“The art side of things is equally as important as the music,” reflects Drahla lead singer Luciel Brown when she meets NME. “It’s something we’re just as interested in, and excited about producing.”
Their debut album ‘Useless Coordinates’, out May 3, shows the Leeds-formed three-piece are on captivating form, with their music centred around cutting-edge experimental sounds and post-punk spirit. That avant-garde sound may well have been their introduction, but now Drahla are ready to present themselves as a formidable force in the visual arts world, too.
Genre-defying and medium-bending is something that’s crucial to the trio, they explain. Made up of Luciel on vocals and guitar, Rob Riggs on bass and drummer Mike Ainsley, the band even went so far as to accompany their newest single ‘Stimulus for Living’ with a self-made music video described as “challenging standardised format and perception,” as well as an ‘A Souvenir’ photo booklet, designed and hand made by Rob and Luciel, who has a background in graphic design.
“The whole idea of starting the band was to have another creative outlet, so I think to a degree it’s always experimental because it’s a collection of ideas in a certain form,” Luciel says. “I think it’s better not to put a genre on something if possible.”
Referencing the likes of influential artists like Cy Twombly, David Hockney and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the band are hoping to incorporate new creative elements into their live shows this Spring. “We made a really big backdrop for our tour last year with the Twelve Divisions artwork,” Luciel says. “We’ve got a few ideas, we’re definitely keen to bring that more to the forefront of things.”
Musically, those live shows are a unique experience, too. “We’re pretty loud and abrasive, and we try not to stop,” explains Mikey. “Once we start, we try to plough through everything and not really give you a rest.” They have also been frequently playing with Chris Duffin of XAM Duo at their live shows, who also features on several tracks across the album as a saxophonist. The idea stemmed from the band’s love of jazz; a move which happened to add even more chaos to their live performances.
It’s not just the band’s musical arrangement that’s particularly striking – Luciel’s vivid lyricism draws from poetry and her own creative writing, with captivating results. Take ‘React/Revolt’, a song the band note as one of their favourite on the album, with lyrics such as, “Sovereign sector, Burn the oil / Recognise, Lucrative signs / Blood enamel, Ripened peach / Acid on, Glistening teeth.” Its snappy delivery builds yet more momentum, while the lyrics themselves nod to politically-mindful themes. Rob echoes that truth-telling sentiment: “if you’re not being authentic, there’s no point in doing it at all.”
The band’s formation can be drawn back to a feeling of discontent by both Rob and Luciel, who returned to Leeds after living in London, after feeling isolated in the capital. The band now bounce between Yorkshire and London, with Mikey in Wakefield and the other two in Crystal Palace, but Drahla credit the city of Leeds as providing a crucial sense of community for them while they were starting out. “I don’t think being in Leeds had an impact on the music creation, but I think the whole scene was really welcoming,” Luciel explains. “It enabled us to play a lot of shows and develop quite quickly as a band in that sense.”
And though things are just getting started for Drahla’s debut album, there’s already an eye on something new. “We’ve already started the next one really, we’re just eager to get it out and tour a lot, so this year’s going to be busy.” Mikey says, as Luciel adds: “It feels quite old really, even though it’s just being released this May. In our heads it was finished ages ago, so you mentally move on from it.”
They’re planning an art exhibition this summer – a further extension of that muti-medium approach. “It’s going to be an exhibition of all the artwork that we’ve created for all the releases, posters we’ve made, an installation and the video work we’ve done,” Luciel teases.
Dates for that are on the horizon – the band have the works sorted, and say that the project will be split between London and Leeds, in homage perhaps, to two environments that helped shape them. Both this exhibition and their upcoming tour dates are a chance for the public to experience the essence of who Drahla really are: an incomparable amalgamation of artistic and musical influences, carefully interwoven to create something truly unique.
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Drahla’s debut album Useless Coordinates is out on May 3 via Captured Tracks