Monday, 26 December 2016

Feminist Riot Grrrls Peach Club.

Photo by Poppy Marriott.

Towards the end of last year three piece Skinny Girl Diet played The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich, having interviewed them in June I was interested to see them live and went along. Supporting them that night were two very impressive local bands, first up were Sink Ya Teeth followed by the full on Riot Grrrl punk of Peach Club, a four piece made up of Katie Revell, Rebecca Wren, Charlie Hart and Amanda Mackinnon who, for some reason made me think of the very early days of punk and the album 'Live at The Roxy'!. Formed in April 2015 Peach Club quickly released debut single 'Not Your Girl' and, after a few line up changes, they solidified in January 2016 as a four piece releasing in quick succession 'The Bitch Diaries' EP, 'Gr8' and 'White Girl'. A while after the gig I contacted them for an email interview.     

Could you give us an overview of Peach Club? How did you meet? When did you start? Why did you start?

Katie: We're an activist punk band. We're hoping to revive the riot grrrl scene from the 90's but make it way more inclusive since it was pretty racist/transphobic back then. We all met through each other and past band members and luckily we all get on like a house on fire! We started, PROPERLY, as a four in January '16 and it's been pretty crazy since then! We started this because we care a lot about spreading a positive, powerful message about equality and empowerment.

What had you been doing before? Had any of you been in other bands together at all?
I (Kat) started a band with some friends but it didn't work out so I went solo for a short while but then I decided I wanted to expand and become part of a band. Luckily I had a friend who was a drummer who joined for a little while and she introduced me to Amanda who is our bassist. After a while unfortunately our original drummer left the band so I put posters up around our home town, Norwich, advertising for a new drummer. Becca got in contact with me really quickly and she joined straight away. We were a three piece for a while and then we got Charlie involved and now we're definitely the dream team. I think other than silly bands for GCSE music we weren't in any other ~proper~ bands. 

Who would you list as musical influences?
Definitely bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Hole, Black Honey, Deap Vally etc. I'm personally really influenced and inspired by disco/electro acts too and if I wasn't doing punk I would definitely be doing that.

How did you decide on the name?
It's a bit silly really, but when I was solo I had peach coloured hair and adopted the nickname 'Peach' and was 'Peach Hex'. When I started the band with the original drummer she said she wanted to keep the peach element as she saw it as kind of a metaphor, like the band name is all cute and soft (like a peach) but our music is raw and rough. I love it, it's like 'this is what you expect us to be, cute and soft, but actually we're fucking badass'.

Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?
We always wanted something gritty and loud, we're hoping to evolve our sound a bit next year, perhaps incorporating more elements and effects (if we can afford it). I like our music to be simple and not too complicated but with punchy and powerful lyrics. 


You had 4 releases in 2016, 'The Bitch Diaries' EP, 'GR8', 'White Girl' and 'Mission Impossible'. Could you talk us through the tracks, what sort of subject matter were you exploring?

'The Bitch Diaries' is a whole EP mostly about empowerment. 'Equivocator' and 'I'm A Bitch' are definitely about exploring female sexuality and owning it and not being afraid to use it. I love the idea of making female sexuality... completely normal, because it's pretty ridiculous that (it isn't) anyway, right?... 'Go Away' is just about being left alone to make your own decisions. I'm sure everybody has had SOMEONE tell them 'you shouldn't do that because you're *this*' and it's SO frustrating. For us, this song is about the way people try and tell us what to do with our music and lives and bodies because we're women. Simple as. 'My Best Friend' is a celebration of female solidarity. There is something so sacred about female friendship, it's so special to me which is why I adore being in a band with three other fantastic and beautiful girls. 'Gr8' is essentially about being so cool nobody will ever forget your name/face haha. To be honest, it's a bit of a silly song but I love it! 'White Girl' is about women who believe feminism isn't necessary because they, personally, have not faced any sexism. 'Mission Impossible' is about all the men in bands who have told us how difficult it's going to be for us and that we have to 'keep practicing!'. There's a few bands in our home town who've said this to us and at a gig recently one of them told us he was shocked at how much we've improved. I should have told him to go fuck himself but unfortunately I'm too polite and just wrote a song about it instead. 
What sources do you draw on in lyric writing? Personal experiences, books, films?
A mix of personal experience and experience's I read online. I want to include everybody in my writing, so I have to take from the experiences of trans/woc/disabled people to help develop my lyrics so they are more inclusive. I try really hard not to talk over other people, and play their oppression off as my own, and I hope to collab with someone who is not white/cis soon so I can learn how to help lift voices up properly.

Often female musicians have to put up with sexism from men with essentialist attitudes, and some bands (eg Petrol Girls) have confronted the sexual harassment that women have to deal with in music.  What has your experience been in the punk/DIY scene? Is it a better place for women than other sub-cultures?
As I mentioned early, we have met a fair few sexist pricks in our short year as a band. On the other hand, we've also met some absolutely amazing bands who are so supportive and not in the slightest patronising. The main problem we face is people not taking us seriously because we're a young band, not because we're girls. I definitely do not think the punk scene is as bad as the pop scene, and we're hoping we can help that in some shape or form.

It seems to me that there has been a real upsurge in feminist punk bands and gigs over the last couple of years-is that true or was I just missing it!?
I think there's always been feminist punk bands floating around, but they didn't label themselves as 'feminist'. The new surge of feminism is really helping underground feminist bands come to light as we're always searching for new ways to spread a message. 

Capitalism tries to create a sense of insecurity and anxiety about appearance in women particularly, encouraging them to construct a sense of self based on visually pleasing society. Do you think having a sense of community and exploring your creativity can help in resisting those pressures? 
Having a community where we all encourage and support each other really helps to lift those pressures. I think we're at a point in time where a lot of women are no longer concerned about other people liking them but liking themselves which is very important. We're in an age where self-love is no longer frowned upon and is encouraged which I think really helps reduce insecurities we may have, and promotes happier and more rounded self images. Women are starting to realise now that they do not have to be skinny or have eurocentric features to be beautiful, and that beauty comes in so many different forms, and that no matter what the media shows us this fact is true. 

What are your plans for 2017 -are you going to be out playing live, do you have any plans for further releases?
We're really hoping we can gig more around the country and less in our home town. In fact, our first gig of the year is in London which is super exciting. We're probably going to write and record some more next year, we're always writing new material and working on new stuff so no doubt there'll be new PC material next year! 

What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
I've been listening to lots of The Cure lately, Robert Smith is an incredible writer and a huge influence to me. We've been getting a lot of influence from Deap Vally lately, we really dig their sound. 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Radioactive Rats, the Sumac Centre and Donny Osmond.

Photo by Mariusz Fratczak courtesy of RR.
I have been extremely excited by what I've seen and heard of Radioactive Rats online for a few months but up till the start of December hadn’t been able to see them live so when I saw they were playing the legendary Sumac Centre in Nottingham it seemed like an ideal opportunity. So a bus, a train and a bit of walk later I was there. I’m aware that the Sumac Centre may not be on everyone’s radar but my mate Eagle has put on so many gigs there and talks about it like it’s his second home so I was intrigued to see it. As far as I could make out it’s a (biggish) house that has been turned into a social centre that is used by various groups in the area, up on the wall is a notice telling people like me that ‘The Sumac Centre promotes co-operation, non-hierarchy and grassroots groups promoting social and environmental justice. We are not-for-profit and run by volunteers’. The gig that night had been organised by Matt to raise money to help the homeless and lonely in Nottingham this Christmas. (As I handed over the small amount of ticket money I noticed a book with one of my heroes, Louise Michel, on the cover. This amazing woman was a member of the Paris Commune, when it was overthrown she was deported to New Caledonia where she befriended and supported the indigenous people. When released and back in Europe she continued her radical activities including refusing to condemn a would be assassin who shot her.)

Tonight there were five bands on, as far as I am aware from Nottingham and Lincoln, with RR headlining, the other four I hadn’t heard or heard of before the gig. It seems from the stream of online flyers and posters that grassroots punk is doing very well indeed-as one person said that night ‘So many bands there aren’t enough punks to go round!’. Whether punk was primarily about a DIY, participatory ethos originally or whether it has been read retrospectively in to it at grassroots level it seems to be a well established model.

First four bands in the large ex living room were Sod’s Law, Mothcob (who have a very pleasant lead singer), Prisoners of War and Boycott the Baptist. Each band really gave it their all-as a mate said ‘There is no money to be made, these bands do what they do because they love doing it’ I really enjoyed all four, perhaps especially PoW but that was to do with personal taste in riffs and politics.

Last up were Radioactive Rats who played for about 40+ mins and were completely worth travelling up for. Fantastic! Playing metal tinged punk with danceable riffs and rhythms, RR are fronted by singer Ewa Zablocka and are gaining a reputation as a very good band indeed and on the evidence of this gig it’s obvious why. Musically they are superb, coming across as really enjoying themselves and are expert at breaking down any sense of separation between the band and ‘the audience’ with the two guitarists and vocalist all standing in with the crowd at various points. In fact at one point Marek Stepien (Stemp) handed his guitar to a (surprised) friend who proceeded to sub for the song! For a while I’ve been a bit worried about my back and the physical demands of being at the front of punk gigs but this was so good I decided to risk it and view any consequences as worth it!

Before the gig I grabbed a few minutes with Radioactive Rats (Ewa- vocals, Joseph- guitar and vocals, Kubczak- bass, Stemp- guitar and Bartek- drums) to find out how there is a Polish language punk band based in Nottingham!
Photo by FameShoot Photography courtesy of RR.
How did Radioactive Rats start?

Ewa: Well, we started in Poland in 2003 as Potłuczony Kaloryfer (Smashed Radiator), me and Kubczak were in the original band. When we moved here we started playing with Joseph because we knew each other from different bands in Poland and we reactivated Smashed Radiators and then we changed the name.

Why did you change the name?

Ewa: Because you couldn’t say Potłuczony Kaloryfer haha!

Yeah, that’s fair enough! Has the line up changed very much since you have been in Britain?

Ewa: No, not really, the guitarist and the bassist are the same. We’ve got a new drummer at the moment who has played with us a few months, the previous one used to play with us in Poland as well. And also we’ve got another guitarist, Marek.

So has your sound changed over the last year?

Ewa: For sure because we grow up a little bit!

And has your sound got harder?

Ewa: Definitely!
Stemp: Technically we changed the tuning on our guitars a little bit lower to have a little bit heavier sound and now with two guitars in the band we can do more things, with one playing rhythm the second one can play solos and stuff like that. So there is more space for different sounds.

Is there a long history of punk in Poland? I’ve heard of Dezerter…?

Eva: Yes there is a long history...
Kubczak: The best punk festival in Poland was Jarocin, Dezerter and many other polish punk bands played there, Dezerter are playing again. Punk rock has a long history in Poland, forty years like in the UK.

So when punk started in Poland it was still a communist country? Was it difficult for punks?

Stemp: Yeah, because punks always try to say ‘Fuck the System’ so it wasn’t very popular with the government and those sort of organisations, but it is strong because a lot of people supported it because of that message behind the lyrics...and it’s not easy to have a haircut like Kubczak. Now it is easier but years ago..
Kubczak: Travelling to bigger places in Poland…
Stemp: ..a lot of people would like to hit you for looking different!

Ah OK, it was a little bit like that in the UK. What punk bands have influenced or inspired you as a band?

Ewa: The Exploited, the Sex Pistols a little bit, and many Polish bands.

You’ve started to put up tracks on Bandcamp with more tracks to come, what sort of things do you sing about?

Ewa: About everything haha. About being against the system, about religion, human rights, animal rights, and about sexism as well.

And how would you describe your politics? Left wing?

Ewa: Well to be honest, left or right is the same shit. I’m trying to be out of politics.
Stemp: I don’t like putting people in brackets I prefer that everyone is thinking for themselves, with their own views. Sometimes even on the right they have good ideas, sometimes on the left so you have to choose, you have to think for yourself.

Who does the most song writing in RR?

Ewa: It depends, at the moment I am. But most of the Polish lyrics are written by Kubczak.
Kubczak: When I was young I started listening to punk rock through my cousin, it was something fucking good and I started writing lyrics. But not so much now.
Ewa: The old Potłuczony Kaloryfer lyrics were written by him.

And do you still do some of those songs?

Ewa; Yeah we do.
Stemp: We have started writing new songs, you will hear two new ones today that we wrote recently in English. We decided if we want to play here we will try to write so people can understand and it is easier to get to the listeners.

When you write your songs what inspiration do you draw on, personal experiences, books, films?

Ewa: I think it is everything. Everything you can feel, hear, see.

Ewa, A lot of female musicians experience some sexism, how have you found the punk scene? Is it an easier place to be a woman than mainstream culture?

Ewa: To be honest yeah, I think that punk rockers are not sexist so I never met with any bad situations.

And how is punk doing, are you encouraged by it, are there a lot of punk bands around Nottingham?

Stemp: Yeah, and it’s very encouraging that after gigs we have so many new friends, also from other bands that ask us ‘Will you visit us and play with us in our city later’.

So grassroots punk is still very strong?

Stemp: Our experience till now, yeah it is.

I went to see Perma War in London a few weeks ago, are there many Polish language punk bands in Britain?

Ewa: Well, I know a few from London so I think yeah, and most of them know each other from Poland where they were in different bands and now they meet here and create new bands.
Stemp: The world is so small now, I came to the UK to Nottingham and met them, I think it was at ‘Sick of it All’ at Rock City and they asked me to join.

And what are your plans for next year? Have you got an album coming out?

All: Yeah!
Stemp: We want to finish the Demo of five old songs and like I said we have the two new songs and then hopefully we will get eight or ten new songs and start recording them as a proper new album with new stuff. We hope it will be a little bit more hard core than punk, hard core punk with a lot of influence from metal, a little bit heavier.

On my way back to the station the next day I noticed that Donny Osmond is playing a big arena in Nottingham early next year as part of a UK tour, we live in strange times when music that’s vital and important is being played in small social centres while Donny Osmond plays arenas!  Personally Radioactive Rats at The Sumac sounds much more interesting!