We’ll come right out and say it… Leicester’s music scene has been feeling pretty stale lately. Whilst there’s still a tonne of great music being produced, it’s been a while since something genuinely exciting stuck it’s head above the parapet and struck out on it’s own. We live for the new, the unusual and the completely unique, and that band is finally here in the form of the four-headed indie-noise-pop beast KERMES.
At some point in the last year Kermes escaped their scrappy support band trajectory with some unforgettable performances and a keen eye for when it’s appropriate to douse pop melodies in petrol. This summer they committed their enormous, unapologetic personality to tape in the form of debut EP ‘You See Others Seeing You’ which came out on turbo-DIY label Robot Needs Home, produced in spare bedrooms and rehearsal spaces around the city. It’s this traditionally ‘punk’ ethos of doing things for themselves which informs their approach to the band.
“A lot of what we do is about attempting to subvert some of the traditional dynamics of social power” explains Emily Teece. “That means we sort of have no option but to be a bit DIY. It’s just how we are; I can’t really conceive of an alternative… But that subversion means that we’re also very much about community, about helping our friends and being helped in kind.”
The EP itself pitches itself somewhere between shoegaze atmospherics and the angular riffs of 00’s indie. From start to finish it’s smothered in leftfield pop melodies that are as perfect as they are unusual. The band are understandably proud of it, though Emily might not describe it with quite the same aesthetic we’d imagined.
“We’re very proud of our horrid slimy baby. Sometimes I put it on and think, shit, we did alright, didn’t we?” She says, leaving us unsure whether we should be grossed out or not at this point. At least on an immediately personal level, hindsight is proving to be a somewhat difficult beast though. “A couple of the lyrics can be a little hard to listen to, personally – I kind of went uncomfortably all-in on one song in particular, though I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say I regret it.”
It will become clear at some point, between the stage banter that proclaims “These songs are about gender” and the occasional less ambiguous lyric, that Emily is a trans woman. We ask her about the ‘Elephant in the room’ and It’s immediately obvious that the subject of gender identity is something she is more than happy to get her teeth in to;
“I’d never identify us as a “Trans band” because, for starters, ¾ of the band are cisgender. So many times I’ve seen bands with trans members be labelled as a “transgender band” by the media, and it just feels so awful and reductive; I’m quite open about being transgender, I’m proud of it, but it doesn’t define me entirely. It’s just one piece of who I am. I get to make art that is about being trans and I get to make art that isn’t. Those are my rights. Don’t even get me started on “female-fronted” – white cis men are never asked to qualify their art in these ways, and it grieves us no end.”
“That’s basically how Kermes works – while a lot of the songs are attempts, one piece at a time, to externalise my specific experience as a trans woman, I also think it’s important to talk about the songs that aren’t. Sometimes you just wanna write a love song, y’know? It inevitably ends up being a bit messier than that, but still.”
Any honest love song will be messy though I suppose, as will most bands relationships with their scenes. Communities can be as supportive as they are destructive, and the scene that Kermes are emerging from is clearly both of those things to varying degrees. As receptive and welcoming as Leicester is, it’s not always a picture of perfection.
“There’ve been incidents where members of other bands have spoken to or dealt with me in ways that I thought were, like… very uncool. Not very punk. Quite disrespectful, blatantly sexist, openly transphobic – all the hits! That kind of stuff often makes me a little paranoid that we’re not taken as seriously as bands who are all cis men, but it’s hard to really say for sure. Anyway, I don’t want to be involved with people who are actively opposed to our ethics, politics or identities, so if someone is an asshole about it, that just helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
With that in mind, you’d expect that Emily would be at least somewhat Jaded towards the city. Not so.
“I love Leicester, I really do. We came here for uni and never left. There’s a lot of great bands in this city who deserve to be far, far bigger than they are, and I can only hope that they’ll get the recognition they deserve. These last few years have been pretty high-profile for the city, but it still has this kind of…. unassuming-ness about it. It’s hard to pin down as a city. There aren’t really any Leicester-specific stereotypes, which is part of what makes us proud to call it our home – it’s sort of amorphous and a bit unusual. That’s probably how I’d describe Kermes. Unusual pop music.”
‘You See Others Seeing You’ is out now on Robot Needs Home Recordings. Watch their video for ‘Here’ below.