An interview with... Molasses
Ahead of the release party for issue 5 of Parallel, we interviewed one of the bands that are performing, Molasses. Alessia, on guitar and vocals, and Katie, on drums, are a two-piece who work together to create grunge indie music with a powerful sound. Their most recent EP, Slagheaps, was released in 2014 and they have been regulars on the UK DIY indie gig circuit since their inception, described as ""Raging two-woman malcontents, twisted AmReptiles from the off-kilter no-filter noise-rock wunderground" by Powerlunches. We caught up with them to talk about how they got started, how they've progressed, and whether they have any advice for budding musicians.
Artwork by Erin Pixie Fletcher
How did you meet, and how did the band form? Where did the name come from?
Alessia: We met in sixth form college. We formed the band a few years afterwards when I started university in London in 2011 and Katie was finishing her degree there. The name came from a list of ingredients on a box of breakfast cereal. We were both quite keen on sugar at the time.
Katie: Cereal and sugar still most definitely fuel our band.
If you could describe your sound in 3 words, what would they be?
Alessia: erm… from what I’ve been told: offbeat, confounding, concise
Would you say your sound has progressed from when you first started?
Alessia: I’ve always tried to challenge myself with guitar, attempting things that perhaps were a little beyond my ability and that approach but I think that anyone who wants to improve any skill does that. Our sound has progressed quite noticeably but from my point of view it’s hard to describe how. Gradually developing as musicians over time might have caused us to become more adventurous, we’ve been trying to put more effort into writing more dynamic song trajectories rather than just stacking riffs.
Katie: I think at the beginning we were both finding our way musically and to be honest we’re still learning. I think it’s important to experiment and to not feel confined by one genre or one sound.
Do you play any other instruments at all? Why is music important to you/a part of your life?
Alessia: I played bass for a while before switching to guitar though it's similar enough. I've recently started trying to learn drums and that's been fun so far. I also bought a synth during the summer. Music is just something I've always been compulsively drawn to. There have been times when I've tried to avoid it and take a break from it to concentrate on other things but in the end it always feels like there's something missing.
Katie: I'm a bit of an instrument collector but to say I can "play" all of them might be a bit of a stretch. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and my family - I'm lucky enough to have parents who have always supported all of my musical tendencies. I think buying a primary school aged kid a drum kit was particularly brave of them! I've actually always felt self conscious and anxious performing in front of anyone so to feel as comfortable as I do playing with Alessia has always been a really big deal for me - I wouldn't want to be doing what we are with anyone else.
Your most recent EP came out in August 2014. What have you been up to since then, and when is the next EP due?
Alessia: Our next release is probably way overdue. I was in Finland last year as an exchange student so we took a break from writing. We’ve got material ready for the next one, it’s just a matter of coordinating ourselves and committing it to tape.
Katie: We are desperate to record and write more. We’ll either end up releasing something really soon or scrapping what we do have and writing an album. We definitely want our next release to be the best we can make it and to not release something just because we have a collection of a few songs we could record.
Have you faced any difficulties in your scene, being two female musicians?
Alessia: More so in the beginning, less so now which is nice or maybe we now move in different circles or people aren’t so blatant about it anymore. Some sound technicians have been complete tossers with unfounded preconceptions while the majority have been pleasant and efficient and it hasn’t been an issue. If anyone comments directly on the fact that we’re female, it’s usually something like “there needs to be more female musicians doing what you do” which is fine and flattering. I think that in general though, since we started, there has been a subtle shift in attitudes towards female musicians that undermine the stereotypes being perceived as the norm (although we’re arguably not quite there yet).
Katie: We’ve definitely had experiences. I think mostly it’s a feeling that some people expect less from you because you’re female and that really offends me.
Would you consider yourselves feminists? Would you say this influences your music or musical career at all?
Alessia: I don’t think I could deny that I am a feminist. Unless you strongly support the gender binary, feel that you deserve to be subordinated or restricted because there are definitive roles, statuses and modes of behaviour meant for males and meant for for females, (or you are unconscious), then I don’t believe you can be a woman (or a person of any gender) who categorically refuses to be considered a feminist as I see it. I don’t generally write lyrics about it or use feminism as a gimmick for our band, or for any band I’ve been in but it does influence my life.
What is your favourite gig you've played and why? And the least favourite?
Alessia: Really tricky question. There have been many good ones, I have particularly fond memories of the couple of shows we did last January when I was back from Helsinki during the winter break. In Brighton with Sweet Williams, a band for which I have an enduring love and in London with Screen Wives, Nitkowski and Hate Fuck, all great bands, great people and vibes. Least favourite… maybe the shows we did when we were first starting out and put on pay to play gigs with unsuited acts.
Katie: I always love playing in Brighton - some of our favourite bands hideout down there and it’s always a really nice scene. As for my least favourite...certain crowds can make me anxious which always influences me. Alessia and I are always about the music and as soon as a gig starts to become more image focussed I know I’m not going to like it.
Do you think a strong online presence is necessary for bands nowadays, or are you more about the IRL, DIY?
Alessia: An online presence helps, any artist can potentially go really far this way, we’re terrible at it though. If we were judged by our online presence alone, I don’t think we would exist. It also depends what you want to achieve, a combination of the three is probably good, but sparking interest about your music or any small successes always feel more genuine if they involve actual human interaction somewhere down the line.
Katie: I always feel a bit torn here, I think an online presence can really help a lot of bands but I do worry that everything is becoming “online”. We are a live band and music is our thing, everything else is secondary to me.
What are your upcoming plans?
Alessia: Recording hopefully. Also preparing for the gigs we have booked so far in March, on the 19th in London for Roundhouse Rising Festival and in Colchester on the 26th for Shallow Leisure.
Do you have any advice for budding musicians?
Alessia: Self-doubt will hold you back, commitment and enthusiasm are pretty important.
Katie: Just go for it. It really is frightfully easy to talk yourself out of starting a band, playing live or learning an instrument but if you want it and you love it don’t let anyone (including yourself!) stand in your way. (I didn’t mean to sound quite as much like an infomercial as I did there...)
Interview by Sophie Elliott