On their critically acclaimed debut 2016 EP SAD, Leeds-based duo Kamikaze Girls wanted people to know that it was okay to be struggling. Front woman Lucinda Livingstone’s lyrics spoke honestly and openly about her experiences with everything from anxiety and depression to addiction – it was the way in which her truth bravely shone through the songs so strikingly that made the band stand apart.
For vocalist and guitarist Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson, 2017 finds the pair of friends in a more positive state of equilibrium, and a little more at ease with the ups and downs
of life, riding high on their early success as they sign to Big Scary Monsters Records for the release of
their debut album Seafoam.
Welcomed with open arms into the UK’s burgeoning and ever-developing DIY/punk scene and counting the likes of Petrol Girls, Personal Best, Great Cynics and The Winter Passing as not just contemporaries, but comrades, with Seafoam they’re firmly placed to deliver a record that both underpins their roots on SAD, and takes giant leaps forward in the quality and substance of their output.
Opening the album with the cuttingly honest missive of ‘One Young Man’, it’s a track which immediately sheds some light on the experience which gave birth to the writing conditions Livingstone
laboured under on the previous record. In September 2014, she was robbed at gun point on her way to work in the early hours of the morning. It lead to an episode of PTSD which forced her out of
work, her home and reignited old struggles with anxiety and depression.
“I had a lot of night terrors and flashbacks,”she says of the experience “It pretty much wrote off that year of my life, and even these days anywhere I walk on my own or when it's dark it's in the back of my mind. I didn't properly get over it until I moved to Brighton, so I didn't have to walk near the same place anymore.”
The experience itself is central to what makes Seafoam such a triumphant record - the sense of closure and acceptance of these events which Livingstone clearly achieved through writing.As the album’s opening track it’s a bold statement of moving forwards, past that period of her life and on to new creative horizons which are enabling Kamikaze Girls to grow exponentially.
“I remember saying to Lucinda when we were at the Eiffel Tower last year that this was all because of our stupid little band,”says Dawson of their long period of touring in late 2016 “We've managed to travel across continents and meet some of the most amazing people and musicians along the way. That will never not have an effect on me.”
The experiences granted to the pair whilst touring the world thanks to their friendship and music have clearly been cathartic, but were tinged with their own sadness. It goes without saying that
melancholy is an enduring aspect of the Kamikaze Girls sound, as Livingstone continues:“Coming off tour in November 2016 without a penny to our name and nothing on the other side of the airport
was tough. It was quite a low few months for me as I didn't have a steady place to live and we just had the album recording looming over us.
“I was driving myself crazy most days. We had a good routine on tour and it was just all lost. A lot of Seafoam is written from that perspective, just being in a hole with nowhere to go, feeling a bit numb to everything I guess.”
Exploring wider musical influences from shoegaze, fuzz-pop and the heavier side of the genre-spectrum they call home, it’s a record that feels like a weight being lifted and a focused, sharpened quill being shifted to new targets. In terms of the song writing, it’s again a stark reflection of Livingstone’s own headspace, but one which is stronger and more direct than ever before.
“A lot has happened in the world in the last year and a lot has happened in my personal life. We're writing from a different place now. Seafoam is me coming out the other side of all of the problems I was having during the last record. It's still all deeply personal, but it's braver then before. It's bold and it's angry, and I feel like I've been the most honest with my writing that I could.”
Whether it’s ruminating on the impossibilities of holding down a stable life in a busy city on ‘Berlin’, the self-deprecating drone of ‘Good For Nothing’, or the CHVRCHES-esque reverb laden ‘Weaker Than’ which reflects on the consequences of suicide, there is personal growth and experimentation from the band at every poetic twist and turn.
The raging female-empowerment anthem of ‘KG Goes To The Pub’ is perhaps the best illustration of the grittier, leaner sounds of the new record, as Livingstone spits with admirable and enviable vehemence: “Fuckboy sleaze bag, what do you want from me now? Grab my waist one more time and I’ll knock your fucking lights out. You knocked me off my feet, but not in the right way. I was just walking past - I’m not your fucking sweetheart mate.”
Since 2014 the Riot Grrrl duo, have used music as a means to challenge attitudes and taboos surrounding mental health. Their aim has always been to show their strength and solidarity to other young people in the same position, and to work alongside other bands in the scene to help stamp out gender stereotypes in music for good. It feels like with Seafoam, they’re reaching ever further out to the dispossessed in the darkness and offering a deeper friendship and consolation which, sometimes, only music can provide.
“For us, we just want to make sure that everyone is safe and happy at the shows we play,” the duo finish up “We can't control what happens outside of a venue but we can inside. We only play safe spaces, and it's important to us that they're inclusive and people feel comfortable.”