Ladyfuzz is available at:
20th August, 2016
The E.P. Sad is available on 2nd September via:
I Hate Funerals
Tonic Youth (Bonus Track)
THERE are not many acts out there…
that are made quite like Kamikaze Girls. Before I come to the duo, I wanted to look at acts addressing deeper issues through their music; rare influences and pushing music forward; looking at musicians that seemed primed for the mainstream and how they have achieved it. The first point is one that I always look forward to raising. A lot of music is defined by selfishness, or in a less severe way, a fixation with love and relationships. This debate issue is a trope of mine (so I shall not bore you too much) but it is always pertinent. I suppose it is easy and personal talking about love and seems to be something we can all relate to. That need to be relatable and relevant is causing music to be a little homogsenised. Whilst sounds and genres and cross-pollinated: the lyrics are a little samey and tend to talk about the same thing in a number of different ways. Relationship splits are always sad but it is like the old adage: if you’ve heard one you’ve heard them all. For that reason, I am always willing to provide spotlight to musicians that move away from weary cliché and challenge something fresh and original. Kamikaze Girls address mental health and anxiety in their new E.P., Sad. It is a brave move creating music that not only moves away from common ground but addresses something hard-hitting, sensitive and stigamtised. The fact mental health is such a taboo topic (even in 2016) speaks volumes about society and an unwillingness to discuss something that affects most of us at some point. Away from charities and forums: how many musicians are using their songs to challenge and tackle the subject; go deeper and rebel against stuffy attitudes and ignorance? Music is a platform that reaches billions of people and it is a shame so many people squander their chances. It might be easier writing about love and personal woes but it is much more meaningful moving away from that and looking at issues like mental health.
If you open up about subjects like mental health it is not only a way to unburden yourself and be open with your audience but it will inspire others to follow suit and discuss their problems without fear of recrimination and judgement. Before I move on, and tie this in with my featured duo, let me introduce Kamikaze Girls to you:
Lucinda Livingstone – Guitar & Vocals
Connor Dawson – Drums
“What makes this pair tick? First and foremost, Kamikaze Girls want you to know that it’s okay to be sad. Since 2014 the Riot Grrrl duo, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Lucinda Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson, have used music as a means to challenge attitudes and taboos surrounding mental health. Their aim has always been to show their strength and solidarity to other young people in the same position, through their vitriolic fuzz-rock and to work alongside other bands in the scene to help stamp out gender stereotypes in music for good.
KG’s sound is an amalgamation of their own pop sensibilities and 90s Riot Grrrl, citing the likes of Bikini Kill, L7 and Sleater Kinney as their main inspiration. The band’s raw live shows have become synonymous with the DIY/punk scene and since the release of their first single – ‘Tonic Youth’ last year – they have played shows across mainland Europe, America and the UK with the likes of Muncie Girls, Pup, The Menzingers, Me Without You, Modern Baseball, Moose Blood, Lemuria, Petrol Girls, Personal Best, Great Cynics, The Winter Passing, Nai Harvest, The World Is A Beautiful Place… and Woahnows, to name just a few”.
Kamikaze Girls, and Lucinda Livingstone especially, used to feel uncertain and hesitant discussing her mental health issues and when she was surrounded by guys (in fuller band territory) it was hard to bring up the subject. Maybe it is sheer numbers of the all-male dynamic: perhaps not as supportive and understanding as female peers. It is only since she has got better and sought help that talking about mental health has become easier. Livingstone knows the D.I.Y./Punk scene is established to help those that go through mental health problems and is much more open and understanding than other areas of music. One of the reasons you go into such genres and scenes is because of the larger understanding and brother/sisterhood of the musicians. It is always wonderful hearing about musicians that have gone through bad times but feel more secure – healthy and happy enough to talk candidly. Livingstone feels touring is a great way of not only addressing mental health through music but finding comfort and support – the rush and rawness of playing to crowds is a natural and blood-rushing way of finding release and kinship. With crowds behind you and the euphoric feeling of the live arena: something that helps her feel less alone. Away from Kamikaze Girls, and there are a few bands and artists that are not only addressing mental health but political concerns and lesser-discussed subjects like transgenderism and racism. It is not good enough pretending these kinds of things don’t exist or assume they are resigned to the individual alone. Mental health is everyone’s concern and we will have exposure to it through varying degrees of separation. When musicians push away from convention and expectation and actually talk about something real; it is going to lead to evolution and more people feeling they are not on their own – their musical heroes actually understand what they are going through and they are cared about. Kamikaze Girls are going to inspire others to follow suit and have no doubt helped a lot of people in their lives.
Kamikaze Girls take in Bikini Kill, La Tigre and Riot Grrrl-influenced bands as guidance and heroes. It is unusual finding too many bands/duos that are inspired by the Riot Grrrl genre/movement. The movement began in the early-1990s and started in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest as a way of combining feminist consciousness and the style/politics of Punk. Even for Punk and Alternative bands, I feel there are too few that actually surprise you with their choice of influences. Perhaps The Ramones, Sex Pistols, and their contemporaries are obvious choices but those that have probably been done to death. Hearing Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl-themed artists in the mix is always going to capture the imagination and soul. There are other bands that blend these styles/bands but few in the same way as Kamikaze Girls. Tie this together with subjects of fear, mental health problems and anxieties and you have a duo that has very few equals. One of the deepest and most conscientious acts playing in the U.K. – they deserve a lot of support and success going forward. Their stunning sounds and blend of Punk, Pop, and Alternative/D.I.Y. make them an intriguing and long-lasting prospect. They have not quite hit the mainstream radar yet but surely that is just around the corner. It will be exciting seeing how they grow and how their unique pairing of sounds and styles reflects with the mainstream critics. I mentioned how very few musicians actually mix things up with regards their lyrics and subjects: the same can be applied to compositions and genres. It is always quite shoulder-sagging hearing a new band tipped and hyped: when you discover they are pretty run-of-the-mill and average you wonder why they are so proclaimed and celebrated. Normally, these acts that are heralded, fit into a commercial mould and have that consumer appeal and profitable sound. It does not mean they are daring, original or fresh. Kamikaze Girls are a genuine duo that should be lauded and set aside as genuine innovators. Not only combining Punk and Pop of the ‘70s and ‘90s: they have a very modern aesthetic and sensibility that makes them a beguiling and fascinating act.
Before moving on to their past music and present endeavours: one is compelled to see how far they have come and why they are in the position they’re in. One of the reasons they have gained thousands of fans and struck a nerve is their stunning sound and relentless touring. Sad is their first full release but previous singles have been toured extensively around the world. Not just confined to the U.K., the duo has appeared in the U.S., Canada, and Europe – the two have given up viable careers for music and have put their all into their passion. It may seem like a risky venture but this complete focus and unyielding attention has seen crowds and fans flock to their shores. It is their live energy and interaction that has helped them gain a solid fanbase and they are one of the most scintillating and memorable live acts in the country. One of the most obvious and notable reasons behind their success and reputation is the blend of organisation/professionalism and strangeness. In terms of their careers and output: they have management and P.R. bodies behind them but take control of their social media and output. They are keen to speak with their fans and keep them updated. Photos, statues, and interviews are published: informative and of-the-minute news for those following Kamikaze Girls. Their official website is full and well-designed while their social media pages are packed with information, photos and wonderful insights. Too many musicians rock into music and do not provide attention to websites and their social media. They assume the music alone will take care of things and negate the importance of giving fans easy access to biography, photographs, and links for the group/act. If you have to struggle to find out about the artist then you are likely to become frustrated and bored. Those that take time to provide a full and varied portfolio are those that understand are going to succeed and last longer than those who don’t. Kamikaze Girls have some unusual but wonderful influences and it seems odd and unusual against the raft of predictable artists. The duo takes time with regards their music videos and ensur they are as vivid and memorable as possible. Cover art and designs are also eye-catching and this is the case for their E.P., Sad. The cover’s heroine (recognise the face but can’t think of a name) is beautiful and alluring but has a sense of enigma, sadness, and vulnerability – everything that goes into the E.P. itself.
The duo performs in Manchester on August 27th (The Star & Garter) whilst heading to D.I.Y. Space for London on 23rd September. Leeds and Portsmouth will be on the docket and chances for the E.P. to get to a wide crowd and span several counties. To be fair, the reaction to Sad will be huge and it is likely to bring plenty of new fans and followers to Kamikaze Girls. Sad is their first full work but follows on from singles likes Records & Coffee (released two years ago). Most of Sad’s material is in the ether and the duo shows how they have developed over the last couple of years. Their recent work is their most confident and compelling and shows how touring has sharpened and heightened their attack. Earlier work and initial singles showed what a talent and proposition they are but I feel they have improved and come along wonderfully since then. After touring abroad and various crowds: this exposure and performance experience has fed directly into their E.P.; know what the crowds react to and how they like their music. The subject matter is more personal and affecting and shows Kamikaze Girls are in a space they feel they can discuss their illnesses and addictions. Not really shying away or suppressing it: Sad is a catharsis and revelation that will give them confidence to address such topics in future work and inspire other acts to follow suit.
I wanted to focus on Ladyfuzz as it is their latest single and one of the most entrancing cuts from Sad. The song begins with a happiness-inducing and spirited introduction that brings together elements of Punk but has a semblance of The Strokes and The Libertines – two of the most influential bands of the past twenty years. It is the performance and composition that strikes me most about the song. It is one of the most determined, vitriolic and anguished deliveries of their career. Under the pain, weight and gravity of emotion: you can hear so much come from Livingstone’s voice. The song’s video looks at addiction and pill-swallowing. A cavalcade of medication, numbing and fear. Being left out in the “cold of night” and the rain: it might be a metaphor for depression and anxiety but there is such a vivid and physical aspect to the lines. Pills are being crushed and booze swallowed down: perhaps as a coping mechanism or a way to forget about life’s negativities. When the chorus comes in (you wonder what the song title refers to) the full force and anger come out – a blood-curdling scream that emphasises just what pains and agony is at heart. Maybe looking at the cycle of prescription medication and depression: the ways of getting through the day and having to bare the cross of depression – a song where every listener can come to their own conclusions. It is not a surprise that some of the lines get buried down under the ferocity and intensity which might see a few of the puzzle pieces missing. What you get from the song’s early stages is a young woman trying to make sense of things and get some sense of perspective. From the first half of the song, which looks at inner-pains and anxiety, the second half sees the vocal calm and mutate into wordlessness and refrain. The composition remains sparked and spiked but does start to come down in the final minute.
What one notices about the track is how primed and appropriate it is for the live crowds. Like a lot of Kamikaze Girls’ previous material (and that on Sad) the songs are perfect for mosh-pits or those who just want to lose themselves. Such energy, force, and rage come through but there are subtleties, genre-balance and plenty of sweetness to be found. The music is always complex and never as straightforward and basic as you’d imagine. Ladyfuzz’s video gives you a true sense of the song’s cycle and story. We see a vinyl spinning with medication on it: a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and fast-moving camera work and blur. It might be a metaphor for the haziness of life and that routine of medication, destruction and getting by. Kamikaze Girls address addictions and mental health in their music and you feel Ladyfuzz is the most rounded and truest sense of all their themes, concerns, and strands – distilled and mixed in an explosive and dynamic song that has Punk heart and a deep soul. You will want to hear it several times just to get to the root of it and let its primal abandon and savage moments hit you. As I said with regards their music: it has depths and multiple sides to it and you should never think you have it all figured out. The duo said they feel discouragement and abuse – Livingstone has faced Internet trolls before – and the way to react to that is impressive. Livingstone is a woman in a male-dominated industry and music is a way of showing how important her voice is and she should not be ignored. Ladyfuzz is not just a song that deals with harsh and personal insights but is a bold and defiant offering from a singer/guitarist who is one of the most exciting and impressive musicians out there. Together with Dawson’s incredible percussion and pummel; the duo should be watched very carefully. Not many artists touch on sensitive and harrowing sides but it has taken a while for that to be a reality for Kamikaze Girls. Ladyfuzz, as with the other songs on Sad, is their way of reaching out to people and showing how important it is to talk about issues like bullying, addiction, and depression: this will give other people (going through it) comfort and should motivate other musicians to suppress obvious inspirations for music and touch on something a lot more important and serious. We need pioneers and duos like Kamikaze Girls on the scene as they have the promise to affect real change.
It has been great discovering Kamikaze Girls and their world. Reading interviews they have done recently, you get a peek into two very special musicians that are very different from their contemporaries. Away from the shallow and faceless artists we all know and avoid: Kamikaze Girls are deep, meaningful and hugely impressive. They are brave enough to challenge convention and stigma and ensure their music addresses important subjects and breaks taboo. Mental health, addiction, and anxieties are not subjects we hear a lot in music – that should change and is not something we should hide. Seemingly clandestine and resigned to the shadows: Kamikaze Girls will give impetus and inspiration to other acts to talk about these things and feel less alone. If you listen to Sad and the songs throughout; you get a glimpse into the duo’s psyche and what they have faced. Livingstone especially has faced mental health problems and addiction: someone who is starting to recover and improve but still affected by depression and anxiety. The songs, as a result of this, bare scars and were hard exercises in self-acceptance and honesty. Hexes begins with clattering and eeriness. Like a nighttime stillness – where there are just odd noises in the air – it opens into explosive, bellicose territory. Yowling and elongating guitars and rampant percussions give the song a shot of danger and nervousness. Before long, a head-banging riff and huge energy come through and you are under the spell of the track. The riff reminds me of Nirvana’s Breed in the way it is so addictive and familiar yet you cannot help but throw your body in its way. Kamikaze Girls have taken influence from a range of sources but remain singular and personal throughout. The ‘90s Grunge sound comes through to look at psychosis, mental anguish, and torment. The heroine’s head is being messed with and she is unable to escape the dread and torture of her captor. Vocals slightly traumatised and fatigued: there is an anger and stiffness that suggests she has reached a plateau – no longer willing to cope with this miasma and fear. Whilst psychosis is asleep in bed: she is there pulling her eyelashes out; being kept awake by the demon of ill mental health. The song has a very raw and lo-fi sound and one that puts you into live territory – you can practically feel the moshing and smell of beer flying through the air. Combining rampant and avalanche percussion with heartbroken, animalistic and intense vocals and it is a song you cannot forget in a hurry.
Stitches and I Hate Funerals keep the momentum going. The former has a constant drive and purging energy that will make it a live favourite and get a great response at gigs. The duo is tight and assured throughout and whilst some of the lyrics do get buried by the composition – a little hard to decipher against the purity and intensity of the emotion – is a song more synonymous with feeling and attitude as opposed to what is being said. The sentiments and revelations of the song get into the head but it is the duo’s kinship, musicianship and vocal brilliance that make it what it is. I Hate Funerals lurches and stomps into view and has plenty of attitudes. Mantra-like and petulant to an extent; it is a slower-pitched song that whilst not funeral, has a certain weariness. The composition is among the most intense and fiery on the E.P., mind, whilst the vocal has a definite sense of aggravation and boredom. Once more, you feel the heroine is trying to crack a smile and not a fan of those around her. Maybe wanted to run away or get out of the situation: you try and envisage what is being sung and where we find herself. I Hate Funerals has that lo-fi quality which does make intelligibility a bit of a concern, but once again, you are hooked into the song and affected by the mood, performances, and rawness that emerges. Black Coffee is one of the clearer and less heavy-surging songs and has a mix of Pop and Punk sensibility. More melodic and restrained than previous numbers: it has a certain catchiness and accessibility to it. The duo shows their flexibility and variation; able to switch between genres, sounds, and ideas. Here, our heroine is being kept awake by addiction: “I found the cure for these aching bones / I’ll breathe you when I just can’t hold it up”. You can visualise the drugs and drink; the need to escape a depression and numb that pain. Unable to get to sleep and shackled by a harsh addiction: it is one of the most heartbreaking and soul-baring songs on the E.P. It is possible those past days are gone for good but they still burn and ache badly. The vocal has a definite helplessness and anguish that seems in need of balm and comfort. Tonic Youth is a B-side and bonus track that finds the heroine feeling alive and up: maybe a side-effect of youth or a drunken haze. It is a song that deals with contradictions as you have that vivaciousness and sensation of energy but self-destruction and illness. Stomach and headaches are keeping her inside (when she wants to be out) and again, you start to speculate what is causing this pain.
Sad is an E.P. as complex and simple as its title. On face value, there are a lot of harsh emotions and depression unearthed and evaluated. It is the abiding take-away from the lyrics and does look at anxieties and mental health. Sad is more complicated and investigates addictions and subjects many musicians do not touch. That title might be a dig at people who underestimate and simplify depression as just being ‘sad’. The music shows just how wrong they are: it is a minefield and deeply personal thing and should not be undervalued and overlooked. The music and sound Kamikaze Girls is among the most bracing and electric you’ll find in modern music. The Leeds/London duo have a very clear bond and the songs are incredibly tight, nuanced and will go down terrifically with the live audiences. Some of the lines get mixed down too much or a bit hard to understand but overall you hear what you need to – Livingstone’s voice is consistently exciting, raw and emotional and makes sure the music connects and gets straight into the head. Riffs and electric lines that are gritty, catchy and dirty: adding atmosphere, contours, and vivacity to the music. Connor Dawson ensures the percussive backbone is strong and granite-like. You are always at his mercy and he is not a mere backing player. Always intensely focused and skillful: so many different sides to his armoury and wonderful moments. Sad is not just an E.P. for fans of Kamikaze but those going through the same experiences as the group. Both suffering ill mental health and struggling issues like addiction: it is a personal and hard E.P. that shows bravery in spades. Unlike the tough subjects and tense emotions it explore: with regards to Sad, you will…
NOT be afraid to embrace it.
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