In the borough of Hackney (London's premiere crime spot) exists a place called Clapton. In Clapton there is a main road which smells of piss and looks like Beirut. On the end of this road is a community hall with a vandalised sign proudly proclaiming it to be Chat's Palace. This is where Angelica are playing tonight. This really is hardcore.
A conversation with the all girl Lancaster four piece is never quite like any other conversation you might have with a band. You only need to say half a sentence and Angelica will quite happily interview themselves for up to half an hour before you step in and guide discussion towards the music, and away from Claire offering 2 for 1 foreskin removal. In an enforced Louis Theroux style however it's interesting to see what they come up with and how the members interact with each other. They're a long way from the stereotyped persona's of early Spice Girls but their individual personalities do lead them to fulfilling certain roles in the group, whether they realise it or not.
Brigit (bass/vocals) has a lot to say when it comes to the ideology and motivations of the band, ably supported by Holly (guitar/vocals). Which in fairness is hardly surprising given they are the main songwriting force in the group, and crucially, the lyricists. Rachel (drums) is the devils advocate and the feet on the ground. She doesn't say all that much but when she does it's often to get one of the others to check back on themselves. Claire (guitar/vocals) is in a world of her own. Her bandmates may be debating feminist philosophy but that won't stop her riddling it with smut, inuendo, and some bizarre sexual anecdote. Often she'll be cut off mid sentence or stopped in her tracks by the rest of the group - with a shout or a slap. If Angelica were a family Holly and Brigit would be the parents with Rachel in the mould of Lisa Simpson. Claire would be Bart.
We're sat in a small top floor room at the venue, there is a murmur coming through the wall of those next door. Everyone finds a seat, I hit record.
So how was your trip down?
H: We came in an ambulance, an ex-ambulance should I say.
B: But it still has the trolleys in it!
H: It's quite morbid. But very comfortable. It had blacked out windows, as I found out when I tried to wave at one of my friends through it and she walked straight past! I realised I could see them, but they couldn't see me. Took full advantage of this going down the motorway of course!
So this isn't part of a tour?
R: It's a one off.
C: We're playing Lancaster in a couple of weeks time as an album launch party.
B: Though it's not a party.
C: I'm having a party!
B: More of a wake!
So your album, last year you said it would be out in about
all: we lied!
C: Through no fault of our own.
B: Claire absconded to America.
C: But I came back again!
H: You have to understand the world of Angelica where everything is a complete...
R: Fuck up
C: It kept getting put back. It was put back to Christmas but you can't release at Christmas so it got put back again and again, there was a problem with the mastering so it got put back even more. Oh yeah, and we lost the artwork.
H: But go out and buy it now!
How did the release on Almafame come about?
B: Because Kat Bjelland is on Almafame And it seemed an easy way to put out an album on the same label as her.
C: It was due to Ladyfest, we met Kat there when Katastrophe Wife were playing.
B: it's like when you're twelve and in the playground it's like "my mate fancies you"!
This album seems a lot heavier than your previous one. Was
this in part due to Kat's production?
B: No, we'd written all the songs before she even appeared on our scene. We'd written a lot of songs as we, well, didn't have anything else to do! We were just writing and writing and writing.
C: I don't think it was a conscious effort to "go heavy" or anything.
R: it's just how it came.
Where do you think it came from?
C: Rachel's obsession with Venom
R: Shut up!
B: It's your obsession with System Of A Down (to Claire)
H: It's our collective obsession with Nickelback!
C: It's probably because we've all got rock boyfriends.
B: No, well not me, I've always been rock.
H: Well, me too.
B: What we've basically done is put Holly under the thumb and said "No more lightweight pop music"!
H: Thing is I don't know how we ever got to sound how we did in the first place because we never even liked that sort of music.
C: Yes we did
B: No we didn't. Would you ever have bought Why Did You Let My Kitten Die?
C: I would have bought Bring Back Her Head.
R: We always liked PJ Harvey, Hole, Sonic Youth...
B: and we wrote Teenage Girl Crush! I think we started with an obsession for sixties girl bands.
C: I think we didn't want to just use guitars, so we used glockenspiels and recorders. We wanted to do more than just a guitar band.
H: We wanted to sound a little bit, quirky.
B: We get carried away in the studio.
C: Penny whistles come out
H: that's not even funny!
C: I'd buy this album though. We listened to it all the way down to here.
H: I have to say that the music we listen to doesn't and never has sounded anything like what we play.
H: Don't ask me!
B: Why did your review say Golden Lillies sounds like L7 and Hole when it doesn't?
It's just really low slung and all the power chords I guess.
C: The attitude?
B: Maybe there's something in L7, but I don't know about Hole.
I had this theory that because Kat was on that track that
she'd come in and beat you all with a heavy stick...
B: Noooo! It's just really angry.
H: Brigit's angry moment.
B: Did you notice it was really short, it was like "urgh".
H: But she's okay now.
B: I was really angry when I wrote it. I don't know why but I thought I'd just write a really disgusting song. Although I did laugh at the line "pin her down, pin her up, all she's good for is a fuck".
C: Some of the words in Rosemary make me laugh. I don't know why.
H: Yes you do know why!
B: When it goes "golden handshakes" you think of golden showers! You laugh at wee jokes!
C: You can't beat a good wee joke! I mean, I've got a friend who's into watersports
C: I can't get my head round it. Everytime I hear the word "Golden", like golden handshake or golden virginia..
B: I can understand golden virginia!
C: I'm not telling you now!
H: I'm going to have to guess.
H: Is it someone you've been out with?
C: No, move on!
B: I'll talk about the song. Golden Lillies is about binding people's feet to constrain women in society. Although my anger on this is very limited so the song is very short. Golden Lillies are what they used to call people's feet that had been bound, because they wept. Because all the bones had been crushed.
B: How could anyone let that happen. Make it law.
C: Stops them escaping, that's what I say! Absolutely deserved it!
B: Keep them in their place! Ahem, that's why you can't have a long serious conversation with Angelica because someone will always make a joke of it.
Well, that leads into my next question kind of.
You played Ladyfest...
and you're playing an event called "Frockoff"
and a lot of your album deals with, erm, what you might
call, erm, feminist issues
C: You were scared to say that!
B: The dirty F word!
C: As Brigit says, Feminism is not a dirty word.
H: But it doesn't necessarily mean we're all feminists.
C: I think every woman is a feminist to some degree.
R: Not little Mo!
B: Well that's what feminism originally set out to challenge. You should believe in the ideals and the practice, otherwise we'd never be equal with men. Maybe what is important is that you don't have to believe in what feminism has become. Half of it's gone radical and half of it is content. Because women can drink beer they think it's done it's job.
C: I prefer a covert operation. I do like covert operations. I'm all for equality in the classes, what I won't do is go on the radical side of things because that's not for me. I want to get in there when no one's noticing, then boo! Before you know it, I'm in control.
Is that why you're dressed head to toe in black? To be "covert"?!
B: She's in disguise
C: I am quite serious about it though. I don't go for a radical approach. I think you can do it in other ways.
B: I guess it's like when I asked my mum what she wanted to be when she was younger, and she was just like, "no, we didn't think like that when I was a kid, we didn't have ambitions" in those days there weren't the opportunities. She's only in her fourties so you can see how far it's gone. But then, you know, women want equality with men but then, well, they wouldn't go to war would they? If you're going to have total equality then you should have to go and fight in the front line.
H: Thing is that it's not stopped yet. People think they've reached a plateau but I was reading the paper the other day that women graduates get paid 15% less than male graduates.
B: People think there isn't a problem anymore when there is. They dismiss feminism and take for granted the fact that so much has changed and it's because women have had to stand up for themselves. In Sociology there's this theory that women went through the education system unseen and unheard and a career was never for them. They weren't focussed on doing well in education and a lot went to changing that but then there's this thing how people think boys aren't doing as well at school now. So they make exams easier for them and I thought, fucking hell women slave for a hundred years to get an equal footing in education and because boys aren't doing so well they'll make it easy for them!
H: I don't like the way feminism has become part of a scene now. You wear certain clothes, wear your hair a certain way, go to certain places and buy certain magazines. It's like if you don't do all that you're not a feminist. I have a boyfriend, we all do, I go to the pub and I have male friends. I don't go to lots of feminist conventions. But that doesn't mean I'm not a feminist.
B: I felt kind of out of place when we played Ladyfest because we weren't like that. It seemed that all the other bands were. We didn't say anything political.
H: Everyone else was really, "right on everyone, let's have a big shout out for the women tonight". I'm not arsed with any of that, but I am a feminist.
B: It comes down to the music, I think it should be
appreciated for that.
B: It shouldn't be that we expect a step up just because we're girls.
H: It's patronising to say that because you're a woman you should have an all girl festival.
B: What did impress me about Ladyfest was the people who organised it.
R: Why, because they're girls?
B: No! Not because they're girls. Because they went over (to the US), learnt how to do it and came back and did it. Regardless of if I agree with them or not they had the drive to do it. It's a double edge sword being in a girl band.
C: I think...
B: I think Ladyfest is too extreme, but I respect the people who organise it.
C: I think it's bad that there aren't many bands with females in, or all female bands. Overall it's a really small percentage. It would be nice to combine a festival like Ladyfest with something else.
I saw The Bangs and The Gossip at London Ladyfest...
H: I love The Gossip, the singer's mental! She kept going on about how she loved Texas chicken, fantastic!
C: I hear you sister!
H: I don't want anyone to get the idea we don't like Ladyfest.
B: Yeah, it's just that I think that kind of festival marginalises female bands. It's only promoting to a certain audience, the people who would go and see girl bands anyway.
Is it falling into the trappings of riot grrl? Like the
female only gigs?
B: I don't like that exclusivity.
H: The thing is that if there were more good girl bands out there then there would be more playing mainstream gigs and festivals. But there isn't so you're left with all-girl type events.
B: It's meant to be about celebrating women but if it's only women celebrating women then, well, it should be more about celebrating good female musicians.
H: Men won't go to something like Ladyfest.
R: Why would you go somewhere to get slagged off?
H: It's completely alienating the male culture.
B: In some ways it's as bad as misogyny, what's it called, misanderiss?
My review of Ladyfest London suggested that some of the
bands were "angry" and got it in the neck for being
H: Well, I don't think you have to be angry to be in a girl band. We are, but you don't have to be.
B: People have said that I seem anti-men in a lot of songs. But I was just like "no no, I just evolve things I hear people say". In some ways our lyrics are discursive, not a definite viewpoint. When I say "I cover my body because men are all the same" I'm not saying that's my personal view and I cover myself up because all men do is stare at my tits. Most of my male friends do say that men are terrible and they do stare at your tits, so I'm discussing men talking about men sometimes. I'm not saying men are shit!
H: My boyfriend completely admits he's shit!
B: It's like the whole mother thing, "don't trust men, please be gay"!
H: It's the whole story behind Liberation Is Wasted On Me. It's a whole conversation about how I do go out with men and I do fancy blokes. Does that mean you can't be a feminist if you dress up, do your hair, put a nice dress on and wear make-up? Is that crossing the line? Are you letting your "sisters" down? I think I might do a lot of things some feminists would look down on.
B: As I said, we discuss things that concern us, and one of those things is feminism.
What hopes do you have for your new album?
B: We can't tempt fate by saying anything! We've given up planning things because they never happen.
C: Six months ago my plan was to get a fantastic album out and the ten songs on our album are fantastic.
B: It's overwhelming to talk about this in interviews. It's like, shit, we have an album out and Kat Bjelland produced it. What can you say about something you've released and your happy about everything about it.
C: Everyone has been so positive about it.
B: I feel quite vindicated because it was a big risk to leave Fantastic Plastic. We've done well by it and it shows it can go well if you stand up for something you believe in. It was the right time to leave Fantastic Plastic, we had run our course with them.
You said last year that you left Fantastic Plastic
because they wanted to tie you into a contract. Is the deal with
Almafame just a one off?
B: I doubt we'll do anything else with Almafame. They were chasing us and it was a means to an end.
Without any singles proceeding the album's release you haven't
yet had any radio play to promote it.
B: We will once we release Liberation Is Wasted On Me. We have a plan, sort of.
Do you feel any pressure given that you have done consistently
better in terms of sales and chart positions with every release?
B: There's been a lot of talk on our website.
H: Peple are asking about where the single and the promotion is because they want us to do really well.
B: We're trying y'know.
Have you released this album with a view to taking it on
to sign to something big and evil?
C: I like to think this is the best album we've made so far in terms of musical accomplishment. This album should get picked up by a bigger label than Almafame because they are essentially a label for back catalogue. The only new bands they have are us and Katastrophe Wife. This album needs to get out there, get heard, get critical acclaim and hopefully lead to something else. If it does then that's great. If not then we've still made a great album.
H: Releasing this album had been a real trauma.
C: Like giving birth with complications.
R: We've known the songs for nearly a year now.
So we've talked about what Angelica are up to but no-one
really knows what you do when you're not in the band. So what
do you do?
H: I'm doing my History finals this year.
B: In about two week's time.
C: Ha ha!
H: Brigit went to Edinburgh for a week!
B: In 1998. I've been unemployed ever since. I've just finished a year on the New Deal for musicians and nearly caused a scene in the job centre when I considered getting down on both knee's and asking for another year!
So is it any good?
B: For a working band like us, yes. I don't know how it works for other people.
C: Out of all of us Brigit does the most band stuff. If she wasn't on the scheme a lot of stuff wouldn't have got done. The New Deal leaves you alone, you're not dossing 'cos you're still spending hours on the phone every week doing press, advertising, manager stuff...I don't see why it should be restricted to a year though.
B: Well I do, because It costs the government a lot of money.
C: Bah, government smotherment!
R: We'd all be on it for thirty years!
B: There would be millions on it.
C: Maybe it should be means tested, look at how well she's done!
B: The thing is that you have these workbooks to do
H: It's like primary school!
B: It's an open learning course in the music industry. Some of the booklets are quite useful but others are, well, when I started I got all these booklets. I told my Molp, Music Open Learning Provider, that I wanted to do everything. He said it might be a bit beneath me but I was like, "no, it'll be a laugh, I'll try it". I then spent twelve months with the band going on tour, recording and all that. I went in last month and was like, "Why did I say I was going to do this? It only took a couple of hours though, they're really not that pressing".
Then you'll be capable of being in a band!
H: I've not even thought about graduating. I've been very disorganised. I'm graduating and that's it, I don't know.
And what do you do Claire?
C: I went to America and found my soul, then came back and now work for an insurance company!
R: Claire sells insurance on the phone.
B: She did go to university to study sound engineering.
C: I did do sound engineering in Lancaster but they closed the place down. I worked for a guy called Rossi who was the archetypal sound engineer. Boiler suit and enough mag-lites to fill a hardware shop!
B: He wore a hole in his jeans playing air guitar with a plectrum!
H: He plays air guitar and when the amp gets turned down in a song he turns down his air amp!
C: He's got an air wah! At first I thought he was a wanker...
H: he tunes up!
C: but he's alright. He went away on a snowboarding holiday without giving anyone notice. I had to do everything for two weeks. He came back and he was like, "oh, you did alright". I was like, "yeah sunshine, you bow to me now!". So if anyone would like me for barmitzva's, weddings, funerals, live PA..
B: Don't Claire, you'll get ten e-mails!
C: I'll cut the foreskin as well, 2 for 1 special offers!
R: Whoah! Next question!
B: Before she gets anymore un-pc!
B: Shut your trap!
Okay, so what are your future plans?
B: I'm playing Ladyfest actually, which we've just slagged off...they're going to kill us. Erm, we love it! We're all thinking of converting to radical feminism and lesbian lifestyles!
R: I saw The Truth About Lesbian Sex the other day.
B: You really watched that?
R: Yeah, you have to shove your arm up and twist it...
B: I think Rachel actually is a lesbian.
R: Am not!
C: Anyway, the tour
(At this point the whole discussion breaks down in a chatter
of giggles about Rachel's alleged lesbian leanings)
C: Oi! For once it's not about me talking about cock! What I'm trying to say is that we're not doing a big tour because we're going to wait for the single to come out.
B: We're not currently planning anything.
C: We're going for festivals as we speak but for smaller bands you don't get confirmation 'til the last minute.
B: We'll be doing some live shows sometime over the summer. We're sorry we don't play more often but if anyone wants to book us a gig and cover our travelling costs, feed us, and beer us, then we'll come.
C: Give me a comedy question!
What's your favourite gummy bear?
B: Greens and blacks are my favourite.
(Suddenly Brigit slaps Claire's leg after she mumbles something,
odds on very filthy.)
B: Once we did an interview with Melody Maker and Claire said that in a former life she was in the Vietnam war.
H: Or as she called it, 'Nam.
C: You can't disprove it, fuck off!
B: She said she liked the smell of napalm in the morning!
C: I am now blushing with sheer humiliation.
Last question, Harry Potter or Lord Of The Rings?
B: Right, I have to go because if I don't I will piss myself. For the record though the Harry Potter film is the worst thing I've ever seen in my life, and Lord Of The Rings is okay. Except at the end there's that terrible drowning scene that doesn't happen in the book.
H: I'd go for Time Bandits everytime.
The 7 Year Itch is out now on Almafame/Victory Works