Bikini Body on Pond Life: EP Premiere & interview

As we premiere their debut EP, new Edinburgh post-punk upstarts Bikini Body chat about their ramshackle process, being inspired by The Daily Mail and the perils of saying sorry via a parrot

Feature by Lewis Wade | 03 Feb 2020
  • Bikini Body

“I can sing fine, I can carry a tune, but that's not going to go down in the annals of history – oh fuck, I sound like such a wanker.” So muses vocalist Vicky Kavanagh on the origins of her “shouty” delivery style, more indebted to Mark E. Smith's improv than curated affectation; “we embraced the weird from the start.” It's indicative of the conflicting combination of conviction and self-deprecation that Bikini Body bring to the table with their “family friendly post-gutter-skunk-funk.” Their small collection of songs already boasts acerbic takes on classism, male douchebaggery, existentialism and parrots trained to be vindictive (of which more later), but cut through with a self-awareness that doesn't so much tie the sentiments and author in a neat bow, but a true-to-life knotty mess.

The Edinburgh-based four-piece came together about six months ago, with Kyle Peterson (bass) and Kavanagh bonding over post-punk (and psy-trance) at work before Kavanagh drunkenly revealed her writing at the pub, prompting a snap decision to form a band. So they did just that, recruiting Josh Booker (guitar) and Dan O'Gorman (drums) and getting together to jam, though without any idea of what they were actually going to create. The group emphasise an organic process to their music without any sense of individual ego – even their conversational dynamic is often charmingly egalitarian, each member working together in what seems like a natural fit.

O'Gorman says: “Every other band we've been in there's always been one person coming in with the songs, whereas none of us know exactly what we're doing.” Kavanagh adds: “It does sound like we're making it up as we go along.” “That is pretty much our approach,” agrees Booker. Peterson concludes: “We're basically making free jazz.”

They first played live under the makeshift/fabulous moniker Lady Zinfandel & the Barony Boys before settling on Bikini Body after months of being nameless, in time for a flurry of gigs at the end of the year. “My suggestion was Samwise Gangrene,” remembers Peterson, while Kavanagh's addition was “Segue Segway... one for the intellectuals, there.” But, ultimately, it was back to the usual fount of inspiration. Kavanagh continues: “We were stuck, so I said let's look in The Daily Mail because they always put really funny descriptions of women in there, and the first thing was 'so-and-so shows off her bikini body at the beach' and I thought: great, it's alliterative... It was either that or Leggy Display.”

Many of the shows were booked at short notice as support for bands who'd seen them at Leith Depot or Henry's Cellar Bar, while an EP launch show is taking place at Sneaky Pete's on 5 February – booked on the spot after they were spotted at Cabaret Voltaire. The Skinny are delighted to be premiering the EP, entitled Pond Life, which you can listen to in the below SoundCloud player (click here if it's not displaying correctly).

It's mostly Kavanagh's takes on a variety of grievances over rattling post-punk, with the odd hint of jangle-pop (Hands Off), often led by elastic ESG-bass or taut Gang of Four instrumentals. So Posh, for example, "started as a jam on a Viagra Boys song, before [Kavanagh] came in with the vocals.”

One of the most fascinating/hilarious/cryptic songs comes in the form of Georgie Weaver. Kavanagh relates the whole bizarre story, perfectly encapsulating the way a song can be both a hyper-specific moment of random nonsense and also a highly relatable snapshot of male entitlement: “He might be a real person, we're still not sure," she says. "We were on a night out, to initiate Dan (“I threw up in my sink that night,” he quickly interjects). We were on West Port and this old man, so pissed he's frothing at the mouth, starts chatting at us, uninvited... telling us how much he knows about East Sussex (Kavanagh's home county). Says he was in love with a girl called Janet Weaver who didn't like her dad for being some sort of absentee father. So the dad buys her a parrot to say sorry, but she hates her dad so she taught the parrot to say," quickly adopting a squeaky parrot voice, "'fuck you, Georgie Weaver!'”

Peterson continues: “Then you made a voicemail to try and remember the story and I actually made a song with cut-up bits from the voicemail over a shitty drum machine.” “I tried to recreate the voicemail for the song," Kavanagh continues, "in Dry Cleaning style, but it wasn't really working so I made it into a song about how sometimes men (usually men) think it's alright to interrupt your night to tell you a shit story. Something you don't care about but are too polite to stop.”

While there isn't always rhyme or reason to the Bikini Body process, there's a whole heap of heart and unpretentious good times to be had with this young band.

Pond Life is self-released on 5 Feb
Bikini Body play Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 5 Feb; The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, 27 Mar