Skinny Girl Diet – interview

Standard

Skinny Girl Diet

Last weekend I met up with Ursula and Delilah Holliday, the sisters better known as Skinny Girl Diet, as they prepared to take to the stage for their headline set at Decolonise Fest, at Bermonsey’s supercool DIY Space for London.

I’ve loved the band from afar for a while, a love compounded in March when I watched them rock the fuck out of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire supportingSenseless Things. Having, since then, lost their bassist cousin Amelia Cutler from their line-up, the band as a close-knit duo are delivering a more biting sound, the lyrics are more poignantly-heard, and with Delilah working harder than ever on guitar her licks are engulfing, effortless, bluesy, and very punk rock.

I wondered if I’d be nervous meeting these awesome Wunderkinder in the flesh, but found them warm, unassuming and totally charming – sitting cross-legged on the floor eating pre-performance vegan food, the sisters bundle up laughing together and, adorably, finish each other’s sentences. Their parents, Melodie and Dan Holliday, are never far away from them, and emit the same warm, positive vibes that are just on the right side of the dividing line between punk and hippie. I think I want to be adopted by the Hollidays.

The band has crammed a staggering amount into the years they’ve been going. Their first gig (with Ursula aged 12, Delilah aged 15) was opening for Viv Albertine. Since then Skinny Girl Diet have established themselves Queens of the DIY scene. Their distortion-heavy grungey punk rock, with lyrics of feminist social commentary, draws easy parallels with the ’90s’ Hole and Bikini Kill, but the band have always been keen to point out that their music shares only some of the aspects of the Riot Grrrl movement; Skinny Girl Diet’s work is all about inclusion, and using the platforms that are open to them to amplify the other, marginalised voices around them. Their debut album Heavy Flow came out September 2016, and I’ve a feeling it will be the first of very many … these focussed young women have all the skills.

Get to see these two live as soon as you can. For example … at their headline LOUD WOMEN show at the Lexington on 20 July.

 

LTW: Tell us about Decolonise Fest

Ursula: Decolonise Festival is all about highlighting the fact that punk is mainly white male dominated, and it’s a space for people of all backgrounds and lifestyles to just come together and feel proud of the fact that punk can be, just whatever you want to make it.

Delilah: It’s such a good thing that it exists! We’ve played Afropunk …

Ursula: But I think this is better.

Delilah: Um … It’s different. I feel like it’s more ‘to punks’. But Afropunk’s a bit different. We were playing Alexander Palace – the main stage – so I felt more disconnected from the atmosphere. But the atmosphere here is really …

Ursula: … it’s DIY!

Delilah: Yeah, and you can just suck in more!

Ursula: Yeah. Suck it up!

What does the DIY scene mean to you?

Ursula: It’s the place that feels like home. We were taken in by so many people – taken under their wing. We used to play Power Lunches, when it still existed. I think it’s closed now maybe?

Delilah: Yeah

Ursula: Places like that really embraced us, so it’s definitely the root of everything we do, very DIY. Even now, we fund everything we do.

Delilah: … getting published ourselves, and distributed …

Ursula: yeah, all of that stuff! But it does make it more worthwhile because you’ve got complete control – that’s one thing. But it’s also a pain in the arse financially. Because we basically go to gigs, play, and put that money into what we do. Everything we earn is just circulating, so we don’t really make money. But, hey, it’s fun!

Delilah: The more we do it the more we realise that we don’t really want to be commercial, and our goals and aspirations lie more in helping people, rather than, like, being famous.

Do you see music as your future?

Ursula: Yeah, it’s the only thing that really speaks to us, and that we’re good at.

Delilah: It’s the most fulfilling thing. We just want to help people, and make them feel like they’re understood. And that’s the goal really.

Ursula: YEAH!

What’s your advice for young, female musicians?

Delilah: Have a really thick skin, and don’t give up if you get a bad review, or if the crowd don’t understand you. The more you do it, the more people will understand it, eventually, and the more other young women what you want to inspire, will respond back to you. So it’s all worthwhile when that happens.

Have you faced any negativity?

Delilah: We a really horrible review from a female writer at The Guardian who said that we were just fashion babes …

Ursula: Yeah, she started putting what we were wearing under scrutiny.

Delilah: It’s just really upsetting because, obviously not all women have to be friends, but it is nice when other women support young people making music.

Your Dad is your Manager!

Ursula: Our Dad does pretty much all of our posters and manages us. A really good manager – Dan Holliday – who we owe our lives to, and everything else! *laughs*

Delilah: He started managing us because I had my GCSES at the time, and I was like ‘Dad, I can’t do these emails!’, and then ever since then it’s like … no offence to Dad … he’s learning as well, and we all learn together, and he keeps everything glued together. It’s really nice.

And your Mum is a DIY punk too …

Ursula: She’s the biggest supporter of our band. She always comes to the front row and dances and sings along, so that’s really nice.

Ursula: We don’t really have the whole thing of ‘rebelling against our parents’ because they’re just completely supportive.

Delilah: Sometimes I get a bit insecure and I wish I could rebel in some sort of way …

Ursula: Yeah, find something, anything!

When’s the second album coming out?

Delilah: The whole second album’s finished it’s just, cos we do everything ourselves, it’s really hard to get everything mixed, and make videos … so it takes a while and it’s frustrating, but we just try and move at our own pace and hope people understand!

Skinny Girl Diet’s next LONDON gig is LOUD WOMEN …

Ursula: We can’t wait to play! The 20 July, The Lexington! Skinny Girl Diet – woah!

Delilah: LOUD WOMEN rule!

Ursula: Loud women are the best kind of women!

Delilah: Oh yeah!

~

Find Skinny Girl Diet on Facebook and Twitter

All words by Cassie Fox. More writing on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.

The Charlemagnes – interview

Standard

Published on Louder Than War

The Charlemagnes

Louder Than War’s Cassie Fox sits down for a chat with legendary band The Charlemagnes as they piece together their long-lost album from the debris of their past. 

It’s a wet April weekend and I’m making my way under breezeblock-grey skies to deepest south London to meet The Charlemagnes. My destination: The Tiger’s Head, Catford. This transpires to be some sort of test because, when I finally find the location, in the Bellingham/Southend district, the pub has gone – replaced by expensive-looking new flats. With no time to ponder the significance of this, I receive a call directing me to a nearby chicken shop: inside sit three baseball-capped members of the legendary band, hunched together in a booth, nursing fried lunch and Diet Cokes.

Their first rhythm section disappeared to Canada to dodge the draft. Their second line-up disintegrated in a swirl of personal and musical differences. Their third incarnation fell from the bottom rung of the New York pre-punk ladder and fell apart: ’70s casualties and rock n roll collateral damage. Garage survivors The Charlemagnes are only now piecing together their long-lost album from the debris of their past. What follows is a transcript of our exclusive interview with the group. Chewing the fat: Marty (guitar), Louis (bass) and Les (drums).

Louder Than War: Welcome back! Where have you been?

Marty: Thank you. Right here.
Les: Around.

Does Catford seem a long way from New York?

Les: You’ve seen one broadway, you’ve seen them all.

But Marty, you and Johnny were from New Jersey originally?

Marty: South Brunswick, right. Kind of place you leave.

How do you find London?

Marty: I made a life here a long time ago. You adapt.

Les: The advantage of living in between all these chicken places is you can practice voodoo without anyone getting suspicious about the bones under your window. I’m kidding.

Johnny’s still involved with the band?

Les: He’s what you might call a silent partner at this point.

Marty: Invisible partner.

Louis: Hardly. He’s more visible than ever.

Marty: No. See we talked about this. That’s toxic language. Fatphobic.

Louis: Right.

Marty: We’re not about that. We’re cool.

Louis: Right.

But Johnny still writes for the band?

Louis: He’s heavily involved.

Marty: Lou.

You had some censorship problems back in the day from labels, regarding some of his lyrics?

Marty: You gotta understand, times were different. It’s the garage boom. All the labels want their own band, but still they have these real conservative attitudes.

Les: All the bands sang the same type songs. You’re young, you’re pissed.

Marty: Johnny liked to write about girls, but nothing worse than anyone. It was one part misunderstanding, nine parts overreaction.

Les: Anyway, we changed most of that stuff around. We don’t put that out now. You can always be schooled.

Louis: We love women. My mother was a woman.

So this is a new look Charlemagnes?

Marty: There’s a couple new faces. Les and Louis have been with us from time, but we’re working with a new kid called Benny on saxophone, who can really blow. And a brother called Brent is backing us on guitar. His name was actually Benny too but we had to change that, you can’t have two Bennies in a band.

Les: Eighth rule of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Charlemagnes - tourDo fans accept line-up changes as inevitable? The Charlemagnes were out of action for some time.

Marty: Everyone knows the back story. The ’80s were hard. For me personally, I mean. I couldn’t tell you how it was for anyone else.

Louis: The band never exactly stopped.

Les: You lose people. Not all life and death stuff. That too, but sometimes you just literally lose people.

Marty: My son Marty Jr steps in sometimes. There’s a kid called Matt we’re going to try out for live shows. And Grace, she’s doing some trumpet for the album. It’s a solid but also fluid line up.

Les: And gassy if you count Johnny.

Marty: If it’s Johnny’s words and some kid on flugelhorn it’s still The Charlemagnes.

On a brighter note, you’ve got record release news?

Les: Yes. We are talking to a couple of labels about an EP. But there might be a reissue of ‘Hot for Crime’ in the works too so watch for that.

Louis: Then the album. There’s enough songs and most are ready, for the album as well as EP and maybe a couple other things. We’re online now too.

So I have to ask you about Trump.

Louis: Nope.

Marty: Sick of talking about [muffled]

Les: Look, it’s a cowboy nation. Cowboys, and ghosts of indians.

Marty: Before you get too cosy over here, remember everyone has a Trump. If you don’t, it’s coming from us to you real soon.

Les: What was that thing Burroughs said?

Marty: Frankie? From the block?

Les: Not Frankie Burroughs. Kind of trust fund junkie writer. Said America is evil, the evil was there from the beginning.

Marty: At the same time, fuck you. We love it. It’s a garbage dump, but it’s our garbage dump.

Tell us about the songs. No Pay Day addresses the situation back home at the moment?

Marty: Well, see yes and no. Some of us [have] seen presidents come and go. The working man gets screwed whichever way.

Les: You won’t remember Nixon. Black lives matter, man. Ain’t nothing changed.

Marty: No Pay Day is still on point so we play it. Other songs are better left in the dust.

Louis: Some of what we do is more tongue in cheek. Like, what Johnny likes to eat. Or personal stuff.

Les: Shizz about growing up. Being kids. People we knew.

Like Hot For Crime? Do you think audiences accept that sort of lifestyle now?

Marty: Johnny’s got his artistic licence. At the same time, sometimes you needed to do what you needed to do to keep the band going.

Les: You’re right, things are a lot more straight. But if anything that makes those glimpses more appealing.

How did you end up better known in the UK for that record?

Les: Collector scenes, man. It was the tail end of the glam pub rock thing. Or it might have been the beginning of that. But they were interested in our sound.

Messed Up seems like an ambiguous song as well. It’s clearly about a dependant relationship, but it’s almost an attack as well as a tribute.

Marty: ‘Honey’s Mussed Up’, right. Relationships are hard to keep together, just like bands. I don’t wanna speak for Johnny but it’s hard when you’re the artist.

Les: You can find yourself not the main breadwinner of the household, shall we say.

There seems to be a kind of elegy-like quality in some of your music along with the energy. Is that deliberate, and does that reflect your experiences?

Louis: It’s not a pity party. We just play it how it is.

Les: Right.

Marty: Everything goes back to the blues. We haven’t stolen the blues by the way, but we might borrow it from time to time.

Les: We’re back from the crossroads. With a tale to tell.

Louis: Hear that.

Marty: Nothing more to be said.

~

The Charlemagnes begin a mini-tour with Eight Rounds Rapid at St Moritz, London, on 9 June, followed by Le Pub, Newport, on 10 June.

Find the band online on Facebook and on Soundcloud.