French Punks Mary Bell: “Paris is a tough city to live in: the population density is very high, gentrification is everywhere, the cost of living is skyrocketing”

Original photo by Josephine Fournis. Handmade collage by B.

French band Mary Bell’s music is a combination of classic punk rock, American hardcore, grunge and Riot Grrrl. We spoke to them about what Paris is really like, got some insight into each member’s history of musical discovery, what they do outside of music, how they pulled through a controversy surrounding the band’s name and of new music in the works.

Mary Bell are from Paris; can you tell us a little bit about where you live?

VICTORIA: I’ll start with the positive things: Paris is very beautiful, it’s thriving in culture, you can go to a different gig every night, things to do and to see are really endless. It’s what keeping me here: as a hyperactive person, I constantly need new things to do and things to see, and Paris is the only city in France that has lived up to those needs. Still, Paris is quite small compared to other European capitals, so I think the DIY punk scene is quite small as well. That means that you easily get to know the other bands and that the different music scenes tend to mix with one another, which is a good thing, to my mind. Otherwise, Paris is a tough city to live in: the population density is very high, gentrification is everywhere, the cost of living is skyrocketing… A lot of people, especially young workers or students can’t afford to live in Paris anymore.

TRISTAN: Yes, gentrified, expensive, violent for a lot of people, especially if you have not a lot of money. What you notice the first when you come here is that there is a lot of impolite, not friendly, stressed and aggressive people, because the “everyday life” in this city makes you become this way. Everybody is always running and there’s no room for everyone in the transportations, and if you want to come home after a long day of work you have to walk on other people to do so… It does still shock me after living here for more than 10 years. But I guess it is normal for one of the most crowded place in the world (people per square mile: 55,138…). And it does rain a lot and the sky is almost always grey. Everything here is grey, the sky, the buildings, the pavements, and it makes you become grey too. I guess this is one of the most greyish city in the world too. The good side is that it is not that hard to find a job here compared to somewhere else in France, and there are a lot of shows and exhibitions happening. But forget about the romantic bullshit.

ALICE: I live in the countryside, two hour drive from Paris, in the “Center” region of France. It is beautiful, this is the “King’s region”, there is a lot of castles from the Renaissance area and a lot of forest… But it’s REALLY CALM. I go to Paris when I want to see shows and friends!

What kind of music and bands were you listening to growing up?

VICTORIA: Growing up, I was listening to lots and lots of music, different styles, different eras, and most of it I’m still listening to now. I had the chance to grow up in a musician family: I listened to classical and baroque music (Bach, Marin Marais…), pop, new wave, rock, hard rock… And then, at the beginning of the 90s, grunge exploded and it totally blew my mind. I listened to bands such as Nirvana, Hole, Babes in Toyland, Melvins, Soundgarden on repeat. Those bands still stick with me nowadays. At the same time, I was really into hip hop and French rap. One of my favorite bands at the time was the French band NTM (it stands for “Nique ta mère” which you can translate to “Fuck your mom”, haha). I discovered punk and hardcore music a couple of years later while hanging with some skateboarders at a party. Again, it totally blew my mind. I was already what you can call a music digger, as music has always been the most important thing in my life, and so, started digging into punk and hardcore.

ALICE: I went to music school, I listened and studied classical music, specifically Baroque. At home my parents were listening to Led Zeppelin a lot, The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, we danced on Madness… Then I took my big sister’s CDs, I mainly remember screaming to Hole and Nirvana, but also dancing on Madonna and Ricky Martin… At 11, I discovered internet and Sum41, Marylin Manson, Avril Lavigne… Hahaha. I was living in the suburbs, at fifteen I went to school in Paris and discovered the Punk scene.

TRISTAN: I feel like I’m still growing up, so I don’t know what you mean exactly in term of period. So, when I grew up the most (in height) I think it might be when I was five to eight or something, the bands I listened the most were AC/DC, The Cure, Helloween, Sex Pistols, Bad Manners, Deep Purple… Just stealing my parents’ old tapes and records in the attic. A lot of “bed jumping” happened for me as a kid on these things.

GAÏLLA: I grew up listening to what my parents were listening to. Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Zappa, and a lot of blues and jazz too. And I feel like it really impacted me. But during my adolescence, like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to listen – to try – every kind of music. I listened to rock in general, metal/ heavy, punk, grunge but also Hip-hop/ R’n b etc.

Photo : Céline Non.

How did you start playing music?

VICTORIA: I started playing the piano at an early age, and then the viola da gamba, but stopped everything when I became a teenager: the academic way of learning music was becoming a real pain in the ass for me. At that time and since then, most of my friends were musicians, and were playing in bands. And all of them were guys. I could have picked up a guitar, but somehow, being a girl, and having internalized a lot of fucking sexist ideas, I didn’t feel legitimate to do so and even thought, at some point, that it just wasn’t for me. What a bunch of bullshit!! But I guess those crazy ideas kind of stick with you growing up, even when you start to realize that it’s not true and such. While getting deeper into Feminism and meeting more and more female musicians, a lot of them reclaiming from the legacy of riot grrrls, I realized that I could grab an instrument as well and start a band. By the time I realized that, I was 30!! Yes, I guess you can say that it took me some time to get accustomed to the idea… The cool thing about all this is that as soon as I started playing the guitar, I knew exactly what I wanted to play, what I wanted to sound like, and what it was gonna be for me.

ALICE: My big sister was singing in a professional choir, my parents did the same for me and my little brother. I started by learning the piano at 6, then at 10 I went to “half-time teaching music school”, school in the morning and music studies in the afternoon, every day from the age of 10 to 18. Then, at 16, I started screaming. I have to say it was not really good for my lyrical voice, which I gave up on at 18.

TRISTAN: My mom offered me a guitar when I was in primary school. I was too scared and shy to ask to or begin something like this by myself, but was always listening music, so she just bought me the piece of wood and gave it to me. I never stopped playing since…    

GAÏLLA: I tried playing bass when I was +/- 15 because my dad was a prog rock and jazz bassist, but I wasn’t very studious. I liked it but it wasn’t really my thing. And at this time, drums looked out of reach for me, so I put this idea aside. But when I turn 26, it feels like an urge to play music again, especially drums, it feels like it was “now or never”. So I took a few drum lessons, and a few days later, I met Victoria and we started Mary Bell.

How did the Mary Bell get together?

VICTORIA: We started playing with Gaïlla while both learning how to play our instruments. After three or four rehearsals, we decided we wanted to have a band, and started looking for musicians.

ALICE: I saw an announcement Victoria posted on Facebook, “looking for a singer”, I was shy to but I answered because I really wanted to sing in a band and I liked the bands she mentioned as references. I passed an audition, we played “Rebel Girl” from Bikini Kill (which is too high for my voice by the way), and a composition she and Gaïlla made. I also played the bass but it was so, so hard for me to play and sing and the same time!

TRISTAN: Playing guitar, they were searching for a girl to complete the band, I’ve insisted a lot and it finally worked out as a boy and as a bass player. I was like, “let me join you, I can play some really dirty bass, and I can record the band too”, and blablabla… I don’t even know why I wanted that much to be in that band in the first place. I was homeless at the time and searching for an additional band to have fun after a long day of work before sleeping who knows where. But I don’t regret my insistence in joining it at all, for what it gave us in terms of records, tours, and funny times. (Haha…)

Photo: JetLag RocknRoll.

Can you tell me something interesting about everyone in the band?

VICTORIA: Gaïlla is a huge fan of Mariah Carey, Tristan is a highly trained virtual plane pilot and Alice bakes amazing carrot cakes.

ALICE: Ok, this is very interesting: Victoria’s zodiac sign is Scorpio, Tristan had a chicken pet when he was little, Gaïlla has her driving license but don’t let her drive!! Hahaha

TRISTAN: Vicky can tell what your future is with tarot, Alice knows a lot of weird medieval music stuff, and Gaïlla can sleep up to 23 hours a day when we tour!

GAÏLLA: We all love listening to horror/crimes podcasts while on tour but, I don’t really remember because I was sleeping.

Your band is named after a British serial killer from the ‘60s; how did you find out about her?

VICTORIA: I first heard of Mary Bell while reading Crackpot from John Waters, where he cites the Mary Bell case as one of his obsessions. Somehow, Mary Bell being a child at the moment she committed her crimes, it really interested him and I totally can understand why. There really is something striking in the Mary Bell case, her being a child, her murdering two children, her trying to manipulate people in thinking that another girl committed the crime… She was just 11. Children are believed to be innocent at that age. Anyway, I think we all thought it matched well with the idea of our band. 

Mary Bell was forced to cancel a concert in the UK in February last year following outrage from the families of Bell’s victims and other locals; how did this situation impact the band?

VICTORIA: It all started when a lousy so-called journalist wrote a piece about us claiming we were making lots of money from the name ”Mary Bell” + getting fame out of it (uh hello, we’re a DIY punk band, we’re not making any money…) The worst is that she reached out to the families of the victims to have their say about it (I guess otherwise, they would have never heard of us…). They went to their local MP to send a lot of letters to cancel all our shows in the UK… We had no choice but to let go, and take the shitstorm, the insults and the death threats (which we used to receive daily on our Facebook and YouTube pages). What a time…

ALICE: Victoria worked a lot for this tour, I was really sad but really angry for her because of all this work and efforts being ruined because of this sensationalist press. (Who’s really making money out of people sadness?) We still had a great time with our few concerts, meeting amazing people and having very interesting talks about England and safe spaces.

TRISTAN: Oh yeah, and I get beaten in the middle of the night coming home from one of these shows, by a bunch of crazy guys with knives and no t-shirt in the middle of winter. UK is a very nice place currently, it is really a giant safe space, safe from common sense. I hope it will get quickly better for them and our friends and family there in the future, but it does currently look bad, with clowns at the head, and a lot of racist and violent people. The shows we did were good but when talking to locals, I can see that the country was a mess in the middle of the Brexit thing and it was not an easy time for them at all. So yes, it was a little bit weird sometimes during the tour.   

At the end of 2018 you released EP HISTRION on it there’s a song called ‘I Used To Be Kind To People In Crowds, But That Gave Me Murderous Tendencies’; what sparked the idea to write this song?

ALICE: Within a week, a friend of mine lost her daughter and another one had a stroke. It was so sudden and unfair, my friends and I suffered a lot. I’ve always been the “nice person” holding the door, smiling to people, saying hello to my neighbours, never complains… But the day after the funeral, one of my neighbours screamed at me because of my car. First, it was a nonsense, secondly, the fact she was so concerned about this tiny little shitty thing made me furious, I screamed at her, she didn’t say anything, she thought of me as a little smiling girl and was visibly shocked. I pictured my friend losing her child and people complaining to her about everyday problems, it made me furious… And “gave me murderous tendencies”.

GAÏLLA: It’s a really powerful song, and very intense – overwhelming sometimes – to play. I think Alice put the right words on a feeling mixed with hate, frustration, helplessness that we all felt once in our lives.

Your drummer Gaïlla has done the artwork for all your releases before the latest one which is by artist Stellar Leuna; what made you choose her for the art?

GAÏLLA: I studied graphic design so I started working on MB visual art pretty naturally. We love esoteric-witchy-weird stuff so it fitted well. But we also are big fans of Stellar Leuna’s work, she’s really talented. Her art perfectly reflects our music too: It’s dark and goes straight to the point. So we asked her and sent her our music. She loved it and got inspired by it and… ta-da! She did an amazing job, we were thrilled.

Have you been working on any new music? What can you tell me about it?

VICTORIA: We’ve been working on new material since the release of HISTRION, and we currently have 12 new songs we were supposed to record in April, and release on vinyl later this year… Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all our recording projects are on hold. We’ll see how it goes…

ALICE: New things: donuts, trains, cats.

VICTORIA: Yes, the themes tackled in our new songs are very eclectic!!

What’s your favourite things you’ve been listening to lately? We love finding new music!

VICTORIA: I’ve been listening to lots and lots of music since the beginning of the quarantine… I think you can all find them easily on Bandcamp. Bands like Slush, Gaffer, Cold Meat, Nightmen, Thick, Lizzo, Malaïse, Mr Wrong… Also, please check out my friends Bitpart and Litige who both released records this year on Destructure Records.

ALICE: I mostly listen to podcasts because I need to hear people speaking during this confinement! I really have phases… Today it’s raining so I’m listening to Douche Froide, Traitre, Litige… Yesterday I spent the day listening to rock steady (guess the weather), but sometimes I really can’t bear it. (Apart from Phyllis Dillon I’ll always love).

TRISTAN: a lot of Australian bands actually, I guess you already know them all (Civic, Eastlink, UV Race, Destiny 3000, Cuntz, Venom P Stinger, Gee Tee, the Stroppies…) Aside from that : Destruction Unit, Slippertails, Sun Araw, Pussy Galore, KARP, Part Chimp, Marbled Eye, Lungfish, Red Aunts, Poino, Liquids,… Not new stuff, but these are a lot in my ear currently and I am not in a ‘music searching’ period. 

GAÏLLA: Like Alice, I mostly listen to podcasts lately. And during the confinement I listen to really chill stuff as Julia Jacklin, Angel Olsen, Beat Happening, Hope Tala, Cate Le Bon, Part Time, Charlie Megira, Deerhunter, Homeshake, Los Bitchos, No Name and some jazz/ classic rhythm and blues and some 70’s folk music.

Outside of making music what do you do?

ALICE: I’m a music teacher, I don’t do anything outside of music. Haha. Just kidding, I live for food, we cook a lot with my boyfriend and love to have home-made fancy dinner with a lot of red wine. We’re doing gardening too, crafts activities (I made my own garden furniture and I’m really proud of it! Haha).  I’m still studying musicology, I love to learn and research new things, I read and cuddle with my cat Mystic.

VICTORIA: I’m currently the International Digital Communication manager for a NGO. That sounds really pompous, but really, my job is great!! Also, with a friend, I’m running women and non-binary people empowerment workshops through music, it’s called “Salut les zikettes!” which I guess you can translate to “hello, musicians!”.

TRISTAN: I work as an IT engineer five days a week, aside from that I drink a lot of beers, like to read technical stuff before the beers, and more “artistic” stuff after, with my cats not far from me. I cook a lot too, and like to eat really tasty food. 

GAÏLLA: I’m a graphic designer but I started to study jewellery recently and I hope to do that full time at some point.

Please check out: MARY BELL. MB on Facebook. MB on Instagram.

Brisbane Grunge Indie Rockers Lunchtime: “Family and emotional violence is a hard topic because love is used as a weapon so often… we’re trying to help young people who are going through similar situations feel strong”

Original photo by Kieran Griffiths. Handmade collage by B.

Lunchtime are a band that wouldn’t be out of place in the ‘90s; the dream of the ‘90s is alive in Brisbane. Their songs are a mix of grunge, punk and indie rock, the band co-founded by twin sisters Eden and Constance along with high school friend Lachlan. We interviewed them just as they were getting set to drop their latest single and video ‘Science Of Sorrow’.

Lunchtime are from Brisbane; what can you tell me about where you live?

LACHLAN: Constance, Eden and I live at Stafford but they used to live in Deception Bay and I lived at Caboolture while Tim lives in Carindale.

CONSTANCE: The best thing about Deception Bay was going down to the local shops and seeing people sitting at the bus stop drinking wine. Our single ‘Deception Bay’ was inspired by these three blokes who were omnipresent at that bus stop. 

EDEN: I always know if it’s a cloudy day in Stafford cuz Constance only does the washing when it’s raining which is annoying but funny.

How did Lunchtime get together?

LACHLAN: We started when the twins and I were at school and then two years ago Tim joined the band after our previous drummer left.

CONSTANCE: It was kinda weird how we ended up in the same band because Eden and I were in a band with these other guys that broke up and started a band with Lachlan which also broke up then the three of us formed Lunchtime with the drummer from the original band.

EDEN: I just remember me auditioning Tim before the others got there and the only question I asked was “Do you like Tiny Teddies” and he said “Yeah they’re alright” and I was like yup this is the one.

Photo: Ben McShea.

How did you start playing music?

LACHLAN: I picked up a guitar.

TIM: I started drums in school.

CONSTANCE: I found my dad’s old guitar in the garage. It had three strings and that’s how I taught myself to play. Hence the punk rock band…

EDEN: Constance needed someone to back her up so I got forced into it and then I decided playing piano was cool cuz I was obsessed with Mika back then. Then I also got forced into playing bass cuz our first bass player decided he wanted to play guitar instead.

Can you tell us something about everyone in the band?

LUNCHTIME: Tim can do a kickflip. Eden is an artist @mumblebee_art and has 93 cacti. Lachlan can put his legs over his head Constance is a Pilates nut!

Constance and Eden are twins; what’s it like creating with your sibling?

CONSTANCE: It’s pretty great because I never really have to explain the artistic direction I want the song to go in, she just knows. Or if one of us is struggling with part of a song in the writing process we can run it by the other and they usually can make it perfect in two seconds.  

EDEN: I love it because it’s like we were made to harmonise with each other. Singing together is so easy and she can always finish things if I hit a wall or tell me how to do it better. You can be brutally honest with each other and there’s no hard feelings.

What’s an album that means a lot to you?

LACHLAN: Hungry Ghost by Violent Soho. They’re a really good Brisbane band, I think we look up to them a lot.

EDEN: I remember hearing ‘Covered in Chrome’ and thinking he had a weird voice and I liked that cuz I thought I sang funny as well. The show at the Riverstage for that album was my first mosh pit and I lost my toenail which I keep to this day in a jar.

Photo: Schema Collective.

What was the first song you wrote for Lunchtime? What was it about?

CONSTANCE:  The first song I wrote for Lunchtime was called “Get over it”. It’s the last song on our first EP Feedback and it was about the first time a band I was in broke up. When bands break up it is way more upsetting than any romantic break up. For me anyway haha. The song was me telling myself that you can try and do everything to forget and still feel the pain but you need to find a way to move on and get on with your life.

EDEN: My first song for us was “I Bleed Lemonade” it was about me punching a concrete pillar after my mate told me he had unknowingly set up my secret crush with someone else.

Your latest song was released late last year and called ‘Deception Bay’; how did that song get started?

CONSTANCE: Deception Bay is where Eden and I grew up. I wrote it when I was about 16 and in the midst of trying to figure out life and all these crazy emotions. ‘Deception Bay’ was named because when it was discovered they thought it was a river because it was so shallow. Random fact but it started the process of ‘huh this place isn’t as it seems let me make some art about it.’ At 16 I was at the restless point when you just want to run away from your problems and used my hometown as a synonym for everything (mentally, etc) I was trying to escape from.

Last year you released single ‘Show n Tell’ which is a song about domestic violence and feeling like there is nowhere to go even when you’re in the place where you are supposed to be safe; what inspired you to write this song?

CONSTANCE: Eden and I had a lot of family issues (as you can probably tell cuz half of our songs are about it.) ‘Show n Tell’ was written about my family and basically what it was like for us growing up. Writing songs has always been a coping method for me because I felt the only way to be heard was through music. The lyrics are pretty dark and sarcastic I think I wrote them after a particularly nasty fight.

EDEN: Family and emotional violence is a hard topic because love is used as a weapon so often. I think we’re trying to help young people who are going through similar situations feel strong and let them know they can get out because there is so much to look forward to in life.

I saw that you were recording last month; is there new music in the works? What can you tell me about it so far?

LACHLAN: We’re recording every day for a couple of things hopefully you see it sooner rather than later cause we don’t have any excuses for time.

CONSTANCE: We’ve been working away at an album which should be finished this year at some point. Its top secret but we may be about to drop a new single – ‘Science Of Sorrow’ [Ed’s note: the song has come out since we did this interview]. We are pretty stoked about this song as it is our longest yet (over 5 mins) and quite different from our other material.

EDEN: One of our mates is hiding in a scene so there’s a Where’s Wally kinda scenario in the new music vid.

I know recently you were super excited to be working on a music vid with Kieran Griffiths Filmmaking; tell us a little bit about it?

LACHLAN: Kieran is a mate we met at a gig and have been good mates since and he did a degree in film so we thought it would fun to work together.

CONSTANCE: We were filming the music vid for our next single. It was pretty fun we all just set up in Tim’s living room for a couple of hours. Kieran is super talented and we are pretty honoured to be working on this with him.

EDEN: The Griffiths twins are our insanely talented best mates, Kieran had been bringing his camera to Gathos and one night we got talking and said it would be cool to do a collab. He directed and shot the whole thing singlehandedly. I’m really proud of it cuz the new song is my baby and is very personal to me. He made me punch yet another concrete wall and made Tim sing which was great. Keen as mustard for yas all to hear it.

How are you keeping busy while we’re all locked down at home right now?

LACHLAN: Lots of recording and Netflix and Minecraft.

CONSTANCE: Studying a marketing degree and a lot of songwriting and jamming.

TIM: Hanging with my girlfriend and fishing.

EDEN: Painting and gardening and watching Friends at 6pm on channel 11.

Please check out: LUNCHTIME. Lunchtime on Facebook. Lunchtime on Instagram.

Tasmania’s Slag Queens: “The start of Slag Queens was really all about trying to play our instruments, eating pizza, commiserating about work and patriarchy”

Original photo by Reece Lyne. Handmade collage by B.

Slag Queens play passionate post-punk with serious groove at times veering into alt-pop, dance-punk territory with an evident ‘90s grunge influence. Their debut LP You Can’t Go Out Like That was on our favourite records of 2019 list and is a well-crafted collection of catchy songs—addictive even. We’re excited for the new LP they’ve currently been in the studio making. We caught up with them to get the lowdown.

What albums put you on a musical path?

LUCY: In my house growing up Mum and Dad really only listened to classical music and a certain kind of folk music (i.e. it DID NOT include Bob Dylan). Hearing the White Stripes and the Pixies when I was in my early 20s was huge. Especially Kim Deal and her bass lines/vocals have been a huge influence. I fucking love the Doolittle album and still listen today.

CLAIRE: In terms of sending me down this musical path, when I picked up the drums for Slags I was binging hard on the first self-titled album by Memphis band Nots. But also Lucy made me a mixtape and that introduced me to Sneaks and I smashed her album Gymnastics too.

AMBER: Some of my parent’s tapes that I listened to constantly as a kid are still my favourites. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, Bjork’s Debut, Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call and Joan Baez are still very strong for me.

CLAIRE: Oh when Wesley joined the band he got me into listening to lots of Malaria! (Self-titled album) and The Smiths The Queens Is Dead. Wesley has excellent taste.

How did Slag Queens first get together?

LUCY: I was drunk at this venue in Launceston. Strange place; doesn’t exist anymore, like a lot of venues in Launceston. And the smoker’s area is like bitumen with a sort of indoor cricket cage thing around it. The lighting is bad. And I’m there, and Claire is there, and Gracie (our first guitarist and epic legend) is there. Oh man. I had spoken to Gracie previously about being in a band and we were talking about it and Claire was like, “I’ll learn drums”. Our first practice was in my sister’s house in West Launceston. She got me into playing bass in Bansheeland and now Mary is doing her solo thing with Meres. The start of Slag Queens was really all about trying to play our instruments and eating pizza and commiserating about work and patriarchy.

Amber and Claire Hobart Pride 2020. photo by Allysha Fry.

Why the name Slag Queens?

CLAIRE: We came up with the name pretty early on when we were meeting as a weekly jam/hangout. It came about in a bit of a giggle storm fuelled by Boags Reds (the beer you drink in Northern Tasmania). And it really felt right for a number of different reasons. Firstly, we thought it was funny. On a deeper level it references queer and feminist traditions of drag queens and reclaiming derogatory slurs. But also, just as ‘slag’ is the discarded by-product of processing coal, Slag Queens could be considered the sloppy by-product of the clean, hyper-serious musical ambitions of male-dominated rock bands in regional Tasmania.

For me, the name was part of this defence wall I felt like we were constructing around us to preserve the kind of raw and exciting energy of being fresh to playing our instruments and making music together. Well before some rock bro in Launceston anointed us the town’s “Shittest Band”, we had already crowned ourselves with trash tiaras. By doing so I had given myself permission not to worry about being held to particular musical standards by stupid, made-up cultural norms and to just create music with my friends. At the time I revelled in this new-found, self-deprecating freedom. However, I would say that now some time has passed and I’ve significantly improved as a drummer (and as a whole band!) my feelings about my trash tiara have definitely changed and it feels less relevant. Still in love with the name though.

Can you tell us something about each band member?

Lucy: I have a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, and it was really horrible finding that out because it feels really unsexy.

CLAIRE: I have a fake, removable front tooth. Sometimes it goes missing.

WESLEY: I also smashed my front teeth out, on a tow bar.

Amber: I almost rolled a d20 to make up a random backstory to answer this question because it’s so difficult to think of one single fact about myself. I have spent an ungodly amount of time today playing Stardew Valley.

Amber and Jordy Marson recording guitars for new songs. Photo by Claire.

You’re from lutruwita (Tasmania); how does living there influence your music?

LUCY: Keen to hear Amber’s take on this as someone who’s done a lot in Hobart’s music scene and grew up in the far south. For me, starting out in the North, in Launceston there was definitely always this feeling of being expected to be a certain standard/do certain things with the music and Slags was very much a reaction to that. I think other things are about being in a regional place established through violent colonisation and the labour of prisoners. To put it mildly, that kind of stuff leaves a lot behind.

AMBER: I really like the small music scene vibes. For all the problems we have with people leaving the state/very few music venues, it’s really nice growing up and watching local bands and then becoming friends with them and making new bands together. It’s a very close knit community and I think that encourages more people to try things and be adventurous with their music.

You’re in the middle of making a follow up record to last year’s LP You Can’t Go Out Like That; what can you tell me about it at this point? What direction are the songs headed in?

CLAIRE: Perhaps what’s been both the most exciting and most challenging thing about Slag Queens has been that we’ve had changes to our line-up. Each line-up has understandably brought different flavours to the sound, especially because we do our songwriting quite collaboratively with everyone in the same room (currently the shed out the back of mine and Amber’s house).

AMBER: A lot of the new songs have moved further away from the punk-leaning sensibilities of the previous album and into a space that I can’t really put a genre to. I like it. It’s weird.

WESLEY: Because Amber and I are definitely chaotic in alignment, It’s become much more hard to steer the reigns, I’ve got no idea where it’s going, but it’s a fun ride.

What’s been lyrically inspiring the new songs?

LUCY: New songs are mostly about what’s been happening down south in Tassie. The housing crisis in particular. But also, I’ve been writing a bit about fashion – because I love fashion but it’s also really gross for so many reasons that I won’t go into here – you already know how fucked the fashion industry can be.

One of the new songs is based on Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend. I enjoyed that book despite some mixed reviews but I was totally in support of the main character – this little loner girl, angry, righteous, hard to like, focused. I don’t know if Donna Tartt is really a revolutionary writer and she’s coped criticism for the way she writes her female characters but I liked Harriet.

Apart from that, I don’t know. It’s weird times. A lot of lyrics I write by making up sounds that later become words or by automatic writing. So sometimes I don’t really feel like I choose an idea and then develop it, it’s more that I write stuff and then we try to work out what it means.

Wesley, Claire and Lucy recording new album. Photo by Jordan Marson.

You recently helped The Native Cats make a video clip for “Sanremo” the B-side t their Two Creation Myths 7”, I know that they’re good friends and have helped mentor you; in what way?

CLAIRE: I can’t actually remember the first time I met Julian and Chloe, but I think I might have met Julian at our EP launch in the front bar of The Brisbane Hotel in 2016. I learned about Rough Skies Records (Julian’s label) earlier that year when I went to see Powernap at Launceston’s The Royal Oak. The room was pretty-well empty but I loved it nonetheless. When I saw the 7inch they had on them I was just amazed that some guy in Hobart was doing short vinyl runs for bands like Powernap. I probably would have fallen over either from laughter or just straight-up shock if someone told me that I would end-up running Rough Skies with Julian.

What Julian has done for me beyond simply sharing his wisdom of having been around the scene for a long time, is he’s believed in me and consistently made me feel like I can do stuff. I’m not sure if other women in music have had this experience, but since taking on Rough Skies with Julian, I’ve been confronted by comments that I’m bossy or rumours/comments circulating the scene that I hadn’t “earned” that position (I don’t know if these are true sentiments that people hold but hearing them has had an impact on me). Julian – and Chloe for that matter – have always made me feel like my organisational skills and musical taste are valid and valued. And also having them believe in the music we’re making with Slags – not just appreciating our songs but really understanding our context – that’s a massive compliment.

Slag Queens and Native Cats at Gasometer Feb 2019. Photo by Gus Romer.

Speaking of video clips we really love your “Real 1” clip; can you tell us a bit about making it?

WESLEY: We really wanted to do something collaborative and work with some people we knew. We thought that it would be really nice to work with local fashion designer Lychandra Gieseman who makes size- and gender-less wearable pieces, and film maker Caitlin Fargher. Caitlin and I went on a bit of a scout and we found this (semi) abandoned quarry, and agreed it was perfect. After working with Lych to pick and match some of their pieces, we went to the quarry and danced and had some fun. It was a really nice and simple way of getting all the shots and then Caitlin came back super-fast with the edited version.

AMBER: I was suuuuper hungover and I had in my mind that if we borrowed a BMX I could do cool tricks on it. Turns out it’s actually really hard. I have a newfound respect for BMX riders.

We really love your debut LP You Can’t Go Out Like That; can you tell us the story behind the album cover please? It’s so fucking cool! We had it on our Fav Album Covers Of 2019 list.

LUCY: We were very, very honoured because Launceston artist, Andrew Leigh Green, agreed to do some photography for us. I’d never met him but had some friends model for him. Andrew is one of those incredible artists who no-one’s heard of (probably contributed to by the fact that his insta/fb is constantly being censored).

Anywho, the shoot. We rocked up to Andrew’s house and he came out wearing pyjama pants and carrying a plastic shopping bag and was just like, “I’ve got a great location scoped out!” So we headed up to this place that turns out to be the old rollerskating rink where, as a 13 year old, I would blade around to M People. Now it’s covered in possum shit and there was this bath in the middle of the rink, which Andrew threw this pink shawl over. And then hey presto, it’s not a bath, it’s a vortex, an opening, an arsehole, a vagina, a mouth.

Inside Roller World album art shoot. Photo by Claire Johnston.

I loved working with Andrew. I felt very connected to his experiences of growing up in Tassie and going to outer suburbs schools and being a bit of a weirdo and copping shit for that. I loved how excited Andrew was about the shoot. He was just constantly saying “beautiful” and talking about how “magic” shoots could be. And there was definitely that energy. Like something cool and special and accidental//preordained was happening.

Lucy and Wesley Real 1 shoot. Photo by Claire Johnston.

Slag Queens are on the brilliant compilation series Typical Girls’ 5th edition with the song “Waterfall”; what’s some cool bands you’ve found through that series? We have all volumes, they’re such killer compilations.

CLAIRE: Ah you’re so ahead of me, Bianca. I only discovered this series when we were asked to contribute and they really are excellent! The band I’ve been most excited about finding through this volume is Vital Idles. They remind me of The Raincoats and Pylon, but also sound like they could be a Melbourne jangle band – turns out they’re actually from Glasgow. I also really enjoyed the tracks from Snob, Helene Barbier and Mr. Wrong.  

What’s been the best and worst show you played; what made it so?

AMBER: I think everyone has different best and worst shows. Best is always when everyone is in a good mood, the crowd dances, and we all look hot. Worst is when someone is in a mood or we’re all tired and hungover, we can’t hear each other, and there are no vibes on stage. My favourite ever show we’ve played was at a festival called Panama in March. Transcendent.

CLAIRE: The worst gig was definitely in Melbourne a couple of years back. We had driven all the way from Adelaide very hungover. Instead of being able to get a nap in our accommodation, I had to use our hire car to drive around Melbourne to pick up gear. Lucy’s sister had come over from Tas with her band for their first mainland show and they were due to open around 8.30pm. But the guy bringing a guitar amp was super late and I felt like he was never going to show up. From memory I think he turned up around 8.45/9pm. After a bunch of line-up changes we had unknowingly booked a band that had pissed a lot of people off recently. This, along with there being a couple of big shows on that night in Melbourne, meant very, very few people came. At the end of the night I collected the money from the venue and paid all the bands only to find out after that we needed to pay the sound tech. I had to send my bandmate to the bar to get money out to pay him. I still get anxious thinking about that gig. 

What other things do you do outside of the band?

WESLEY: Doldrums, which is Lucy and I. Doldrums has played half a gig and hasn’t rehearsed in 12 months, but we should because I try to recite poems in German which and sing over Lucy’s porridge-like synth. I also do a solo radio noise project and a multi-media art practice. I also tell people not to touch things at MONA.

AMBER: I have a solo electronic project called, Slumber, and an emo-country band called, Dolphin. I like to garden and plot the downfall of capitalism.

WESLEY: Me too, we also play chess together.

LUCY: I’m doing solo stuff too which feels weird. Slag Queens is also about to start an online Dungeons and Dragons game.

CLAIRE: I’m a social worker and work in the area of sexual and reproductive health. I also run Rough Skies Records with Julian Teakle (The Native Cats) and have started doing Jonathon Van Ness’s yoga sessions in my living room with my housemate, Louis.

Please check out: SLAG QUEENS. SQ on Facebook. SQ on Instagram. ROUGH SKIES RECORDS.