BIG IN 2016
As 2016 opens its doors, we’ll make sure you’re properly briefed on the acts who will dominate the next twelve months. We’ve heard the future, and the future is Muncie Girls.
Words: Danny Randon.
Before we begin the year that the UK punk rock scene declares itself as a ‘big deal’ to the rest of the world, let this be said: Muncie Girls’ forthcoming debut, ‘From Caplan to Belsize’ could well be the most infectious record you’ll hear all year. It’s a bold statement to those who are yet to discover the Exeter punk trio, but as the band have risen from the burgeoning depths of DIY, a year of many milestones – including a string of dates with indie-rock stalwarts Tellison – awaits them. And they could not be more excited.
“We’re still suffering from post-tour blues,” sighs Muncie Girls vocalist/guitarist Lande Hekt, mere days after returning home from a run across Europe, supporting New York punks Such Gold. “We’ve done a few other tours as well, but [this was] the best one. We played to more people than ever, and that band were really fun to hang out with.”
Reflecting on a year of momentum building for her band, Lande places the tour on a par with the recording of ‘From Caplan To Belsize’ as 2015’s defining moment, although there may be another contender for Highlight of the Year for drummer Luke Ellis and bassist Dean McMullen, in the form of a tweet from one of their heroes.
“We were sat in the van, getting the ferry across Europe, Luke was on his phone and he was like ‘oh my god’,” Lande recalls on the day blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus shared the band’s single ‘Gas Mark 4’ on Twitter. “He started jumping up and down and we were like ‘whoa, you need to calm down’! We were making jokes about it the whole way, but if Patti Smith or [Sleater-Kinney guitarist] Carrie Brownstein did that, I’d lose my shit!”
Having recorded their debut full-length at the beginning of 2015, the release of ‘From Caplan To Belsize’ will undoubtedly see Muncie Girls coming full circle after a sequence of singles and split EPs. Recorded with Lewis Johns at The Ranch Production House in Southampton (now a mecca for the cream of the UK’s punk crop), its grand unveiling this spring will be with a flourish of pride and, above all, relief.
“When you do a record, you really want to listen to it all the time,” says Lande, commenting on the “awful” year-long window of sitting on the long-finished album. “I’ve been banning myself from listening to it at all, because otherwise I’m just gonna be completely over it by the time it’s come out.”
“We’ve only ever had a day or two to do a bunch of songs, and we’ve always made it work but that means really rushing to do it, and worrying whether takes are going to be perfect. We were [at The Ranch] for two weeks, and this time we were so relaxed.”
A relaxed record, however, it is not. Spirited, spritely and somewhat evocative of the ‘girl power’ 90s vibes of Hole and Veruca Salt, its irresistible power-pop hooks are executed with an undertone of pissed off-ness towards modern society’s many flaws. Take the opening statement of ‘Learn In School’: a challenge of human ignorance, and the labyrinth of understanding the politics of today.
“It’s about my personal feelings towards how I was never taught about any kind of politics, and I had to find out bits and bobs for myself, which I still don’t feel confident in,” Lande explains. “[The title] ‘learn in school’ is quite a literal thing: obviously we’re not taught it in school, but we’re not taught about it at any point of our lives, and so we’re not able to take control of our own fates.”
Is it also a comment on political bigotry that is oh-so-often pasted across social media? “It’s more a comment on feeling completely lost within politics. You’re eligible to vote, and you don’t want to voice your own opinion because you’re not confident about it. Isn’t that just bullshit?”
Even more of a concern for Muncie Girls is the imbalance of equality between genders in music, which is miraculously still ‘a thing’ even after the influx of incredible female musicians within the UK’s alternative music scenes, in which Lande is no exception. Tracks like ‘Respect’ – not only one of 2015’s standout anthems, but also a seething tirade against rape culture and sexual abuse – are the band’s golden ticket to speak out against such discrimination. “People need to make a conscious effort to encourage women to get involved [in music]. We can stop thinking about gender within music as soon as it’s all equal, and there’s a balance.”
Lande is not alone in taking the vital steps towards encouraging this balance: Girls Against have appeared in the news for their efforts against sexual harassment at gigs; sibling trio Haim are working to revive the American female-only festival Lilith Fair; meanwhile, Lande herself works with School Of Frock, a local workshop which helps young ladies find the confidence to take to the stage.
“Boys have such endless opportunities to start a band, but when I went to school, I was never encouraged to pick up an instrument. Girls were made to play clarinets and flutes and all that kind of stuff – luckily, I had the gumption to do it anyway!”
Are Muncie Girls a political band? Perhaps. Are they passionate about what their scene stands for? Absolutely. “Lyrically it doesn’t actually matter,” shrugs Lande, “I think it’s more to do with the DIY spirit, and also just punk bands showing other people another way to live, and promoting counterculture. I love so many UK punk bands, and although they don’t write about alternative politics, I know that they live their lives that way, so I still feel inspired by them.”
While most of their contemporaries are reviving the slacker vibes of 90s college rock and emo, Muncie Girls are a British punk band with a social conscience, one of a rare breed to cherish and champion in the months ahead.