Let me start by saying Grandmas House is not your ordinary punk band.
As proudly queer musicians, their message is one of inclusion, equality and safety. They join a growing movement of bands like Slagheap and Goat Girl who won’t rest until the glass ceiling is not just smashed, but pulverised back into sand and thrown into the sea.
With their shows, they aim to create a warm and welcoming space for outsiders, who up until now may have thought twice about going to gigs alone. That doesn’t mean that their shows are in any way subdued. Grandmas House is still a punk band after all, and there’s still every chance you’ll get a heavy Dr Marten boot to the head when things get going. When you hear the brutal honesty of their lyrics, which have all been born from experience, you get the feeling that whatever is going on inside the venue is far less crazy than what is going on in the world outside it. Like the Riot Grrl movement that came before them, Grandmas House have their own way of doing things and if you don’t like it, they will be the first to tell you what you can stick and where you can stick it.
A stalwart of the Bristol underground scene, this three-piece have spent the last few years growing in confidence and experience and it looks to us they are just about ready to explode. We sat down with Yasmin, Poppy and Zoë as they prepare to rip 2020 a new one.
You recently parted ways with your original bass player, Daisy, could you talk a little about that and what it’s been like working with Zoë since she took on the role?
Yasmin – The reason we parted with Daisy was because she is living in London and it became a bit of a struggle to make it work, for all of us. She’d come down the night before a gig and we’d do a quick practice and then go straight to the gig.
Poppy – We didn’t have time to write new songs all together as a band which is how we do it best and it was starting to get a bit stressful for all three of us. We all came to a very beautiful, emotional, mutual decision that it was best to part ways.
P – Since it’s been us three we’ve written so many new songs, we’re constantly practising and talking about the band.
Y – It’s just so much easier.
How has living under one roof affected your songwriting?
P – Oh my god it’s affected it so positively, we’re like all one big brain.
Zoe – With only one brain cell.
P – We all just float around together, we’re coming up with stuff constantly, we just do everything together. We could all be sat around the kitchen table and suddenly we’ll have another idea for a song. It’s very good vibes.
Y – Very positive vibes in Grandmas House.
How would you say living in Bristol has impacted your development as a band – do you think you could have achieved as much as you have if you’d have stayed in London?
P – No (laughs).
Y – I don’t think so, I think Bristol is such an amazing city. London has an amazing music scene, but I think in Bristol it’s much more of a community and everyone kind of works together, all the different bands work with and support each other.
P – I think sound-wise, the music scene has definitely influenced us a lot.
Y – There’s a lot of punk on the rise, especially in Bristol and it’s shaped the way we write, it would be incredibly different if we were anywhere else.
Z – I think if I was still living in London I wouldn’t have ever picked up a bass. We’ve such a big friendship group of musicians and its very inspiring.
It seems like everywhere I look I see a Facebook event or poster advertising one of your upcoming shows. What does playing live mean to you and what is it about playing that you enjoy the most?
P – We’ve been gigging a lot recently, like a lot, it’s been so fun. We all love playing live from the moment we start playing. The energy just comes out of all of us, literally from our souls it feels like, there’s so much that we have to let out and that’s why we’ve been gigging so much… because we just love it.
Y – Seeing people in the crowd enjoy themselves and singing along is just amazing, it’s so exciting. Zoe and I are from Germany – well I’m from Belgium so we’re having to sign all sorts of stuff to stay in Britain – so to be singing about things we’re going through and seeing people nodding along and responding to it is very special for us.
You recently played a sold-out show to mark the release of Slagheap’s debut album, what do gigs like that mean for female punk bands like yourselves?
P – They are very important. They’re not as common as we’d like them to be, where there’s a space for female and non-binary musicians to come together. We’ve played two gigs like that in the past year and both have been a very emotional experience for us. It is so empowering and it feels so good. It should be more common and it shouldn’t have to feel so empowering.
Y – There were so many women and people who identify as non-binary at the gig as well. We get very excited when we see other women on stage and you could tell that other people were just as excited, it was very inspiring. Slagheap are amazing as well, just four very powerful women just doing what they want to do.
You also performed alongside the legendary Frankie Cosmos, how was that experience for you and how does it feel to be playing higher profile shows?
P – That was literally so exciting, I’ve listened to Frankie Cosmos for a long time. So we got this message and we were like, what the fuck! It was really exciting, it was nice to play to a new audience as well.
Y – It was just a completely different audience to what we are used to. We talked to Frankie and she was very sweet, she was excited to see some more women supporting her.
Z – We all got a little picture of us looking like eggs because it was raining and we had our hoods up.
P – We feel so lucky that we get to play these gigs.
Y – We’re still shocked every time, it’s very flattering.
P – Shocked and excited.
It seems like you have already achieved so much with just a handful of singles to your name. Are you currently working toward a proper release, or are your live shows still the focus for now?
P – We’re definitely in the process of recording one maybe two songs. Slightly more professionally done than our DIY iPhone recordings, although that does work with our sound, so who knows! But we’re also really enjoying playing live and I think we just want to keep doing both.
Y – We keep saying maybe we should try gigging a bit less in Bristol but we just can’t say no.
A lot of high energy bands like yourselves find it difficult to reproduce their live performance on record, has this ever been a problem for you? How would you describe your approach to recording?
Y – It’s been a priority to capture that live, kind of rough sound.
P – We did find it quite hard, we recorded in a studio and we didn’t manage to capture it at all, which is why we turned to the DIY phone vibe, also because it was just us in the room and we felt like we could just let it out.
Y – If you’re in a proper studio it’s hard to have that energy you have when you play live, it’s all so clean and polished. It’s very very important to us to keep it as rough as possible.
P – As long as we do give it the 100% energy that we give it live it usually manages to come across. I think it’s easy to hold back a bit when you are recording and I think we’ve learnt that we need to give it 10% more than we give it live.
Y – Big tings coming.
What would you say your main influences are outside of music? Is there anything that particularly possesses you to get together and write songs?
P – I think the current situation with the entire world definitely inspires us to want to scream into a microphone, all the shit that’s going on…
Z – All the shit!
P – And then also random funny things that happen to us, I wouldn’t say that we are unlucky but we’ve gotten into some situations and I think that also inspires us.
Y – It inspires a lot of songs. If you know us you know!
I think for most people, the name Grandmas House reminds them of simpler, more innocent times. How would you say your music reflects the world around you now that those days of standing on your tiptoes to reach your Nan’s biscuit tin are over?
P – First of all, our name… A lot of people have said that it reminds them of a safe space. Your Grandma’s house is a comfortable little space that you can go to. Especially for women – a lot of women have said that and I think that we really like that because that’s kind of how we want it to feel. A safe space to shout about all the things that are wrong.
Y – Women to the front, queers to the front, non-binary people to the front! I think it reflects that sort of mentality.
P – Our music now that those sweet, sweet days are over… we definitely are singing about issues that directly affect us or people that are important to us.
Y – Me and Zoë not being from the UK…
P – Us all being queer… Things that we want to shout about and talk about and music is a good way to do that. We sing about serious stuff that makes us really really angry, but we’re having the time of our lives doing it and it’s like the best thing to just be able to stand up and scream about it.
Y – We love playing music, so being able to combine standing up for what you believe and also playing your instrument and singing is just amazing.
Words & Photography: David Sturgess