Gaggle Gaggle… Good for the gander

Interview: Gaggle

Published on May 25th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Rocksucker was really rather taken with Gaggle’s first album proper From the Mouth of the Cave (click here to read our four-and-a-half-quail review), so we fired some questions over to group leader Deborah Coughlin in the hope of finding out a little bit more about how her 21-strong all-female choir operates. First, though, please do enjoy this choice cut from the record…

Who’s handling what instrumentation-wise on the album?

I wrote the songs with my writing partner Simon Dempsey. We played a lot of the instrumentation along with Sara Leigh Shaw my drummer and amazing arranger Sam Karl Bohn. Jim Anderson our producer played on some incredible old synths as well.

I love the strange production of the record. Who handled that side of things? Did you go into the project with a clear idea of how you wanted it to sound, or did it just turn out that way?

I wanted to create a world of sound. Like a soundtrack or film score telling the story of these women going on a journey. There’s leaving, battles, forgiveness, hope – little stories that are part of an epic journey. So I wanted the production and arrangement to help create this. Danny Elfman, Joby Talbot and the sound work on Top Gear were all references.

How would you describe the music of Gaggle, if pushed? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like!)

Gaggle is its own genre – purely because I had no rules, just to express some of my deepest thoughts and feelings in an honest, sometimes brash way. That’s kinda what I’m like.

When and how did you all come together? Was the idea to have many of you, or did it expand gradually?

I wanted 12, then 16, then 25 – we’re 21 at the moment and its perfect right now. I went looking for women, women have joined and left – many have stayed – the more people that know about us the more women come to us to ask to join.

Do you have problems in small venues? Are you a full complement for most of your gigs, or do you tend to perform in various combinations?

Gaggle is all of us. We’re a gang – we only ever split ourselves up if its good for the whole group – but if you book us, your booking all of us. We’ve fitted in lots of small things – we all fitted in a shower once.

How musically trained is everyone in the band? Were some of the more complex chanting/singing rhythms difficult to orchestrate?

I’m musically trained. I didn’t choose anyone else based on whether they were trained. I didnt want a trained choir sound. I wanted something more like a congregation or a football stadium. I think the girls sound beautiful and awkward and interesting and weird and sweet and passionate, because they are allowed to sound however they want – they can go and get lessons if they want, but they are encouraged to find their own voice and in their own way if they want to.

How did you come to the attention of Transgressive Records?

Tim and Toby came to see us, then emailed. They have been amazing, along with everyone up in their Transgressive Towers. Lila’s lovely. Not many labels would have put out our previous record The Brilliant & the Dark, a radical feminist re-working of a 1969 Women’s Institute opera – especially as we put the condition on the project that it had to be a copyleft release! Gaggle are in love with Transgressive and that’s why we did our upcoming debut album with them.

Have you thought much yet about what your next project might be?

Well the album’s out on 25th June [click here to pre-order your copy]. We have our spectacular album show on 4th July at the Village Underground in London. We’re doing twelve pop-up performances/protests over the next few weeks and are opening the Kerrang! Awards with our own special version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. Oh and instores at Rough Trade East and Banquet. We’ve been making a film, and we’ve got another secret project too! But really we can do anything. George Osbourne should watch out, we’ve always said we could be a magazine, shop or even an army – and if they don’t start making some better decisions we might just start a coup.

Will you be playing at any festivals this summer?

We might be popping up in a few places – but we’re getting ready for a special set of shows round the UK in the autumn.

Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?

Opening Transmusicales in France after only existing for four months! In front of 7000 people! Reading and Leeds. The Royal Festival Hall. ICA. Royal Albert Hall. Headlining the Lake Stage at Latitude. Bestival is always amazing. Norway, Germany – a beautiful Abbey in Metz. One of our all time favorite shows was really recently in Falmouth! The whole room moved like crazy people. We loved them.

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?

Our favorite new DJ girls Pap•il•lon – they are playing at our launch. Sylver Tongue. The LONE Tax±derm±st. Blood Music.

Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?

Using the word ‘artist’ in its broadest sense I think I can make solitary confinement very nice. Bjork. Armando Iannucci. Vivienne Westwood. Steve Jobs. Marina Abramović (she’d have to come hang out with me you see).

Deborah Coughlin, thank you.

Gaggle - From the Mouth of the Cave

From the Mouth of the Cave will be released 4th June through Transgressive Records. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.gagglemountain.com

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.