One of the great thrills of covering the UK DIY-scene, and particularly the scene in our native London, has been watching a number of bands blossom together. The varied sounds and lack of egos results in a world where people seem to celebrate each others success, without any of the tedious competitive nature. Go and watch any band, and you’ll find a large percentage of the crowd aren’t just fans, but band members in their own rights. Perhaps the scene that plays together, stays together.
One of the fastest rising acts currently emerging, are the Fierce Panda signed quartet, Fightmilk. Last week saw the release of their second EP, the excellently titled Pity Party, a collection of songs that beneath their upbeat and, in their own words, silly exterior, offer a subtle commentary on the difficulty of life for young people in London. Their’s is a world of dead-end jobs, social anxieties and scraping together enough pennies to do the things you love.
Musically, Fightmilk seem to be equally influenced by the grimmer, early days of pre-excess Brit Pop and the current throng of lo-fi pop punks emerging on both sides of the Atlanic. It’s a world of clattering, tirelessly energetic drum beats, bright breezy power chord-driven guitar thrashing and propulsive bouncing bass-lines. Their star turn comes in the form of effervescent front-woman, Lily Rae, in whom they have a hero for the masses; a diminutive, high kicking, foul-mouthed dervish, who has rightly drawn comparison to both Art Brut’s Eddie Argos and Diet Cig’s Alex Luciano. It’s an EP so good we’ll even forgive them releasing a song about New Year’s Eve in the middle of July.
Following their recent single launch, Fightmilk were kind enough to answer some of our questions, discussing their idea of a good party, their love of Carly Rae Jepsen and what DIY means to them.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Fightmilk?
Lily: we are the sweatiest band in London, and hopefully one day the world.
Alex: One girl and three guys who are old enough to know better and young enough not to pretend they don’t need to care yet.
Adam: Fightmilk are a band who sweat a lot and have short fun songs about this crazy journey we call life.
Nick: Just 4 lovable scamps releasing the stress of their day jobs by making loud pop music
FTR: You’ve just put out your latest EP, Pity Party, what can you tell us about the recording process?
Lily: we’re very lucky to call Keith TOTP our friend, who is doing more to help DIY bands do their thing than anyone, and he essentially gave us a weekend of recording at Dean St Studios. It was all really fast – we’re usually preparing for the next gig and what we can do live, so for most of the songs it was just a case of plug in and play. No frills, no fancy instruments.
Alex: Keith TOTP is a handclaps-and-cider enthusiast of many talents who happens to run a studio. We recorded ¾ of the EP as part of a weekend session, the day after our first gig – we did the ten songs we had in two days. No time for faffing around. The biggest distraction during recording is seeing all the shiny instruments I can’t play and having to be told we don’t have time for a vibraphone or Mellotron overdub. One day…
Adam: As Alex and Lily said, we’re basically eternally indebted to the generosity of Keith TOTP, who is basically our band’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. We piled into Dean St with him for two separate weekends to record songs as quickly as we could before the universe realised we are not cool or professional enough to be allowed to record there. It’s the most fun, and other than going a bit mad listening to your own stuff over and over and over and over again it’s something we can’t wait to do again.
Nick: Yeah, Dean St weekends are the MOST fun there is. We’ll do the instruments all live together in the same take with no vocals, which is always a bit strange for the first couple of goes, as you don’t really realise how much you rely on them being there for cues and adjusting the dynamics of the songs, but it usually works.Then once that’s done I’ll kick back and watch the vocals being done and Alex overdubbing the song with every instrument in the studio.
FTR: So as you’re throwing a party: Who’s coming? What’s on the stereo? And what snacks are you providing?
Lily: I’m inviting Dolly Parton and a lot of Dolly Parton lookalikes; on the stereo it’s probably going to have to be Dolly Parton. Snackwise, it’s a really impressive all-you-can-eat buffet of dolly mix.
Alex: Invitations are going to everyone except Steve. He knows why.
Adam: Everyone is invited! Fightmilk don’t discriminate. Even Steve gets to come. A Fightmilk party playlist would most likely be a bunch of 80s pop anthems, some 90s guitar stuff Alex likes that I’ve never listened to and then Since U Been Gone on repeat for the last hour.
Nick: I bloody love snacks, I think I might prefer them to actual dinner.
FTR: You’re heavily involved in the UK DIY-Scene, why is DIY so important to you?
Lily: It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself seriously, the bands are interesting and exciting and the live shows are ALWAYS a party, and in the DIY scene you can’t bluff it with rich parents and famous friends. It’s a lovely community for punk and feminism and shouting and slightly out of tune guitars.
Alex: Everyone should start a band, regardless of any factor that they could perceive as holding them back. The community we’re lucky enough to be orbiting is insanely supportive of each other, and everyone’s putting each other’s bands on – most of them share at least one member! It’s just good to know that so many awesome, talented people have each other’s backs in a very meaningful way.
Adam: It’s kind of flattering to be thought of as being heavily involved in it. There are so many good people and bands who write great songs and work really hard and give a shit about how enjoyable and widely accessible it should be to go to their shows. I guess it’s important to us because that’s what we want this band to be too. That, and because it’s a cooler way of explaining to your parents why they’re not gonna hear you on the radio any time soon.
Nick: We’ve been phenomenally lucky in getting to be involved in an ultra supportive and inclusive environment, which is the way music should be really. I think DIY is important because of the very acronym. Art shouldn’t be ablest.
FTR: What bands on the scene should we be listening to?
Lily: How long have you got? Fresh and Schande, who played at our EP launch. They’re both fantastic. Also Charmpit, Suggested Friends, The Potentials, and my absolute all time favourites The Mooncubs. They don’t play live very often but when they do, cancel all your plans and go see them. They’re the best.
Alex: Mate, you’ve basically covered all of them on FTR already! Charmpit, Wolf Girl, Fresh, Suggested Friends, The Whooperups, anything released by For The Sake Of Tapes, Deerful, Alex Chilltown, Panic Pocket, Dream Nails, The Potentials, Tundra, Gaffa Tape Sandy.
Adam: Ditto all the above. It’s hard to list them all but the above is definitely a good starting point. Fresh off the high of the EP launch I’m confident in saying that you should listen to Fresh and Schande now before they become huge and all their shows sell out in seconds, but that could apply to any of the others. I’d also add Okinawa Picture Show and Maybe Don’t, who are 2 great bands from Birmingham.
Nick: Our good friends at Guttfull & Keith TOTPs (if the new album is half as good as the artwork then you are in for a TREAT)
FTR: Is it true you all bonded over a shared love of Carly Rae Jepsen?
Lily: Yes. We were all listening to Emotion about once a day when we formed Fightmilk. She’s like our spiritual guide.
Alex: Fightmilk probably would have existed if the album EMOTION had never come out, but we would be a markedly different band. Run Away With Me is still the gold standard of pop that we’re striving to reach.
Adam: It certainly is. Me and Nick went to see her when we had only met once and when I saw him in the crowd I knew I’d be happy to be in a band with that guy.
Nick: I had about 30 tequilas that night. It was the best. Excited for the new album/ album of the year 2017
FTR: Why do you make music?
Lily: if we didn’t I think I might go mad and start getting really good at my job and that would be the end of me.
Alex: To quote The Hold Steady, “I got bored when I didn’t have a band, so I started a band, man.” Plus, what else are you going to do when two friends who write songs get dumped by their respective long-term significant others within the space of a month. A whole mess of feelings to sift through somehow…
Adam: It’s fun, it seems to be a socially acceptable way of validating your ego and I’m no good at sports or art or drama.
Nick: I started being in bands when I was about 14 I think, I had a period of a couple of years or so where I wasn’t doing anything, and they were significantly less good years. It’s just excellent fun isn’t it?
FTR: Who are your major influences? What were you listening to when you wrote Pity Party?
Lily: at the time, lots of Blondie and Weezer. When it comes to songwriting, my favourite ever is Kirsty MacColl. She’s hideously underrated.
Alex: Hugely agree on Kirsty MacColl – Lily was responsible for getting me into her about a decade ago, and I haven’t looked back since. If memory serves, the song “Pity Party” was a lyric Lily had for ages that I threw countless different sets of chords at. The brattiest-sounding one seemed to work best – ripping off the Pixies has worked pretty well for bands in the past, right? Otherwise, the comparison people have said to me more than any other band is Superchunk, so I can die happy.
Adam: I think a lot of the DIY bands we listed above have actually become big influences. It’s hard when you go to a lot of the shows not to turn to each other and say ‘we need to write something that sounds like Wolf Girl!’. Hopefully the rip offs aren’t too obvious. Plus, Alex and Lily are good enough songwriters to mask whatever we’re plagiarising pretty well.
Nick: I think one of the nice things about this band is that there actually isn’t a whole bunch of bands we agree on, and we all have slightly different tastes and influences, but when we get into a practice room it just kind of…works?
FTR: There’s a lot of social commentary in your songs, do you think it is important pop-music has something to say about the state of the world?
Lily: I’m surprised! I feel like our songs are quite fun and silly and about little moments in time we’ve all had – ill-advised weekend breaks in a bid to save a doomed relationship, wishing your whiny friend would grow up, how crap New Year’s Eve is, crushing on someone you shouldn’t, hating your job – rather than the state of the world. Mind you, maybe that IS the state of the world and the human condition is slightly hungover. Our social commentary is probably just ‘ugh’.
Alex: Hmm…I mean, it’s been impossible to not be relentlessly angry and depressed over the last eighteen months, but I don’t necessarily think our songs are hugely socially-conscious. It’s not for want of trying, but never forget that Billy Bragg’s love songs are better than his political songs. It’s hard to strike the balance between pop as escape-route and pop as articulation/reflection of real issues; we seem to go down the middle by just moaning about how shit relationships are, but we’re happy to pretend everything’s a metaphor for Brexit.
Adam: Alex and Lily said it better but, yeah, I don’t think our music specifically does address wider social issues, and I think that’s ok. There’s definitely nothing wrong with pop music having something to say about the state of the world, but I also don’t think it has to. It can be about dumb, stupid stuff or your feelings or whatever.
Nick: I think it’s important that some music says it, yeah. I don’t particularly think ours does! To get music that’s enjoyable and engaging that also provides a social commentary is quite a difficult thing.
FTR: What are your aspirations for Fightmilk? Is music a viable career for anymore?
Lily: I mean, it’s not going to pay the rent any time soon, but I consider it a career more than I do my Crap Day Job (CDJ). I’d like to release lots of albums, I’d like to tour, I’d like to go to a few different countries and write thousands of songs – there’s no money but I think every DIY band knows that now which is why we’re so passionate about it. We can only do it for the love of it. It teaches you to value the time you have too – writing and rehearsing and playing live while you have a full-time job is knackering but good for you.
Alex: I think I stole this line from Josh from Alex Chilltown, but it’s not so much a career choice as a very expensive hobby. The easiest way to make being in a band work is knowing that your day-job are understanding about how you spend your evenings, and the state in which you show up in the morning.
Adam: I’d quit my job tomorrow if someone offered us the money to do Fightmilk full-time, but short of that miracle my aspirations are pretty much just to play shows with bands we like and make a record/records that we’re proud of. A proper tour would be cool, and a nice way of hanging out in different cities whilst doing something we like.
Nick: I have the same aspirations as Adam, really. I bloody love doing this, and would love to do it full-time, but it’s not the nineties anymore and rent is crazy expensive, so I’m not sure how viable that is.
FTR: What can people expect from the Fightmilk live show?
Lily: jumping up and down, crunchy guitars, lots of fun, swearing, whooping, and balloons. MORE BALLOONS.
Alex: Personally, after the EP launch, I’d assume we might not bother with blowing up 50 balloons and offering free party poppers to the crowd. More to clear up once the show’s over!
Adam: Alex has no right to bitch about blowing up 50 balloons. First, I think it was 80. And second he did about 2 before ‘offering’ to be the one to go to the shop whilst we did it. Don’t let him trick you. Don’t sympathise with him. In terms of what to expect from our live show: sweat, hopefully no blood, maybe some tears.
Nick: A big and warm, to the point of sogginess, hug for your ears.
FTR: What’s next for Fightmilk?
Lily: We’re supporting Skinny Girl Diet at the Lexington next Thursday (20th), and we’re trying to put a little tour together for October. We’d also like to be sponsored by a balloon company.
Alex: Hopefully another single before the end of the year, and an album at the start of 2018. More hits, a few less balloons, and on a longer-term scale…world domination, one mid-sized venue at a time.
Adam: We’ve got some recordings we’re sitting on and some songs that we’ve written and play live that we’ve not recorded yet. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to throw them all together onto an ‘album’. Then we will hopefully play more ‘shows’. We just need to remember to ‘practice’.
Nick: Super excited to play The Lexington again, we’ve got to pay some really excellent venues this year and I hope that continues into the future. As Lily said, we’re going to try and do a mini tour and then who knows, but we’re writing what I think is our best material at the moment so I’m beyond excited for those to come into fruition and for everybody to hear them.
Pity Party is out now via Fierce Panda. Click HERE for more information on Fightmilk.