave, now”. Luckily she was okay, she actually loved it! Mosh pits are weird though. We had a gig in Birmingham the other day, and the crowd for the support bands were quite young, maybe seventeen year olds? So they were really kicking off, and I thought I’d jump in because you know, it’s only kids – but I just got beaten up! I’m too old. I’m twenty-four this year, and I came out of that mosh bruised and feeling like a fifty year old”.

I reconcile by adding I’m approaching twenty-eight and I bruise like a peach just thinking about mosh pits, but I still dive in. I ask her what new music she’s been listening too, as GIHEs are always interested in new music recommendations from our favourite bands.

“There’s so many on this tour that we’ve played with. A band from Cardiff called CHROMA are amazing. We shared a stage with them at Reading & Leeds last year and then we’ve played with them on this tour, and they always blow me away. Their songs have a really cool Death From Above type vibes to them.

There’s a band from Nottingham called Babe Punch who play Riot Grrrl-esque punk stuff, and they do a really good cover of ABBA’s ‘SOS’. Salt Bath are another Cardiff band who play really cool queer punk stuff. They’re my big three”.

Now it’s time to talk about plans for the summer. I ask what festivals Queen Zee will be playing at, and if there are any festivals she’d like to attend just as a fan.

“I hate music…”

It takes me a moment to work out whether she’s joking or not…

“No seriously, when we play a gig or we’re watching support bands I’m like “Ah music is great, I love it!” but when I’m at home I never listen to music. I’m chilling the fuck out and watching Netflix, I’m not going to any Festivals as a fan! After seeing the inner-workings of Festivals as well, it changes your perspective on things. It’s always so stressful trying to get from Point A to Point B in a field – which you think would be simple – but it’s the most difficult thing.

But, having said that, we’re playing quite a few festivals in May. We’re playing The Great Escape, Sound City, Live At Leeds, Neighbourhood, and there’s more on the horizon too. We’ve got some time off on June & July to do some more recording though.

To make the idea of Festivals more bearable, I ask her what her dream Festival line-up would be…

“Dream headliner would be Me, with a support of Me, and just before that it would be Me. Doing slightly different stuff though, maybe even a Toto covers set? I dunno, I’d probably give the headline slot to someone who really deserves it.

I have really bad music taste, I love classic rock like Twisted Sister. I’m obsessed with them, and I know I shouldn’t be, and I know it’s bad. Everyone else in the band has really cool music taste like Pixies and Neutral Milk Hotel, and I’m like “okay, does anyone like Scorpions?”

I’d like to see The B52s, I don’t even know if they’re still going?

I mention that Cindy Wilson of the B52s is doing her own solo stuff now, so that might have to wait…

I’d resurrect ABBA! To be honest, it’d probably just be loads of little bands in a sweat-box venue. Oh wait – I’ve got my dream headliner – Judas Priest…I’m obsessed with them.

Little did we know at this point that the next day ABBA would announce they’re releasing new music. It’s as if Queen Zee has a sixth sense. As my final question, I ask that aside from “sass or die” – if she had to use three words to describe Queen Zee, what would they be?

“Tortured Scissor Sisters…”

Fingers crossed that’s what she calls the band’s debut album…

Thanks so much to Queen Zee for answering my questions. Catch the band at The Great Escape at The Hope & Ruin (10:45pm -Thursday 17th May)

Photo Credit: Jon Mo

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut