Thursday, 15 September 2016

DOLLS: Cathartic Rock! Getting Out 'What Frustrates Us About Current Society'.

Photo by Neil Anderson.
There is a famous story about a music journalist who went to see Buzzcocks supported by Gang of Four. He was so amazed by Gang of Four that he left at the end of their set, missing Buzzcocks, so that nothing would diminish the significance of what he had just witnessed. In about 2004 I went to see punk band Capdown supported by Douglas but first band up on that night was a band I had never heard of, Adequate 7. I was so impressed that I went to see them another ten times before they split up in 2006!
A few weeks ago I travelled down to London for an All-Dayer, and despite the above paragraph I decided to nip to the hotel I was staying in for a quick shower before going onto the gig. I left the hotel, found the venue and walked in catching an exhilarating, energy filled last couple of garage rock/grunge punk tracks of what must have been a cracking set by DOLLS, a band I will definitely be making the effort to catch in full!
DOLLS are a two piece comprised of singer/guitarist Jade Ellins and drummer Belinda Conde, they formed DOLLS in 2014 and have three excellent tracks up on Soundcloud, double A-side single ‘Audrey’ and ‘Kid Kannibal’ plus ‘Killing Time’. Despite my frustrating tardiness they were kind enough to agree to an interview.  

Q: Could you give us the story so far!? Have you been in other bands before? When did you form?

Jade: I had my own gothic (well tried to be) rock band at Uni and now currently I’m also in Long Teeth. Bel and I met about 2 years ago now and got on ‘like a fucking house on fire’.

Bel: Before joining DOLLS I was in a seven-piece band… so this was quite a change!

Q: Where did the idea for the name DOLLS come from? Is it a comment on the reductionist view of women in contemporary society as in 'Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism' by Natasha Walter?

Jade: No actually, I thought it was a cool, short punchy name, and original… then it turned out almost every other band ever had the word ‘Dolls’ in their name.

Q: Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sort of sound you wanted from the start or has it been more evolutionary?

Jade: When we were first jamming together I was still very much in my Blues Rock stage. So every song was very riff based with wailing vocals. I was a bit scared to use more pop based chords back then as I thought it might sound cheesy. I got into listening to more punk and ‘arty’ bands such as Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and Ought about a year ago so our sound changed a lot. I realised pop chords weren’t the problem, it was more what you did with them. Now there is hardly a blues riff in sight!

Q: How would you describe your sound?

Bel: I think our sound is a mixture of wanting to ‘get out’ what frustrates us about the current society we live in, with a touch of Jade’s ballsy vocals and my loud drums. We like to make an impact through our music and really reach out to our audience.

Q: What were your early influences, was there any musician or band that inspired you take up an instrument yourself?

Jade: My parents are both musicians so music was always around. Pretty much as soon as I could move they gave me a guitar. Thank God! I loved classic rock bands when I was little as my Dad used to play them all the time in the car such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. I also loved a bit of Britney and Christina though, I still do!

Bel: I didn’t come from a musical background at all – I had to fight my mum over the years to get a drum kit! My early influences were serious heavy and nu metal bands, such as Slipknot and SOAD. Hehe…

Q: You've three tracks up on Soundcloud-could you talk us through them-'Audrey and 'Kid Kannibal' seem quite dark!

Jade: ‘Audrey’ and ‘Kid Kannibal’ are supposed to be fun and tongue in cheek. Not taken too seriously at all. I guess people can interpret them however they want though!

Q: More generally what sort of subjects do your lyrics engage with-are they mostly based on experiences or inspired by other sources like films and books?

Jade: It’s a mixture really. Sometimes I will see a film and a character will inspire me for a song. Some are more personal.

Bel: When I write some lyrics for our songs, I like them to be quite ambiguous so each person that listens to them can find a particular meaning themselves.

Q: How does the creative process work for DOLLS, is it a collaborative process or one main songwriter?

Jade: I generally will have the chords and a basic structure of a song ready before I take it to Bel and our other co-writer Sam. I find it really difficult to get songs out of jamming and rather have some time to myself first to decide what kind of song it will be. A few songs have formed out of us jamming them on the spot like ‘Kid Kannibal’ but that is quite rare now. Other times Bel may come up with a drum beat that I find inspiring or Sam may come up with some chords that I want to work with.

Q: I caught part of your set at Loud Women Festival and was so annoyed with myself that I hadn't got there earlier-you were excellent! Is it on stage where you are most at home or in the studio, which do you prefer?

Jade: Thank you! Performing on stage, is definitely why I do this. It’s actually my favourite thing to do! That’s why I don’t mind us gigging all the time and never understood when other bands would complain about it. The studio is still bit of a weird environment for me, however we have just been recording four songs with Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) which was a brilliant experience. I felt like I needed to go and practice a million hours after working with him as it was so inspiring.

Bel: Being onstage is where I feel the most comfortable! I love playing live and I believe that is the best way to put our music across. It’s great to get good feedback from our gigs!

Q: A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, what has your experience been like in the alt rock/punk/DIY scene? Is it a better place for women than mainstream culture?

Both: Each scene varies, even the more underground scenes still have sexism. The Punk DIY scene where they put on female fronted bands in particular has been great. We haven’t experienced any sexism and always feel supported. Which is why these nights exist! The general alt rock punk scene can be very different. There are a lot of male ‘punk’ bands that still think it’s OK to belittle you, or expect you to be a bit shit as you are a woman. Some of these bands have even had female members in. I guess sexism is still more dominant in mainstream culture, but it can happen anywhere.

Q: Do you think things are improving in that respect?

Jade: There’s still a lot that could be improved.

Bel: Yes, definitely gender equality in the music industry still needs to improve massively.

Q: What bands and writers are you enjoying at the moment?

Jade: I’m loving Parquet Courts, Hinds, Angel Olsen, Ought, Queen Pj and the Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds new album is ace!

Bel: I really like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Oh Sees and when I need to chill out I go for Bowery Electric.

Q: What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and into 2017? An album at all?

Both: Like we said before, we have just recorded four tracks. What will happen to those four tracks is still a bit of a mystery. Hopefully they will become super popular, we will become mega rich, and we will be able to finally afford a roadie so we don’t have to carry our shit around with us on the tube!

Big thanks to Bel and Jade for interview, here is their Soundcloud page 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Franklys: Danceable Garage Rock!

Photo: Neil Anderson for Wildblanket.
As with most festivals I went along to this month’s Loud Women Festival in London for one band in particular but instead of my normal festival experience of a mixed bag of varying interest (to me), there was a continual stream of great bands! One of the stand out bands that day, and I hadn’t previously heard of them, were The Franklys. They came on early evening (I think- by then I was a bit time warped) and were outstanding; mesmeric, energetic, playing a kind of danceable garage rock. When I got home I checked them out online and turned out they played Download Festival earlier this year! The Franklys are comprised of Jennifer Ahlkvist, Fanny Broberg, Zoe Biggs and Lexi Clark and were described by Shindig! Magazine as…’classic old school rock...riotous girl rebellion...frankly something you should be getting yourself some of’.(1) Despite the awful pun they’re right, so I contacted the band for an interview!

Q: Could you give us an overview of The Franklys?
Two of us are from Sweden and two from England, and we play frenetic garage rock with heavy and psychedelic overtones รก la Led Zeppelin-Blondie-Strokes-QOTSA-punk-pop-rock-madness.
We’ve toured across both the UK/Europe and America, including festival slots at Isle of Wight, Download Festival and Camden Rocks, and our debut album is out early 2017!

Q: What artists and other figures have influenced you as a band and individuals?
Blondie, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, The Runaways, Green Day to name but a few.
Bands that we are currently enjoying….Petrol Girls, The Tuts, WHITE, La Luz, Muncie Girls & Tom Jones

Q: Did you have a clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it gradually taken shape? How would you describe your sound?
It’s been a natural progression I think towards the sounds we are putting out now. We never want to be put in a ‘box’ so we try to get lots of different elements or the unexpected into our songs, whilst keeping a sort of heavy garage rock backbone to it. We definitely sound different to how we did a few years ago, and that’s great because you want to keep pushing forward.

Q: Earlier this year Lexi Clark joined as drummer, has that reconfiguration changed the band’s sound at all? Given it a different dynamic?
It’s always going to be a different dynamic playing with someone new, who will bring new skills, and sounds to the table, and Lexi is a great drummer so it’s just been very easy for the rest of us to adapt around that. Our sound and live performance is still as energetic as ever!

Q: I was watching the video to ‘Comedown’ and it reminded me of the third series of ‘The Bridge’ where due to trauma and drugs the male detective sees his deceased family around the home, the visions ceasing as he recovers. Was a similar idea running through
the video, of a man haunted by figures from his past, but in this case pressuring him to sort his life out? Was the song/video based on any particular incident?
Haha that’s a great interpretation and I love that you have really thought about it! That’s one of the reasons we’ll rarely tell you what actually inspired a song’s lyrics, then everyone can take away their own meaning from it, and nobody is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, it’s just a different view. Jen’s lyrics come from so many different inspirations, there’s always a new meaning to be found.

Q: How does the creative process work within the band-is it collaborative or one writer per song?
Usually we will just jam together and the beginning of something will start from there. Or someone will come in with a riff or a beat that we then work on and build up. Overall, as long as something sounds good and sticks in our heads then we’ll work on it.

Q: You play an intriguing spectrum of gigs from Isle of Wight and Download Festival to Loud Women to small town venues, is it hard to adjust to different settings? Does the immediate environment-the audience/ building-affect what you play or are you fairly self-contained?
There’s no denying there is a different feeling and vibe to those varying venues, but we never change or try and stifle our performance for anything. Even on the tiniest of stages (or floors!) we are still trying to bring as much energy to it as possible, which usually means a guitar in the face or a cymbal in the back, but it’s all part of it!

Q: I saw you at Loud Women where you were amazing! Do you prefer playing live or songwriting and recording-which context suits your music best or do the different situations emphasise different aspects?
Thank you, we’re glad you enjoyed it! I think it’s been hard for us so far to capture the energy of our live performance on recording, but with the new album it’s closer than it’s ever been. It’s hard to say whether there’s a preference for either; they’re two different beasts.

Q: When you go in the studio are your songs pretty much complete and it’s just a case of recording or are they still a work in progress?
I think it depends on the song really, mostly the songs are complete and ready to record but as we go along we will always hear new things to be added or taken away that make the song better as a whole. It’s a luxury to be able to sit and listen back to a song and hear it as a listener rather than as the musician playing it – you notice things you usually wouldn’t when you are playing it altogether as a band.

Q: Female musicians can experience at least casual sexism. What has your experience been like in the rock scene? Historically it’s often been very macho, do you think things are improving?
Casual sexism, overt sexism…it’s still out there and still happening, of course not only in this industry. Personally I feel like things are improving, but there is such a long way to go and we have to keep pushing for changes. Maybe it’s because of who I follow on Twitter, Instagram etc. but there seem to be a lot more visibility of musicians who are female than there ever was, and it’s getting better every day. But, then again…in the mainstream, I’m not convinced many are breaking through to the public consciousness, which means you have to really seek these out and be motivated to do so. In terms of our own experiences, well, how many male musicians do you think have had a sound engineer come up to them and try to change the settings on their guitar for them in the middle of a soundcheck? Or had the comment ‘oh you play well for a boy’? Perhaps some, but we are still scratching our heads over this A+ comment from a sound engineer the other week ‘oh where’s the drummer, probably gone off to buy some new shoes…’, hmm…

Q: What plans do you have for 2016/17? I think you’ve a single out later this year and an album coming out next year, will you be out on tour in support of that?
We are currently finishing up mixing and mastering our debut album, which will be released early next year. It’s been a long time coming and we can’t wait to share it with everyone. And we have just announced a few live dates, which you can check out here We’ll be celebrating the launch of our new single with a gig at The Shacklewell Arms on 2nd November, hope to see you there!