Q&A: Softcult

Canadian duo Softcult chatted to us about their first ever release, Another Bish a song that represents the popular conversation of modern day misogyny. The power couple is formed of twin sisters and having always been involved in musical projects from an early age, are now trying to break into the music industry. As well as recently producing music, they have also been busy putting together a creative Zine to broadcast their message to even further fields. Phoenix and Mercedes show an understanding of how commercialised music is and plan to break it down with an alt-rock shaped hammer.

Who were your influences for your new release ‘Another Bish’ ?

Mercedes: We’re super influenced by the 90’s grunge and Riot Grrrl movement. Bikini Kill is a band that hugely influences us. We’re seeing a resurgence of the 90’s grunge movement happening right now, maybe due to the political climate? People have a lot of angst because of this, meaning there’s a lot of stuff they want to offload and put out into the world. So in terms of the resurgence and modern artists who influence us, we’re both really into Beabadoobee, Soccer Mommy and DIIV.

When you perform as ‘Softcult’ do you think people still have a stigma towards the goth style?

Phoenix: I definitely think that it still could be a thing, I think as soon as you start to wear heavy make-up, or have edgy hair, some people will take it at face value. They might think of you as mean, or another preconceived way. I personally think it’s about getting to know the lyrics in the music, before you judge anyone. I noticed this with Pale Waves, when they were first rising in the industry, they were kind of doing the ‘goth thing’ and in interviews they have mentioned mums being scared of their kids going to see their shows, purely based on how they look. Which is kind of funny to me, because it’s solely based on the image alone. There might still be a stigma, but goths are chill you guys there’s no need to worry or stress. 

Mercedes: I think that’s something that’s been about since before the dawn of time, preconceived notions about people because of the way in which they look, hopefully it is something that we can rewrite as society continues to move forward. Don’t always judge people on their appearance.

You’ve just created your own zine, what is your aim behind this?

Mercedes: We were really excited to do it because a lot of the artists we look up to, like Bikini Kill and Rat Mobile, were more about a message behind the music, with a view that the band was just the vehicle to spread awareness and create communities around social and political beliefs. They would use Zines to have a creative outlook but also to showcase local artists and activists whilst making a community around a message, which is not something you see that often anymore. Phoenix has been really awesome and is literally cutting and glueing stuff together and then scanning it. I tend to do more of the actual writing for it so we make a good team, she’s doing the visuals and I’m writing some opinion pieces and poetry. However, we’re most excited about all the submissions from other like minded creatives. We’re hoping we can get a lot of young artists and poets together. For anything you want to say, this is a platform for expression. 

On your instagram, you’ve shared a piece of writing about your views on our capitalized and instituted society – can you talk more about why this is important to you?

Mercedes: That is kind of how we chose our band name, we were forced to acknowledge a lot of ugly truths in this last year, that we as a society had done a good job at hiding and avoiding. I think it’s an important time to reflect and question things. Seeing the Black Lives Matter movement really take off, I think one of the reasons more people are identifying with it and really seeing what’s going on is because we are all forced to see these atrocities because of being online more. The idea of ‘Soft Cult’ is questioning institutions that have been around for a long time, like the Government, the average family or Religion or whatever it is. Long story short, don’t do something just because someone is telling you to, you should question everything and make sure that it sits well with you. Is it ethical in your morals?

Do you think that being sisters and having had the same upbringing helps to shape your musical style?

Phoenix: I think so because we’ve been singing together for a long time and we were in a project before this where we sang and played together. It definitely helps when there’s a disagreement or a hurdle to overcome, it helps being related because it helps to keep us as a band together. If we didn’t have that connection maybe things would get fractured, being siblings definitely helps.

Mercedes: And just being on the road together, it’s nice to be with someone who knows what you’re going through, understands you and always has your back – is always helpful. 

How has growing up in Canada influenced your music?

Phoenix: I think there is actually a canadian scene, but it tends to get overlooked, because of all the talent coming out of America. There is a really interesting Canadian rock scene, which hopefully will start to get a little bit more recognition. Growing up listening to Alexisonfire, Metric, Cancer Bats, a lot of really cool rock artists that have been in the scene for a long time, definitely when we were teenagers, helped to inspire us as we saw other people like us can reach these new heights. 

Mercedes: There’s this stereotype in Canada that everyone knows each other, it’s a little true to be honest, in this small tight knit music scene you do feel like you know the other artists and you’ve also got your eye on the ones that start to rise and become known internationally, which can be cool. In our hometown it is also a scene with not a lot of representation for women, so back in the day we would be playing in bands and perhaps the only women on the bill. There are a lot of women in the audience, but not a lot of women on stage and I’m happy to see that dynamic start to change now, I like that it is becoming more normalized and when you see your own representation, you feel like you can do it too. When we started as teenagers we did feel a little like the odd ones out. Sometimes there can be bands that would take us under their wing, or it can go the other way and people can hold veiled sexism. It helped us focus on being good musicians, because we needed to prove them wrong. So in some ways it helped propel us into this mindset we’re in now.

‘Another Bish’ highlights misogyny, you obviously think this is still prominent in the industry, what do you think our leaders can do to help this?

Phoenix: I agree that you have to have representation, so I guess if you’re in a leadership position, you should consider that and try to include women, trans-women, any group that is under represented it does go a really long way to see people doing it who’re different. Try not not stick to norms’ and don’t do what’s comfortable or easy. I think that the music industry is being shaken up with major labels, with radio not being such a thing anymore and becoming something where people pay more attention to streaming and playlists. I think all these point towards adaptation and not trying to cling on to old ways.

Mercedes: Just to add to that, just judge things based on merit. We’d be applying for tours and get turned down for literally just being a girl band and trying to get in other bands where they’d be like ‘this isn’t a girl band, we’re just looking for a guy,’ it’s so frustrating when you have the musicianship, you have the merit and the only thing holding us back is something we have no control over. People just need to think,’is the music good? Do I like this band?’ Without really thinking of what sex the band is.

How did you learn the guitar and drums, can you remember the first time you played?

Phoenix: What happened was, when we started to jam, Mercedes was really proficient on guitar, and we realised we needed a drummer to go with that and our voices, as a two piece. So I took it upon myself to teach myself how to play. I kind of just fell into that position but it’s my passion now.

Mercedes: I always wanted to play guitar, I can’t explain it. When you’re a kid and you start getting into music, I was really into Avril Lavigne as a kid, sorry not sorry, and she was marketed as this skater girl / punk and  in some of her videos she had an electric guitar. Because of this I got more into the alternative scene, looking up to other women that were paving the way like Joan Jett. Not just the face of the band, but also those performing and writing too, I had role models when I was younger that got me into it.

Who are you counting in?

Mercedes: A band we’ve been listening to a lot at the moment is Slow Pulp. They’re still pretty indie, they’re awesome, every live session we’ve seen is flawless. They’re my current favourite and I can see them really blowing up. 

Phoenix: Bully, is another artist that could blow up so big in a couple years.

Be sure to check out Softcult’s debut single Another Bish below.