FFO: Our Girl, Tiger Cub
Kagoule are three teenagers from Nottingham. They are one of the best new bands in Britain.
A bold claim, certainly - and music is no competition – but these three friends since childhood are currently crafting some of the most dynamic guitar music out there. Theirs is an output that exists in the type of self-created world that can only be constructed by people who have come of age together. Who have shared their formative, life-changing moments. Who know who they are and where they are going.
Fiercely independent and with a steadfast vision for the minutiae of every aspect of their presentation, Kagoule are band born out of the school-yard, the trio of Cai Burns, Lucy Hatter and Lawrence English coming together a half decade ago. “We represent the sound of boredom,” says Hatter, of the band’s inception. “The sound of three 15 year olds wanting to do something,” says Hatter.
Recorded while still in their teens, Kagoule’s debut album Urth draws on a wealth of unexpected influences – the best US underground obscurities of the 80s and 90s, the dark folk music of Pentangle and playing style of Bert Jansch, contemporary fantasy and sci-fiction literature, ancient wood-cut artwork and so much more. Sound-wise they recall the energy and ideas of Bikini Kill, the sugar-dusted grunge of Smashing Pumpkins and the angular rhythms and confrontational post-hardcore blueprint of Fugazi, Slint and fellow Nottingham band Bob Tilton, with a pedal rack (metaphorically) half-inched from Dinosaur Jr. But – crucially - perhaps only to those old enough to have heard those bands first time around. “People would come and see us and say we reminded of certain bands from the past who we had not heard,” he adds “We’d investigate them and be blown away.”
Kagoule’s was a reverse education of sorts, then. They were raised on a steady diet of... everything. They are children of the internet age, the trio voraciously absorbing decades of music before they could legally drink. Their YouTube compilations (dubbed Dr. Kagoule’s Musical Psychotherapy Sessions) display a love of kindred spirits from the sonic underworld: Lungfish, Swell Maps, Love, Wire, The Gun Club, Butthole Surfers, Swans, Aphex Twin, Bush Tetras, This Heat, Fat White Family and Neu! all feature.
Out of all this comes Urth, recorded with producers Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A, The Fall) and Pete Fletcher (Childhood). It takes its title from fantasy / sci-fi author Gene Wolf’s 1987 novel Urth Of The New Sun, from his New Sun series of. Within these works, Wolf used archaic language, obscure words and allegory – all of which influence Kagoule’s oblique lyrical approach. “I try not to write about things like, breaking up with my girlfriend,” explains Cai. “I want to go elsewhere, lyrically. So one song is about a one winged half-man/ half-amphibian that’s dehydrating on an island. Another is about a conscious table.”
Kagoule – whose name was chosen because they “wanted something with ‘O’ in the middle, to look good on posters” – are a creative triangle, with each member bringing something unique. A sussed young man wise beyond his years, Cai writes the songs and pulls it all together. Bassist and co-vocalist Lucy is the face of the band, a vocal yang to Cai’s yin, and in possession of “a strong bullshit filter.” Having never played a bass before, she was asked to join the band on strength of personality alone. “She stood out at school,” says Burns. “She just couldn’t be told what to do by anybody. Without her we’d be a bunch of awkward moody dudes. She’s ace and people actually want to talk to her after the show.”
Drummer Lawrence creates all the band’s artwork, an element that they see as integral to their output. “Somehow the aesthetics of medieval England have seeped into this band, and that’s partially reflected in Lawrence’s art,” says Burns. “Old alchemy books gave us ideas and we wanted to bring that style back and make it modern by using pastel colours. Lawrence was always drawing in school. Proper weird shit; teachers would be mortified. Right from the beginning the artwork has evolved at the same time as the music so it’s an integral part of Kagoule, though he is only finally starting to accept that he’s a true artist.”
Early releases such as the juddering ‘Adjust The Way, the soaring Pixies-esque guitar drama of ‘It Knows It’ and the post-hardcore boy/girl dynamism of ‘Gush’ swiftly grabbed attention and Kagoule were soon sharing stages with Johnny Marr, The Wytches, Iceage, METZ, Sebadoh and Drenge, as well as performing at Glastonbury, achieving acclaim in Rolling Stone, NME, Guardian, and airplay from the likes of BBC 6Music and BBC Radio 1.
In 2014 Kagoule signed to legendry extreme metal label Earache, where they are a glorious anomaly on a roster of artists that include sonic pioneers such as Napalm Death, Godflesh, Fudgetunnel and Carcass. “Being the anomaly appealed to us,” says Burns. “They are a label who cares and they’re hardly going to tell us to tone down. Other people were interested, but why sign to someone who is going to chew you up and spit you out after one album? Signing to a major label who would try and change us is everything we hate about music, everything we are against. We’re a young new band – we’re not ready to sign our lives away just to pay mortgages.”
Infused by DIY punk rock spirit, Urth includes tracks such as singles ‘Glue’ and ‘Made Of Concrete’. “‘Glue’ was written New Year’s Day 2014,” explains Burns. “The sound just came out of nowhere; it’s about the hiding away for so long that you become totally detached from your surroundings. Your view of the outside world becomes warped. With us, verses can be written months apart, so the finished works might appear abstract. ‘Made Of Concrete’ was written five years ago, a month after we formed, the result of early experiments with an effects pedal. We always knew one day it would be a single.”
“As an album Urth is a collection of teenage experiences,” concludes the frontman. “It instinctively captures our growth, as people and as a band. It almost feels like a pre-debut: a documentation of what we got up to in the earlier years....”