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28 May 2012

summer nights

exciting news everyone. we're not going to spend the whole of the summer in a darkened studio recording the new album, although we are going to be spending most of it in there. no. we're actually going to go outside for a couple of days to hopefully see the sunshine and play a few shows in july. we'll be trying out some of our new songs and remembering how fun it is to play the old ones.

we're playing farm festival in somerset on saturday 28th july, which is going to be really lovely. tickets for the festival are available from their website

and then we're playing a warm up show in winchester at the railway inn on the friday night before the festival.

buy tickets for the railway inn show here.

we'll also be playing in london at hoxton bar and kitchen as part of a farm festival launch night on wednesday 18th july. you can buy tickets here for the london show. and it's only £6. i think it's going to be a great night.

hopefully we'll see you and some sunshine soon.



08 March 2012

books written for girls


"i only know that people call me a feminist whenever i express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."

- rebecca west




it's international women's day. so to celebrate, here are my top ten favourite feminist books.

1. stiffed by susan faludi. it's such a beautifully written book. shipyards, baseball, john wayne, rambo, the promise keepers, waco. this is in my top ten favourite books of all time. when we were writing the first album i took more ideas for lyrics from this book than anywhere else. i'd love to read it again.

2. heartbreak: the political memoir of a militant feminist by andrea dworkin. i remember i bought this in a second hand book store in lawrence, kansas, while we were on tour with james blunt. then i ended up reading this while we were writing the second album. i think a lot more of it influenced the words than i realised at the time.

"i have a heart easily hurt. i believed that cruelty was most often caused by ignorance. i thought that if everybody knew, everything would be different. i was a silly child who believed in the revolution. i was torn to pieces by segregation and vietnam. apartheid broke my heart... i can't be bought or intimidated because i'm already cut down the middle. i walk with women whispering in my ears. every time i cry there's a name attached to each tear."

it's inspiring and heartbreaking. read it if you haven't.

3. the beauty myth by naomi wolf. this was a difficult one, i could have chosen misconceptions or promiscuities. both are amazing books. and i could have gone for the treehouse, because that's often the one that i seem to come back to. but instead i've gone for the beauty myth. because i have.

4. living dolls: the return of sexism by natasha walter. along with 'female chauvinist pigs' by ariel levy, this has been one of the best books i've read in the last couple of years. when there's a nail bar in a toy shop, what's the best that anyone thinks will happen.

5. the bitch rules by elizabeth wurtzel. with chapter titles like 'always keep your mind on how you feel, not on how he feels', 'be gorgeous' and 'don't clear the table at a dinner party unless the men get up to help too', i'm not sure if the advice in this pocket sized book was ever really aimed at me, but i've taken it to heart anyway at various points in my life.  it's a very peaceful and thoughtful book. kind of comforting and hopeful. she quotes ted hughes and bruce springsteen, and there is a chapter dedicated entirely to eating dessert. thinking about it, maybe this book was aimed at me.

6. riot grrrl: revolution girl style now! it's sort of like a bible, but where calvin johnson is god and kathleen hanna is jesus. the greatest story ever told.

7. outrageous acts and everyday rebellions by gloria steinem. not so much a book, more a collection of articles and writing from the seventies and eighties. worth it if only for the chapter 'i was a playboy bunny'. i remember a few years ago our manager emailed us saying we'd been asked to design a t shirt for playboy , something to do with a 'rock the rabbit' issue. i emailed back saying we would as long as we could work this andrea dworkin quote into the design, "politically, culturally, socially, sexually, and economically, rape and prostitution generated pornography; and pornography depends for its continued existence on the rape and prostitution of women." we didn't hear back.

8. backlash by susan faludi. it's over twenty years old and it's still completely relevant today. i hope she writes another book soon.

9. the scum manifesto by valerie solanas. i remember photocopying this book in it's entirety after reading the quote on the sleeve to 'stay beautiful'. it's a brilliant, angry, often funny attack on men. it almost feels like a pastiche of a manifesto and all the more powerful for it.

"the male has a negative midas touch - everything he touches turns to shit."

10. the female eunuch. i read it when i was about seventeen and i never saw the world the same way again.

"i'm sick of the masquerade. i'm sick of pretending eternal youth. i'm sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. i'm sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything i see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs; i'm sick of weighting my head with a dead mane, unable to move my neck freely, terrified of rain, of wind, of dancing too vigorously in case i sweat into my lacquered curls. i'm sick of the powder room. i'm sick of pretending some fatuous male's self important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention, i'm sick of going to films and plays when someone else wants to, and sick of having no opinions of my own about either. i'm sick of being a transvestite. i refuse to be a female impersonator."


happy international women's day


oh, also. there is the women of the world festival on at the southbank this weekend, with loads of things going on. one of those things is a concert by emmy the great at the queen elizabeth hall on sunday night. and if that wasn't exciting enough, amanda applewood has been asked to support emmy. so if you're going then get there early. and if you're not going, and there are still any tickets left, then maybe you should go. 



28 February 2012

catch the tail by the tiger


congratulations to bret mckenzie on winning an oscar for 'man or muppet'. i haven't had a chance to see the film yet, but the song is sweet and a bit mental, and it's nice to have the muppets around in the world again singing songs. it made me think of all of the other songs from jim henson productions that i love. i can't help it, i guess i'm like debbie harry, i just dig songs about rainbows.

here are my top five


5. 'rainbow connection' - i've written about rainbows once or twice myself and i've often wondered why there are so many songs about them and what's on the other side. this is a lovely song from 'the muppet movie' from 1979 sung by kermit. there are so many versions of this out there, and i really like the duet between kermit and debbie harry on the muppet show, but i think my favourite version is the carpenters one, just because karen carpenter makes it sound so hopelessly sad. i'm just glad she never sang a version of 'elmo's song'. i think it would have been too much for me.


4. 'follow me' - i've spent a lot of time collecting songs from fraggle rock over the last few years. too much time probably, but there are so many great songs hidden away in the show. uncle matt and gobo sing this song a few times. it seems to be sung again every time matt comes back in to the show. i've already recorded a version of this with rob from the voluntary butler scheme, along with a load of other fraggle rock songs for a collection of fraggle rock covers that we've been meaning to finish and release for a couple of years now. hopefully we'll find some time after we've finished this next boy least likely to album. there are some really great songs there. i don't know if the world can wait much longer.


3. 'just one person' - i watched 'being elmo' the other day. it was such a sweet and inspiring film. there's an amazing clip in it where the assembled muppets perform 'just one person' at the jim henson memorial. it was so beautiful. elmo's voice is heartbreaking when it comes in. there's a lovely version with robin leading the vocal in the televised tribute to jim henson too. as much as i like the original version in the snoopy musical, i think i prefer the muppets arrangement of the song, missing out the last line of every verse. i always thought it was really clever how each verse overlapped with the next one, and it's even more amazing to think that someone heard that and rearranged what was already a really good song.


2. 'petals of a rose' - sung by gobo in the last ever episode, i think this might be my favourite fraggle rock song. it starts off with the lyrics "ain't it just the way it goes/we pull the petals off a rose/we never say hello to stay/we always say goodbye" and then in the next verse gobo changes it so he sings "ain't it just the way it seems/we pull the petals off our dreams", and it sounds completely heartbreaking. we really need to finish that fraggle rock covers album.


1. 'halfway down the stairs' - from the first season of the muppet show. robin the frog perfectly captures the mood of the poem, sitting on the stairs watching life pass you up and down. life is mostly like that a lot of the time. it isn't up, it isn't down. you're not at the bottom, but you're not at the top. it's just somewhere in between. and things just pass you by.