Interview: Venus | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Just over a year from the release of their debut single, Leeds based alt-rock five-piece, VENUS release their brand new EP, ‘Wicked Things’. Sonically the EP shifts from the heavy to the melodic and then back again as the lyrics explore themes of mental health, liberation and integrity. We speak to the band to find out more about their latest release.

How would you describe the music you typically create? 
A Loud, raw, and vocally honest, all soaked in a wall of distortion with a spacey shimmer of synth on top. 

Which artists have inspired your sound? 
All five of us each have our uniquely personal inspirations; from Grunge to Soul to Dream Pop, which on the surface may sound dysfunctional and more of a hindrance as opposed to being helpful, however, we’ve managed to turn that melting pot into a sound where each of our influences are distinctly heard in our individual playing; a sound that quickly became Venus despite it taking our first few practices as a band getting used to it. Bikini Kill are always a band we credit first for our mutual revelations as we actually wanted to be a punk band when we started out. After a couple of unproductive initial rehearsals trying to write originals off the bat, we decided to cover “Rebel Girl” and we’ve not looked back since that moment. As much as we’ve strayed from their sound; with that cover we took the courage and inspiration we needed to step foot into such a male-dominated industry. Our other collective inspirations are Blondie and Garbage for their use of synthesiser which we use to inspire our texture and melody, and also Wolf Alice and Dream Wife who actively inspire us every day. 

What are the themes within the EP? What’s behind the name? 
Wicked Things” is the name we settled on to incorporate the collective common theme of the EP; forms of wickedness which manifest themselves differently in each track. In Amy, the “Wicked Thing” is the ever-present, yet still somewhat taboo subject of being at war with mental health. It’s something that we have all experienced in our lives, whether it be through our own personal struggles or watching those of someone close, but despite that, we somehow often struggle to talk to each other when ultimately, each other is all we have. 

Tell us more about your songwriting process.
Honestly, our processes change with every song! It could start by GK dropping a demo into our band Messenger chat, or Jess or Hannah might come to rehearsal with a riff to jam out, or just as often one of us might start playing something random in rehearsal that clicks with us all and sticks. For inspiration, we’ve written in the dark before, or all turned up with a drink in us or just recently went on a writing retreat to a cottage in the North York Moors, where we approached writing songs section-by-section which was completely new to us and worked quite effectively. Songwriting can either take us hours or months, but I guess the one common theme in all of it is that no- one ever writes a full song or generally anyone else’s parts. We’re a very communicative band and we’ve learnt that the key ingredient is us all being present as we very much all have a lot to do with the writing process and end up bouncing off each other in the practice room environment that way. In regards to Wicked Things, every song was written quite quickly but over different periods of time. No Signs was the most recently written and the product of us wanting to write a new opener. That came together relatively quickly in the rehearsal space and didn’t change much on the recording. Amy started off with a bass riff that Hannah started playing in rehearsal that we cottoned onto and although it was very different from anything we’ve written thus far; we ceased it as an opportunity to write something stripped back with a powerful message. You’re Alright (I Guess) was a song we jammed in rehearsal like once and started playing it live immediately! Because of that, structurally it was the song that we worked and changed the most in the studio and that in itself is an approach we had never taken before. 

Where was Wicked Things recorded? 
We laid down our demo tracks at Leeds Beckett Headingley Campus studios, which also doubles up as our label Monomyth Records’ HQ. From there we went to Chapel, Leeds to record Gab- by’s drum takes, which is as it says: a Chapel but with a big open space soaked in reverb and perfect for capturing a huge, stadium sounding drum kit. Next was bass, and we started to record Hannah’s takes at Beckett however we encountered some issues getting availability for the room and so from there we went DIY and over to Bob (our label manager)’s house. We set up our amps in his wife’s roller disco room which was again an empty space, and we captured the rest of bass, 

GK’s rhythm, Jess’s lead guitar and also GK’s lead vocals there. Our producer popped into a rehearsal to record the chorus gang vocals for You’re Alright (I Guess), and synth finally got recorded last at Jack (our producers) house. We just DI’d it up and spent a full day experimenting with the synth. So it was recorded all over the shop, and for the most part very DIY which is not how we originally thought we’d do it! 

You said your songs have a feminist undertone and that being in a girl band can be hard. How do you think the music industry has improved (if at all) for women, since your time in the band, and what areas and issues need to be addressed/improved upon? 
Venus have been around for just over years now, and ever since then, I think we have seen a development in people’s acknowledgements regarding womxn’s issues in the music industry, such as underrepresentation. It’s definitely more of a spoken about topic, especially around festival season where we see images of various festival lineups but only with female acts and as a result, there’s about 10 acts left on the whole poster. But on the flip side of that, that’s also where we are starting to see improvement such as with Glastonbury committing to the 50/50 gender split lineup which is a huge, positive step forward for women’s representation across the music scene. There is also a lot of solidarity out there between females in music, which is something we always try to encourage online and whilst out gigging however we still have a long way to go yet. 

Have the themes explored in the EP set the direction for future releases? 
To be honest, we’ve always written about things that have annoyed us or not sat well with us, which is maybe evident from the titles of our previous releases. “Wicked Things” feels like more of a continuation on that theme as opposed to setting a direction for the future. Some of the newer things we’ve been writing have explored some fairly different themes for us, however, we still can’t quite stray from pointing things out that we find exasperating. “Wicked Things” is our personal growth story out of our catalogue so far, so on that point, hopefully, there’ll be a lot more for us where that came from. 

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