You may not have heard of Gaggle, the 21 piece all-female choir - here's why you should.
Formed in 2008 by Deborah Coughlin, Gaggle are described as a heady mix of "the Spice Girls and Marina Abramovic on Motley Crue’s tour bus" and after playing festivals, getting banned from Reading (for 45 minutes, mind) and refusing the offer of Britain's Got Talent (too "novelty"), they're finally releasing their debut album. From their avant-garde styling, to eclectic sound and projects like re-working an opera originally starring 1,000 women, they're like no girl group you've ever seen.
1. From the Mouth of the Cave by Katy:
Whether it’s a defeatist attitude towards your own abilities, an abusive relationship you just can’t leave or fixed ideas about what music should sound like and how women should behave, there is invariably at least one area in all our lives where we could use a bit of enlightenment. This dark little corner of denial or ignorance is, to get all Platonic on you for a moment, a bit like a cave – THE Cave in fact.
While we're in there (and yes, Gaggle are there too – sorry about the noise) it's warm and cosy and quite easy to sit back, enjoy the fire and imagine that all those shadows it’s casting on the walls are the real deal, the whole shebang. Well, they’re not, they are but a fraction of a fraction of the truth, and this here cave is a mere fibre in the canvas of the bigger picture.
Gaggle are here to show you the exit, leading you out of the darkness and showing you the world in all its limitless, terrifying glory.
2. Army of Birds by Katie:
Army of Birds is a song which pretty much defines the motives behind the construction of Gaggle: to create a power female presence within the music industry in the form of a large group of women; or more satirically a large group of 'birds.' It does this through its fierce nature that also allows it to be an accessible pop song as it brings it closer the works of current (and also previous) popular hip hop and R&B acts.
3. Power of Money by Strick:
Who deserves it? Do you want worth or to be worth something... can you be both? Firstly, money isn't real. It isn't tangible; it’s an idea, a concept. That £20 note you're holding - if you're lucky enough to have one in your wallet - is a kiss and a promise from the Bank of England that you can receive goods and services in exchange for it.
Up until about 80 years ago, you could walk into the bank and actually get that amount of gold from them. Money is just a medium of exchange (a massively big, important and scary medium of exchange that needs to be looked after properly). But ‘money’ and the ‘money people’ don't really work very well anymore. It’s a real darn shame that the people who are tasked with arranging, controlling, sorting and playing with it have so royally fucked the system up so much it doesn't work anymore. And it’s so very much more catastrophically shit that they're still fucking around whilst it crashes round our ears. Still.... you wouldn't say no to a wedge of it landing in your bank account, would you?
I think every band writes about money at some point, because you can’t escape it.
4. Happy is the Country by Jana
The track is made up of two proverbs “Happy is the country that has no history” and “Every man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost”. Essentially, it’s about human tragedy, our collective bloody past, selfishness and greed.
But despite its dark subject, Happy is the Country is probably one of my favourite tracks to sing. It’s buzzy, aggressive and it makes me go all “RRRAAAAAAAHHHH!” The phrases are repeated over and over again so it puts you in a weird meditative state (if a high-energy, angry meditation is at all possible!)
A strange collage of imagery goes through my mind throughout the course of the track. There are schoolchildren pointing fingers at me and singing ‘NAH, NAH NAH-NAH NAH’; jubilee/royal wedding celebrations with people waving flags while psyched –up soldiers with assault rifles are running among them. Scenes from ‘Wall Street’ with a choir of little witch-like creatures sitting on Michael Douglas’ shoulders singing “Every man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost” over and over again. His face morphs quickly into various famous figures until he becomes Thatcher, giving her speech on not helping ‘lame ducks’
By the end of it I’m spent. And a little sweaty. I hope when you listen to it you’ll love it as much although possibly not accompanied by the same disturbing imagery...
5. Gaslight by Sarah:
Gaslight is essentially the story of an abusive relationship and that moment when everything unravels. It is named after the 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and the subsequent coining of the term 'gaslighting' to describe a kind of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality.
In the song, rattling heartbeat drums and a disorientating orchestral accompaniment are frenzied and unsettling as a woman is faced with her partner in an inexplicable violent rage. Rather than fight him or fear for her own safety, all she can do is ask if he is alright.
We recorded the solos for this song just after I had come back from a trip to New Orleans, where I had visited a voodoo temple and met the priestess. The Louisiana heat and the people's fervent belief in the power of music fill the whole city with something that feels like an almost electrical charge. In the studio, I tried to channel the essence of this and pour that energy into the voice of a woman who has the power to communicate with spirits who could save or destroy us.
6. Liar by Lucie:
This track is about men lying to women in relationships and women believing their lover's stories even though they are totally fabricated. It is like a diary of relationship history with each verse representing a different man lying within a different scenario.
The song is performed with Gaggle being divided into 2 groups, one group sings in first person and the second group repeats the verse as a second person narrative. The introduction and chorus is question and answer between the two groups, and suggests revenge by taking action on the liar in question. I think that this gives the song an interesting dynamic resulting in a powerful impact from both a performance and an audience perspective.
When performing this track I think back to my own hurtful times within relationships and channel that energy into making it as powerful as possible. I think that a lot of women will relate to this song as it is so exposing of the trials and tribulations of love, which most people have been through.
7. Congo by Scarlett:
Congo is a collective cry of the female consciousness. I see it as all of the anger and pain that women have held down in a world where people think feminism is no longer necessary. We are definitely not in a post-feminist world, especially not in places like the title alludes to.
There is something special about women screaming onstage and making these noises which are seen as unfeminine, from Riot Grrrl to women with highly unconventional voices like Joanna Newsom. It is a radical musical act to create something so un-pretty; to turn around the male gaze on female 'hysteria' and throw it back in their faces.
I am however wary about possible cultural appropriation with the title and some of the sounds in the song, I do not speak for all Gaggle but I try to acknowledge my white privilege in situations like this. Saying that, it is ok to like things that are problematic, you can still enjoy media whilst critiquing it, people will take positive and negative things from the whole album, and that is the complex reality of it all.
8. Bang on the Drum by Jade:
Ultimately Bang on the Drum IS a song about friendship. We’ve all had friends right? Friendship is pretty important if you’re a girl. Sometimes it’s so important that you buy necklaces in from places like Argos to symbolize this very thing. Or write something about it on Facebook. Friends are there for the good times (like drunk dancing) and the bad times (like drunk crying) and the really bad times (drunk crying because credit card has been rejected mid round purchase in a Wetherspoons pub.)
So what happens when friend ship goes wrong? Because let’s face it, it does. Bang on the Drum is about what happens when a great relationship breaks down, and how you deal with the feeling afterwards. I’ve had a few ‘best friends’; in fact I would say I am quite good at accruing them. I do well in a double act scenario. I had a best friend once she gave me an orange peel in the shape of a heart. I loved her so much that I moved into a house with her and it was so horrible I left after 5 months and didn’t speak to her for 2 years. Then I bumped into her in the gym. Now we get lunch sometimes, it’s nice.
Ultimately the theme of Bang on the Drum is time and how it changes everything, sometimes in a way that makes you feel like shit. Sometimes in a way that makes you want to fight but ultimately what time does it give you space. Space to move on.
So what do you do when you listen to this track? Well, it’s great to cook to because it’s not as ‘jumpy’ as some of the others. I would suggest that just after listening you get a pen and paper - or your mobile phone - and send your very bestie something really simple and poignant.
9. Crows by Polly:
Ever get the feeling that something - you don’t know what - is pecking at your head constantly and you can’t quite put your finger on it? For me this song describes that feeling. I picture and feel the sea, wishing it was summer, “crows circling above”, skimming stones aimlessly, grey skies, spooky winds and feeling well f'ing lonely... even the magpies have flown!!
This feeling is doing your head in (let alone all the people around you) and then you realise what is causing this toxic waste and you dump it. Feeling lighter and refreshed you go out, down another bottle of vino calypso and go through the whole rigmarole all over again.
10. Lullaby by Leila:
The track ‘Lullaby’ is an honest lullaby that asks the question “will you take good care of me?” This is the question on most people’s lips. Love. “What is love?”
Oh ‘love is that fluttering feeling in your stomach’, blah… but what do people really want, really mean especially within this fast paced modern day?
People don’t just simply fall in love now, or do they? Not like Romeo and Juliet with ‘love at first sight’. Is it now ‘love at first Facebook stalk’? The modern woman, dare I say it, with her (almost) equal job roles, votes and pay; does she really have the time to stare into a strangers eyes and fall deeply in love with them, run away and live happily ever after? Deeply in love before we check their status, their twitter or their blog; before we learn how much money they earn, if they’re good in bed, if they have suitable sperm to bear the perfect offspring? We just don’t. The day when someone says “it was love at first sight” and I don’t projectile vomit because this would be ever so slightly feasible will be the day when I have birds doing my housework for me and a witch knocks at my door with a poisoned apple for my beauteous youth.
Is ‘love’ now more a convenience thing? Sure you like him, he’s got quite a good job and you get on but does he earn enough? Do you really love him or is the attention just nice? He’s alright, but will he take good care of me?
In this day and age we have to ask ourselves this question. I am a firm believer in love but now we realise that we can look after ourselves, sometimes we just want to be looked after.
11. Hello Spider by Deborah:
Hello Spider is the song that nearly did not make the album, but would most definitely make Gaggle: The Musical. It’s about anxiety and fear. A wise lady told me that sometimes you just have to say hello to things you are scared of. It tells the story of a woman called Mary who has lived by her fears and hidden in her bed and the bottle. I love this song for the same reasons it makes me feel uncomfortable.
12. Leave the City by Louise:
Leave the City is the hypnotic and darkly haunting waltz which closes the album. Cyborg voices, howling wolves and ghostly echoes tell the story of a yearning to escape from the crushing nature of urban existence into an idyllic and otherworldly rural ideal, but how when you get there, all is not as you hoped. The overwhelming quiet and clarity of this new place only brings your demons into sharper focus and in order to truly escape, you must conquer those demons, burn your chains and transform.