|Photo by Joel Benjamin.|
A friend of mine mentioned a few times how good Sink Ya Teeth are and then in December I got the chance to see them at an excellent Norwich venue, The Owl Sanctuary. Turned out my friend was spot on! Their set was full of sophisticated catchy 80s tinged pop rock laced with intriguing, evocative lyrics and delivered with relaxed style. Next thing I know they have a classy atmospheric single ‘If You See Me’ out on 1965 Records and are being played on Radio 6! Fortunately I was able to contact Maria and Gemma and arrange an interview for one Saturday lunch time...
Hi Gemma and Maria! Could you tell us about Sink Ya Teeth? When did you get together, why did you get together?
Maria: We got together in July 2015. I was a solo artist and Gem played guitar in the band that then broke up and we wanted to continue doing something together and it’s a lot easier to organise two people than it is five!
Ah OK so you were in the same band were you…
Gemma: Maria was a solo artist and she wanted to do some stuff with a band and she got some people together to play her solo stuff and I was the guitarist. Really loved what she was doing and found we had similar visions and taste in music. So we decided to do something as a two piece. I’ve been in a few bands, the main one, years ago was called Kaito and a few other ones that didn’t really go anywhere. And Maria’s been in a punk band...
Maria: About ten years ago I was in a punk band called The Incidentals and then I became solo as Girl In A Thunderbolt.
Who would you cite as musical influences? The single ‘If You See Me’ reminded me of John Foxx and Grace Jones!
M: I think there is a lot of influence from the early 80s and from late 80s rave as well, not too heavy but that is there as well and I do love Grace Jones! I think the vocal are quite detached because I was feeling a little bit burnt out and down when I wrote it...self induced through too much partying!
Is there one main songwriter in the band? Is it a collaboration? What does the creative process look like in SYT?
G: Usually what happens is Maria will come up with the main bit of the song and then gives it to me and I’ll add a bass line if I feel it needs it and anything else I feel needs doing but usually it’s 70% done when it’s delivered but I just add the finishing touches. Or sometimes I don’t do anything to it because adding to it would ruin it! It’s also knowing when not to add as well, I think a lot of people can want to get themselves all over it when it’s fine as it is.
I listened to two or three of your songs online, what sort of subjects do you engage with lyrically? ‘Circumstances’ seemed to end with a question about determinism versus free will…
M: I should find that quite easy to answer but I’m actually finding it quite difficult! It’s usually from personal experience but I don’t like lyrics that are really black and white I like to leave in a bit of ambiguity and leave things open to interpretation, so the listener might draw their own conclusions through their own life path and their own experiences. I know what I’m singing about in most cases and I might embellish that to create a bigger story but I’ll still leave an element of ambiguity there. No one wants you to lay everything on the line.
So what was ‘Circumstances’ about?
G: Not being able to find things in drawers haha
M: It’s not about anything, it’s about everything, it’s an amalgamation of different thought processes and different feelings that are all drawn together to make a sentence and making sure that the end of each line rhymes! Every line does mean something to me…one line reminds me of when I was a kid and my Mum used to buy us souvenirs and you’d have that bottom draw in your kitchen or sideboard or wherever that’s got loads of crap in it. And then there are other lines like ”You think you’ve got a voice, you think you’ve got a choice” which is obviously a little bit more deep and a comment on the world today and governments and political systems. It’s just phrases, some carry weight, some don’t, it’s up to the listener to decide which is which.
I saw you last year with Peach Club and Skinny Girl Diet, do you think there has been an increase in female fronted feminist bands over the last few years?
M: I don’t know, there has always been loads of female fronted bands or girls in bands in Norwich in my experience so it’s never really felt like ‘a thing’.
G: Same with me, ever since I first got a guitar when I was thirteen there were plenty of women in bands then to inspire me like Elastica, Sleeper and The Breeders. So I don’t know it there has been an increase, possibly more of an awareness maybe now.
Obviously Skinny Girl Diet and Peach Club are overtly feminist, is that something you feel aligned with?
M: I think everyone who believes in equality is feminist to an extent but I don’t think we see ourselves as a feminist band, we’re just a band.
You seem to play live quite regularly, is that something you particularly enjoy?
G: It’s one of those things, you do enjoy it at the time and you enjoy it afterwards but on the day I go really quiet and get in the zone and think ‘Why do I do this to myself?’ and get really nervous, but I have to do it. I’m not the most extrovert on stage but I have to do it. And we like to have a little tipple, it’s like a night out!
And has Norwich been a good place to be a band? Are there quite a lot of opportunities to play?
M: Yeah I think so, there are some good venues and some good promoters. Norwich Art Centre is always our favourite.
You just signed with 1965 Records, how did that come about? Did you contact them or did they come to you?
G: We played the launch party of Norwich Sound and Vision and there was a guy in the audience who really loved us and wrote something on Facebook about us. It turned out he was friends with James Endeacott who runs 1965. This guy wrote ‘Sink Ya Teeth are amazing’ and tagged James in it and James said ‘Thanks I’ll check them out’ Turned out James was the guy who used to manage Tindersticks and discovered The Libertines and The Strokes. He asked us to send him some music and then they came to see us play in a little country pub in Diss, and it all went from there really!
You were recently played on Radio 6 as well is that right?
G: Steve Lamacq has played us 6 days in a row-and yesterday we got played 3 times in one day!
M: And Radio 1 the day before on Huw Stephens!
Are there any books, bands or writers that you’ve been influenced by?
G: I like David Lynch, the film director, and his music and art as well. He’s my hero.
M: I like Patti Smith, love her poetry and her performance and books. I like how she is just who she is, unapologetic.
Are there any bands around at the moment that you are particularly impressed by?
G: Pip Blom who we’re playing with tonight, she’s from Amsterdam, catchy indie punk pop. And Maria saw a band the other night that I missed...
M: Yeah, yeah, Yassassin. Really good 5 piece band they sort of reminded me of a cross between early Roxy Music and The Slits, really energetic on stage and really good!
Plans for 2017?G: We’ve got Loud Women (in September) obviously and a couple of things in July. We’re going to write some stuff over summer and get our live set as good as we can get it! We’ve got a few gigs and we might get some more. And we’ve got another single lined up.
Big thanks to Maria and Gemma for their time.