MUSIC INTERVIEW: Saint Agnes
Photo Credit: Scott Chalmers
Visceral horror-punk and gory gothic-rock are the aesthetics and sound of East London’s Saint Agnes. Having a flair for all things blood and pure carnage, Saint Agnes established themselves as one of the most captivating live bands around. The quartets thrilling gigs gave the band a platform for their theatrical display of rebellious on-stage antics early on in their career. Delivering their debut album Welcome To Silvertown in 2019, Saint Agnes sonically showcased their fiery punk ferocity and sweet pop hooks and visually told the tale of a dark fantasy world in which Kitty A. Austen and Jon James Tufnell immerse themselves and their audience in to shocking effect. Releasing mini-album Vampire earlier this year, Saint Agnes’ disgusting horror-punk trash metal sound, fantastical song writing and bubble gum pink meets jet black visuals are bolder, braver and more immersive than ever before. We spoke to vocalist Kitty and guitarist Jon backstage at the Download Pilot event all about their jaw dropping performance, the characters of mini album Vampire and bringing the new material to the stage at last.
I think we better start off here by talking about that set you just performed here at Download. Kitty, what a way to end the performance covered head to toe in blood, how did this concept come about, because it was quite reminiscent of The Family Strange and the whole horror vision of Saint Agnes?
Kitty: Well, I cover myself in blood quite often actually and I’m a big fan of the film Carrie and I just find that scene at the end where the bucket of blood falls over her to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I’m quite obsessed with it.
Jon: Every time we talk about doing a music video, Kitty says can I be covered in blood? We’ve done a few videos where Kitty is covered in blood and it just feels right.
Along the lines of live shows, you are hitting the road for several festivals, as well as The Vampire tour, scheduled for October this year, which means you are finally able to bring the new material from Vampire to the stage. How does that prospect sound?
K: I mean, it was great playing them today. In 2019 we played about 80 shows that year, so it was relentless and we didn’t get a chance to write anything really. We had to write backstage, we had to write on the road, so as much as I hated the last year it was actually quite amazing to get into the Vampire world.
J: In a weird way, the lockdown thing has kind of allowed us to speed that process up. Had we just been relentlessly playing; we would have had to stick to our guns a little bit because we never had the time to take out. So, the fact that we have gotten to play Download with an entirely new set of songs we wrote during this time, it feels like this moment is really imbedded in the now and in the present and we are kind of starting off as the band we intend to be oppose to kicking off again as the band we once were and I think for us that is really exciting.
Speaking of the mini album Vampire, which was released back in March, lyrically and visually tracks like Vampire and the entire album escape to this dark fantasy world full of characters you have created. What did it feel like for you the creators to immerse yourself in this side of the album?
K: It was just totally necessary, because as I said we were really struggling and we needed to immerse ourselves in something creative. It was very intense.
J: It was very intense. There was a lot of anxiety because this time has given us a lot of reflection time, and Kitty and I sort of living together and being in this intense situation was quite stressful. Also being in London where it was worse affected by the pandemic, it was a time where we were really nervous and as someone who has asthma at the beginning we didn’t know if that made me more susceptible. Just all this stuff spilled over in the need to create something that was in our control. The world was spinning out of our control, so we wanted to make a world that was our little figurines of ourselves interacting with the characters that represented the demons that we took on in a way that we were able to do so.
Sonically the mini album contains some of the most punk heavy riffs in Repent to almost poppier vocal hooks in I’m With You Everywhere You Go. How did this contrasting of sounds come about?
K: I think we find it really interesting to take something poppy, glittery and sparkly and it have this very dark underbelly, that’s my favourite kind of music and that was something we wanted to do. There is something really playful and subversive about taking the baby pink colour and covering it in blood, to me tha aesthetic is everything.
J: Like for me I love death metal, so if you go down that road it almost feels like a familiar road. But I prefer the idea to touch upon those elements, but combine it with Lana Del Ray, combine it with Lorde and those songs we covered in lockdown were inspired by that. The song Vampire in particular when we were writing it it felt like a real pop song, but lyrically its really attacking the concept of sugary sweetness, so why don’t we take it sonically in that direction and let it turn up to a party dressed in the right clothes but just fuck everything up.
Just reflecting on the time between dropping your debut record Welcome To Silvertown to unveiling The Family Strange and releasing your latest Vampire, to wrap up here, what growth has Saint Agnes experienced as a band between these releases would you say?
K: I am definitely always making a more concerted effort to be more honest in my lyrics and with my song writing, because putting yourself out there like that makes you more vulnerable and I’ve always found that difficult. So always striving to be more honest has helped that.
J: The style of our music has moved on quite quickly, because when we first started out with Welcome To Silvertown we were kicking against what was happening in our immediate scene at the time. So, we were kind of kicking against the shoegaze, too cool for school scene that was happening in London, so we thought fuck it lets have guitar solos and tap into these classic rock influences because it felt right at the time. But as time has moved on again, we are kicking against that, so whatever we were kicking against at the time, for example we are kicking against pop music now. But at the same time, we just don’t want to be the definition of a metal band, we also want to kick against that. Basically, we just want to undermine our own careers.
Saint Agnes‘ new mini-album Vampire is out now via Death Or Glory Gang Records, available to purchase HERE.
See Saint Agnes live at one of the following dates:
Sun 17th – MANCHESTER – Deaf Institute
Mon 18th – NOTTINGHAM – The Bodega
Tue 19th – LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club
Thu 21st – GLASGOW – Broadcast
Fri 22nd – SHEFFIELD – Sidney & Matilda
Sat 23rd – NEWCASTLE – Hit The North Festival
Sun 24th – BRISTOL – The Crofters Rights
Mon 25th – SOUTHAMPTON – Heartbreakers
Tue 26th – GUILDFORD – The Boileroom
Thu 28th – LONDON – The Garage
Fri 29th – BRIGHTON – The Green Door Store
Sat 30th – NORWICH – Voodoo Daddys
Tickets for the shows are on sale HERE.