The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

React In Kind Or Get The F**k Out: Queer'd Science Interviewed
Simon Jay Catling , March 19th, 2013 05:32

Manchester's Queer'd Science are fast establishing themselves as one of the UK's most thrilling and visceral bands, a whiplash whirl of barked vocals, alien-chirp guitars and strobing rhythms. The trio meet Simon Jay Catling to discuss how beneath their harsh exterior lies a message of inclusivity

"That screaming you can hear on 'Punish You!' is actually Del, because I was making him drum so fast whilst also singing, it was really fucking hurting him," deadpans Queer'd Science's guitarist Dom Bojanić-Tanner, allowing the smallest flicker of sadistic amusement to cross his eyes. "I left it in the recording. It was pretty funny."

There is an element of sadomasochism to Queer'd Science's exhilaratingly breakneck live set. Formed just under a year ago, they've quickly established themselves as the most thrillingly pulse-bursting live act in Manchester, and they've done it wearing teeth-baring contorted grins to cloak the agony of their strained flesh. Of the two players, it's hard to work out who's pushing who to breakdown. Similar to Oneida drummer Kid Millions' side project Man Forever, or Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale, Chris 'Del' Morley's blitzkrieg percussion is rabid, seeming to devour the very air surrounding it, but it's matched by Bojanić-Tanner's whiplash fast, alien-toned guitar hooks. Listen on record and you'd pin this abrasively arresting sound as an old Moog or Korg synthesiser through distortion, but it's something all of his own making, a barely tonal noise that he admits he's had "knocking around for years."

The pair formed Queer'd Science early last year "out of boredom" at the lack of activity going on around their other group, local ramshackle punk collective Klaus Kinski. (Del can also count a stint in The Quietus' favourite Salford acid rock band Gnod in his past.) By May they had their first show lined-up, at Salford's off-kilter, hot-potch multi-bar venue festival, Sounds From The Other City. That was when they realised they needed an actual singer.

"Del said 'I can't do this' to me, but I was really apprehensive of getting a vocalist" says Bojanić-Tanner. Klaus Kinski are part of a fairly close-knit DIY, lo-fi garage rock community in Manchester, whose musicians seem to spill out into new bands by the month, some to stick around for a bit, others to dissipate right after the all-dayers they've cobbled enough songs together to play at. "But the idea of getting another of our mates to sing wasn't great," the guitarist continues. "It would have been boring to be another band who are also in every other band. We wanted this to be separate."

It was a huge miscommunication that led them to stumble unexpectedly upon Queer'd Science's quite brilliant frontwoman Vendela Engstrӧm. Engstrӧm had moved to Manchester on a whim six months before from Sweden, her only previous experience of performing having been what she vaguely describes as 'protest music' ("you know, harmonicas, chanting, that sort of thing," she blushes). "We'd heard she fronted a hardcore band back home," smirks Bojanić-Tanner, "which turned out to be an utter lie!"

Engstrӧm laughs. "I don't know where they heard that. We were in the same circle of friends and I suddenly had them asking if I'd sing with them, they played me the music and it was proper noise stuff! I was like 'shit, this is scary!'" However, with the sort of abandon you'd expect from someone who'd moved across the North Sea at a moment's notice, she auditioned nonetheless, and the next day they played live as a three piece. They tore the place apart.

The first time I witnessed Engstrӧm performing she was a blur of blonde hair, writhing around on the floor with at least two audience members she'd managed to drag down with her; she spent much of the rest of the set gleefully playing human bumper cars with anyone else in her path. When I next saw them she lasted all of a song on stage, before viciously launching herself into a crowd timidly wondering how to approach the bludgeoning combination of Lightning Bolt-down-the-disco riffs and Riot Grrrl shrieks. It seemed an act of provocation: get involved, or leave now. Her mindset appeared similar to her new bandmates, but whilst they were inflicting punishment on one another, her aim seemed focused squarely upon her audience.

So it's fair to say I experience some apprehension just before talking to Engstrӧm for the first time. In fact, though, she's disarmingly affable and polite. "Every time I went to a concert in Sweden everyone was made to feel involved and everyone that wanted to be involved could be, and that's what we want too," she explains. "Everyone jumping about, being together, it's the best feeling in the world! Life should be about being together… it's from a loving place. And it's fun! I don't think we'd be doing this otherwise."

Since playing and recording as a trio they've released two EPs to-date: Girls Gone Wild, via local label Idlechrist, and Wrench (part of a split EP with Middlesbrough's Year Of Birds, via One C Records). Both are excellent. Ferocious but lean, the three's distinguishable elements kick and tug at each other, but never become so entangled as to lose their short, sharp blast impact. Bojanić-Tanner cites Melt Banana, the Blood Brothers and Ex Models as past influences. Del, on the other hand, points to more elongated, psychedelic sounds. "We meet somewhere in the middle," he claims, though it's clear that he's relishing the instant ecstatic hit of Queer'd Science's music. "In a reaction against what I was doing in Gnod for ages – which was repetition, repetition all the time – I just wanted to nail a pop structure," he admits. "As hard as the beats are and as harsh as that sound is, we're trying to approach it concisely. With the Wrench EP in particular, everything's two or three minutes. Done, kapow, ended, next one."

Their creative process (they snigger when I use that term) is as a stream of consciousness, the group finding a segment in a longer jam, cutting it out, repeating it once to make sure it works, then moving on. Engstrӧm's lyrics are equally loose, rarely remaining the same from performance to performance. On record, though, they in part come from a feminist standpoint. She spits "don't know what to say, don't know what to do, because I'm just a girl to you" on 'Vaginal Wrath,' and questions "is he just going to break your back!?" on 'Blood Sabbatical'.

"Some of it's just for girls to take more space," she muses. "This type of music scene we're in, it's like the heavier music gets, the less girls you see - even though girls like it, they don't want to do it. And I want more girls to be out performing, it's not scary. You don't need to be good! I just want more people to feel they can do it."

On 'Requiem For Liberace Wolf', meanwhile, she sounds like she's trying to rally people together as a society: "are you standing still!? In the time of my life!?"

"We've so many people around us, but most people just have blank faces," Engstrӧm explains, launching into a monologue. "They don't show emotions. I just want people to show emotions, and it's why [when] playing live it's great to see people looking happy together, going mental. Humans are collective people, but with relying on technology and computers to communicate, people become isolated from each other. We're depressed creatures, but we're happier together, going to a gig, meeting new friends there, going mental."

What's truly heartening about Queer'd Science's rise – and Bojanić-Tanner half-jokes about the frustration of how easy it's seemed for them compared to other bands he's been in – is that they're stepping into the many pockets of Manchester's wider music community. Though currently creatively fertile, it nevertheless feels at times that, while there's always overlap between the city's different sub-sections, those following more perceived 'experimental' paths have been left in the margins. But Queer'd Science are popping up all over the place, from opening up indie club nights, to playing basement punk shows and house parties, to sharing bills with drone and electronic artists. It may be immensely physical in its delivery, but the trio's message of inclusivity is clear: react in kind, or get the fuck out.

For more information on Queer'd Science - and to download 'Girls Gone Wild' and 'Wrench' - click here to visit their Bandcamp page. Videos courtesy of Manchester Scenewipe.

Queer'd Science play the following live dates this spring:

APRIL
11th - The Continental, Preston (w/ White Hills)
27th - Star And Shadow, Newcastle (w/ Divorce)

MAY
5th - Sounds From The Other City, Salford

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.