With a record deal, a second album and a positive live presence, 2019 could prove to be a pivotal year for Vas Antoniadou and Ros Cairney aka Deux Furieuses. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates chats to the pair about music, gigging and foxes.
2019 has been a great year for Deux Furieuses, what have been your personal highlights?
My War is Your War album launch at The Dublin Castle in October was a real achievement as we felt proud to be delivering our second album to our fans who have stuck by us. We headlined She Fest 7 in aid of Girls Rock London in September and Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine came to see us. She said after our set she thought people would accept us for who we are, which has to be one of the best things anyone has ever said to us. We think being ourselves is probably why we have not succeeded before now.
Signing a deal with Xtra Mile Recordings has to be an important development?
Signing to Xtra Mile in March was great as we were blown away when we played Frank Turner’s inaugural Lost Evenings Festival by the sense of community and strong ethics in everything they do. This has been the first time we have had label support and a team working with us who are on our side. Tracks of Wire was never manufactured for physical release, only for digital release along with a very limited CDR run on Bandcamp so we love that My War is Your War is a physical release on CD and LP as well as a digital release.
You’ve self-released and self-funded prior to this move, what benefits has that given you?
We wanted to record an album that would not only sound great but stand the test of time. We wanted to record in the manner in which our heroes had recorded ie in a studio with a live room for big drum and guitar sounds. The sound on Tracks of Wire would never have been achieved in a home studio or on a laptop. After the initial recording of the first album in 2013, we took a long time to find more money to mix, master and complete the album with artwork for release in 2016. It was a long project fuelled by a huge amount of ‘we’ll show you’ after we had no interest for the album from Domino Publishing, our publishing company at the time. We applied for endless PRS grant awards and asked Women Make Music award to help with Tracks of Wire and My War is Your War but were unsuccessful. Despite these obstacles we put out an album we are hugely proud of and with the benefit of hindsight, we know our instincts were right.
Tracks Of Wire was a phenomenal success, were you expecting the critical acclaim that you received?
We had no expectation of any critical acclaim. We had a real desire to write about the world we were living in, to make “the music of what happens” as Seamus Heaney puts it. ‘Can We Talk About This?’ was written after going to see the DV8 show of the same name at the National Theatre in 2012 during which the audience was asked to raise their hands if they considered themselves morally superior to the Taliban. They didn’t. “Can We Talk About This?” were director Theo Van Gogh’s last words before having his throat cut for his feminist film Submission. We had no idea at all whether the themes of the album were going to be in any way relevant by the time we eventually released it in 2016. Louder Than War making Tracks of Wire No 9 in its Top Ten Albums of 2016 along with PJ Harvey and Savages was a total surprise and meant a lot to us.
Did the success of your debut make it easier to write and record My War Is Your War or was there an added pressure?
It didn’t make it easier to write the new one as we just found ourselves back in our frozen rehearsal studio with no money trying to work on new songs. Then Domino Publishing dropped us in 2018 which was depressing. This led to us asking John Kennedy for help and he introduced us to Charlie Caplowe who owns Xtra Mile and helped us with the recording budget. We worked again with the same team of producer Rob Ellis and mixer Mark Freegard but went to a new studio owned by Isi Clarke who engineered. It was a ten day residential session like the first album and we stayed in a 1970’s caravan with no running water but we relished it all.
The pressure comes from ourselves. We have always pushed ourselves to try and come up with something original as musicians. We wrote the album before we signed to Xtra Mile and the motivating force was to reflect the changes in our lives and in the world since Tracks of Wire was recorded in 2013 and released in 2016.
What was it like working with Alannah Currie, Jimmy Cauty and Dan Donovan?
Alannah Currie inspired us so much with her art collective the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance. We went to their Art of Nuisance exhibition in 2015 to see Sarah Maple and loved the whole thing. Alannah Currie’s ‘destructivist’ art as Miss Pokeno is strong and uncompromising, the unacceptible face of feminist rage rather than the cute pink pussyhat rage of the Women’s March.
The red flag theme throughout My War is Your War and accompanying videos is a warning of danger and inspired by a 1914 German flag for International Women’s Day showing its early European socialist origins. It was also inspired by Alannah Currie’s big red “Fuck the fucking fuckers” banner. We asked her to be in our video for ‘Year of Rage’ and she ended up making red flags and throwing a party for us at her studio. She said it should be called ‘Lifetime of Rage’.
Alannah asked Jimmy Cauty to help and we were thrilled as we had always admired the KLF’s anti-music business, anti-capitalist money burning stance. He was really friendly and down to earth helping out on second camera duties. Dan Donovan has done the artwork for both albums and all our videos including ‘Can We Talk About This?’, the refugee video ‘Time to Mourn’, ‘Year of Rage’ and ‘My War is Your War’. He listens to our ideas, works out how best to realise them and bring out the feeling of the music.
There are some very real, honest and truthful lyrics on your album. Is there a veiled attempt to shock or is it just facing up to reality head-on? Song For Kat is particularly disturbing and heart-wrenching.
Can we talk about this? We take the view that nothing we create is as shocking as what actually happens in the world. The songs express our own shock at the violence, delusion and hypocrisy we see around us. The title track ‘My War is Your War’ is about innocent personal lives colliding with world events at Gaza Beach, Ukraine and Yemen. ‘Words of Warning’ expresses our revulsion at the remains of Sachsenhausen concentration camp at the end of a suburban street on the outskirts of Berlin and at how a society came to deprive its own citizens of human rights, to treat them with such contempt. ‘Let Them Burn’ is about Grenfell, the magic money tree and our unequal society where some people’s lives seem to be more valued than others.
In ‘Song for Kat’ we wrote about what happened in the studio where we have been rehearsing for years. Kat lived in the studio and was a talented artist fading away with no confidence in an unhappy relationship. Taking her own life the way she did was a violent act that shocked us to the core. She told us that she loved to listen to us working on the songs. Writing this song helped us to protest our own anger and sadness and pay tribute to her. My War is Your War is a dark album but not a despairing one. It is about reaching out to find common cause with others eg the MeToo chant in ‘Year of Rage’.
We have always been confrontational. ‘Are We Sexy Enough?’ on the first album is about the conflicting pressures on girls to be sexy enough in order to succeed but not so sexy that you attract unwanted attention, abuse or rape, and the myth that there are rules you can follow and you will be safe. We had a complaint at the soundcheck of a recent gig that we didn’t give a trigger warning before playing this song. We think gigs should be a safe space but don’t think art needs to be a comfortable place. We played this song at a festival in Dorset and a man told us after it had made him cry.
Where do your hearts lie – performing live or recording? You seem to emulate your studio sound particularly well in a live scenario.
We really love both but live wins hands down. We arrange our song with dynamics for performance as a live duo at gigs. In the studio, we record live drums and guitar before adding texture and subtle sounds which we are unable to do live. Building up a picture in the studio is exciting as we hope to capture the song for all time and to make a track you can listen to again and again. The live experience is about making a direct emotional connection with an audience, something that happens at different points in our set with different audiences, but it is like lightning when it happens.
How did Deux Furieuses start? Were there any big ambitions?
Ros had been ill and was recovering around the time of the Arab Spring writing new songs inspired by these events along with her own problems living in London. We had ended our previous band which had begun as a trio and wanted to work on these new politicised songs without people’s preconceptions about us so we became deux furieuses. There were few political bands in 2013. We wanted to make albums that were true to our experience of the world as women and as creative musicians at a time when society valued neither.
What/who were you musical influences?
PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Siouxsie and the Banshees, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pixies, Elastica, Sinead O’Connor, Sleater-Kinney
What’s your view on the current state of music? Anyone that you particularly adore or would go out of your way to see live?
Always PJ Harvey. Current guitar bands we like are Foals, The Murder Capital, Hurtling, Soeur, Cultdreams, Idles, Petrol Girls, Where We Sleep, ARXX
What was the last album you heard?
Ros: The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears
Vas: Nick Cave – Ghosteen
What’s your favourite recorded music medium – vinyl, cassette, cd, digital – and why?
Vinyl is our new favourite medium because it sounds so much better than listening to a compressed file on an ipad. Listening transfixed from the street to the sound of the guitar solo on The Beatles ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ thumping through an open tenement window in Glasgow is an experience you don’t get on your mobile phone headphones.
What’s next for Deux Furieuses?
Now is the time to push ourselves and explore how far we can go together both live and with our new songs. What we write next depends on what happens next in the world and in our lives.
Are there plans to take Deux Furieuses on a national tour?
We have been on a haphazard tour of the UK with more to come. Very excited to be supporting Soeur in Leicester on 13 December and Petrol Girls on 14 January in Newport and 19 January in Glasgow. We really need an agent but until we get one we are playing everywhere we can.
Do you have any inkling to take your music overseas?
Yes, there are ripples spreading out about our two albums – we have features coming up in a German print magazine and a New York blog. We want to get out of the UK and play both albums overseas!
What will you be asking Father Xmas for this year?
Ros: An end to Brexit
Vas: A Tory defeat would be the best present ever.
How’s the fox?
There are three foxes visiting (the garden) who are a lot happier now they don’t have to share the garden with the kittens who were chasing them away!
Upcoming live dates:
11 Dec – Radio X X-Posure acoustic session/ interview
13 Dec – Firebug, Leicester supporting Soeur
14 Dec – The Grace, London acoustic set for Xtra Mile Xmas Bash
14 January – Le Pub, Newport supporting Petrol Girls
19 January – Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow supporting Petrol Girls
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. You can also follow him on Twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news.