LIVE: Cherym / Brand New Friend @ Paper Dress Vintage, 06.10.2021

Only my second time at a gig since the ‘Big C’ and my first north of the river, venturing to Hackney from the depths of South London proved to be most definitely worth it, once safely ensconced in the ever-kitsch, Twin Peaksy vibes of Paper Dress Vintage. 

After sampling some local pale ale downstairs, my ears were treated to the uplifting, punk-pop energy of the night’s co-headliners Brand New Friend. Announcing “we’re gonna do a rock show!” they soon kick off with an infectious jubilant charisma into the lilting, impassioned emotion of ‘She Always Comes Up Smiling’. Expressing thanks for all who’ve made it out, as well as Simba on sound and their van saviour Steve-o, the band’s endearing modesty and gratitude just makes them all the more loveable as they assure us that if we don’t like what we hear, they’ll “keep it off the second album…” 

In a beautiful kind of symmetry the band’s last gig “before ‘rona” was also with Cherym, so – as we’re left hoping there’s not another world catastrophe after tonight – they dedicate the next song to their pals as their glistening vocal harmonies and swirling hooks ooze a joyous, scuzzy energy; a comforting hug in sonic form. 

Honoured to be treated to the new, first song that Lauren’s written (it’s s good ‘un) and a taster of the new album in the form of ‘Lucky’, amongst the fizzing melodies of older favourites such as ‘I Was An Astronaut’ and ‘Girl’, and heartfelt odes to grandparents past (“… this is the part of the set where we’re at Glastonbury and it starts raining and the crowd fuckin’ erupt!”), the entirety of Brand New Friend’s set exudes a wonderfully life-affirming charm. Interweaving a raw, nostalgic emotion with a refreshing euphoric zest, it’s simply impossible not to sing and bop along to their incessantly catchy offerings and become utterly immersed in their shimmering, buoyant energy. 

And the euphoria doesn’t end there. As Derry trio Cherym take to the stage in their matching sports jerseys, they blast into the swirling driving force of ‘She’s Enough Going On’. Immediately capturing our attention with their unique blend of anthemic, honey-sweet punk-pop mixed with a gritty riotous power, I’m filled with a teenage excitement (a rare feeling for someone who’s not been a teenager for many years) to be seeing this refreshing new band – one all too deserving of the acclaim they’ve received so far from the likes of NME and Radio X’s John Kennedy. 

Continuing with the fuzzing, catchy hooks of 2019 single ‘Abigail’, and the jangling tongue-in-cheek wit and driving beats of 2018’s ‘Pretty Boys’ (dedicated to Brand New Friend’s da), each offering blasts out from the trio with a vibrant spirit and colourful, charismatic musicality; sticking in your ears instantly. Encouraging some crowd participation for personal fave, ‘Listening To My Head’, Cherym showcase their ability to create instant singalong anthems. With an uplifting, empowering energy, frenzied hooks accompany Hannah Richardson’s luscious angst-driven vocals; a sunny slice of witty lyrical storytelling (it’s inspired by the Netflix series Dirty John) combining a fierce sense of rage with a bubbling, sugar-coated nostalgia. 

Alongside the exuberant energy of songs like this and the fiery spirit of ‘Weird Ones’, drummer Alannagh Doherty takes a moment of calm to introduce the exquisite harmonies of ‘Gone Girl’, sharing with us that the track addresses domestic abuse; assuring us that we’re in a safe space here. A stirring and all-too-resonant message right now, and one that I’m grateful that bands such as Cherym are addressing openly and with such passion. 

Resuming a sizzling energy with the scuzzy, noughties-indie-reminiscent hooks of instant earworm ‘Kisses On My Cards’ and the buoyant beats of heartfelt celebration of queer love ‘We’re Just Friends’, Hannah, Alannagh and Nyree then draw the set to a close with the buzzing, elevating joy of ‘Take It Back’. A master class in pure, perfect punk-pop. 

And what a superb way for the trio to celebrate their new debut EP Hey Tori (one of my albums of the year for sure). Seeing both these Northern Irish bands has left me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step; desperate to hop across the pond to see more. 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Y-Control Photography

INTERVIEW: Breakup Haircut

Today is International Day Of The Girl (11th October), a time to champion the achievements of girls on a global scale and to highlight and challenge the gender inequality that girls still face today.

Women Of The World Festival (WOW)’s research into gender disparity in music has found the following: “Recent studies show how underrepresented women are in the industry: a landmark US survey reported that from 2019 to 2020, female artists fell from 22.5% to 20.2%; female songwriters decreased from 14.4% to 12.9%; and female producers declined from 5% to just 2%. The research also took a representative sample of 600 songs between 2012 and 2020, of 23 individual women credited as producers just seven were women of colour, resulting in an overall ratio of one woman of colour to every 180 male producers.”

Determined to help change these statistics, WOW Festival created their WOW Sounds music programme to showcase and celebrate a range of girl bands from across the globe. This year, they’ve recorded performances with Nadia Javed, Breakup Haircut, Sri Lankan acoustic trio The Singing Potatoes, Roma girl band Pretty Loud and a project Naytive Mentorship led by Australian rapper and songwriter Naomi Wenitong. Each performance has been released as an exclusive short set with an introduction about the artist/band’s activism. The UK acts all filmed sets at EartH Hackney which you can watch via WOW’s IGTV and YouTube throughout today.

We caught up with Ishani, Ripley & Delphine – aka Breakup Haircut – who formed at First Timers Fest in 2019 to talk about their performance for WOW Sounds, how they think things have progressed in recent years for girls interested in music, their work with First Timers Fest and the work/life balance that accompanies being in a band that you love…

Hello Breakup Haircut! Talk to me about the pre-recorded set you played for WOW Sounds at EartH in Hackney…

Ishani: It was a really cool, fun experience. I thought our set was really chilled because we rehearse constantly, so it wasn’t too big a thing to play stuff from start to finish like that. Everyone was so nice. The sound engineer at EartH is called Luca and he was a very chill person to hang out with. I was also playing bass in Nadia Javed’s band too, so I was there for a bit longer.

Ripley: We played three of our tracks, ‘Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin?’, ‘Mum, I Wanna Be a Greaser’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend’.

Delphine: I’ve been to WOW as a punter and been to talks and shows before, but not as a direct contributor to the festival. It’s pretty nice to be on the other side of the stage!

I’m looking forward to watching your performance! As you all know, International Day Of The Girl is about highlighting the triumphs and the challenges that girls face. In terms of music, do you think things have improved for girls and young gender non-conforming people who are interested in joining bands and playing instruments since you were girls? 

Ishani: I think there are more movements now than to help people to diversify the music scene and that’s a really good thing. When I was younger, the reason I didn’t start a band was more because of my location. I grew up in the northeast and it’s not great for people of colour up there. It wasn’t easy to find people who wanted to play music with me. I think being in a big city is one thing, but also having movements like First Timers Fest and WOW Sounds, they make it a much friendlier and nicer place. You don’t have to brunt quite as much hostility to get to the point of playing a show or playing music. I think there are people who champion and try really hard in that to make stuff happen. Two of us are on the committee for First Timers and we help out with that now. That’s something we think is very important and we want to champion people being able to play music.

Delphine: I didn’t grow up in this country, so I can’t really talk about the UK in general, and I have no idea what France is like at the moment because I’ve been here in the UK for 17 years. So I’m like: “I can’t talk about the UK as a kid, but I can’t talk about France as an adult.” But in France I come from a very rural area where because of distances it’s a challenge to access things.

I think music is a bit different in the sense that France is very serious. You either go to music school and you study music, or you don’t do music. In terms of representation, I come from a very white area. So if you were a person of colour, it probably would have been harder as well. It’s not a very diverse. So in terms of representation and challenging that, it just didn’t happen at the time. But it probably has changed a lot now and I’m glad it has, because we’re actually waking up to the fact that there is space for everybody. You have to allow people to be themselves and you have to allow people to express their art, because everybody’s happier that way. I think championing minorities and allowing more access and making effort to actually give access to more people is going to benefit everybody in the long term.

Ripley: I think it’s definitely better than when I grew up in terms of accessibility. I’m from a family where no one does music except for me. I grew up military and I moved around a lot and pretty much every school I went to, music was for kids who had money. Financially as a family we were comfortable, but music lessons were really expensive and I couldn’t have them. So I think stuff has got better because with initiatives like Girls Rock London and First Timers Fest where people are trying to eliminate the monetary barriers so you can actually have a go with an instrument, which is great.

Also, speaking as a queer person as well, there’s a lot more queer people in music which is really, really cool because I had zero role models when I was a kid. So over the last five years or so, there’s just been more and more queer representation. We’ve always got to keep pushing so that things keep moving forward and don’t go backwards, but I think it is on the way to being better.

You’ve listed some great organisations that we’re big fans of here at Get In Her Ears. I think if Girls Rock London and First Timers Fest had been around when I was a girl, I might have started to learn an instrument…

Ishani: We run adult camps too, so you can always come along to those!

Delphine: Come along it’ll be so much fun!

Maybe I will?! I really like the idea of being in a non-judgmental environment where people don’t care if you don’t know what a chord is and you’re allowed to just take your time and enjoy playing an instrument…

Ishani: That’s so true, actually. People can be so elitist about it and make you feel so shut out. Everyone starts somewhere, just because someone happened to start learning music when they were five doesn’t make someone else’s efforts to start a bit later in life any less valid. Music is such a joy. Everyone should be able to have the opportunity and access to it and it really sucks that people still don’t.

After forming at First Timers Fest in 2019, you released your debut EP, What did you expect? I got it off the internet. What are you most proud of about this record?

Ripley: I think at the time, it was just getting something out.

Ishani: Releasing that EP was actually incredibly stressful for all of us because we put an unrealistic time constraint on ourselves. We wouldn’t do it again like that, I’m quite proud of the fact that we did, but we never want to do it like that again. We recorded six songs live and the entire thing was pulled together in a month and then we released it two months later.

Delphine: I’m glad that we survived that, because that was a lot. But have we really learned that lesson of not doing too much at once?

Ripley: Partly? Thanks to lockdown, we’re in the mixing and mastering stage of our new album now. The album has taken over a year to record due to various lockdowns interrupting us, so partly due to world events, we have taken a much longer time on this record…

Delphine: Err…we recorded 10 songs in one week? So…

Ishani: Ripley has definitely taken me aside and said that we have been waiting for this album for literally years at this point. We don’t need to rush the output and we may as well do it right. I really forget that you don’t have to output consistently. So it’s really good to have people reminding me of that.

Ripley: Burnout is real in so many aspects of life. So many people I know are having trouble with it in regular work and for projects outside of work. I’ve burned out several times before. Trying to pace yourself and learn how to look after yourself is harder to do in the digital age where everyone’s expected to output on every front all the time. Getting that balance right is quite tricky.

Delphine: We just have to remind ourselves that we’re doing this for fun. That’s the main thing. This doesn’t pay our bills, it helps when we have gigs and stuff because then the band can sustain itself a bit by not having to worry too much about paying for rehearsal spaces and things, but it’s not something that pays for our day-to-day things.

Ripley: I’ve been in a previous project before where it was very much “the band is the main thing, screw your work” and it was a really unhealthy atmosphere, so unsurprisingly I left. We had an agreement upfront when we started Breakup Haircut that we were all going to try our best, but if any of this is impacting people’s work and their income, then as depressing as it is sometimes, people’s day jobs do have to come first. Although this is way more fun than a day job, you’ve got to be able to pay your rent and feed yourself. So we’re trying to make sure that we take care of ourselves. I’ve said to my mates that my day job makes it so I can pay the rent and then the keeps me sane.

It sounds like you’re all on the same page about the work/life music balance, so that in itself is encouraging to hear.

Finally, do you have any bands or artists who you’ve been listening to at the moment that you’d like to give a shout out to?

Ripley: I’ve been really enjoying Penelope Scott recently. She plays kind of lo-fi electronics with funky sounds and she does a song called ‘Rat’ which is a kind of “screw you” to tech billionaires like Elon Musk. It’s got really good lyrics and some nice sort of science-y burns. I like it. Also shout out to pinkshift, I’ve really got into pink shift recently as well.

Delphine: Since Loud Women Festival in September, I’ve been listening a lot of ARXX and Lilith Ai, because she’s just so beautiful.

Ishani: I’ve been listening to a friend of mine Kapil Seshasayee, he is part of the South Asian scene and it’s interesting to hear someone making music that’s very different from the output of that scene and he makes a lot of like interesting political points as well. So I’m really enjoying that right now.

Thanks to Breakup Haircut for the chat!

Follow Breakup Haircut on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Watch their performance at EartH via WOW’s IGTV and YouTube channels

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: Nadia Javed

Today is International Day Of The Girl (11th October), a time to champion the achievements of girls on a global scale and to highlight and challenge the gender inequality that girls still face today.

Women Of The World Festival (WOW)’s research into gender disparity in music has found the following: “Recent studies show how underrepresented women are in the industry: a landmark US survey reported that from 2019 to 2020, female artists fell from 22.5% to 20.2%; female songwriters decreased from 14.4% to 12.9%; and female producers declined from 5% to just 2%. The research also took a representative sample of 600 songs between 2012 and 2020, of 23 individual women credited as producers just seven were women of colour, resulting in an overall ratio of one woman of colour to every 180 male producers.”

Determined to help change these statistics, WOW Festival created their WOW Sounds music programme to showcase and celebrate a range of girl bands from across the globe. This year, they’ve recorded performances with Nadia Javed, Breakup Haircut, Sri Lankan acoustic trio The Singing Potatoes, Roma girl band Pretty Loud and a project Naytive Mentorship led by Australian rapper and songwriter Naomi Wenitong. Each performance has been released as an exclusive short set with an introduction about the artist/band’s activism. The UK acts all filmed sets at EartH Hackney which you can watch via WOW’s IGTV and YouTube throughout today.

We caught up with the amazing Nadia Javed (known to us as a solo artist, activist and lead singer of The Tuts) about her performance for WOW Sounds, what she’s gained from speaking to the girls in their on-going mentoring programme and the importance of talking about the “double life” of a female musician…

Hello Nadia! how are you doing? What have you been up to recently?

I had the most amazing morning even though I’m absolutely exhausted. I was on the London Eye at 8:30am mentoring sixth form girls and it was the most incredible experience, it was so much fun. I was able to give them advice and share my life story with them and it was so wholesome and vulnerable. Then I had to rush back home for a meeting at 12pm with my day job, so I went from being on this high of “life is so amazing! I’ve met all of these inspiring people!” and then my Mum messaged me to say “you’ve got a parking ticket in the post” and I was like “what is this!?” I have this double life thing. We need to talk about double life thing you know, this needs to be separate piece! I had to talk about this to the girls today. I was like “look, I’m a musician, but I have a day job still because I do have to think about how am I going to pay the bills, blah blah blah.” I was honest with them about it, because sometimes from the outside it can seem like I am a full time musician when I’m not. It’s hard. I was actually talking about balance to one of the girls, because she wants to do medicine but also do music as well, so it’s really hard to get the balance right sometimes without burning out.

It’s so much to balance isn’t it? Such extreme highs with your everyday life and the lows that come with that sometimes. I hope the parking ticket isn’t too expensive…

Tell me about your performance for WOW Sounds that you recorded at EartH in Hackney…

It was really amazing. I’ve played WOW Festival before with The Tuts on International Day Of The Girl at Southbank Centre and it was absolutely incredible. The crowd was just a sea of young girls from a local school and I felt like I was in Little Mix, because they were just going wild. So when WOW approached me again tis year, they initially wanted The Tuts to play, but we’re on a really long hiatus at the moment. I didn’t want to let the opportunity slip, so I asked how they felt about me performing solo and they were really supportive, they said they would love to have me, but with a full band behind me. At the moment with my solo stuff, it’s literally me and an acoustic guitar. I’m like the brown Ed Sheeran, except that I need to invest in a loop pedal so I can do all the stuff that he does. Although, I think KT Tunstall did the pedal thing as well back in the day, so let’s not forget about Katie…

So, I got a Ishani from Breakup Haircut to play bass and I got Christabel who’s previously been in other bands like Suggested Friends and I got another friend to jump on drums. Then I thought about which songs would sound cool live, so we did ‘My Therapist Said’ which is a very upbeat pop punk track. It’s about my journey through therapy and having a problematic white therapist who didn’t know what South Asian was, and then having a South Asian therapist who told me that I “punish men,” so that did not work well. But, good news, I do have a good therapist now! Then we did a stripped back, more emotional song called ‘I Can’t Marry You’ which is about coming out of a very long term relationship where I felt pressurised to get married to this guy because I’m Muslim and he was also Muslim. He was very nice, but he just wasn’t the one.

That all sounds great, I’m looking forward to watching your set. You mentioned that you spent the morning with a group of young girls talking about being a musician. Do you think things have improved for girls and young gender non-conforming people who want to get into music since you were a girl yourself?

I don’t know how long ago that would have been for you actually as I’m not sure how old you are…

I’m 33 now. Before, I was very secretive about my age because I was like: “I should be rich and famous by now, I should be an established pop star and rock star by now.” But the truth is, I’m not. This is the reality of how long it’s taken for me to get to where I am now. I went on my first tour with The Tuts at the age of 24 with Kate Nash and then we played Glastonbury and then we went on tour with The Selector and The Specials. Then our last gig was with Bikini Kill at Brixton Academy. I’ve played Brixton Academy three times. I don’t think there is another South Asian female Muslim punk who has played that venue three times? I sometimes have to remind myself of that when I feel really shit about myself, but the point I’m trying to make is that it has taken me to get to this age, to have this “CV” that I have, because as a woman and as a woman of colour, that’s how long I feel it has taken to get here.

I think it’s different now though. I think there’s more support in a sense, because more and more people are opening up their platforms. For example, what you do at Get In Her Ears, you platform a lot of female and non-binary artists and we have the amazing Loud Women Festival too. There are more platforms out there trying to help and I think that’s a step in the right direction. We can use social media to be activists and talk about things and protest about things that we feel passionately about. I think that change is happening, not at a super fast speed, but it is happening. I think it’s important that people just become the change that they want to see. Because, let’s be honest, white cis mediocre men are still dominating everything, so we need to make sure that we don’t let that defeat us. Instead, we need to use that anger to fuel our music and our creative passion to make the change. Keep asking for help from people and networking and connecting with people and opening it up, rather than thinking that you have to solve this problem completely on your own.

I sympathise with you there. You joked earlier that you were “the brown Ed Sheeran” and some days I find myself being furious at Ed Sheeran as one mediocre man in the music industry, rather than taking a step back and connecting with our DIY music community and focusing on what I can do as part of that community and Get In Her Ears to make things better…

I mean, mediocre men – we could do a whole other interview about that as well! We’re all doing the right things. We’re using our voices and our platforms as best we can. There’s only so fast we can move before we burnout as well. You can’t do everything.

When I was speaking to the girls earlier on today at the London eye, they asked me if I ever felt anxious or nervous before I go up on stage. It is quite stressful, but there’s also a lot of imposter syndrome out there as well. We all get it, I get it all the time, but I told the girls to just remind themselves that there’s so many mediocre white cis men out there who are just doing the same thing over and over again with an acoustic guitar. So just by you existing as you are, and me existing as I am, is a political statement in itself. That is enough. You are enough.

With this WOW mentoring scheme, it’s taught me so much about myself, because I remembered that we all know more than we think we do. We’ve all been through so much in our lives, that we all have our own individual stories. We’ve all had our own struggles and painful experiences and those things have taught us so many lessons. Then it’s in moments like this, that you realise “oh, that kind of horrific experience wasn’t so bad now, because I’ve got to share it with someone and they’ve been able to relate to it and use it to their advantage now.” So it’s quite cool actually.

That’s really solid advice. Your work with WOW is clearly important to you, but I know you work with other great organisations like the Solidarity Not Silence campaign too. Are there any other charities or non-profit groups that you recommend we check out?

I dressed up as a pregnant woman to help my friend Janey who works for Level Up last month. A pregnant woman who was supposed to take part in the campaign had to pull out last minute so I stepped in to help out. It’s such an important campaign. They’re trying to stop pregnant women from being put in prison, because even if you have a short sentence, you can get put into jail for simple things like not paying council tax or a minor first offence. There are some horrific stories of girls giving birth in their cells and their babies dying – horrific things that no one should have to go through, so we are fighting for that really big change. We need around 10,000 signatures on the petition and we’re somewhere around 7,000 now. We want there to be a huge change in the law around this issue. Sharing these stories starts a conversation and that brings about the change.

The work that organisations like Level Up do to create change is incredible, I admire their efforts and your involvement too.

Before we let you go, are there any bands or artists that you recommend we check out?

I literally have the most basic taste in music. Basically, all I know is the Spice Girls, The Libertines, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift and McFly. I listen to my own band’s album sometimes too!

Thanks to Nadia for the chat!

Follow Nadia Javed on TwitterInstagram

Watch her performance at EartH via WOW’s IGTV and YouTube channels

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Alice Mary – ‘Surgeon’

Smooth and woozy dream-pop at its finest, Alice Mary’s latest single is the perfect tune to wind down to. Shimmering and effervescent, ‘Surgeon‘ will leave you feeling all kinds of things.

Alice Mary’s gorgeous mellow vocals draw you into the track, bringing to mind vocalists like Weyes Blood and Laura Marling; creating an immersive psychedelic musicality driven by a female voice. The opening lyric “the surgeon who loved you sewed you back together” sets the melancholic mood: beautiful, understated and effortlessly honest. Singer-songwriter, producer, and guitarist, Alice Mary explains:

‘Surgeon’ is about something I never thought I’d write about until I did. I ended up writing the lyrics in this really simple, almost childlike style, because that’s the only way I could look back at what had happened…

The jangling guitars, fuzzing throughout the chorus, create an instantly immersive atmosphere. It’s as though you’re floating calmly downstream. The music works as some kind of antidote to what inspired the song; any tension you might have is sure to flow away with the soothing effect of the descending chord sequences and the dark humour in Alice Mary’s vocal harmonies. The psychedelic synth textures and deep lyrical expressions contrast against the honey-sweet, catchy pop-inspired melody in a way that’s both eerie and carefree. In this way, ‘Surgeon’ is reminiscent of the brighter side of Portishead, or St. Vincent.

From dancy bops and funky riffs, to psychedelic sad girl soft-rock, Alice Mary has shown us so many sides to her witty music and we can’t wait to hear more! 

Jaz Kelly
@surfjazz

Photo Credit: Peter Catchpole