INTERVIEW: Fashion Tips | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Many bands take an age to find their groove – so imagine the thrill of happening upon a synergy that’s not only instantaneous, but akin to an ill-advised exotic pet being sprung from captivity.

“We’d originally planned on something much quieter, but once Jordan [Sayer, guitar] joined we had one practice and decided ‘nah, let’s do noise!’” revels Liam Slack (bass), co-founder of the region’s most feral and clamorous newcomers, Fashion Tips. “Then Esmé [Louise Newman, vocals/synth] came in and I think we wrote all four songs on the EP in two sessions. It just clicked straight away.”

This electrifying spontaneity runs through every seam of Fucking Hell, a debut release which sizzles with fervent intent, tangling untamed and eminently danceable rhythms in a fraught, propulsive no wave squall. Punchy, abrasive and delivered at socking pace, it’s an entrance many more established rabble-rousers would have given their gnarliest effects pedals for…

“I can’t make pretty sounds,” deadpans Jordan, explaining in part the abrupt shift in sonic trajectory. “I’m primarily only interested in making horrible noise on the guitar, so for my part that’s all I do.” For other members, however, Fashion Tips represents a notable change of tune. “I’d been playing cha-cha, bachata and salsa beforehand,” exclaims newest recruit Jerzy Rodriguez (drums): “this is new territory for me!”

This isn’t to say the quartet is formed from disparate parts. On the contrary, Fucking Hell’s wicked, spasmic verve and irrepressible force of momentum could only have yielded from a group united by more than the common purpose synonymous with fresh outfits. “Everything about this band is about anxiety and neurosis,” Esmé explains. “I think it’s fair to say we’re a fairly neuro-atypical group, and that factors not only into the nature of how we sound – the messy scrambled instruments; the guitars which rarely sound like guitars – but also in the way we write and perform. We’re all shy, anxious people, so it’s a deliberate choice.”

I think it’s fair to say we’re a fairly neuro-atypical group, and that factors not only into the nature of how we sound – the messy scrambled instruments; the guitars which rarely sound like guitars – but also in the way we write and perform

For Esmé, this disquiet was compounded by the shift in gear from her contemporaneous black metal duo Penance Stare – yet as she reveals, the fresh mode of fronting Fashion Tips proved liberating in equal measure: “This is a very vulnerable record from my point of view – from a lyrical perspective; using my voice in different ways; being physically freer without playing guitar; being aware of my body onstage and that it’s being viewed by others… It’s also scary knowing people can actually understand what I’m saying. In Penance Stare there’s a lot of things obscuring the meaning and interpretation of the words – and of course I’m screaming them – but before we’d even played our first Fashion Tips show I had someone quote a lyric to me, which blew me away. There’s a certain power in it too. You can make people feel different ways with language, and there can be a lot of nuance in that. These songs are very diaristic – they’re about real situations and real people in my inner world. It’s a very queer record, but hopefully universal enough that people don’t feel they have to fit within any particular anorak to understand it.”

“We’re also lucky to have worked with some very talented people” Jordan acknowledges, “we wouldn’t have been able to make something this polished ourselves.” Self-recorded at Liam’s house in Burnhope, the EP truly came to life in the hands of audio engineer Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe (frontman of Leeds bands Thank and Beige Palace), whose mixing and mastering culminated in something they deemed “release worthy.” Soft-launched digitally at the tail end of 2022 and at a handful of explosive live shows, this month sees Fucking Hell receive a physical cassette release courtesy of Panurus Productions, whose head honcho James Watts also provided its oozing technicolour artwork.

“There’s no finished stamp on anything,” Jordan continues. “The songs are still evolving all the time, and we want to have a good time with them.” Indeed, with such freedom at the core of their mantra, are there any rules at all in Fashion Tips playbook? “We just do bangers!” Liam states. “That’s our only policy.”

Fashion Tips’ debut EP Fucking Hell is released on Sunday 28th May via Panurus Productions. The band play a launch show at The Cumberland Arms that evening.


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