INTERVIEW: Saint Agnes on their mini-album, Vampire
London-based Saint Agnes have been firing out banger after banger recently, and now you're gonna have the pleasure of hearing them all fused into one beautiful, chilling, and fucking heavy mini-album, Vampire (available on the 26th of March).
If you read our reviews of singles This World Ain't Big Enough and Repent, you'll know how lockdown put an infuriating halt to playing the best shows they'd ever done, after an incredible year following the release of their impressive debut Welcome To Silvertown in 2019 - including a Valentine’s show with Ho99o9, and a sold-out headliner at The Black Heart. Whilst we spent lockdown binge-watching Tiger King, Saint Agnes kept themselves busy in the only way they know how – making music. The creative freedom that came from the whole fucking world being stuck inside indefinitely allowed the band to take some risks and develop their new sound. And that's how the baby Vampire was born.
“We were creating stuff with the tools that were available, and as a band that's always been our philosophy, we're never going to fake something," recalls Jon (guitar/vocals). "We won't write a song that needs an orchestra, as we don't have one! We use the tools that are there, we use the equipment that we've got, we find that inspiring.” Kitty (vocals/guitar) agrees: “Jon and I were locked up together with our computer, so it forced us to write new music with no outside input at all, no playing ideas with the band, no audience reactions to shape things. It’s definitely created a more succinct, more punchy sound. We get to the point quicker – but we’re just as disgusting and in your face."
And it's glorious. While more succinct, Saint Agnes have lost none of their fire or vivid storytelling. The mini-album opens with Repent, a relentlessly feral track that's thick with gritty riffs and blazing vocals, perfectly encapsulating the rage reflected in the lyrics. Heavier than previous releases, listeners are still invited to lose themselves in a twisted, dark-fantasy western that has become classically 'Saint Agnes'. Physical copies of the album include 'psalms' between tracks - musical interludes that enrich the themes imagery, and definitely worth getting your hands on a copy for. There are numerous (creepy) easter eggs and hidden secret messages to be discovered amongst the filthy noise (don’t worry, we won't ruin the magic) - but there’s plenty of extra, dark flair that awaits you.
Latest single and title-track Vampire is certainly a highlight. It's a tale of eternal and nocturnal youth set amongst the neon-lights of dark-pop: a fantastically dark, glitched-out anthem for the masses. Kitty explains: "Vampire is a hate-letter to the addictive, exciting, poisonous trap of social media. We grasp for immortality through our digital avatars; we present our beautiful, godlike, sanguine virtual selves whilst our imperfect shells shrink and cringe in the shadows. Self-loathing on repeat. Vampire is alluring and bewitching pop music with a rotten soul. What better way to get the heretical Vampire in the front door than to dress her up in the right clothes? A sugar-coated pill. Welcome to the Live Forever club, but do you really want to live forever?”
Their music overflows with imagery that immediately transport you into another world - which obviously lends itself perfectly to the creation of their incredible videos. “We’ve created this world that we live in, either mentally or physically at all times," says Jon. "It’s everywhere for us, and we want everything we do to embody that. The music, the videos, the artwork, it all makes sense”.
As well as the new songs, two incredible cover versions have been included: Wish by Nine Inch Nails and Grinderman's No Pussy Blues. The band received a response from none other than Nick Cave himself, describing their version as “chilling and superior”. “I pretty much had a heart attack on the spot” says Kitty.
So, here’s to 2021: the year of Saint Agnes and the year of the Vampire.
Kitty and Jon, thanks so much for speaking to the Coven! How are you both?
Kitty: We’re ok. Lockdown has it’s up and downs right? And I’d say right now we’re medium. Got a
keen eye on shows potentially starting up again, but also wary of getting too excited by that.
The mini-album opens with Repent, why did you choose this track in particular to set the scene?
Kitty: I’m a firm believer that every album should start with a kick to the guts and Repent does that.
You want to wake people up. We see a record as being like a perfect live set and you want to hit that
stage with some energy.
The physical copies of the album have these amazing Psalms between the tracks that stitch it together and deliver an even greater sense of narrative - what inspired you to create them?
Jon: Listening on vinyl or CD is usually a different experience to streaming, it is often more immersive
and we wanted to use that extra attention and time to flesh out the world that the main 6 songs exist
in. We created sounds and little musical interludes that form part of the ongoing conversations we
have about the Vampire musical world.
We absolutely love Vampire - but the spooky theme is so on point throughout all the songs. Do you approach writing with an idea of particular imagery in mind, or is it just a natural result of the process for you?
Kitty: We were talking about this, how we both, as little kids, were always attracted to things that
were dark and spooky. I wore out my VHS tapes of the Addams family films, I was obsessed. I was
always a lot more interested in the super-villain, more likely to want to play a baddie or more
ambiguous character, than the hero (Catwoman over Wonderman for example) and always really into
anything that presented as dark or mysterious. So that interest in the darker aspects of humanity is
something I’ve always had, which is strange! Why are some of us drawn to it and others not at all? It
manifests in the music I make, in the art I create. This need to subvert or question the mainstream, to
flip stuff over and see what’s underneath.
Which aspect of this album are you guys most proud of?
Jon: For me it is the fact it exists at all. It would have been easy to sit back and wait for things to ‘go
back to normal’ before creating something new. But we felt inspired and ready to create, so rather
than see the limitations of the situation as a problem, we embraced them. As a band who are so much
about the live experience, trying new songs out in front of audiences and writing in rehearsal rooms,
to have that option taken away meant we knew it’d force something different out of us. It was
exciting to see what this snapshot in time would be like with such a change in the process. We love
what we created and are proud of how we got there.
We're constantly amazed by your stunning music videos, which has been your favourite to shoot so far and how do you come up with the ideas for them?
Kitty: We are control freaks! We struggle to involve outsiders in the creative process and this
extended to taking on learning how to make videos. The visual part of the music is really important to
us and we wanted to express our vision without any outside influence. So from The Family Strange
onwards we have been making our own videos.
Jon: I think the first one for Brother stands out to me as we were really entering uncharted territory
and had nothing but will power and the most basic technical know-how. We decided to film in pitch
darkness with night vision and re-create dark visuals that are hinted at in the music. So you see a man
dressed as a rabbit electrocuting a cowboy, two scene-of-crime people butchering a body and Kitty as
a skateboarding kid playing a skipping game with an evil twin and the murderous bunny. It was
exhausting, hilarious and it turned out way better than we could have hoped for. It gave us the
confidence to make all our own videos.
Kitty: The ideas tend to come easily as the writing of the music is so visual for us that the video
already exists in our heads by the time we record the songs. We just then need to figure out how to
It's gotta be weird releasing music right now and not being able to perform it live - how much are you looking forward to getting that first audience reaction?
Jon: We have always tried new songs out live before recording. I mean we barely even had a chance to
tour our last EP (The Family Strange) so that feels fresh still and then with this new mini-album we
have a lot of new songs to play. It is really exciting and building the perfect live set and re-working it
every night on tour is what we live for. We have so much pent up frustration, excitement and rage
that has built up without the cathartic release of gigs for the last year that when we finally get to play
it is going to be chaos!
Kitty: I aim to be hospitalised.
You and us both. Thanks so much for answering our questions, and for bringing Halloween back to us in March. We really owe you one!
Pre-order the physical version here
Review and interview by Courtney Myers