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Live Review: Gaggle @ Village Underground, Shoreditch
They promised lots of dancing and they delivered more. After three and a half years, one too many release date delays and a stray of pop up shows around London which sent the social networks abuzz; this was building up to be a very special night.
Gaggle, the East-London based 21 (yes, 21!) all-female choir, presented their long-awaited full length album ‘From the mouth of the cave’ in a sold out show at the Village Underground in Shoreditch, London. The dancing started right away with the energetic and urgent ‘Happy is the Country’. The audience were loving it, eyes magnetically drawn to the crowded stage, anxious not to miss a second, Gaggle’s songs had them entranced.
One thing is clear, the focus remains on the message. The painted faces, colourful outfits and organic dancing adds positively to the experience but the power is in the voice. One of the highlights of the night was ‘Power of Money’ and there was even some confetti during ‘Army of Birds’ (see below)
They also managed to squeeze in Black Sabbath’s, ‘War Pigs’ before finishing with a bang, with the song ‘Spider’. Their set felt emotionally raw and visceral, which denoted how impeccable their sound transition is from studio recorded to performing live in front of an audience.
I left the venue with the chorus from ‘Army of Birds’ still resonating in my ears and I couldn’t quite shake out these two words from my mind: Girl Power.
I caught up with Belle, Katie, Jade and Lou before the show for a quick interview
ME: Describe Gaggle in 3 words.
Belle: Big. Bold. Beautiful.
From what I’ve read, Gaggle is the brain-child of Deborah Coughlin , but how did she start to form the idea for such an ambitious project?
Katie: In 2008 there were lot of indie guy bands around and there wasn’t a big female presence in it. She thought that a choir would be the best way of doing that so she started collecting people.
Belle: The vision was to make it this really big powerful force and it evolved over time. I think she started with 6 girls and then it just grew [from there].
How would you describe your sound to someone hasn’t heard your music before?
Katie: Feminist, post-punk, kind of riot grrrl cause of all the shouting. Also, it’s quite choral as well.
Belle: I’d just say, imagine the attitude of So Solid Crew with the girl power of the Spice Girls. That kind of creates a vision of what we are.
Do you all get along well?
Belle: Yeah, we actually all get along really well. I’ve got friends that are in bands and they argue because there is five of them and you get so sick [of one another], with us we can go and talk to someone else.
I’m really interested in learning more about the making and recording process of the album
Jade: It does have its difficulties, but we all split into groups and into parts for each song. There are higher and lower parts and there are harmonies over that and then some people have solos. So, when recording a song we split into smaller groups – of 5 or 6 and that will break down again in half, maybe into 2 and 3 – and it’s really just a case of constantly faffing around with those groups until you get all the right bits and pieces you need to make a track.
Sometimes we did all get to sing together, for example on the track ‘Lullaby’ it’s all of us singing at exactly the same time in a really amazing studio called Sub Bubble down in Wembley. It’s quite difficult but it’s just logistics and practicalities.
Your look and style seems to be important for you. Who decides what you wear or designs your outfits?
Katie: Angela makes the costumes. She designs for a well known high street brand.
Belle: I think her and Deborah work together and create the idea and then Angela uses her magic powers and rustles them up.
In the run up to the release of the album, you have been performing a series of “ninja gigs” around London. What has been the response like?
We did a pop-up show at Selfridges where we all smothered black lipstick on ourselves and sang a bit of “Army of Birds”. That one in particular was dreamt up by a Gaggle called Scarlett.
We also sang in front of a prostitute’s grave near Borough. That was dreamt up by another very clever Gaggle called Katie. We also made a Gaggle-zine that’s made up of lots of different people’s ideas, pieces of work, playlists and stuff. And that’s what’s been really great about doing the album, we all got to pitch in a bit of ourselves.
What do you consider to be the most important feminist issues of today’s society in regards to feminism that you think don’t get enough attention?
Lou: There’s a campaign going on at the moment that an ex-Gaggle started which is quite relevant to this. It’s about fighting against female genital mutilation which I think is a really important cause and it doesn’t necessarily get enough attention. She’s got events called Clitrock where they put on bands to raise money for different charities that work with people affected by that.
Also, for me, I’ve been really interested in following the Saudi women and the driving ban because it’s this act of a little bit of rebellion by them just by flaunting it and being like “No, I’m going to be able to drive”. It means a lot more than actually just driving because they are risking a lot just by doing that on their own.
I follow a lady on twitter (@Saudiwoman) who blogs about that and she is really interesting to follow because when I was younger I almost moved to Saudi and one of my friends is half Yemeni so, I have this other echo of what life could have been like either for her or for me if I had ended up living there. I’ve always been interested in women and their rights and how that’s changing particularly with the Arab spring. It’s really interesting to see how that’s going to go.
What are your plans for the summer? Any more shows?
Jade: Yeah. We’ve been waiting three and a half years to get to this. Everything is always changing so I think we’re just happy to get to here.
Lee Ann: I’m sure there are little thoughts and other things up Deborah’s sleeves, there always is. Immediate plans after this is just…
Katie: Pizza! We’re allowed to eat pizza!
Jade: Deborah doesn’t stop up from eating pizza. [Everyone laughs] Just wanted to put that out there right now: We’re not the kind of band that are told what they can eat.
For more info visit Gaggle on Facebook
By Ivonne Jofre