Bad Bitch is available at:
Cape Town, South Africa
Rock, Alternative, Grunge; Pop, Alternative
21st July 2016
IN all my years writing this blog and collating the best bands/acts from around the world…
this is, to the best of my knowledge, only the second time I have assessed an African artist. I have looked at artists who have African roots – Lanre is one of them – but only one other that actually lives in Africa – that would be Israel’s ADI; one of those musicians that I have kept my eyes peeled out for. It is great to be back there and, for the very first time, focus on a prosperous country for music: South Africa. Before I come to my featured act - and look more deeply at what they are about - it is worth looking at the acts coming out of South Africa. When we think about nations like South Africa: there is a group of people that jump to conclusions and go to stereotypes. I raised this when reviewing Mexican duo The Peppersplum. We think about a nation in rigid terms and think we have it all figured out – that is especially true with regards the musical sound/output. Britain and the U.S. have a varied and huge musical scene so there is never any preconceptions as to what to expect – it is put in our faces on a daily basis. If you think about it; how often do we really get to discover musicians that emanate outside of these nations? Africa is not just about traditional, local sounds: countries such as South Africa have a burgeoning, wonderful collections of musicians worth investigating. In terms of the historical, established artists there: Springbok Nude Girls, Freshlyground, and Juluka are deserving of time and affection. Seether and Ladysmith Black Mambazo may be known to many but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Doing my research and checking out the best bands/artists around South Africa at the moment: you would not believe how many variation and quality is coming through. Die Antwoord is perhaps one of the most vivid and controversial acts in South Africa. Translating as ‘The Answer’: the question posed by Rap-Rave group Ninja, Yolandi Visser and D.J. Hi-Tek is a very interesting one. There are few equivalents (if any) in the U.K. to really explain them. Francois van Coke came into music about 13 years ago but since has made a real impact. The band addresses social alienation of Afrikaners in South Africa; the general apathy of Afrikaner youth and how they are displaced and separate from Calvinist Protestantism. The group may have since disbanded but remain one of the most important and influential artists from the country.
One of the newer, shinier bands around are Sol Gems. A lot of magazines and press sources are tipping them for great things. A blend of sun-worshiping bliss and Psychedelic influences. It is no surprise the band have captured the nation’s attention and supported Californian Psych-Rock group, Allah-Las. Compared with a lot of other nations: South Africa has a lot more diversity in their music; never sticking with a few genres; expansive and variegated. Tidal Waves epitomise this cross-pollinating, vast empire. Their Reggae-tinged bliss (with soulful overtones) has been impressing the public for the past 12 years. Endlessly hard-working and internationally recognised: the guys have performed in the U.S., Europe, and China.
Finally, and most curiously, Beckmann are being heralded in South Africa. A collective that are seen as Avant-Garde and experimental: they describe themselves, on their SoundCloud page, as “glitch operas, soaring vocals and dirty electronic beats”. I shall raise a couple of new points but before I do; it is worth introducing The SoapGirls to you:
“Just when you thought it was safe to go out from having to lock up your daughters, it’s now time to lock up your Sons, as this very brazen duo hit the music scene. And as if still hot from the press, they are set to melt many a heart and yet stir many emotions as they set fire to not only the stage, but the very device used to air their music. So, with tongue set firmly in cheek, get ready and brace yourself for what will unfold.
Their wild unadulterated performance certainly gets the male population chomping at the bit Live, with pulses racing, as the air is punched profusely, tempting the girls to step it up a gear, which they do every time with the raw brazen style that is, “The Soap Girls”.
Every picture or video I have sourced regarding this duo have all featured a host of male fans with their shirts clearly discarded, either blown clean off their bodies by the sheer volume and attitude on stage or teased off by these temptresses as they flirt your mind into submission. With some very outrageous stage wear, the girls certainly turn heads, and those heads stay turned as soon as they start to perform, leaving mouths gapping at what unfolds right before their eyes.
You need to be prepared at what you will experience at a “Soap Girls” gig as audience participation seems to be the order of the night, and things can get very messy, but all done in the best possible taste as the visuals they create are bespoke to the song of the moment.
The girls have been performing since the tender ages of nine and ten with music being a big part of their lives in their homeland of South Africa. Here you could easily find them entertaining the masses as they walked past. But the girls weren’t just singing and dancing at that age, they were selling handmade soap for various charities, and almost singing for their supper. Then a chance meeting with a producer, who had been listening to them sing, landed them the chance to record some tracks in a studio. This resulted in one song to be used on a Japanese compilation album.
They continued to perform on the street for a further eight years, and because of this they very quickly gained the hearts of the masses throughout Cape Town. Soon after, and then only aged twelve and thirteen, they had their first real experience in a recording studio, and from there they were hooked. But they weren’t the only ones hooked, so was the music industry, and soon after they were signed to a major label in South Africa, who saw the potential we see and hear today. And so, with a host of songs neatly tucked under their arms the girls threw themselves into their work and gave it everything they had, and to date, they haven’t looked back since.
French born Mie and Millie started their music career professionally in 2007 and by 2011 released a debut album that topped the South African charts. This quickly launched their career and they soon found themselves on stages across America and currently touring the UK.
Mie on guitar and vocals sets the pace beautifully as she powers through every song with a certain style and grace that captivates every audience. Her biggest musical influences are Fleetwood Mac, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts,Hearts, Nirvana,The Butthole Surfers, Local H and R.E.M and prefers more chilled out melancholy music.
Millie on bass and vocals is influenced by Alice in Chains, Marilyn Manson , The Smashing Pumpkins,Korn , Alanis Morrissette ,Hole, Aretha Franklin, Nirvana,Napalm Death and L7 and tends to prefer heavy angry music. This is evident in her performance as she connects with the crowd like a true professional. Their common ground is grunge, with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and L7 being their biggest influences and with both girls sharing the singing role, this dynamic duo set the standard in their genre”.
Looking at the girls and you really are in the presence of a unique and special duo. I often talk of duos and how undervalued they are in the mainstream. We see a lot of bands proffered but, by comparison, how many duos make it under the spotlight? If you dig deep, you will discover so many fantastic duos playing – The SoapGirls are among the most exciting in the world right now. Having featured The Peppersplum last week – an all-girl duo based in Mexico but born in England – The SoapGirls are another exceptional offering. In Britain, there are a lot of terrific, distinctive duos. Mainly, we see either male-female or all-male duos: the all-female dynamic is one that fascinates me. Whether a closer kinship or a different approach to music: I always find their sounds more engaging; their stories more intriguing; the results more explosive and fresh. Rews, a London-based favourite of mine, are great friends who provide Rock/Alternative jams that have seen them collect festival slots and huge recognition. Ca(Millie) and Noe(MIE) Debray have that sisterly love but provide so much more than mere music. They have faced sexism and attacks from crowds; battled discrimination and hostility in society and are battling back strong. Provocative, edgy and raw: the girls have faced oppressive criticism and vitriol from some; those who do a disgrace to music. If you had a similar male act on the stage there would be no worries. Because they are women, many seeing them as bad role models, they have come under scrutiny and offence. The girls provide hardcore Rock authority and gritty tunes; they have provocative attire and plenty of attitude: does that make them a target for hate and violence? Of course not. The SoapGirls, like a lot of their native peers, are addressing (forced to) wider issues and the vagaries in our society.
It is, when all is said and done, down to the music and what they produce that matters. Damned be the hecklers and clowns that degrade humans with their petty and insouciant behavior. The girls are thick-skinned and will not let troglodytes degrade their stunning music. It is hard (which is a good thing) comparing the girls with other acts: The SoapGirls produce bruising, leather-clad Punk with Alternative-cum-Rock anthemics; all laced with Grunge rumblings and something dirty. The duo is very beautiful and alluring women but never exploit their sexuality or allow it to become a focal point. Their attire and image is not a way of canvassingng over weak music: it emphasises it and goes hand-in-hand with their exhilarating, firework-strewn performances. Bad Bitch has been amassing a lot of love across the Internet and social media. Reviewers have swooned whilst music fans have been captivated by the song’s intensity and empowered lyrics. After facing a lot of harshness and some appalling people; The SoapGirls are on top and fighting back. Proving what a force of nature they are: Bad Bitch is inescapable and bracing: a powerhouse song that is surely going to spark more creativity and future recordings.
The SoapGirls have not just come onto the scene with Bad Bitch: their past work has led to this. Snakes and Ladders, Cigarettes and Medicine and Ugly Underneath have all been released this year. Snakes and Ladders combine the chug and drive of The Ramones and Sex Pistols. Our heroine has “nothing left to lose” and is on the edge. God never answers and tings look hopeless: things are eating away and it is a very tense state of affairs. Whatever the inspiration behind the song – we come to a hold up where the heroine implores everyone to put their hands up – it seems like desperation and anger have finally reached their peak. At every stage, there is a wonderfully raw and lo-fi sound to proceedings. The lyrics are delivered at different speeds and the song has a mobile, emotive development – not just staying with one static speed/sound. Gritty, Punk-laden and reminiscent of Blondie in places; another treasure from the girls. The central riff is a foreboding and spiking riff that is supported by a riffled percussive beat. Sirens are screaming and bodies are hitting the floor: our assassin has left her mark and evading the law. By the time the chorus comes back around; you are invested and arrested by its hypnotic charm and passionate delivery.
Cigarettes and Medicine begins with calmer, more reflective strings. Calling up her sweetheart/friend: every time our lead calls; she is being put down and pushed to the edge. Caught in a swell of nerves and loneliness: she is holding her peace and keeping her tongue locked away. Trying to get out of this situation: the tension rises and the song shifts through the gears. “I need to feel you know/I want you to stay” bring receptiveness and love to the fore: with it, a beautiful sense of melody comes to play. Cigarettes and Medicine has Pop touches to provide something more calming and hopeful. Underneath it all is a determined percussion and Grunge-esque guitars. The hero walks away which causes pain and anguish in our heroine: you can feel that hurt and loss come through in the voice. One of the catchiest and most compelling choruses of The SoapGirls’ career: Cigarettes and Medicine is a definite highpoint from them.
Ugly Underneath is more direct and punchy. The vocal starts off pointed and poking before racing and accelerating in time with the composition. Moving from cool and considered to charging and raging: another song that changes signatures and catches the listener by surprise. The girls combine superbly on vocals and have a real connection throughout the song. “Keep your distance” and “I’m not pretty” are cautionary words provided to a hero; advice to stay away and be aware. Whatever is happening and whatever the feelings being expressed are: it doesn’t seem to reflect who our heroine is; perhaps an unusual time that calls for solace and alone time. Maybe the guy has come on too strong or got false impressions. He is being told, in no uncertain terms, to back off and save himself. It is an honest and open song that has plenty of memorable lines and another stunning performance. Throughout these three songs, all recorded roughly around the same period, there is a lot of consistency and differences to be found. Ugly Underneath is another song destined to be a live favourite and comes with plenty of hooks and singalong phases. The SoapGirls look at something anxious, negative and suffocating without making it seem too intense and off-putting. A lot of light comes through in the trio of songs and everything comes through clearly and precisely. That said; the production is quite sparse and untreated which makes the song sound like they are coming straight from the stage. You can hear the development and confidence; the assuredness and flair the girls possess. Bad Bitch is another song that sticks in the mind and is, if anything, the best thing they have created. Songs such as Snakes and Ladders, Cigarettes and Medicine and Ugly Underneath lay the foundations superbly but Bad Bitch is the one that tops them all. It would be great to see all four songs alongside one another on an E.P. as there are consistencies and a general theme that ties together: that determination and fight against struggle and heartache.
Scratchy, locomotive riffs open Bad Bitch and get it underway. Things do not start out too heated, but instead, provide a kick and momentum that sets up the vocal. When our heroine comes to the microphone; she is locked in a deep, dark night and ready for a fight. It is an image that transports you to somewhere primal and urgent. Even in the early phases, when the voice is quite level-headed and settled, there is so much emotion and meaning resonating from the words. You know how important the song’s lyrics are and how relevant the song is to The SoapGirls. Switching between sexual and sweet: the voice has plenty of beauty and honey but comes with a definite tongue-licking sharpness and acid. Her boy (whoever that may be) is casting gazes and wants to get her on the ground - down on her knees. You are not sure, given the previous violent incarnation, whether it is a physical threat or sexual come-on. With her gun ready to explode and the heroine very much in control: there is no doubt she is not taking any crap; wanting to watch the man burn – it becomes clear the true nature of the lyrics. Even when delivering lines about control and threats; there is sexuality about it and definite allure. The vocal, which reminds me of Amy Winehouse at times, has smokiness, Blues luster, and cigarette-ravaged smoke. One of the most compelling things about Bad Bitch is the composition. That scratchy riff puts one in mind of Nirvana and ‘90s Grunge; a little bit of Punk is thrown in – the perfect accompaniment to the foreground. Full marks to the girls who are always tight and hugely listenable. Here, supported by a wonderful production sound they really come into their own and are endlessly confident and sassy.
The chorus is an explosion of defiant swagger and rebellion. Our girls do not “give a sh**” and in no mood to be messed around. Guitars spark and clatter whilst the percussion slams with determination. Slinky, grooving basslines guide the song forward and you are caught in the blizzard of notes, spit, and punch. It is an eye-opening and savage but retains its sense of dignity and curiosity. Not rushing back into the chorus: there are wordless vocals and a change of tempo; a chance to take it all in and bask in the sense of moodiness and tease. Knowing where the song came from – and that horrible gig where the girls were attacked – it is not a surprise to be sucked into the song and feel a real immediacy and breathlessness. When they get started, it is hard to stop: certain lines and thoughts build intrigue in the mind and you wonder just what is being ascribed. Early proclamations of violence and control have passed and now, there is a more oblique touch. It is impossible not to be seduced by the vocal which always seems to have that slightly sensual side to it. If you watch the video that accompanies the song; The SoapGirls are daubed in red lipstick and look properly bad-ass. They slink and move across the screen and mix playfulness with attitude. Bad Bitch always wins you with its addictiveness and sway. The guitars relentless push and press; the percussion remains light for the choruses but always essential; the bass continues to give the song liquidity and rhythm. The second time around; the chorus seems even more combustible and riotous. Still apathetic and in no mind to suffer fools: The SoapGirls notch up the offensive and shoot down the song’s anti-hero. Following such an unpleasant experience and hard gig; many artists might retreat and not dare assess it in a song. Bad Bitch concerns more than that one night but is a direct response to the event. Instead of running away or letting it affect them for life: Bad Bitch is a defiant response and huge declaration.
The video is arresting and one that will stay in the memory for a while. The girls themselves ensure every note and line sparks visually and verbally; the combination of video and song is wonderfully done. By the final stages, it is said (the hero) has nowhere to run or hide. The SoapGirls are coming and you better watch out. Never insincere or slight: Bad Bitch is a song that helps fight demons and bad memories but stands in its own right as a huge smash. It is a track I can see being a live staple and really speaking to the crowds. Other people, who have gone through the same things, will be able to find solace and guidance in the song. It is good to see the girls not letting people get to them and coming out fighting. Similar to their previous songs: Bad Bitch sparkles with emotion, attitude, and attack. The composition has similarities with their older songs but seems hotter and harder than anything they have done before. Scintillating and mesmeric from first to last: yet another wonderful song from The SoapGirls. It would be wonderful to think an album will follow. There is huge demand and the fans are responding to Bad Bitch. Hopefully, the song, and the reception it is getting will motivate them to get back into the studio.
I opened by looking at some great South African musicians worth checking out. From Reggae-inspired artists to legends of the scene: plenty of wonderful music to get involved with. The SoapGirls can be added to that illustrious list for good reason. Given their moniker by the public in 2004: they sold hand-made soap on the streets and performed for various causes – that lasted for 9 years. Their life and rise is almost filmic and Hollywood-worthy. Moving from street performing to the big stage: it has not always been a smooth and happy ride. Affected and afflicted by a sexist attack; the girls face anxieties and fears when they hit the stage. Mie’s scorching guitar work and Mille’s pulsating bass lines are a wonderful chemical combination. Bad Bitch was born out of a bad situation but turns into something cathartic and inspiring. The song is the girls’ not taking any more crap from anyone and being in that situation again. Against-the-odds and endlessly defiant: Bad Bitch is a declaration of intent and warning shot to anyone that dare attempt anything like that again. The SoapGirls are humble and encourage others to follow their dreams and do what they should be doing in life. In South Africa, they are gathering a lot of praise and are scene-makers for the new generation. Bands and musicians that lack personality, commitment and any sort of ethos are unlikely to succeed and remain. Musicians, in the position they are in, should engage more with society and address vital issues. Music has a way of connecting people and highlighting vital concerns. Employing music for your own ends – romantic woes and personal agendas – seems foolhardy and a wasted opportunity. It is not egotistical or pretentious using music as a platform to inspire others and recognise important causes. The SoapGirls stand for freedom and speak out for animal rights and society’s most vulnerable.
Songs come from the heart and contain pure emotion and passion. We all need to, as consumers and fans of music, broaden our horizons and acknowledge the extent of music across the world. Everybody, myself included, get too hooked on our particular tastes and home-grown acts. It is challenging knowing where to start but I feel a casual look here and there would not hurt. Countries like South Africa have been producing amazing musicians for decades but often get overlooked. That seems unfair because, as The SoapGirls have shown, there is plenty to get hooked on. Not only is their music as atmospheric and exciting as you can imagine: they dig deep and sing about themes that are relevant and lesser-heard. Away from the clan of love-based songs and pedestrian bands; the duo go further and aim to change people – inspire their generation and the next coming through. As such, the demand is high and many new fans are coming their way. The girls are currently in the U.K. and playing to fans here. They play Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle tonight; they head to Joiners in Southampton for Sunday. After that, up to Manchester (Eagle Inn) and Bradford’s The Underground. Finishing off in Kettering on the 28th – make sure you see them before they head back home. It has been an up-and-down last few years but The SoapGirls have ridden the waves and fast-established themselves as one of music’s finest exports. In their native South Africa, people are recognising how extraordinary and special they are. I wonder whether there will be an E.P. or album coming this year. Bad Bitch is a song that could amply lift-off a record and make the subsequent songs really shine and fizz. I am sure they have plans in mind but are busy touring right now. Once they have chance to settle and come back to earth: surely, they will be looking ahead to the studio and what they can accomplish. Motivated by animal rights and highlighting segments of society often reserved for political diatribe.
The endeavouring duo subverts gender ideals and expectations to give real gravitas and depth to their music. The fact they were on the receiving end of a sexist attack speaks volumes about how some perceive female artists. It is a shame society hasn’t progressed sufficiently so this kind of thing no longer occurs. It is artists like The SoapGirls that will make a difference and prevent such stupidity reoccurring. A hot potato that (maybe) should be reserved for another day. For now, appreciate the music they are providing; a terrific duo growing in strength and becoming more assured and confident. If they can fully reclaim their nerves – still anxious after the attack – then headlining slots are sure to come their way. The U.K. is showing them lots of love so it is only right they come play here in the future. Against a backdrop of rather safe and overly-cautious bands: it is a breath of fresh air discovering The SoapGirls. I love, as much as anyone, artists that have composure and melody; dreamy and beautiful. Musicians that push harder and strike with more intensity are seen, by some, as rather balking and aggressive. The SoapGirls are not an esoteric duo that will only speak to a selected few: they are a utilitarian act that speaks for all of us; raise issues that we all want exposed and talked-about. On its surface; Bad Bitch might seem like a shock intended to shock and get easy attention. It actually stems from a harrowing base but has a fu**-you defiance and sees the girls reborn. If Ca(Millie) and Noe(MIE) Debray are new names to you then it is worth going through their catalogue and how they started. A cocktail of head-spinning components that results in something body-moving, soul-shaking and hugely primitive. That is just a taster of what music emanates from outside of the U.K. Do yourself a huge favour and discover just what…
SOUTH Africa has to offer.
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