Under the influence: Girls in Synthesis

“THERE is no time for sentimental nostalgia .. we might not make tomorrow,” say Girls in Synthesis on their last single, and you can’t help thinking that they might have a point.

This is a band who sincerely believe in just battering the shit out of their instruments and, by extension, any audience lucky enough to be in their vicinity at the time. In many ways, this is the only rational response to a world that currently seems to be on as long, extended, slow-mo nosedive into a cesspit of lies, hatred and bullshit of its own making.

There is a searing intensity but also a very straightforward and pleasing simplicity to what Girls in Synthesis do.

The London-based threepiece first exploded into my consciousness earlier this year at the Damo Suzuki/Imperial Wax Solvent gig at the White Hotel, even though we only caught a couple of songs at the end of their set.

They have left the confines of the stage and are flinging themselves around in the middle of the suddenly very timid audience.

Everything is turned up to 11. With their black boiler-suits, their confrontational approach to audience interaction and the big, angry distorted noise they produce, they remind me of nothing so much as a honest-to-goodness, dyed-in-the-wool, black-and-white-certainties Crass band – but, crucially, in the here and now rather than the there and then.

You can see what I’m talking about here:

In reality, they are nothing like a Crass band, and saying they are is kinda missing the point.

Either way, these are the records that made Girls in Synthesis who and what they are today.

John: “Metal Box by PiL was one of the most profound ‘first listens’, I’ve ever had. I didn’t realise that music could be so obtuse, obscure and relentless. Growing up, I’d heard the Pistols (alongside the Clash, Buzzcocks, the Jam etc) and that had affected my life in another way. I was a musician by the time I heard Metal Box, so it resonated deeper.

“Everything about it is fresh and cold and harsh, from the metal tin packaging and Lydon’s dreary, depressed opening vocals in Albatross to the off-kilter, sythesised muzak closer of Radio 4. It’s an addictive listen and something that’s never far from my mind when creating my own music.

“I wanted to put something contemporary in this list, and nothing over the last five years has had such an impact on me Bad Breeding‘s self-titled album. The fact the group hails from Hertfordshire (my home ‘home county’) also gives me a weird sense of pride.

“I heard this as GIS were forming, and it made me rethink how I wanted to present our music and make the whole package fit, both musically and lyrically.

On first listen, I couldn’t get my head around it, it was so much more aggressive, fast and ‘hardcore’ than anything else I’d really paid attention to before.

“I’d always found music leaning towards the hardcore punk side a bit unoriginal and empty. But Bad Breeding create a densely layered, dynamic and unique take on punk which is always brilliantly produced and as tight as fuck.

“The lyrics are hugely important and speak about the current climate in a way I’ve never heard it put before. As a live band, they take a lot of beating and every release has been heavier and harder and more appealing to me.

“For a punk band, I would say that we don’t listen to a great deal of punk. A massive influence on our formation was disco, jazz funk and reggae.

“The way I see it, when punk began, there were no punk records, and Marvin Gaye was an early pioneer in a scene that we were listening and dancing to.

“I think there’s something quite punk about disco – it’s monotonous, it’s often really simple and it attempts to move people, physically.

I Want You by Marvin Gaye is probably on the flipside of that. It’s smooth, melodic and densely arranged. Marvin has to be one of my favourite singers ever. His voice melts me. Rather than choose What’s Going On, I thought I’d pick one of the lesser championed albums. This and In Our Lifetime are vastly underrated albums of the 1970s/1980s.”

Jim: “New Boots and Panties by Ian Dury is my first ever recollection of music. My dad was a huge fan and consequently so was my mum, and this record was a staple in my house.

“I must have only been six or seven, and I would spend hours jumping around the house like a lunatic. I reeled off all the words to Billericay Dickie to my teacher at the age of seven, totally oblivious of the lyrical content.

“I can really remember it being a massive part of my life – it’s the craftsmanship, the attitude, their style and, obviously, the lyrics.

“When it comes to its influence on Girls in Synthesis, I would say its the importance of the written and delivered word, and how impactful they can be.

“John and I also had the privilege of seeing the Blockheads on their last tour with my dad and mum who had introduced me to them all those years back, which was a pretty incredible moment.

“Having always been a fan of reggae and ska from my mid-teens, and bands such as Toots and the Maytals and other musicians / poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson…The Trojan Story – Ska, Rocksteady & Reggae compilation really broadened my knowledge of this beautifully soulful dance music.

“I picked it up in my favourite record shop just off Gillette Square in London. There are three discs worth of material which gives me endless hours of listening and dancing. It’s always by the record player in my flat.

“One of my favourite things about listening to ska and reggae is the lineage it has with punk and the ideals and roots they share. This has always been an important part of my love for music and I think it definitely feeds into what we’re trying to accomplish with Girls in Synthesis.

“My releationship with the Fall is hard to put into words, as every Fall fan may well know. Everyone has their own story.

“I had just graduated from uni and remembering how much I was yearning for something fresh, direct and simple. Something with zero pretense but full of attitude. And Live At The Witch Trials by the Fall provided that in spades. The simplicity and rawness and belief in a sound which way outweighed musicianship was something I really identified with.

It was later, though, that my love for this band properly developed. Me and John managed to go see them during their five nights at the Garage a few years back. It was just as we were starting GiS, John had already written and demoed a good number of tunes, and it was that night which really lit of fire under the both of us.

“Live at The Witch Trials benchmarks so much for us as a band and it’ll always be apart of the GiS story.”

Nicole: “It was the fall of 1991, I had just landed in Boston, Massachusetts for college. Everything was new to me that fall, everything – it was a huge time for me growing up. My sister and I were on our way on a road trip when all of a sudden, Smells Lke Teen Spirit by Nirvana came on the radio.

“I didn’t have words, I don’t think any of us did, especially as I was just getting into the Velvet Underground. It completely changed my music world. I started up a two-piece band, BLOARG (blood and guts combined) and we were pretty much post-punk grunge. Absolutely brilliant! My very first band playing drums. It still shapes my music today. After seeing Nirvana play later that year on Boston’s Landsdown Street, I knew I was meant to play music.

“It must have been a few years later, maybe 1993, right before I moved to NYC, but I was still in Boston. My roommate at the time was a huge goth and turned me onto Kaleidoscope by Siouxsie And The Banshees. It completely changed me as a person. I no longer wanted to play drums, I wanted to be her Siouxsie!

“I would later go on to play bass and sing in a band that was heavily influenced by Siouxie. Her attitude, the King’s Road scene, her voice – I even loved that her husband played the drums. It was perfect, and is still one of the most influential albums for me.

“Ahhh, I had Elvis’ Golden Records by Elvis Presley on eight track, I must have been six, and I fell in love with Elvis. Hound Dog was one of my favourites, and I would sing it, sing it, sing it .. and annoy everyone. To top it off, I would dance so hard in my bedroom above the dining room that my mom would scream at me as I would rock the chandelier, I would try to spin so many times in one go.

“It really got me off my feet and showed me how music can make you feel. I still love a little early Elvis. I stop at the 70’s. The day he died, my grandmother had to sit me down and talk to me about death as I was so upset. I’ll never forget that day. Or his music.”

Girls in Synthesis’ Fan the Flames tour calls at:

Fri 02 Nov 2018 Fulford Arms, York
Sat 03 Nov 2018 The Polar Bear, Hull
Sun 04 Nov 2018 The Ferret, Preston
Mon 05 Nov 2018 Yes, Manchester
Tue 06 Nov 2018 Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
Wed 07 Nov 2018 The Library, Oxford
Sat 10 Nov 2018 Moth Club, London
Fri 16 Nov 2018 The Phoenix Bar, High Wycombe
Fri 23 Nov 2018 The Hope & Ruin, Brighton

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