Talking to the girls from BERRIES, we realised early on that we are all pretty new to this. The three piece, riff-driven garage rock group made up of Holly, Lauren and Lucie have only been signed to London-based label Xtra Mile Recordings in November, but can already feel things changing for them. “It’s all happening at once”, says drummer Lucie, about all the attention they have been getting from various magazines since they announced their signing on the 10th November.
What would have been an incredibly strange period of their life by any accounts – signing a record deal and receiving a new level of press attention – was made all that stranger by the complications from, well, you know what. With all three band members locked down in their respective households, celebrations on the day that they signed their contract were different from what they had imagined. Holly was staying with her sister in Cornwall: “They had this bottle of champagne in the fridge so we popped that, then I called Lauren and Lucie and we just got smashed like that!”
Post-signing celebrations weren’t the only things affected by the lockdown. While BERRIES’ new single ‘Copy’, to be released in January 2021, was written and recorded pre-lockdown, the band have had to adjust their songwriting practices to the lockdown rules. They tell me that now, rather than heading into a rehearsal room together and laying down what they’ve been working on separately, they will record their own pieces on their phones and send them to each other to work with. They’ve found this method surprisingly successful, giving them more time to sit and listen to the pieces, and work at a slightly slower pace. “In a rehearsal room everything is like ‘quick, quick, quick’,” says Lucie, “You feel like you really have to be creative in that session.”
I wondered if this new way of writing might have an influence on the way the girls write their music, and if we can expect to see something different from their lockdown efforts. “It’ll probably be darker…” says Holly jokingly, but apart from that probably not very different, as they still hope to be able to get together to record once all the songs are written. “Our music always gets a lot heavier once we’re together,” says Lauren, “We write them separately and then they end up three times heavier, because when we’re playing we want to put in massive breakdowns and stuff.”
It’s these riffs and heavy breakdowns that really put BERRIES on the map and piqued the interest of many in the music industry. Talking about their musical heroes it’s clear that they have taken inspiration from many different places; Lucie tells me that she thinks all three of them have slightly different perceptions of their music. They often get comparisons to female fronted grunge bands such as Bikini Kill, Hole, Sleater Kinney, and Holly says this era was a huge inspiration on their sound: “I did my dissertation at uni on the Riot Grrrl scene, so yeah I’m obsessed, they’re all amazing. And Nirvana and the grunge scene are huge influences… We love really riff-driven stuff, and Kurt Cobain could really write a riff and make it really melodic and really dark and really light at all at the same time, which I think is a really massive skill, so I think we definitely just try to steal that.” They get some modern references too, such as Royal Blood and Biffy Clyro; while the girls say that these are all massive compliments, they don’t always hear the similarities. “I have a huge, massive amount of respect for the bands and I see elements of them in the tracks,” says Holly, “But whenever we listen to them, we don’t really hear it at all.”
The women also talk about the bands in the scene which they came up in; they’ve played alongside some of the biggest contemporary female-fronted rock bands such as Cherry Glazerr and Porridge Radio, but one band which they are really inspired by is Nova Twins. “We love playing with Nova Twins and we fangirl a lot over them,” says Holly, “Luckily they’re also really nice!”
Finding myself tempted to ask them about their female rock inspirations, both from the grunge era and contemporary, I ask them if they ever get annoyed at being constantly stuck in the ‘girl band’ box. “It’s just annoying,” says Lauren, “We’ve had a lot of people come up to us after shows and and say, “Oh, you guys were really good, I usually don’t like female bands,” like, what is a female band?” She says that they get a lot of the same comments in reviews as well: “A lot of the time there seems to be a mention of what we look like, or, “Oh, you wouldn’t expect it from these girls, because they look like this,” you don’t need to comment on what we look like.”
As young women within a male-dominated industry, the band is well aware of the obstacles stacked against them, but also feel that there are so many great efforts to redress the balance. Holly mentions the F-list, a database of female musicians in the UK compiled by Vick Bain, which aims to improve representation of women at all levels of the music industry. Before the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to any mass gatherings, Little Mix were the only female headliners of any UK festivals, and currently less than 20% of artists signed to UK record labels are female. Support from established women in the industry has been vital in helping them in their career. “Tessa from The Slits is a nice supporter of the band, it’s amazing,” says Holly, “Her stories, I could just sit and listen to her for hours, and her wisdom, she’s just full of advice.” While they’re only starting out in their music careers, the BERRIES girls want to pass on this supportive energy to smaller acts. Lucie mentions the importance of building up networks with other bands coming up alongside you, and recommending other artists for gig line-ups. “If we get any opportunity to help out any band, we do it instantly,” says Holly, “Giving a contact of a festival, a promoter, putting a word in and within a second, it’s just done.”
As the UK plunged into another lockdown this month, the outlook for live music is still looking bleak. However, the vaccine is providing hope that 2021 will see some return to normality. With their new single coming out this month, BERRIES are dying to get back up on stage and playing together again. Holly is looking forward to “just cranking the amps and just going for it and just making as much noise as possible.”
It’s a strange time to be newly signed to a record label, and BERRIES hope it won’t be too long until they can start touring, promoting their album, and they’re hoping to play some of the big festivals in the near future. It isn’t just the music that the women miss, but the social aspect of the scene too. “All the other bits even outside of playing,” Lucie reminisces, “Hanging around and chatting with other bands, seeing them play.” It’s hard to know when we will all be back in venues again, but as Lauren points out, one thing is for sure, “Everyone’s been feeling it. So as soon as we’re back together, it will be mental.”
‘Copy’ by BERRIES is out on 22 January 2021, and you can pre-save the track on Spotify, Apple Music here.
Words by Ellen McVeigh
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