Deux Furieuses

deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan
deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

deux furieuses are a blistering guitar and drums duo whose new release ‘My War is Your War’ is THE album for our time. Visceral, anthemic, spine-tingling, it tears into so many wrongs and inspires you to put things right. All this while delivering a barrage of choruses, hooks and sing along moments - it’s an extraordinary work that should sit on the Mercury Prize shortlist. We spoke to Ros and Vas about making the album and what inspired it. ‘My War is Your War’ is out on Xtra Mile Recordings and available on LP/CD/DL here.

Xtra Mile Recordings

New album ‘My War is Your War’

We’re calling this THE album for our time - every song is a missile, starting with album opener Year of Rage. Talk us through some of the key things that inspired the songs on the album

Thank you, though that is a bit daunting! It is certainly an album about how it feels to us to live through this time, which is pretty much why we formed deux furieuses. Key things which inspired this album were going to Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin in 2016 just as our debut album Tracks of Wire was self-released; living in England as a Scot and London born Greek through the convulsions of Brexit, the threat to our democracy and all the protest marches and demonstrations we have taken part in; our hopes for the centenary of votes for women and the rise of the #MeToo movement; a girl we knew who lived and worked in our rehearsal studio who killed herself just when we took time off as Ros’s dad was dying; the consequences of austerity on the people that just didn’t matter enough exposed by the Grenfell Tower tragedy; a homeless person in up and coming Walthamstow where Ros was given notice to quit her flat of seven years; the rise of neo nazis in Chemnitz where we had once played a strange gig and slept with the unlocked door barricaded with a chair.

In the title track ‘My War is Your War’, personal lives collide with impersonal world events. There is a level of subconscious divining which goes on when writing lyrics..we don’t sit with a list of issues and write songs about them. We only recognise the themes after the songs are written when choosing the songs for the album.

What are you hoping that people will take away from listening to the album

We hope people get a visceral and emotional impact from listening to the album but are also able to listen again and again and discover subtle textures and meaning. We said at the album launch that it is a dark album but not despairing. We hope they take away that My War is Your War is about reaching out to find strength and solidarity with others. We end the album with the words ‘There are more of us’, a translation of Wir Sind Mehr which was the name of the counter demonstration and rock concert organised in Chemnitz after the German foreign minister told the silent majority to get up off their sofas and stand up against the Far Right.

deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

Where and how did you record it

We recorded at Grange Farm Studio, Emneth, Wisbech with producer Rob Ellis who produced our first album Tracks of Wire and studio owner Isi Clarke engineering. We tracked the drums and main rhythm guitar together in the live room onto Pro-Tools. Before every song, Rob tuned the drums to the tonality of that particular song, snare drums were considered and mics were adjusted. The Marshall cab was mic’d up in a separate room and we just played together over and over again listening under headphones and looking at each other until we had the right take. Then we would overdub another guitar part before adding percussion and recording vocals usually in the evening.

We did morning until night sessions for ten days in a row and had a few meltdowns along the way. Then we took the album tracks to Kyoti Studio in Glasgow where mixer Mark Freegard explores the tracks to get to the heart of the song. Finally John Davis at Metropolis Studio in London mastered the mixes to bring out the toughness of the sound while keeping dynamics and avoiding the trashiness of our first album.

Ros, deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

What were your favourite moments during the making of the album

We love the whole process of recording, there were many moments which gave us goosebumps as the songs came together as we hoped and imagined them. Arriving at the studio is always exciting, knowing the songs that we have written and worked on and have been brewing over time are finally going to be recorded..looking at the space and the excitement of knowing we have the opportunity to create something special with these two people in this particular space at this particular moment in time.

It’s always great once the main tracking is done and we get to add the final touches and overdubs. A highlight was at the end of ‘Words of Warning’ where Rob got everyone into the live room to play percussion, it felt like a powerful moment all of us hitting as hard as possible in unison. We will never forget the surreal time when we followed Rob into the surrounding fields to pick onions on a stress break from recording!

Vas, deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

Did you explore new instruments and techniques during the recording

On the evening we arrived we discussed the method of recording as there was no budget for pre production this time. Whereas on Tracks of Wire we had recorded drums and guitars separately, Rob wanted to go for a more raw feel and capture what we do as a duo live without a click but this didn’t work out for all the songs. We are still exploring how far we can go and what we can achieve with just guitar and drums, and how to best put across the dynamics and the mood of the songs.

Rob added subtle layers of sound from organ parts to percussion to enhance our guitar/drums arrangements. Rob would sit on the sofa in the control room with his laptop. He would ask Isi for particular audio we had recorded which he then altered on his laptop and sent back to Isi to use as texture eg on ‘Cruel Winter’ the icy high sound which echoes guitar riff is actually the low guitar riff altered by Rob on his laptop. He called himself ‘the librarian’ in an interview he did about his involvement on the last Marianne Faithfull album and this does describe him well.

At one point he got Isi to record electrical hum from the studio kitchen fridge to use on ‘Thorns’ along with reverse snare which sounded to us like a whip cracking. On ‘Words of Warning’ Rob added a pitched distorted treatment to a tom which sounded fantastic. He said he liked to take one element in a song and twist it into a surprising sound.

deux furieuses, Isi Clarke, Rob Ellis - pic Dan Donovan

There’s a little mystery on the album sleeve notes - who is the Rock chick (en) on Are We Mental?

Grange Farm Studio is on a farm and there were chickens running around the caravan where we stayed. When a chicken ran into the studio one day, Isi stuck a mic in front of it and recorded a yelp. She brought this up on the desk just at the perfect point on last track ‘Are We Mental?’ to join our screams and we all cracked up in the control room. Rob said it was one of the strangest studio moments he had ever had in the studio and that farmyard animals were rock and roll.

The signature imagery of red flags is very powerful, how was it created?

We were sitting in the pub brainstorming after a long hot rehearsal early this summer. We had arranged a photo shoot at a beach with Dan Donovan. ‘My War is Your War’ and ‘Civilians’ reference beaches and, with Britain feeling very much like an isolated island, we had decided to use this as the setting for the album artwork and promo shots . We discussed what we were going to do on the beach and first thought we could wave a white flag then laughed that this was a surrender. Then we said a red flag would be great as this has several of which is that a red flag on a beach is a warning of danger.

We liked this because many of the songs on the album are about missed warnings. ‘Words of Warning’, ‘Let Them Burn’, ’Song for Kat’, ‘Year of Rage’, ‘Wired to Hate’.. The red flag imagery also tied into ‘Year of Rage’ as we had seen a German poster for International Women’s Day 1914 with a fierce woman dressed in black waving a long red flag showing the European Socialist origins to IWD. Alannah Currie’s Sisters of Perpetual Resistance also used black hoods and red flags and we were so inspired by their striking imagery we asked Alannah to be in the video for ‘Year of Rage’.

Ros your guitar sound is so powerful, and we noticed you have a new guitar. Tell us about why you are using that particular one, and about your current rig

I wanted to get a lighter guitar as my Hagstrom was really heavy and killing my back at gigs and rehearsals. I also felt like trying single coil pick-ups for the first time. I settled on a Fender American Elite Telecaster Thinline with N4 noiseless pickups as it is light and I loved the clear tones and ringing harmonics. Without a bassist, I always have to work out how to keep the ‘bass line’ going while developing the guitar part at the same time. One way of doing this is to play broken chords on open strings which sustain and sound huge overdriven. The Thinline is great for this. It did take me some time to get my Marshall JVM 410 head and 4x12 cab to work with this guitar. You can really hear the ringing guitar sound on ‘Year of Rage’.

deux furieuses, Fender American Elite Telecaster Thinline - pic Dan Donovan

The album launch was incredible, the songs are eviscerating but you can still sing along. The crowd singing #MeToo was a spine-tingling moment. What reactions have you been getting at your recent shows

She Fest 7, 2000 Trees Festival and supporting US band Mineral at a sold out Dome were all highlights for us this summer. If an audience doesn’t know us, then we are up for the challenge of reaching out to them armed with the songs, the words and our performances. We can see what we are saying dawning on them as they smile and join in with us.

Sometimes it is just about lighting the blue touch paper, eg at She Fest 7 everyone had had a great all dayer and we just enabled them to let rip and celebrate. We sense that people want to be brought out of their individual shells and to express something together about these times. We played a record shop in store recently at Banquet Records and were nervous to play without the backline power we usually have at gigs. We thought the atmosphere would be dead in a shop and we would not be able to put across the same intensity. But once we started to play on the tiny stage into a small vocal PA using only a small combo amp and limited drum set up of snare and floor tom we were inhabiting the songs in just the same way. It was still just about getting the feel right between us, and playing out the truth of the songs and our lives.

A random person who was in the shop to collect an album and stayed to watch our set wrote to us that night to say “You are a real wild energy”.

deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

Vas so many people at the launch show were saying you are a new John Bonham, your drumming is more explosive than ever. Have you been using new techniques or gear? Or is it these songs that are unleashing new power?

I am nowhere near John Bonham’s level of power, groove or technique but It’s great if people are enjoying what I do and getting some excitement from it. My starting point is always to try and play something new to me. I like to experiment with odd and unpredictable drum parts and we will often go through a few variations at rehearsals before settling on what works best for a song overall.

With this album we knew we wanted to be direct, it was important for us to get the songs across, their essence, their stories. So I was conscious of this and trying to be more minimal but without losing excitement. I remember when Ros brought in ‘My War is Your War’ I felt I shouldn’t even play on it.. I thought it was a standalone powerful song without drums. I didn’t see what I could add to it. I imagined some kind of loop throughout rather than drums. We went through a number of drum parts before settling on the one we used. We hadn’t mentioned a loop to Rob so were amazed when he had the same thought and added the 16 beat floor tom loop you hear on the track.

My current live set up is the same as on Tracks of Wire:
Vintage Remo Acousticon kit, 22” bass drum, 12”,14”, 16” toms and 14x7” chrome snare although for My War is Your War album recording we used Rob’s Black Beauty snare.
Cymbals: Zildjian 20” Crash/ride, 17” K medium thin dark crash, 14” Quick Beat hi-hats, Sabian B 8 Plus 18” China,
Heads: Remo pinstripe
Sticks: ProMark LA Special 5b Hickory wood tips

deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

My War is Your War has been released on Xtra Mile Recordings - how did you get signed to them and what’s it been like having their backing for this release?

John Kennedy introduced Frank Turner to our first album and he asked us to open the Roundhouse for his inaugural Lost Evenings Festival in 2017. His first records were on Xtra Mile Recordings which is owned by his manager Charlie Caplowe. They seemed to us to be doing their own thing creating festivals and a real community of music lovers worldwide. They also supported Safe Gigs for Women and seemed to have strong ethics in everything they did. It felt to us like this was the new music industry.

A meeting was set up with the help of John Kennedy, and Charlie said he could be interested in our new album and asked us to demo a couple of new tracks which we did at the end of 2017. They asked us to play another gig at The Underworld during Lost Evenings 2018 and Charlie told us on the phone later that year that he wanted to go ahead with our album. We actually signed the contract this March then all went out for a drink in Soho and made a plan.

It is different to self-releasing and for us it has been a learning curve. Dani and Anthea at Xtra Mile are both fantastic to work with, so calm and focussed and light hearted while trying to help us get things exactly as we want them. We have been working with these two thoughtful, experienced women for the past 7 months which is really cool as well as continuing to work with Dan Donovan on the artwork and the single videos. We are very proud of the album, and grateful to everyone who has worked with us on the audio and the artwork to realise our vision. We are still managing ourselves and booking our own gigs and so it still feels very DIY from that perspective.

deux furieuses - pic Dan Donovan

What’s next for deux furieuses?

We are excited to be headlining a Genesisters Safe Gigs for Women fundraiser at Genesis Cinema on 23 November and are doing a stripped back support to label mate Johnny Lloyd at The Grace (upstairs at The Garage) on 14 December. We are keen to play more gigs around the UK to promote My War is Your War and would love to play this album around Europe too.

Nov 2 - Stockport - Blossoms
Nov 5 - Edinburgh - The Banshee Labyrinth
Nov 23 - London - Genesis Cinema, Safe Gigs For Women fundraiser
Nov 27 - Newport - Le Pub
Dec 14 - London - The Grace (upstairs at The Garage) DF stripped back set

Full tour info here

The new album ‘My Way is Your War’ is available on LP/CD/DL here