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GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS

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NOISE. INCITEMENT. D.I.Y. Girls In Synthesis harp back to the post punk ’80s sitting somewhere between Crass and Joy Division. The three piece London band released a series of ultra-limited 7” singles in 2019 for the ‘Pre/Post: A Collection 2016- 2018’ on Louder Than War Records. Now they’re ready to release their debut album ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’. VLR spoke to lead vocalist John Linger about their strongly titled LP ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’. “The title comes from a lyric on the album track ‘They’re Not Listening’. I think it’s a great phrase; essentially an echo is a repeat of something that’s gone before and the future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s a real dichotomy that could represent so many different things. I think that career politics is a prime example of that.”

            The lead single ‘Pressure’ is a 2 min anarcho onslaught followed up by second single ‘The Images Agree’. John told us why those tracks were chosen to lead the record. “Well, the first track to be released was actually ‘Arterial Movements’, but that was back at the end of last year before the album was announced. I think in all three of the released tracks you have the more immediate elements of what the group are about; that sort of driving rush of sound. It’s that time old tradition of playing it a bit safer with the singles, then throwing people the surprises with the LP. I think the lyrics in the three songs signpost the variation and focus of the lyrics on the rest of the album; ‘Arterial Movements’ is pushing the lyrics internal and dealing with mental issues within relationships and the anguish of willing someone you love’s problems to dissipate. That song is where future lyrical content is heading, in some ways. Dealing with internal issues rather than focussing the rage on a common enemy.

‘The Images Agree’ deals specifically with media manipulation, which has become so obvious currently that news outlets and politicians have rid themselves of the shame that comes along with using that tool. Maybe it’s always been like that, it just feels like that aspect has been ramped up to the nth degree now, with politicians like Trump outwardly demoting facts and proof. ‘Pressure’, which Jim wrote the lyrics for, straddles both of those subject matters in my opinion. There is a target in the song, but it seems to internalise some of the rage, too. In this sense it sat perfectly between the other two releases. I think they’re great singles!

3. You tell your fans to question and not blindly accept leaders. What other bands do you admire who take this stance?

Bad Breeding are a key band at the moment, I think they might be the best band currently functioning. They seem to throw up the questions and explore them without being arrogant enough to assume the answer. There seems to be a lot of finger pointing and ‘solving’ problems in certain bands lyrics at the moment (naming no names) which I actually think is quite dangerous. It’s not the 1970’s any more, and the Clash did the sloganeering thing better.

Looking back, Crass is an influence on us. Even if their journey now looks slightly naive and flawed (after 30 odd years of analysis) there’s no doubt that they gave people a chance to think for themselves. Other than that, we don’t go in for too much loud guitar music really. We’re huge fans of soul, disco and reggae and even within the confines of the early days of Motown/Philadelphia Records/Trojan, you only have to look at how radical and challenging that music became towards/throughout the 1970s. There’s some real protest music within those genres. Even taking disco’s desire to enjoy your life would have become a personal statement in the mid 1970s.

4. You have an early DIY punk and post-punk influence. I can sense some Joy Division and anarcho punk influences. Can you give us an insight into bands, poets, films or books that identify with your sound?

That’s strange, a couple of people have said about Joy Division. I’m a big fan, but I wouldn’t say they are a group we discuss or meet at as an influence. I think that must be very much a subconscious signpost. The anarcho stuff, I guess you could hear more and that would come from the Crass/Flux end. It’s difficult to point out any specific musical building blocks, though. It’s shifted over time. When we started, we were very much listening to Swell Maps and Devoto Buzzcocks, but that influence is years by the wayside now, really. I think the music has become its own thing. There’s lots of dub and disco in mine and Nicole’s repetitive rhythm stuff. Jim’s discordant guitar does have an element of the Crass thing, but also bits of Brainiac in places and Arab On Radar to some degree, too. But we sound nothing like any of those groups, really, so…

As for the influence of other artforms, I couldn’t pinpoint any particularly. Jim and I are massively into the exploration of youth subcultures from the early mod thing to the soul boy/casual thing in the 1980’s. That definitely had an influence, sartorially at the very least. Other than that, we exist in a bubble really. It makes it hard to recognise what’s going on elsewhere. That also might be something to do with getting older; our influences are in our DNA by now. It’s a bit like a cult, really! We don’t question it and we assume some form of collective subconscious. 

5. You keep things inhouse but your artwork and videos are high quality.

What are some of the important things about being DIY? Whats hard about it? And how do you know when something’s good enough to put out?

You know what? It’s easier. We record the music; that’s easy. I do the artwork; that’s easy. My partner, Bea, does the photos; that’s easy. Soft Surface does the videos; again, there’s never a problem. Because we minimise the amount of people we have involved in the project, the people we have working with us we trust implicitly. They understand what we are, we understand how they work. It’s a perfect working relationship in many ways.

The one piece of advice, if I could ever be bold enough to give anyone any, would be to control as many aspects of your project as possible. The buck stops with you/your collaborators but then the achievement feels more rewarding when executed well. There’s no money in music any more, so keeping everything DIY enables you to shortcut some of the costs also. Find the right people and stick with them at all costs. We rely solely on instinct to know when something is right, and that doesn’t cost anything. We’ve not made any major missteps yet, so it’s working. And again, if we make a mistake, that’s our issue to deal with.

6. How long has this album been in the making? How was your experience in the studio? What were your thoughts when you first heard the whole album back?

The album was made over the course of about 5-6 days, spread over a couple of months. We started recording in Hull on a couple of days off during a tour, then we recorded the rest in one of the rehearsal rooms at Gun Factory in Homerton. The rest of the extra production and overdubs was done at S.I.CK, my home studio. Another long time collaborator, Max Walker, then mixed the album in September of last year. As we record ourselves, we avoid any huge pressures or outward influence from a producer/engineer. We’ve been recording ourselves and releasing music from day one, really, so it’s all very much second nature.

Listening back, you always have to detach yourself from the process, as you can pick something apart and over analyze. But it was a good experience hearing it back, and hearing that we achieved what we wanted to; a concise, direct and memorable debut record. I don’t think anyone is releasing a record quite like it at the moment. Add to that the sleeve artwork; no one is sticking artwork like that in the shelves of Rough Trade at present.

7. What’s unique about your live shows?

Everything, really. I would say the fact that we engage the audience in the way we do (by playing the majority of the set in the crowd) is ultimately unique. I have seen the odd band member of others groups wandering into the crowd recently, though, and not looking like they have a fucking clue why they’re there. We’ve always wanted to interact with the audience in an honest way and make them feel like a part of the show. We absolutely achieve that. It’s an interactive experience for everyone involved really. People very much appreciate it, which is humbling.

The other elements, like the single white uplighting and banners, again come from a completely DIY position. I’m pretty sure when we arrive in a small venue with our own light and hanging our banners up, other bands and sound engineers think we’re going a bit OTT. But you can’t argue with the results. It looks amazing. Some might level it’s contrived, but so is standing onstage staring at your shoes for 30 minutes.

8. What is keeping the band busy right now and what are you looking forward to most this year?

We’ve got another single to release and the album coming out, which is the exciting apex of this project. We’re actually preparing to make another record at the moment, so getting the details of that ready. I can’t say too much, but we’re looking at that coming out in the near future. We’d love to be able to play the shows we have booked in October, but obviously there’s no guarantee that we will, sadly. Beyond that, we are booking our debut EU shows for spring next year, if they still let us in the continent by then…

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