Girls In Synthesis on their forthcoming second album | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 29th, 2023  

Girls In Synthesis On Their Forthcoming Second Album

Meet the London based trio that epitomises the true spirit of DIY culture

Mar 15, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Meet Girls In Synthesis, a trio from London that epitomise the true spirit of DIY culture in the 21st century. A genuine word of mouth success story who’ve built a reputation as one of the most exciting live bands and recording outfits in the UK through hard graft and quality output.

Formed in 2016, the trio – John Linger (guitar & vocals), Jim Cubitt (bass) and Nicole Pinto (drums) – launched themselves unceremoniously via the visceral noise overload of debut single “The Mound”, a double a-side with the equally challenging “Disappear”. Released in the early part of 2017, it’s as ubiquitous and exhilarating as introductions go, while paving the way for a plethora of socially aware, politically astute (but never preachy), loud and direct slabs of portentous noise rock that’s often an uneasy listen but always rewarding.

Having all cut their teeth playing in numerous bands for a good decade or more prior to forming Girls In Synthesis, it seems all three have created the perfect outlet to release those pent-up frustrations. More recently garnered by successive Tory governments and the car crash that’s Brexit which looms heavily over anything that might once have been prosperous within the UK’s desolate confines.

For Girls In Synthesis their constant quest to push boundaries and rally against the predictable makes them something of a national treasure in waiting. 2020’s debut album Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future was just that. A dystopian nightmare set to the most embellished of caustic passages that challenged authority (“Set Up To Fail”, “Cause For Concern”), social injustice (“They’re Not Listening”), government propaganda (“Tirades Of Hate And Fear”) and everything else in between.

Last year’s mini-LP Shift In State came as a companion piece of sorts to the debut, a document closing that chapter before the trio move onto their next stage. Which recent singles “Pulling Teeth” and “Enveloped” manage to achieve with innate aplomb.

October sees the arrival of the band’s second album entitled The Rest Is Distraction, the long-awaited follow-up to Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future. Under the Radar caught up with the trio prior to their recently rescheduled headline show at Nottingham’s Chameleon Arts Café, which finally went ahead at the third time of asking.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): How’s the tour been so far?

John Linger: It’s been really good. The first show was in Reading at a place called Face Bar which I was a bit worried about because I didn’t really know a lot about it. But it was really cool and also gave us a chance to try out some new material in the set. It was a good starting point for the tour, and then we did the Shacklewell Arms in London which was sold out with another fifty-plus people waiting for tickets. We could have played a bigger venue but we didn’t know that at the time. We’re five dates in now and it’s probably fair to say they’ve been the most successful run of dates we’ve done so far. Musically, the songs are way more diverse as well. It’s not just loud and thrashy. We’ve got new material in there which is opening things up for us so it’s been a good tour to date.

It’s probably fair to say Girls In Synthesis have been a real word-of-mouth success story with no hype, very little press or PR and no radio play. But instead have amassed a reputation as one of the most engagingly exciting live bands on the circuit that’s growing at a rate of knots. I also believe if the Covid-19 pandemic hadn’t have happened when it did and stopped the band in its tracks as the debut album was gaining momentum, Girls In Synthesis could potentially be even bigger right now.

John Linger: Do you know what, I’m actually pleased that we had those two years off. It sounds really weird now, but it gave us time and space to regroup and start recording. As soon as restrictions were lifted enough for us to be together, we just made the next album. So, it was good to have that time off. Because we wanted the first album to land in a specific way. We wanted it to be really direct and concise, and I think we honed it in a little bit too much. Looking back on it, the first album had too many barriers. So, I think about what we’ve done now when we had the time off. I wrote about 30 songs in the space of three months, then sent the demos over to everyone and we just picked through the stuff. Then we recorded it in three months and it’s just a whole different vibe to the first one. It’s way more expansive. The music’s more varied. The words are nowhere near as sloganeering or finger pointing. Whereas if we hadn’t had that two-year break we’d probably just carried on and ran with it and be in a different place now. However, it means we’ve had time to just explore things slightly differently. It still sounds like us. It’s just more varied and listenable.

Girls In Synthesis are a difficult – if not impossible – band to pigeonhole both sonically and from a genre perspective. Is that something you’re conscious of?

John Linger: We’ve never been easy to pigeonhole. That’s a good thing sometimes but it can also be a bit of a hindrance. Some people tagged us post-punk but I don’t think that suits. The issue I have with the modern post-punk tag in general is that most of those bands are just indie! I’m an old school fan of post-punk so post-punk to me is PiL, Gang Of Four, Siouxsie & The Banshees. Bands that were experimental. So, the stuff that’s classed as post-punk now is actually quite laughable. There’s some good bands as well, but I guess the bottom-line is don’t listen to the shit ones. So, it’s good we’re not easily classifiable and as a result, people are finding their own way into it. The sound’s becoming more amorphous and it’s like when you look back at certain bands and think “What are they?” It’s just them. I think that’s becoming more apparent in what we’re doing.

You’ve already released two singles since last year’s Shift In State mini-LP with “Enveloped” and “Pulling Teeth”. Are they the final pieces of the bridge between albums one and two? Or even an introduction to the next chapter?

John Linger: Funnily enough they’re not because both songs are actually newer than what’s on the album! Which is a bit of a bummer really because we did the album and they we were trying to find something to put out. We didn’t want to release anything off the album too early and we wanted to find something to bridge the gap and promote these dates. We’ve got another interim record coming out in June that’s a standalone release which is actually more what the third album will be like. The next album is more like the first record, so in a way the second album is a bridge between the debut and “Enveloped”. It’s weird. We’re just ahead of ourselves so much that we can’t hold it back. I love it, but it gets fucking confusing because people come in and hear something like “Enveloped”.

When I listen back to Girls In Synthesis’ earliest recordings such as debut single “The Mound” and a lot of those EP tracks from 2017 and 2018 through to Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future and the most recent singles, there’s a clear progression with every subsequent release. If you had the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently?

John Linger: I don’t think so. The way we did it really benefited us by releasing those three EPs at the start. Because they were all shortform releases, it gave us the scope to try almost anything. Things like “Solid Effect” (off 2017’s Suburban Hell EP) didn’t really have a lot to do with where we ended up, but it did mean we were able to explore a few different avenues without nailing it to the mast. So, I wouldn’t do anything differently at all. However, I was glad that we did that stuff when we did it because we didn’t want to go down one route too much, too early on. We did in a way with the debut album, but it’s definitely opened up now. We still treat EPs and mini-albums like that. Shift In State that came out last year after the first LP is very much like that. It’s a mix of everyting that might not fit on an album, but it does need to come out in some way. They’re more experimental releases, whereas the albums we treat more as a piece of art.

Nicole Pinto: When we recorded “The Mound”, we got together for one rehearsal. That was it, never recorded anything. The next rehearsal we recorded that recording. It was like, BOOM! Let’s go.

Both the cover artwork and your visuals – particularly the recent video for “Enveloped” – are very monochrome, almost like a mix of sixties art school cinema and the kind of imagery Crass used in the late seventies and early eighties. Is that a deliberate statement?

John Linger: The way colour’s used in graphics can actually date stuff quite badly, so that’s the reason we chose to do everything in black and white. We thought that by leaving colours out, it would appear more classic and timeless. Also, when we started, we had these parameters that we worked within and that’s something we still carry on. Once you know that’s what you’re working with, you’re not scratching your head about it. It’s hard to explain. So, it is very deliberate and it suits the music as well.

Girls In Synthesis also have their own label, Own It Records, and recently put out the first release by another artist that wasn’t GIS. The debut single by Preston’s UHR entitled “Eskimo/Written Reply”. How did the label start and what are the future plans for Own It? Will you be releasing more music by other artists?

John Linger: When we released the first record, we went into partnership with Cargo Distribution. We don’t get any money from them but they do pay for everything up front before the record comes out. So, all the pressing, test pressings and distribution goes through them. We wanted it to go out under something. We were originally working with Steve Underwood that used to manage Sleaford Mods, who was fantastic and great to work with but he’s had enough of the music industry and to be honest, I don’t blame him. He’s opened up a record shop in Hastings. We’re playing St Leonards in a couple of weeks so we’re looking forward to seeing him again.

With regards to other bands, we just haven’t got the time at the minute. The guys in UHR are friends of ours and I mixed their single. When they were looking for someone to put it out, I offered to do it digitally through Own It, and they supported us in Manchester last weekend. They’ve got another five or six gigs lined up now off the back of that single, so if that’s as far as we go with them, I’m really happy about that. If there’s other bands, we all enjoy and we can help get them on their way, I’m happy with that. It would be great further down the line to be able to do a physical release for another band but at the moment we’re all just so busy with Girls In Synthesis. We don’t make friends with many bands or listen to that much music, but when something comes along, you can just tell it’s the right thing. So, we’ll do what we can if the timing is right.

Have you ever felt like that?

John Linger: Probably not, I mean I’m still here! But seriously yeah, sometimes of course. You see some of the shit that people listen to now and it’s outrageous. It seriously is. Without being bitter about it, people have their own tastes and can listen to what they want but there is a point where you just think enough’s enough. We don’t hang out with other bands. We don’t really listen to other bands. We do what we do and that’s pretty much it. Maybe that’s held us back a little bit, but we don’t really have that many friends in other bands. We’ve got each other and our wider collective, which is probably four or five people. But we’re so focused on what we’re doing that we aren’t really interested in anybody else.

Did you think there are certain artists, certain bands that are treated differently based on their relationships with key figures in the music industry?

John Linger: The way I see it is this. Some of the music I’ve liked over the years has been mainstream, but a lot of it was made by bands that never quite got to where they should have done. For example, Gang Of Four. People talk about and reference their music a lot now, but at the time they were largely forgotten about unless you were into that scene. So, I do think there are certain bands that get preferential treatment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have a long and successful career either.

There seems to be a growing number of artists that played in bands for years without too much success, that have since gone to play in new bands and reap the rewards today. I’m thinking of yourselves and Yard Act for example. Do you think your experiences from the past have stood you in good stead to prepare yourselves for what the industry is really like now?

John Linger: We always have this discussion. We’ve saved a lot of time this time round by knowing what not to do. The industry’s changed beyond recognition for me since I started playing in my first band. There’s no money in it any more, and one of the other reasons we set up Own It Records was because bands can no longer get development deals. You’re either signed or independent. It has helped us navigate through some of the stuff bands often take an age to decide.

Nicole Pinto: I think it helps that we’ve all come together from years of playing in different bands. We’ve all made mistakes along the way. I know I certainly did, but I’ve also learned so much too. I wouldn’t necessarily call us a supergroup but we’re all at a certain level where we can just walk in and play, while knowing professionally what we need to do.

John Linger: That’s exactly why we don’t mention our pasts when it comes to bands. We don’t need to, and if people notice then that’s fine. But do we say it in press releases? No. Do we say it interviews? No. It’s like when people start talking about a job they did twenty years ago. It doesn’t matter. As great as it is for people to have those memories, this is our focus and this is the reason why we’ve managed to get things to the level where they are because we’ve worked really fucking hard.

Has the second album got a title?

John Linger: The title’s The Rest Is Distraction, and it’s coming out on our own label through Cargo. It’s coming out in mid-October. This album still has the sound people know us for but there’s definitely a few boundaries being pushed. Maybe not for everyone – it’s not fucking drum and bass – but for us we’re definitely stretching our wings a little bit.

Nicole Pinto: I think a band has to evolve otherwise what’s the point?

John Linger: You still have to retain your identity but you don’t have to just stick to that.

Girls In Synthesis formed in 2016. The EU Referendum was held in 2016. Since then, we’ve also experienced Trump in the States and a Tory government in the UK that just becomes worse with every passing day. Do you think a band like Girls In Synthesis are symbiotic with the times? Would this band exist in its current form during any other period of history?

John Linger: Personally, I think we’d still exist because a lot of the tension from within the band was internal and personal as well. Although there is a political aspect to it and we all have our own different views, but we also know the difference between wrong or right. By no means are we experts in talking about politics, but I’d say the political climate definitely influenced the first album. Some of those songs are very politically driven, and a lot of the energy comes through that.

Jim Cubitt: The whole idea of our band came from wanting to break out and do something with all that contained energy we got with other groups we’d played in. We wanted to do something we truly believe in, and also represent who we really are.

John Linger: That absorbs everything, so with this new record the songs are way more internalised. They’re still quite anguished and anxious lyrics, but they’re more about either us or how the person we’re singing about feels. There’s a song on the record called “My Husband” which is about domestic violence, and there’s another song on the album called “To A Fault” which is about child abuse. They’re tough subjects to write about. When I was writing about them over the lockdown period, part of me felt a little uneasy as I had no experience of either so should I be approaching it? But when I look at the lyrics, I’d like to think they’re respectful rather than sensationalistic. It’s about putting yourself in the mindset of that person.

Nicole Pinto: I had to question him after listening to the lyrics and ask if he was OK.

John Linger: I don’t see why songwriters should only be confined to writing about specific subjects. If the songs are well written and respectful, I don’t see any reason why certain subjects can’t be broached. The music suits the lyrics. They’re touching songs. They’re heavy going, but we can’t keep singing about the same stuff on every record. The music has to develop, but then so does the lyrical content. There’s still stuff on there which is notifiably about subjects that we’d normally tackle. But there are also songs on the album that are outside of our comfort zones. I’m not one of those people that says lockdown informed the record because it absolutely didn’t, and a lot of those songs were already done anyway. But what the lockdown situation did for me as a lyricist was make me think everyone’s stuck indoors, what are people going through? People cannot get out of this situation because there’s no escape. That’s where some of those songs came from. It’s nothing to do with lockdown, it’s to do with isolation. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be stuck at home with an abusive partner. Those subjects deserve their stories to be studied and told. Everything needs to be explored. There’s no taboo. The only taboo really is locking yourself away from something that happens.

Girls In Synthesis have always written thought-provoking lyrics rather than preach to the converted. I think that definitely comes through in everything you’ve released so far.

John Linger: Definitely. The reason we don’t preach is because I’ve never met a flawless person. I’ve never met someone who’s never done anything wrong in their lives so it’s no good us telling people how to live. We’re not perfect. We’ve tried as hard as we can to live a good way but you know, how good can you possibly be?

Jim Cubitt: People still make bad decisions. We don’t give people answers or tell them what to think, we shine a light on it. Just give them ideas to explore and its quite cathartic.

John Linger: It is as intense as it looks. There’s a real feeling when we’re playing these shows that anything can happen. When I’m singing these lyrics, I still feel the same as I did the first time I sang them. They still mean a lot to us. A lot of lyrics wouldn’t get through the door if we didn’t feel that way.

You’ve all had years of experience playing in various bands. What advice would you give to a new band just starting out? What would you tell them to avoid?

John Linger: Don’t bother doing it if you’re only in it for the fame and money. There’s no point. That shouldn’t be a thing anyway. If you’re expecting to live the rest of your life off of music in that way it’s not a reason to be getting into it. We’ve all got day jobs and work long hours outside of doing this, and I’m glad we have because it makes us work even fucking harder. We don’t sit around all day contemplating our navels or thinking about what we could be doing because we haven’t got the time. So, we’ll be at work all day then go to rehearse until 10 or 11 at night and go home knackered until the following morning then do it all again. In the meantime, we’re planning all the tours, all the gigs, all the recordings. It never stops. But for us, this is an outlet. If it wasn’t for this I don’t know where any of us would be. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you work to live, you don’t live to work. For us, to be able to go to work one day then play a gig the next is as much as we want to do. We just want to do this. I’d love it if it were a full-time job but then I’m also glad it isn’t because we don’t want to become complacent.

Nicole Pinto: That’s the worst thing that can happen to a young band just starting out, becoming complacent. Same as don’t become preoccupied with other bands either. It’s fine just doing what you want to do for yourselves. John and Jim are complete music people and so am I to a certain extent, but I also love fashion. I like other things as well. I’m not so engrossed in what other bands are doing that it becomes an obsession. So, my final piece of advice would be to have other interests outside of music. I just think if you’re in a band and constantly looking at other bands then asking why you’re not doing the same its unhealthy and also unoriginal as well.

John Linger: Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a certain type of music and musician now that can probably get themselves into that position now, where it might be easier to get picked up and as a result get bigger. But my advice to younger musicians will always be if you don’t mean it and are only doing it for that reason then don’t fucking bother. Go and get a career instead, and earn £35-40 grand a year. You’ll have less hassle. You’ll have less stress on your plate. You can smell those in it for the wrong reasons a mile off! You’ve got to meet the right people, write some decent songs, go to rehearsals then play some gigs. They’re the four things you’ve got to do first. Fuck everything else. Don’t worry about equipment, don’t worry about backing, don’t worry about management or PR and all the other rubbish that comes later. If you haven’t got any music or an identity and an attitude you haven’t got a chance.

The single “Enveloped” is out now.

Girls In Synthesis Bandcamp


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