Kerrie, Bugeye - © Don Blandford
Bugeye, Cro Cro Land Festival - by Jamie MacMillan

Bugeye make dazzling disco punk, and their debut album ‘Ready Steady Bang’ is an instant classic. Packed with hits, it’s a 21st Century party album like no other, tackling even difficult subjects with glittering swagger. Out on hot label Reckless Yes, it’s got the magic ingredients we need right now - hooks, hope, depth, and happiness. Winning new fans - ‘bugs’ - wherever they go, Bugeye are firm favourites of Radio X’s John Kennedy and more. The band are Angela Martin on vocals and guitar, Paula Snow on bass, Grace Healey on keyboard, and Kerrie Smith on drums. We talked to Angela about the making of the album, that’s out now.

Reckless Yes

Debut album - Ready Steady Bang

Bugeye are claiming 2020 as theirs with their absolute winner of a debut album, ‘Ready Steady Bang’, following a string of acclaimed single releases. Described as a super sonic power chord punk mash up of Blondie Vs. Pixies, their unmissable and electrifying live sets give you the highs of Abba and the fire of Bikini Kill, and they are definitely ones to watch right now.

The album is an instant classic - energising, empowering, full of earworms, and there are many layers of meaning in the songs. What are some of the key themes you explore

Very sweet of you to say so. We’ve explored many themes with this album and I suppose you could say that it’s a glance at society, the world we live in today and the roles that people play in the ultimate destruction of the self and the planet, be that through addiction, consumerism, hatred of others, or pure naivety of looking the other way. It’s apocalyptic but not preachy. It’s dark but it’s also quite upbeat and fun.

We cover themes like racism, sexism and climate change and how we’d love to just jump in a rocketship and start over… There’s also some deeply personal stuff in there hidden amongst the sometimes fairground, sometimes scifi, sometimes disco synths and buzz saw guitars. Sounds dark, but it’s really quite an upbeat fun album.

Who produced the album and where was it recorded

The record was produced by Paul Tipler (Stereolab, Elastica, Idlewild, Barns Courtney) at Unit 13 Studios in South London. It’s this great place hidden away in an industrial setting of warehouses, car spare parts yards and churches.

What were the challenges and the joys of the recording process

We love recording. It’s just so great to all hang out and support each other throughout the process and hear our music come together in even better ways than we first imagined. That’s the joy of recording really. Something that you’ve slaved over at home to perfect and then being able to give it the production love it deserves is thrilling to say the least. The challenge was time frames, we had a deadline to meet and we were still writing material for the album as we were recording it. We wanted to have options for what went on the album and for it to feel as current as possible. A great challenge, but an ever so slightly stressful one.

Did you experiment with new sounds and instruments

With this album we certainly experimented with genres and using them to fit the story/theme. For example, Shake and Bake is about the birth of consumerism and where we’ve landed so you’ll hear some 50s bass riffs going on, some sci fi synths, and a jolly little guitar hook for an almost fake plastic smile effect. This could all totally be in my head of course, but that’s why those parts are like that, hopefully others pick up on that too.

Every sound and part isn’t just to fill the song or have something to do. There’s a reason that it’s there and why it’s played the way it is. I think we have explored more textures with these songs, less beefy guitars and more a play on layers. I’d been playing around with a lot of pedals and although there’s still plenty of ProCo Rat overdriven guitars going on, I’m also playing with Tremolo and delays in there too but also holding back the guitars to let the tracks breathe and make room for other sounds.

We go in depth with Angela about her powerful guitar sound here.

Late night writing and capturing inspiration

How do you write your songs, we saw that one started as a poem

I normally always write incredibly late at night due to practical reasons more than anything else. Days are always super busy in our house and I have a little girl, so writing has to be saved to a time when the world is closing down for the night and I can shut the studio door and be away from distractions. I tend to start with something that has inspired me that day. Could be that I’ve been pissed off by the daily commute (not a problem now of course) or an old song that I absolutely adore comes on out of the blue and I’m filled with memories that inspire me.

I try to capture those moments of inspiration by using a notes app on my phone to write down words that will help me remember and revisit what I’m feeling right there and then when I get home later. I even create playlists of songs that will hopefully retrigger what I felt at that moment, so that ideas that have popped into my head throughout the day don’t get lost.

The music tends to come first, rather than lyrics with our songs, but not always. I’ll record a rough demo at home, including beats, bass, synth and guitar, experiment with humming melodies and then pop it over to the others in the band for thoughts. Sometimes these are full songs, or just merely an idea for a verse or chorus. We’re all very honest with each other, so if they think it’s shite it goes no further, but if there’s something there, they’ll go away and develop or even completely rewrite their parts in time for our next practice to try it out.

Bugeye, Cro Cro Land Festival - by Jamie MacMillan

You recently signed to the great Reckless Yes label, what’s that meant for you and this album release

Having the support of a label that believes in us has meant so much. We had already begun work on the album when we started talks with them and we were dead excited that they were keen to explore working together. We had been, and still are, huge fans of the label. They’ve put out so many great records by bands we adore, so to be part of the label family has been a complete honour.

It’s an incredible experience watching Bugeye live. How important are shows to you

Shows are what make all this worthwhile. We love being out there together, seeing the reaction from music fans, feeling the power of loud music pulsing through our bodies and getting caught up in the moment. It’s totally electric, thrilling and so many things in-between. We’ve been working on a more visual and immersive show which would have been unleashed for this summer’s tour, but sadly lockdown has meant pushing back to 2021.

Kerrie, Bugeye - © Don Blandford

Animation and striking visuals

You’re also acing it with your live streamed shows, with striking visuals that complement your band’s great artwork. What’s your top tip for other artists

Ha, this was us trying to recreate some of the stuff we would have taken on the road but in a VERY DIY fashion. My advice to bands wanting to make visuals is to buy a green sheet, get some editing software and head over to sites like Pexel for free stock footage to play with. It’s fun to experiment with and there are so many fabulous tutorials on Youtube to help you when you get stuck. We made our last two music videos with green screens and stop animation and then of course the live streaming stuff. It’s added a new level to what we do and is actually making us think more about our musical parts. Visuals influencing sound and vice versa.

Recently you’ve been using animation in your videos - tell us about this DIY approach you have, and the work that goes into it

A hell of a lot of work went into those videos as I was learning as I went along. Don’t Stop was my fav. We used green paper as a green screen, printed out loads of pictures to make collage sets and props and basically photographed frame by frame to result in a stop animation video. We had a lot of fun with it and it’s quite frankly very random in places, but that was on purpose as we wanted to do something unexpected. The total cost of that video was about 30 quid and many hours of work, but the hours put in were totally worth it.

I then took this all a step further with the video for Blue Fire using a mixture of footage and animations. We were all in lockdown so couldn’t get together as a band to create anything, so we all filmed ourselves on phones individually and I worked it into drawings and graffiti backdrop effects to create the music video. I used Premiere Pro and After effects to create the video with a helpful hand from the youtube community of filmmakers and their how to videos.

Cro Cro Land - bringing guitar bands back to the birthplace of punk

Angela you’re behind the new festival Cro Cro Land that was a huge success last year. What did you set out to achieve with that and what were the results

We (me and my partner Julia) wanted to create a music festival that brought back guitar bands to the birthplace of punk (Croydon), a place that has seen it’s music venues disappear one by one over the years. We wanted to make the event as much about new music as the established bands on the bill while keeping gender balance at the heart of everything. It was believed, by some, that new bands wouldn’t attract the gig goers, that female headliners wouldn’t shift tickets, and that no one would go to such an event in Croydon. People thought we were crazy to take this on, but we went ahead anyway and gathered together a collective of blogs, online zines and promoters to help spread the word.

We proved all those negative views to be wrong on all fronts. We sold out, and the festival was packed from the second the doors opened, we covered all our costs, paid all the bands, and basically had a blast. It was a magical day and we are pleased to say that we will be back, bigger, louder and bolder in 2021.

Disco brightness and darker undertones

Who or what inspires you as a band

This is always such a hard question to answer as our influences are changing all the time. I’d say that my love of disco has certainly led me down the path of always having danceable fun elements to our songs. The brightness of disco but the darker undertones of Pixies, Breeders, Horrors etc. I’m also a huge fan of Blondie and Altered Images too, so I’m sure you’ll pick up on that in there somewhere, but then it changes with each song we write to a degree.

As a writer I’m inspired by so many things from news stories to walking past someone in the street and wondering what their story is. That’s how the song Sunday Monday came about. It was on the commute to London Bridge and just observing all those around me, online shopping, swiping on social, surrounded by adverts of things we should invest in to make our life’s better and everyone looking pretty grey and like cattle as we’re herded from one place to the other.

How have your plans for this year had to change, and what have you got coming up

Major changes. No tour for starters. Resources running dry as no one has any cash… it has made us become more creative in the ways we connect with fans and with each other. Our podcast Bugeye’s Rock, Pop, Rambles, has been great for that. We started it about a month before lockdown, and it’s been such a positive thing for us. The show isn’t about our music, it’s about the legends of rock and pop, plus we use it as a platform to get a bit of exposure for new bands and artists out there. It means we’ve kept up to speed on new music but also have something positive to focus on with researching bands and artists from history that we admire.

Our album comes out on the 10 July and we have a few bits of content that we will be keeping people entertained with, plus another single to announce and a tour for 2021, so it really hasn’t stopped for us. We’re also working on brand new material for album number 2. Writing has been a challenge as we can’t all meet up, but we have found a new rhythm to doing things, we’re adapting and evolving and hopefully you’ll like what you hear.

* Check out our guitar gear talk with Angela here.