Edinburgh duo Chuchoter on EP Pieces
Ahead of releasing their new EP Pieces, we speak to Edinburgh duo Chuchoter about their writing process, feminism and making their gigs safe spaces
Last year, The Skinny caught Chuchoter supporting Kllo at Sneaky Pete's and were instantly hooked on their sprawling synths and emotive vocals. The Edinburgh-based duo, made up of lyricist/singer Emily Smith and composer-producer Owen McAllister release their new EP Pieces on 27 July, a short, explosive record of danceable and uncanny beats (think riot grrrl filtered through Sleigh Bells and Jamie xx) which will no doubt make a big impression on festival goers at this year’s Electric Fields. “We had a lot of fun making it!” McAllister tells us. “We’re enjoying playing it, we’ve worked it into the live set a lot more now so we’re really getting to know the songs better. A lot of them we only wrote quite recently.”
“And quite quickly as well!” Smith enthuses.
The two music graduates have a really interesting approach to writing songs, one that is reflected in the delicately balanced musicality yet raw immediacy and edginess of Chuchoter’s sound. “Owen works on the track, I don’t actually know what he does,” Smith laughs.
“Generally, I’ll sit and try and write something for a small ensemble, like a jazz ensemble,” McAllister explains. “Basically just bounce all the music about and try and make it work as an electronic track. It kind of starts with an actual band in mind and eventually finds its way into being nasty, electronic [music]. I’ll work on that for two weeks and then send it over to Emily and she won’t look at it for about a month. And then honestly, just writes [the lyrics] in ten minutes.”
“There’s just so much bullshit that I personally have had to contend with, and it’s good to have an outlet for that, to say ‘Fuck you!’" - Emily Smith
It’s Smith’s perfectionism and commitment to writing something in less than half an hour that keeps their songs feeling punk-level raw, despite being expertly crafted. Songs like Back Again are like angry synthwave diamonds forced out of the pressure to record something good quickly. "It was nuts," says McAllister, “Emily was just recording on her phone and I thought 'Fuck, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard you write!' It was lightning hot, absolutely furious. We’re really angry and loud now,” he laughs.
Chuchoter’s lyrics are full of “lightning hot” feminist wrath, such as the EP’s single Pieces, their self-proclaimed “most vicious song” which was written as a direct reaction to sexual harassment. “We describe ourselves as angry, feminist pop,” explains Smith. “There’s just so much bullshit that I personally have had to contend with, and it’s good to have an outlet for that, to say ‘Fuck you!’
"I think it’s important as well that people hear that kind of music because there’s a lot of songs that perpetuate women as naturally submissive, and a lot of romanticisation around the idea of being pursued and desired. I think it’s important that people know that, OK if that’s what you’re into then fine, but if it doesn’t feel good then you can absolutely say ‘Fuck off!’" Smith continues, "Pieces is full of that, it’s like ‘Don’t fucking touch me! I’ve had enough.’ When you’re performing it on stage, you can really let go of all that pent up aggression. And it’s fun to do too!”
It’s this echoing of the #MeToo movement that gives Chuchoter's music its timeliness, a movement that the band are committed to and one they embrace the complexities of. “There’s a whole cultural shift that’s happening and sexual assault is not OK,” says Smith. “Owning that within your own peer group, and extending that into the content you consume. Some people don’t have the option to separate the art from the artist, it’s so detrimental to a survivor’s state of mind to see other people acting like that’s OK. We’re more about standing in solidarity with survivors than trying to tell anybody off, but it works both ways. That little bit of support we can provide by saying, 'I believe you.'" McAllister describes what this means in practical terms in the music industry: “As soon as we see something, we shut it down. We cut ties. We’ve turned down gigs, we’ve turned down a lot of work. We’re not going to actively encourage rape culture and predatory behaviour.” “It can be like a fucking safari!” adds Smith.
Chuchoter are adamant about making their gigs safe spaces “even if it means making cishet men a little uncomfortable for half an hour,” and are thrilled to be bringing their ethos and sound to Electric Fields 2018. “We’re so, so fucking excited!” Smith gushes, “The line-up is great! Young Fathers, Lady Leshurr... and just having a different platform, we’ve never had a platform like that. It should be a whole new set of people that we wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to play for.”
It’s a passion of the band’s to carve out a space for queer and non-binary folk in the local Scottish music scene and this is something they want to take to the festival circuit, which usually falls very short in terms of gender representation amongst acts. “I feel like Electric Fields have made such an effort this year to be inclusive and have less 'boybands'," McAllister enthuses. “I think that will attract more people who are interested in us. They’re trying to accomodate people who will be more responsive to our kind of stuff. It’ll be like 'Oh cool, we’re all here for the same thing!'”
Pieces is released on 27 Jul via Spinnup
Chuchoter play a free show at Cult Espresso, Edinburgh, 2 Aug