Muncie Girls: From Caplan to 2000 Trees
Myself and Luke Ellis, Muncie Girls’ drummer, are sat on the grass amongst the hay bales at 2000 Trees. He’s a picture of relaxation, leaning back and smiling in the sunlight with his sunglasses on. Lande Hekt, the band’s lead singer and bassist, has just finished playing an acoustic session to a packed out forest stage, and their Axiom slot later that evening is on a lot of people’s watch lists. It's a pretty good time to be a Muncie Girl. This isn’t just a 2000 Trees phenomenon either. Muncie Girls’ are one of the alternative and DIY scene’s hottest prospects in 2016, with their debut album From Caplan To Belsize generating considerable hype and favourable reviews. Earlier this year they were also the main support on Beach Slang’s U.K. tour, which included an excellent show at Dingwalls in London. The band will be playing similar sized venues on their own headline run later in the year, which highlights just how much their following is growing.
“They were really sweet, really cool people to get on with and the shows were really good,” says Luke when I ask about Beach Slang. “I think London was definitely a highlight. Sometimes they play for too long when they get a bit drunk and they just chat [laughs]. I don't know how they do it. It's great because it's really entertaining, but they just chat forever.”
Looking back now the support slot made a lot of sense. In the U.K. we often like our punk music on the darker, more cynical and satirical side compared to the openness and brazen honesty of Beach Slang, but Muncie Girls are one of the bands who you could characterise like that. Particularly on From Caplan To Belsize, the band are very candid and frank with their lyrics, particularly in regards to gender and identity politics. Lande writes about these complex issues in a very accessible and open way, painting pictures of people and scenarios that everyone can relate to. I’m curious as to whether this was a conscious effort the band made when writing the album.
“No, not at all,” explains Luke. “Lande writes the lyrics for the songs, but it's reflective of everything the band is going through at the time. So it was never a conscious effort, but I just think the lyrics on that album, although they're covering political aspects that she's written about before and that we've written about before as a band, I think it's just the style of it is a lot more direct. Like you were saying it's not tip toeing around it, it's saying 'okay, this is how I feel about it, this is what I'm going to say'. Just straight to the point.”
In addition to the lyrics, the album sounds a lot fuller than their previous EP’s. The guitar tones are rich and warm, and the driving rhythm section capture the energy the band has when they play live.
“We recorded it with a guy called Lewis Johns, and he produced the album and he's a wizard,” says Luke. “He just made it sound so good. He captured what we sound like live, which is what we really wanted to do. I think it sounds energetic and punchy, but at the same time it's got that warm overtone. It's warming and nice, it's not too harsh. We definitely had a lot more time recording this album that any of the EP's. I think that helped massively in capturing that live sound.”
Again to draw comparisons to Beach Slang, who are from the incredibly vibrant Philadelphia punk scene, Muncie Girls have come from a burgeoning South Coast DIY and Punk scene, with the likes of Gnarwolves, Great Cynics, Bangers and Shit Present all also originally calling Exeter and Cornwall home. For a small and not densely populated area of the U.K., a massive amount of great music is coming out of the South Coast.
“I think the important thing about Exeter is that there's one venue basically, The Cavern Club,” Luke suggests. “We all grew up going there for shows, and it's the one place where everyone goes to who's into punk rock basically. A real community is built around that because there's nowhere else to go, and I think as soon you get one band from that town doing well and really pushing boundaries of what you can achieve as a DIY band it has a knock on effect. Everyone's like, 'oh my god, my friends are going on tour and doing this cool stuff out of Exeter, I can do that!' And it just grows and grows like that. If you're from a small town people think you've got it bad because there's not as many venues and there's not as much stuff going on, but I think in those environments that's when kids pull together the most because they need it the most. And when you haven't got it handed to you on a plate you have to create it yourselves, and that's when really cool stuff happens I think.”
Finally, the one question I wanted to ask every band was what their opinion was on how we should move forward following Brexit and all the fuckery that’s coming with it. 2000 Trees is one of the UK’s premier punk festivals and punk has traditionally been an important voice of dissent and alternative ideas, so I figured that the opinions of the bands here might add a little bit of a positive spin to an increasingly apocalyptic news cycle. At the very least it’s better than another tweet by Piers Morgan.
“It's difficult, isn't it?” Luke laughs. “I think sometimes with the state of what's going on it's really hard to be positive, but I think the important thing is to not give up on everything. To not give up on what you believe in, as corny as it sounds. I think to remain positive in such a sucky time is a really big deal, and to remember that yeah, the vote went that way for us to leave the EU, but it doesn't mean there aren't a hell of a lot of people out there who are anti-that. It can only mean that we need to join together more to show that we're not going to just give up. People are taking action, organising these marches, organising shows, organising whatever to communicate with like-minded people. We're still individuals. We still have our personalities, our own thoughts, our own ideas. So you can create your own sort of world within the communities you're in, regardless of however sucky things are going for the rest of the country. I think generally just to stay positive is a good thing.”