Blast From the Past: Trash Kit
This originally ran in MRR #326/July ’10 which you can pick up here
I’ve read about bands being described as Afro-beat, Post Punk, but they end up sounding like a shitty ska group or a Joy Division covers band. These two genres (Afro-beat and post punk) can lazily be used to describe Trash KIT; but I think these genres can and do represent the best aspects of the group. The first time I came across Trash KIT was when the group opened up for the band I played drums in—Black Time. Being a cool jerk, I was upstairs drinking beer and missed what was a short-lived, two-piece incarnation of the group. From then on people kept telling me how good Trash KIT was; so I went down to the next gig. There I found short songs, beautiful melodies, harmonies and rhythms—oh man, the rhythms! With the odd donk of the djembe drum thrown in and when it all got too smooth, some angsty yelps. Needless to say, I was hooked and have now seen them many times. The songs are getting more familiar in my mind and the rhythms and harmonies constantly invade my thoughts. So I managed to get hold of Rachel Aggs (guitar, violin and vocals) and Ros Murray (bass) to answer some questions and spread this great London band to whoever wants to listen. (There are two Rachels in this band in case you get confused…)
Interview by Mr. Stix
MRR: Due to the internet there is now an excess of hassling patrons online. They invite ten thousand to a Facebook event or get you to vote for their song on the Smirnoff Rock Chart. Do you agree with this aggressive marketing?
Rachel: We’ve been really lucky so far with “promotion,” like not needing to do it at all, so I don’t know. I feel sorry for bands that are duped into signing up with totally bogus agents, etc. But it’s easy for me to say because we never really needed or wanted to!
Ros: No! I’m not on Facebook so I don’t understand it and don’t have to worry about it, but it also means that I miss out on lots of fun things too.
MRR: You are putting an album out on Upset the Rhythm. How did this come about, taking into consideration your lack of excessive blogging or rock chart votes? Or are you guilty of the aforementioned contemporary sins?
Rachel: We gave our souls to Upset The Rhythm Records right after the first time they saw us play Yes Way. Yes Way was this amazing mini festival they put on at a disused car showroom in south London called Auto Italia. James from Pheromoans and Sex Is Disgusting Records saw us play our second ever show and told Chris [from Upset The Rhythm] that we should play. This was still only a month after our first gig so we didn’t get much of a chance to “promote” ourselves, it’s been a year since then and we’re going to have an album out soon so the Upset The Rhythm promo machine is getting into gear! We’re loading the biggest guns they got!!
Ros: Chris and Claire heard us on MySpace and asked us to play Yes Way, and then they asked us to do the album…
MRR: Originality seems to be a big buzz word in the music business. However, everyone (the cool people) knows you start by borrowing from your influences. I believe yours are proudly displayed on your sleeves. But you also mix it up a bit by having a djembe drum as part of your consistent drum sound and a violin thrown in on one track replacing the guitar. How did this transformation take place? Or was it a ploy to get into the post-punk, Afro-beat demographic?Ros: Rachel can reply to this better, I just play bass.
Rachel: [laughter] Well I can’t claim we’re doing anything “new,” but I hope trash kit would never sound pre-meditated or contrived because it’s always felt very natural. We knew we wanted to start a band where Rachel [Rachel Horwood, their drummer] played awesome drums; drums are what it’s all based around. Rachel had only just started playing, but I knew she was going to get really good really fast and I wanted drums to be like the lead instrument in the band. The name trash kit comes from an article I read in Shotgun Seamstress by Osa (an amazing violin player) from New Bloods, it’s a zine about punks of color and had this totally inspiring article about street drummers in DC who use trash cans as drums.
Something about the way the zine spoke about empowering people of different ethnic makeup to get them involved in making music and the queer angle of Osa’s writing just made me want to explode. The way she wrote about those drums was so exciting that it got me so impatient to start making music that really engaged with how I felt about all that stuff .It got me really creative and resourceful about making music. You should read her stuff!! New Bloods is a big influence.
As for the violin song, it was just in the room one day, I wrote that song on the guitar and it sounded shit so I told Ros, “You should play this on bass and I’ll do something on the violin,” so including it in the band wasn’t pre-meditated. I do worry that the violin song sounds a lot like Raincoats, but I think the Raincoats are pretty much the best band ever so I don’t worry about it too much! We were also really excited to get our friend Verity Susman to play sax on the album and I really hope the next time we record we can get even more cool instruments in the mix. Hopefully Verity is going to start playing a few shows with us too, which will be ace! She is super talented.
MRR: The harmonies are killer live as are some of the crazy beats and violin appearance. This could destroy any DIY punk cred—but is there a history of choir practice or music school with Trash KIT?
Rachel: What punk cred? [laughter] Yeah, we were all pretty kick ass at music in school. When we were really young, Rachel and I bonded when we first met through stories of doing terrifying piano recitals. Rachel is way better than I ever was. Ros learned cello.
Rachel can play shit loads of instruments like guitar, sax, piano, accordion, violin… Rachel and Ros are the best people to play music with ever. Putting together songs and doing harmonies is like falling off a log with them. I guess they’re both very naturally musical. I learned violin at school but really I just used to play music with my dad and his friends and I think that’s where I learned to love playing with bands. We played most of the Band’s back catalogue and lots of country stuff like Emmylou Harris, etc. I learned mandolin and got into bluegrass/Appalachian music as well as English folk, that’s how I learned to “pick.” I only started playing guitar about a year ago cause I never owned one before. I know that’s probably the weirdest way to get into playing guitar, but it makes sense to me! Oh, but choir practice!? No. We just like singing! And it’s usually pretty out of tune!
Ros: I can’t sing so I don’t join in the harmonies.
MRR: I believe it was Mike Watt of the Minutemen who said something along the lines of, “When the Minutemen created their songs they tried to make little punk rock symphonies.” Judging by your song structures would it be safe to assume you create music in the same vein?
Rachel: Cool! I like that idea a lot, but I think it would be pretty big headed to say that about our song writing. We just try hard not to be too obvious or derivative with anything we write. We would get really bored otherwise; we get bored quite easily. Every time we put a song together it’s a fight against everything obvious or easy, we’re trying to create something that we’re still going to be excited about playing in a couple months or years time as well as trying to create something that’s has an intensity and an energy to it and goes beyond slick riffs and easy grooves. I really like the Minutemen, but I’ve only ever really gotten into the album Post Mersh or something, the one with all the mega short songs on it? It’s amazing because all the songs are so intense and past faced and full of ideas. A guy once said we sounded like the Minutemen, but I assume that was just cause we were nervous, we play really fast when we’re nervous.
MRR: Living in England, how much of your sound or lyrics adhere to that?
Ros: I grew up during brit pop times. I’m a bit older than the Rachel’s, so I always listened to very English music, also, many of my favorite bass players are English—Rachel Holborow of Red Monkey, Jane Munro of the Au pairs, Gina Birch of the Raincoats. But I don’t believe in patriotism of course! You are always influenced by your surroundings, whether you like it or not, but we have lots of influences from lots of different places. I mean, the lyrics about the mega bus are quite English. I wonder what Americans would make of that? Maybe they think Rachel’s singing about some kind of mega fancy tour bus or something.
Rachel: Hopefully we sound like where we come from because that would mean we’re expressing what it’s like to be alive, and to be living where we are. I can’t imagine being in a band that wasn’t all about that. I listen to so much music from all different parts of the world… I think it’s more complicated than being able to say all English bands sound like Delta 5 or the Slits. As soon as anyone hears a female voice with an English accent it sounds “so ’70s” or something. I think that’s sad, I don’t think you should have to put a million distortion pedals on your voice just to sound “so 2010”.
Official music video I directed for Trash Kit.
MRR: Do you intend to stay loyal to your sound or will you start referencing Cadillac’s, milk shakes, jocks and hot dogs to crack that American demographic?
Ros: No way! Although the word “trash” is an American word… but Rachel Aggs is half American anyway…
Rachel: [laughter] Cadillacs! When I hear Rivka from Wet Dog sing “Steal A Car” I still get so excited just cause it feels like it’s really written about life in this town and I know I can connect with that sentiment (rain, gloom, money, red tape)… I love Times New Viking, but I was listening to this song the other day where the girl sings about getting taxis and being broke and I was thinking—if you’re broke in London you don’t get taxis! Also, this amazing Brilliant Colors song about “short sleeves at night”—again, nope! It’s really hardly ever warm enough for that here, I don’t know, I love the feel of those songs and the abstract kind of world they create in my head, but really what they sing about is a whole world away for me. It’s weird sometimes I forget that, but definitely staying loyal! I’m going to start sounding nationalistic soon which is ridiculous because I’m actually half American and Rachel is half Filipino so we’re not that English anyway…
MRR: Journalists love to fill their pages writing about music scenes—for example, the Smell in LA. On the other hand, I saw a recent interview with Gary Numan and he mentioned how he prefers to shy away from any scene. Where does Trash Kit fit in?
Ros: That’s a difficult question because a scene can be a very positive and a very negative thing. I think we definitely never want to be part of anything exclusive or cliquey or anything like that, but it’s fun to meet lots of people and play with your friends’ bands and things like that. I prefer the word community, and I like to think we belong to lots of different communities—the queer DIY stuff that’s happening in Bristol around Fag Club and Drunk Granny, in London with Club Milk and people like Rosanne Barr and Corey O’s…I like to think that it’s a kind of political thing, rather than a “scene” which might conjure up images of trendy people patting themselves on the back.
Rachel: Well you could say we’re in a scene in London, but it feels more like just friends who play together. I’m really excited about what’s happening in London at the moment, it’s what I always hoped to find when I moved here. A vague sense of community, a certain sound or attitude, but mainly just people in all kinds of different bands having fun and helping each other out. People in other bands in London, Bristol, Glasgow and elsewhere have been so supportive of Trash Kit; without that support, inspiration and encouragement, we would definitely have given up. Also, if it weren’t for music I personally probably wouldn’t have any friends at all! No joke!
MRR: Being that there are three girls in the band, how relevant is feminism and riot grrl to the group and how much of your approach is “Girls just wanna have fun?”
Ros: Riot grrl is totally relevant and a big influence, feminism is very important to us.
Rachel: Girls just wanna have fun!!! That is to say riot grrl and feminism means everything to us.
MRR: I noticed you have a pre-stage ritual of tribal face paint, getting barefoot and changing your trousers. What’s the deal with these pre-gig shenanigans?
Ros: I don’t know! I just prefer the stuff that washes off easily.
Rachel: I was talking to Merill from the band Tune Yards, she always wears face paint when she plays, and she was saying it was like a mask…something to make you feel empowered and fearless like war paint and very tribal. It just makes sense to us and is a definite a ritual too. Getting changed is my thing really. The others don’t bother, but I need to get really psyched up before shows or I get nervous and totally bomb. I feel boring in my normal clothes and in order to play I need to feel like this super strong person, especially if I’m tired or I’ve been having a shitty day. Putting on shiny flame Thai boxing shorts helps loads to make me fearless and fierce!
MRR: Last but not least, to end this on a psychoanalytical note—as only a fan of Wayne’s World can—did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on lipstick and dressed up as a girl bunny?
Rachel: No. but Jessica Rabbit in that toon town movie…what is that called? Definitely hot.
Ros: Is that in Wayne’s World Two?