INTERVIEW: Venus Grrrls on their new single, Goth Girl
Leeds-based five-piece Venus Grrrls have conjured up a bewitching new single Goth Girl to kick the new year off with a bang. Following up from their debut EP Wicked Things, which was released in April 2020, the spellbinding alt-rock powerhouse are back with a thunderous new song that captures their love for alternative culture and celebrates women of the rock scene. The track drops on Friday (22nd January), and we got the chance to listen to it early and chat to the band about how it came to be.
Opening with a building tension of honey-thick vocals, entrancing drums and synth, and an intensifying riff, Goth Girl erupts into an unrelenting chorus that goes fucking hard. A welcome surprise to the new single is that Goth Girl embraces the glistening synths most prominent in 2019's haunting Freaky Friday and offers a new elevated shine to the alt-rock Venus Grrrls sound. Fusing these sparking synths with the heavy, riotous instrumentals we've come to expect from the band, Goth Girl is both nostalgic of new-wave rock and fresh with its pop sensibilities.
With references to rock culture, like namedropping icon Siouxsie Sioux, the track is a love letter to alternative trailblazers who pathed the way for women in rock music today. Goth Girl is a homage to the women of the punk rock scene who just didn't give a fuck about social norms and were unapologetically themselves, while championing the importance of uplifting and empowering all women, and that's something Venus Grrrls continue to carry with them. We had the pleasure of chatting to the band about the new single, feminism in rock culture, and everything in-between:
Hi, thanks for talking to us! I'm sure you're glad 2020 is over - how was the year for you as a band?
Hi there! Thanks for having us! Ah the dreaded 2020, in many ways of course we were eager to dive into 2021 because it's the year we release new music, and it really was difficult not being able to do our favourite thing in the world and play gigs. It really has been a dreadful year for the industry in general, it was heart-breaking to see independent venues be threatened with permanent closure, it just shows the cracks in the delicate system we have, and proves more than ever that there needs to be more funding in the art sectors and local music. Personally for us, 2020 did give us some time to recalibrate and discuss our plans, where we wanted the direction of the band to go and how we were going to make it happen. Don't get me wrong, we wouldn't have picked it to happen. We lost out on a lot of huge opportunities, but we tried to make the best of a bad situation and use the time to our advantage!
Your sound and band name are reminiscent of the 90s Riot Grrrl movement, citing Bikini Kill as an inspiration of yours. How has the Riot Grrrl movement influenced your music?
Yes! To put it bluntly, if Riot Grrrl hadn't happened then we wouldn't have met. Riot Grrrl is what sparked us all together, it's incredibly close to our hearts and was an important movement for female/non binary and LGBT creatives. It has influenced us in principle, and encouraged us to celebrate and empower each other instead of succumbing to the patriarchy that's designed to pit women against each other. So yes, Riot Grrrl is like the heart of Venus Grrrls for sure.
Bikini Kill will always be a huge influence of ours, it was playing Rebel Girl that brought us all together musically as a band and set the foundations for us sonically. As time has gone on, we've definitely stylistically moved away from Punk/Riot Grrrl, musically speaking I would say we're more in the Alt-rock bracket now, especially with the use of synth. But I must say in retrospect, Riot Grrrl wasn't as inclusive as it could've been and lacked a lot of black voices. We want to take this moment to speak about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as without her paving the way for women in rock and roll we, again, wouldn't be where we are today. We're all intersectional feminists, so we must use our privilege to discuss the issues that must be discussed, including the white-washing of rock and roll, a genre that was fundamentally created by black artists.
What's the story behind Goth Girl? How was the creative process different in comparison to your previous songs?
Goth Girl was born a lot longer ago than it seems, the pandemic really set us back in terms of recording it. It began while a very sick GK was cooped up in her room with laryngitis, and we'd had to cancel gigs because she was so ill. That time spent stuck in her room, she just got her laptop and started demoing the early version of Goth Girl. It was a very sudden process, the lyrics just spilled out, as did the chords. There wasn't a huge event preceding the song, but speaking of Bikini Kill's Rebel Girl, we wanted to write a song that celebrated female friendship in a similar way that Rebel Girl does. We all reflected on our pasts, and we realised that at some point we'd all been made to feel certain types of ways for being 'alternative' in some respect. There are definitely some outlandish and strange stereotypes that people associate with things like goth culture and modern witchcraft, we wanted to highlight these and begin to break them down. Although, the meaning of Goth Girl isn't strictly exclusive to fashion or subculture, but more just the realisation that society is fickle and always ready to point the finger. It was great and enriching friendships that got us through our own hardships, so we felt we needed to write a song dedicated to this while also attempting to break down some stereotypes, too.
In terms of the creative process, we made a choice with this release to go down a more refined and professionally produced route. We worked with Sugar House Music in St. Helens, who have worked with quite a few of our music friends. We loved the style of their production, so we thought it suitable to try with them and see how it turned out, and we're really pleased with the result. DIY has always been our approach in the past and will always be a key mindset of the band, working with and supporting your community's businesses' and professions; but we wanted to broaden our horizons and appeal to more audiences while also retaining our core sound and values.
Do you have a 'mission statement' as a band? And if so, how does Goth Girl fit into that?
We state in our bio that we 'promote the participation, acknowledgement, and respect of women in the alternative music industry'. We think this part of bio very much sums up what our goals are for the band, or what our 'mission statement' would be. We want to use our platform to combat racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism in the music industry, as there's definitely a lot to be done to provide more opportunities for those who don't have access to them. Anything we can do that might help the process along, we want to! Goth Girl pushes the overall message that supporting each other is the key to a fruitful society, and ironing out one's own internalised prejudices can only mean that we are all able to fill up our hearts with nothing but love, support and empathy.
You're based in Leeds - what's your relationship like with the city? Any local bands we should be listening to?
We met and formed while at uni here in Leeds, although we're now actually all dotted around the country! But two of us still reside in Leeds, and we definitely would say that it's our base, call it our home town. We love the city, and we love gigging here. There are some incredible live music venues such as Hyde Park Book Club, which serves incredible coffee and puts on some great gigs. We had our first sold out show at Hyde Park Book Club, the venue will always be close to our hearts because of this too, amongst the long list of other reasons. Another venue to shout out is Oporto, who again have always supported us and put on some great gigs. There are countless independent venues in Leeds that give the city such an eclectic atmosphere, and an independent scene that's incredibly robust and special.
In terms of Leeds bands, we're loving Blue Kubricks at the moment. Their song Heroin, in particular was introduced to us by a friend some time ago, and is always guaranteed to put us in a good mood! Another Leeds band we’re loving is Edited People, their tune Natural Disaster is a banger!
I love your aesthetic and I think it matches so well with our Rock Coven brand. So, obviously, who are some of your favourite fictional witches? Personally, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Hex Girls from Scooby Doo are icons to me.
Aw thank you so much! Well one of our favourite films is The Craft, and even though Nancy Downs was a bad witch, she's very much been a style and aesthetic influence for some of us so we have to name her. Of course, in total agreement about The Hex Girls too, who were also a very early style inspo for us! We actually want to mention non-fictional Witches too, called Ellen Thompson and ‘Mother Midnight,’ who are both buried in an unmarked grave in Hart Village (Hartlepool), where our synth player, Gracie, is from. In recent months, Gracie found out that her mother used to sit by her grave as a child and leave flowers for her, and has memories of sitting by the grave during the season of Samhain!
Finally, what can we expect from Venus Grrrls next?
We certainly have a lot of stuff in the pipeline for this year, Goth Girl certainly isn't the only tune we're planning to release in 2021 and we're eager to share more as soon as we can. The pandemic has definitely shuffled our plans, we were supposed to be in the studio at the end of the month which has now been postponed. But we're determined to power through and get back in the studio as soon as it's safe enough to do so!
Thanks so much for having us!
Pre-save Goth Girl here, ready for when it drops on Friday 22nd January.
Review and interview by Chloe Robbins
Photography by Milly Hewitt