Lucinda Livingstone & Conor Dawson
Wiretap Records & Bearded Punk Records
on August, 16th 2016 at Brakrock Ecofest, Belgium
Kamikaze Girls is a UK based two piece who play a unique blend of punk with ingredients from all kinds of genres. The songs often have poppy choruses but they’re emotional, raw and noisy in their own way. The love singer/guitarist Lucinda Livingstone has for fuzzy noises and guitar pedals is no stranger to this sound. Their debut EP Sad is one to watch out for and will be released through Wiretap Records (North America) and Bearded Punk Records (Europe) in September. Thematically it tackles issues of mental health the band has struggled with in the past: “We wrote it when we weren’t having a very nice time and every time we play it we feel better about it” says Livingstone. We had a chat with Kamikaze Girls’ Lucinda Livingstone and Conor Dawson about their upcoming release, Riot Grrrl and how it was like to play the Fest for the first time.
- For a video version of this interview, see bottom
ThePunkSite: Welcome to Belgium. You played the first show of your mini tour yesterday, how was it?
Conor: It was really good. We were in Herselt yesterday, in a youth house called De Choke. Last time we came over was in March and we played Crossbonefest, that was a youth house as well. It’s something we don’t really get in England, and I think it’s a really good idea over here. We should adopt that.
You released ‘Stitches’, the first single of your upcoming EP Sad a few weeks ago. How’s the reception been to it?
Lucinda: It’s been good, nice. It’s a weird one, because it feels like we’ve been a band for ages. But it took us a long time to find the right labels to release it, Bearded Punk in Europe and Wiretap in the US. I feel like we’ve just been touring of the back of one song for ages so it’s really nice to be able to put Stitches out. We have a new single coming out next week as well. So far it’s been great. It’s nice to see people enjoying it because it’s taken us so long to bring it out.
‘Stitches’ is raw but at the same time it’s a catchy tune with a cool chorus.
Lucinda: Yeah, we’re not afraid to write a poppy chorus I guess. We like that side of things. But at the same time everything around it might be all fuzzy. That’s kind of what Kamikaze Girls is really. A lot of fuzz, and then stuff you can sing along to.
Can you tell us what that song is about?
Lucinda: Stitches is about anxiety about being settled down. When you get in a situation where you might be settled in a house, a job or in a relationship. Just that horrible freaking out feeling, that “wow, there’s all this stuff I need to go and do” and having bad anxiety towards all of that. And then removing yourself from the situation and doing something completely different. So yeah, anxiety about being settled. I hate it, I can’t do it. I wrote Stitches when I was super settled and I hated it. And now I’m not and it’s way better.
Stitches will also be on your EP ‘Sad’, which comes out in September. What can we expect?
Lucinda: It’s a 5 track EP with a B-Side, Tonic Youth. It’s a record that we wrote about a lot of mental health issues. It talks about depression, psychosis, anxiety and addiction. So it’s not the most happiest of records. But in a way it is. We wrote it when we weren’t having a very nice time and every time we play it we feel better about it. Connor, musically what do you think people can expect from it?
Conor: I think Stitches is a pretty good example of what is on there. There’s a couple of heavier songs, and a couple of not as heavy songs. So, Stitches was the perfect song to bring out first because it’s the middle ground between all the songs. There’s the heavier fuzzier stuff on there, but there’s also the more shoegazy moments and the super pop chorusses. So I’d say it’s a nice mixture of everything.
You’ve been very outspoken about your shows being a safe place to talk about mental health issues. That safe place where we can be open about our weaknesses, is that something that we lack in our society?
Lucinda: It used to. Now it’s great. The DIY punk community in the UK, in Europe and in the States is in a really good place. I don’t know how long it’ll stay that way, but there’s a load of really great bands and it’s just a really nice community at the moment. Especially back in the UK, maybe a little more in the South where there’s a nice community of bands, and shows are all getting great turnouts. And in terms of having a safe space to go, where I grew up it wasn’t like that.
Conor: It’s the same in Leeds.
Lucinda: There weren’t many places to go where you could go hang out with similar like-minded people and watch some good music. I don’t know, I think the fact that our country is just failing us at the moment is made everyone in the DIY punk community way closer together. Because people are going to shows and are talking about everything. Which is good, it’s good to talk about stuff always.
Conor: But it’s not always been like that. Only from the last year, maybe six months where it’s really kicked of. It’s still really underground but there used to be smaller groups of people whereas now it seems like everyone is slowly coming together and it’s more of a community, I guess.
Lucinda: It was very cliquey, bands would have their cliques. But it’s not really like that anymore. I feel like we just can go anywhere and play shows. Most of the time it’s like you’re one big family instantly. I guess that’s what you want from a show, you want to know that anyone can show up to a show and feel safe about being there despite what’s going on outside of it.
What’s the origins story of Kamikaze Girls. How did you meet?
Conor: We met before because we were in two separate bands, and then we played together in a band called Hearts and Souls for the last six or seven years. A couple of guys left and stuff and then we decided to just do it as the two of us. So we changed the name and went a little bit heavier and in a little bit of a different direction. We’re in this band now for about a year and a half.
Lucinda: Yeah. The line-up in Kamikaze Girls is technically that we’re a year and a half in but really we’re about seven to eight years in of me and Conor playing music together.
You’ve called yourselves a Riot Grrrl band. For those who aren’t familiar with it, can you explain what it is that you value from that movement.
Lucinda: Riot Grrrl is a movement that was around 20, maybe 30 years ago now where girls that couldn’t necessarily play instruments picked them up and learned how to play them. They started bands and celebrated being in a band in a male dominated industry. I’ve been in and out of bands for twelve years and it’s only the last two years that we’ve started playing on tours and bills with other girls in bands. I guess in a way Riot Grrrl celebrates women in music but at the same time it’s not predominantly female.
It’s just come full circle now, there’s a lot more people embracing it. You have bands that when they start out can’t even play their instruments and by the end of it they’re making really great powerful music. If that empowers young girls or older women that maybe always wanted to be in a band that’s really cool. If anyone takes anything from us like that then that’s great. If they just come to a show and have a good time then that’s great too.
Everyone at least knows girls right, so it’s important.
Conor: You’d be surprised by the amount of people that didn’t think that way. When we were in our other band there was this guy that came up to Lucinda, she played bass at the time, and he was like: “What are you doing with that, girls can’t play bass”. And he came and apologised after the show.
Lucinda: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s still a lot of sexism, but it’s less and less.
Conor: I think it helps with the bands that we play with. They’re all like-minded, similar people. The people that come to shows are also like-minded similar people. It’s like you’re living in a bubble. And sometimes you don’t realise if you put yourself out of the bubble other people are having a hard time doing stuff as well. But within the bubble…
Lucinda: The bubble’s great.
Conor: Everyone that comes to our shows is always really kind and respectful.
Lucinda: The more bands that are doing this sort of thing and calling out people that are sexist or misogynistic, the more of those bands that break through, then the less people that react in a way that’s unnecessary.
Are there any less known UK bands you would recommend to people outside of Europe reading this.
Lucinda: Oh, there are so many.
Can you pick a few?
Lucinda: There’s a band called Doe. They’re a three piece from London, two guitars and drums, an unconventional line-up but they’re amazing and they have a record out on Specialist Subject Records in September.
Conor: Bands like Personal Best, they’re from Portsmouth, they’re a really good band. Call Me Wednesday, Muncie Girls obviously.
Lucinda: Yeah, I guess that everyone knows.
Yeah they’re really blowing up at the moment. Talking about blowing up, you played the Fest last year. How was that experience?
Lucinda: That, to me, is my favourite show we’ve ever played.
Conor: It was unbelievable. We just assumed that we were going to be playing to nobody but the room was packed. The reception that we got just completely blew us away. There was a load of people from our favourite bands watching us, it was just this incredible experience. I think I cried after we played. Our venue was directly opposite the main stage and I sat outside after our show. Andrew W.K. was playing and I was just like: I can’t believe I’m here playing a gig. I’ve been following the Fest since I was 15 listening to Less Than Jake and stuff, Gainesville Rock City and stuff like that. Just being able to go over and play the Fest was an unreal experience. To be able to go back this year is even better.
Lucinda: Yeah, it’s going to be great. We’re doing pre-Fest as well this year, so more of everything.
Are you doing a North America tour as well while you’re there?
Lucinda: Yes. We’re heading over in October to do a few shows in Canada, and then we’ll head over to America to play a few shows in the East and then after Fest we’re going to the West Coast so we’ll be there for a couple of months.
Is it still new, touring in America?
We did it last year but we’ll be doing a lot more shows this year. It’ll be different, we’re touring with quite a few different bands. With an artist called Chris Snelgrove, he’s from Montreal. And we’re playing a few shows with a band from the East Coast called Living Room. So we’re splitting our time between different bands which is cool for us.
Conor: We get to hang with more people.
Lucinda: And we get to watch great bands every night.
Which song do you love the most to play live?
Conor: I really like playing Ladyfuzz. It’s not as heavy as the other songs, and it just feels like it’s got really good groove to it especially towards the end. I think it’s the song that comes across the best live with the crowd as well. Everyone seems to be really into it when we play that.
Lucinda: For me probably Black Coffee. Because we never really know what is going to happen. We don’t plan how that song goes live and we don’t plan what noises happen in it, or how long it goes on for. It’s very unpredictable sometimes, and sometimes I put down my guitar and listen to all of the noise that comes out. And I’m like: “I’ll never be able to recreate that again but it was great.” Our live sets can be really random in that way. Whatever happens, happens and things will be very different every time. That’s why we’re having so much fun playing live.
Conor: We don’t really have a setlist either, we just decide before we go on stage what we want to play. Not even that, we don’t know how long the songs are going to be, if we’re making a nice noise we just carry on. It takes a lot of communication on stage.
Lucinda: We’re always chatting and winking.
Conor: Yeah definitely.
It probably helps being a two piece to be able to do that.
Conor: Especially because we’ve been playing with each other for so long. You turn around and give each other a nod.
Lucinda: You kind of feel like you know what’s going to happen. And if you don’t it’s always fine.
And two short ones: festival or headline show?
Conor: I’d probably say playing a festival.
Lucinda: Yeah, me too.
Conor: Most of the festivals we play are “mates fests” so we know a load of the bands that are playing and it’s really good to hang out with. You meet new people as well, like we’ve not met the Trophy Lungs guys before. And we’ve been hanging out for the last two days with them. We won’t see them for another couple of months and then we’ll play another festival and it’s like “Hey guys”. It’s always good to catch up a little bit.
I’ve seen you catch Pokémon. What’s your favourite?
Lucinda: Mine’s really lame. It’s Oddish. Oddish is super cute. I’m going to lose all my cool points.
Conor: I think I was the most excited to catch a Jigglypuff. When it popped up I was like: “Yes! I need to catch this”.
Is there anything you want to add or put out there?
Lucinda: Yeah, we have a new single called Ladyfuzz that’s out now. And then we’re coming back over to mainland Europe in September for two weeks with a band called Austeros. Make good life choices.
Conor: We always have a phrase with which we like to end interviews with. Which is what one of our friends Caitlin said. It’s the best piece of life advice I’ve ever heard in my entire life which is: “Shit people should get more shit for being assholes“.
I can’t top that with a witty outro, so let’s leave it at that. Thanks a lot for the chat.
Video version of this interview
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Kamikaze Girls’ debut EP “Sad” can be pre-ordered through
Find out about Brakrock Ecofest here.