Piroshka – Miki Berenyi and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop on “Love Drips and Gathers” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 26th, 2021  

Piroshka – Miki Berenyi and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop on “Love Drips and Gathers”

Love, Relationships, and Internalized Feelings

Jul 23, 2021
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Piroshka rose from the aftermath of the long-awaited Lush reunion, which came to a spectacular and somewhat uneasy ending in 2018. But despite tensions, Lush’s former guitarist and frontwoman Miki Berenyi had no regrets about Lush’s reformation and enjoyed her return to the live stage much more than she had anticipated. It was Justin Welch the former Elastica drummer who played one Lush reunion tour, and Modern English’s Mick Conroy, who replaced Phil King for the final Lush show, who persuaded Berenyi that they should continue to work together on a different musical project.

Joined by Miki’s partner KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop (of Moose), Piroshka were born and their debut album Brickbat was a driving political album that addressed issues such as Brexit, social inequality, and austerity. However, the band’s follow-up album, Love Drips and Gathers, is a very different beast—it’s an album of textured introspection, experimentation, and gratitude. Under the Radar caught up with Berenyi and McKillop to discuss how the band approached album two and put to bed the question—would there ever be another Lush reunion?

Andy Von Pip (Under the Radar): How have you both been during the pandemic?

KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop: We’ve been alright in general thanks. We’ve both been double vaxed and life is slowly starting to return to normal, whatever normal is! But seeing people and having friends around again is nice. We’ve even been to a gig albeit a gig with social distancing measures in place but it was nice to see people on stage hitting drums and bashing away at guitars again.

Miki always seemed the most resistant to stepping back into music yet during the Lush reunion she seemed to be the most enthusiastic. When the idea of Pirsohka was discussed, Moose did you immediately think, “yeah let’s go for it,” or did it take some persuading?

Moose: Well it was the end of the Lush reunion when things slightly fell apart and it was after that final Manchester show it was mooted. When Lush reformed, Justin was really driving things in rehearsals with Miki to get things to sound as good as possible. And when Mick Conroy stepped in on bass for the final show there was a real dynamic and that was such a great show it felt like a shame for that to all suddenly stop.

Miki Berenyi: I think also for that show to get Mick to learn the bass lines, it was mainly just me Mick and Justin in rehearsals, obviously Phil wasn’t involved, and Emma [Anderson, Lush guitarist] did a couple of sessions but it was mainly the three of us rehearsing as Mick had 27 songs to learn. Justin felt it had been such good fun with the three of us so he was really up for doing something else. And then Moose was playing hard to get, so there was a bit of persuasion on our part to get Moose on aboard.

Moose: There wasn’t that much arm twisting, to be honest. It was mainly Justin and Miki who were the ideas machine for Piroshka initially and I came to that side of things a little later. At the beginning of the Lush reunion, I was quite reluctant for them to reform. Not that I had to sanction it or give it the thumbs up, but the kids were quite young and it meant more responsibility for me too as Miki would be rehearsing a lot. I mean there was a solid chunk of time where Miki was spending most of her evenings just relearning the Lush songs from scratch. She’d be watching videos on YouTube from things like Lush live in Chicago in 1994 to try and remember what the hell the chords were evening after evening. And this was before any rehearsals had started. So I’ll be honest I was against Lush reforming, I thought it was a disaster waiting to happen. It had been mooted a few times previously in the early 2000s. Emma had floated the idea at least twice and I was just sitting in the corner shaking my head saying “fucking bad idea.” More in the sense of the legacy, I mean obviously, there was something awful about the way Lush originally ended. But that was it, it seemed over. They had this lovely body of work that people loved, they hadn’t blotted their copybook. There was almost this mythology on the internet with fan sites. The internet changes the way bands are portrayed, and Lush had a solid fan base on the internet, the name was kept alive, there was great affection and I thought, “That’s nice, probably best not to go and do anything crazy… like reform!” And when Emma mentioned it for the third time, it took Miki a good six or seven months to think it over and I was saying, “Bad idea, I don’t think you should.” I remember we were on holiday visiting Miki’s mum and I’d been thinking about it and said, “Do you really want to do this?” And Miki said, “I really do,” and the rest is history. This is a very longwinded way of saying if Lush hadn’t reformed I wouldn’t be doing music now.

Miki: I think we both didn’t have the confidence or can-do attitude that Justin and Mick have and that’s an integral thing to any band.

So onto the “difficult” second album, if Brickbat was driven by enthusiasm and rediscovering the joy of creating music again—Love Drips and Gathers seems to be a slightly more explorative affair

Moose: Yeah they are quite distinct. Brickbat was our first foray as a band and it was quite exciting. It was also a case of basically all the songs we had written at that point went on the album.

Miki: We weren’t signed to Bella Union at the time so we had all the songs, and I wasn’t deluding myself that the world was about to shit its collective pants because we were back recording music. Brickbat was initially self-funded, which meant we had to record at breakneck speed, we are like “this is costing us so we have four days and record everything.” It was then we approached Simon Raymonde at Bella Union initially to see if he knew anybody who would be interested in releasing it and he was like, “Oh, I’ll put it out.” So with Love Drips and Gathers we had more time to work out what sort of album we wanted to make.

Moose: Yeah we did have the luxury on this album where we could go into the studio and work on guitar parts or keyboard parts. There’s been more time to experiment with it, live with it for a few days and then maybe think, “We could do a better guitar part for that.” So having the time was a big change this time around and we worked with Bella Union’s in-house engineer Iggy, who took on more of a producer role on this album. And he is really mellow and helps create a relaxed atmosphere. When we ask if we can try something out he’ll never turn round and say, “That’s a fucking stupid idea I’m not wasting three hours on that shit!

Miki: [Laughs] Even if he’s thinking it is.

What was the first song you wrote for the album?

Miki: The oldest song is “We Told You,” which we initially wrote for Brickbat and have played it live. Justin was really keen for it to go on the album, but I was never really happy with the vocal on the original. So I said, “If it’s going to go on the album then we really need to take it apart,” which we did.

Moose: The first song I wrote for the album was “Hastings,” which was quite mellow and spacey and a bit more ambient than anything we had done before. Everybody seemed to like it, so the next couple of songs were in that sort of vein. And the stuff Miki was writing was a lot more spacey and textured too.

Miki: I do find it really difficult to write in a completely different way and there’s always a really identifiable pattern there. Whereas in Lush the songwriting was quite divided, it was either my songs or Emma’s and although I might have written some lyrics for Emma’s sonically it was always one of us working with the producer. There was a feeling of not treading on each other’s toes, and that suited Emma’s way of writing but for me, I felt a bit stranded. I’d struggle to write all the bass lines or the backing vocals without having any real collaboration. But with Prisohka I can write a “typical Miki song” and then hand it over to Mick who will then write some amazing basslines, and then Moose will put all sorts of atonal guitars on there which can really change the feel of the song. Which for me is much more satisfying, I don’t get precious about it and say, “Oh hang on, don’t change that bit, that’s not how I heard it in my head.” I’m more, “No please do change it as I’ve reached the limit as what I can do with that song.” And it’s something we all do, for example Mick was the originator of “Familiar,” which then turned into something completely different. I added all the cello stuff to “The Knife Thrower’s Daughter,” but that sort of collaborative way of working is how it’s normally done surely? The songs are generally quite structured when we go into the studio, we don’t really “jam.” I mean I’m not the sort of person who can stand in a rehearsal room and someone says “okay it’s in A” and just tear into it.

Moose: Yeah, and we’d be like, “It’s in a… what? You haven’t finished the fucking sentence mate!” [Laughs]

Did I read that Ivo-Watts Russell [joint founder of 4AD records] wasn’t keen on Brickbat?

Miki: Well he didn’t actually hate it…

Moose: He just actively disliked it. [Laughs]

Miki: What was the comment? “There’s nothing on this album I can relate to.” Which I get, it’s not his thing, he felt the same about parts of Lovelife [Lush’s final album]. But you don’t go to Ivo for any sort of soft soap, it’s the same with [producer/musician] Tim Friese-Greene, if he doesn’t like something he’ll tell you why he doesn’t like it. Which is why you ask people like that.

Where did the album title Love Drips and Gathers come from?

Miki: It’s from the Dylan Thomas poem—The force that through the green fuse drives the flower”—which I remember doing as part of a degree. With Brickbat the title felt quite political and angsty, which reflected the album, as did the artwork. With Love Drips and Gathers it was more about love, relationships, and internalized feelings. And when I saw Chris’ [Biggs] artwork with the little pools of blood and it had more of a poetic feel, so I did scour poetry. And it’s really difficult to come up with titles now that haven’t been used because there are so many billions of albums out there these days. And it fitted with the overall vibe, and I don’t think anybody else has used it yet!

And Miki you really seem to have embraced social media?

Miki: [Laughs] I do like to have a rant, I blame Moose, he gets me all fired up on a subject when we’ve had a drink and then he says, “Okay, I’m off to bed now,” and I’m still up and feel the need to bellow to the world. [Laughs] But yeah, before and during the Lush reunion I wasn’t on social media at all, but when we started Piroshka I thought, “Okay, so we are going to have to be on social media so I’m going to need to build up some sort of profile.” This is why I started my own profile and, some would say cynically [laughs], posting lots of old photos of Lush. And also politically because it wasn’t a happy split with Lush as I fell out with the other two, I didn’t really feel at the time I could march into the Lush social media space and start posting about my new band. I felt I needed to build up my own space, which has actually been quite good fun, more fun than I thought it would be. It certainly has its place, although I’m not sure I have the right psyche for social media, I tend to overanalyze everything and can feel massively anxious and always worry I might piss somebody off. This is why I end up posting when I’m drunk [laughs] because that’s when the anxiety switches off.

Okay so we can definitively say there will never be another Lush reunion, but I believe there is a Moose retrospective planned in the form of a career-spanning box set?

Moose: There defiantly won’t be another Lush reunion, I can tell you that now, no fucking way! But yes, Simon at Bella Union is organizing the box set right now, I’ve also spoken to Lara [Skinner], who did our original artwork, and she said she’d be very happy to produce the artwork. It could end up as a six-album vinyl release, all the albums plus B-sides and whatnots, so it will be quite a chunky thing. It will take some time I guess to draw it all together, but it will be nice because so many things aren’t available, there’s stuff that isn’t even on Spotify. I suppose the fact that we were on three different labels doesn’t help, but the wheels are in motion so fingers crossed.

How do you find touring compared to when you were younger?

Moose: Well this time around we all wanted to actually enjoy the gigs and be on stage not nursing a fucking massive hangover. I remember the first time in the ’90s when you played a great gig and were still up at four in the morning and you’d feel absolutely dreadful the next day. Also now there are no days off so after the gig we are often packed up within half an hour and in a Travel Lodge!

Miki: I also think this rather more mature, lack of pissed up behaviour is also down to the fact that we have to hoik our own gear everywhere. With Lush, we had a crew that would pack up for us so we could all swan off and get totally shit faced. In those days we also had the advantage of a massive tour bus where you could sleep it off. Touring Europe with Pirsohka was fun, but sadly that’s gone out the window now because of Brexit. It’s not just down to the onerous time-consuming paperwork but it’s the financial implications. I mean the fact you have to pay tax on your merchandise before you’ve even crossed the bloody English Channel, that’s really going to affect bands at our level. We didn’t make any money on our last tour doing the UK and Europe, we broke even, which was all we wanted, but the only way that was possible was by selling merch. But now we’d have to pay tax because clearly now we are selling products in a different economic zone, which makes things financially impossible now. I mean previously that would have paid for the hotel or the petrol. So Europe it’s going to be really difficult for young bands and bands at our level unless you’re willing to sleep on people’s floors. That was fine when I was younger with [pre-Lush band] The Bugs, but fuck me I’m a bit old for that now!

www.piroshkaband.com

Read our 2019 interview with Piroshka on Brickbat.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Miki Berenyi.

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