> Current Affairs – Off the Tongue (interview) – their restless new album, Glasgow's DIY music scene, and what it means to be post punk - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Current Affairs – Off the Tongue (interview) – their restless new album, Glasgow’s DIY music scene, and what it means to be post punk

Since releasing their first collection of tracks in 2019, Current Affairs have leaned into gothic new wave undertones that colour their raucous post-punk. After a Covid-enforced break, working together through the Spitehouse Collective – a Glasgow project promoting LGBTQ+ and female music-makers – they are getting ready to release their debut LP, Off the Tongue, and embark on a UK tour.

SNACK caught up with Joan Sweeney (vocals, keyboard), Andrew Milk (drums), and Gemma Fleet (bass) to chat about their restless new album, Glasgow’s DIY music scene, and what it means to be post-punk.

Since you were working on Off the Tongue for quite a long time, how did you ensure that the music still felt fresh and raw and spontaneous?

Joan: I think one of the things that was interesting about doing it this time was that little snippets were getting sent around, like little phone recordings and things, and then nothing was really fully done until we could practise together again. Then, when we could practise together again, we had a couple of weeks to get things together properly, go and record them and then it was done! So maybe that’s why: it all just came together at the last minute.

Andrew: Yeah, I think the sound that you get is probably us still feeling quite new to the songs ourselves when we were recording them. Because usually you’d have maybe a year of playing stuff live to really get down to what you want it to sound like on record. And part of the spontaneity might be the fact that we couldn’t go out and play them live.

Current Affairs – Photo credit: Catriona Clegg

I’m interested in the role that location plays in your music. Do you feel that Glasgow or Berlin or any particular place has had an influence on you as a band?

Gemma: Glasgow is really accommodating for making music. For me, it just seems like people are up for doing it which is a novelty! Getting a practice space isn’t a really hard thing, it doesn’t cost millions of pounds like it does in London. And there’s a real passionate commitment to music, so people are going out and doing it in their week. Whereas everyone has to work so much just to simply live in London, that’s quite hard to do.

Joan: There’s always connections [with Glasgow and Berlin]. But there’s also connections here with DIY circuits around the world. We put on gigs, other bands in Glasgow put on gigs, we put on people from abroad, and they put us on abroad. It’s always been more about finding like-minded people from wherever they are, rather than right on your doorstep.

Could you tell me a little bit about the Spitehouse Collective, where you started working together, and what sort of influences that experience had on you as a band?

Andrew: That leads on quite nicely from what Joan was saying. It’s an organisation – very loosely organised – that [Sebastian] Ymai started with another queer artist, performer and DJ called Cat Riley. And the two of them started it as a sort of club/queer gig/amorphous… thing. It was a group of eight or nine folk, just putting effort into organising cultural events.

There were art exhibitions, and gigs, mostly in all-ages and/or accessible spaces in Glasgow, which are at a premium because Glasgow is a really inaccessible city. It’s all basements or top floors!

Joan: I think those gigs as well – without it being too cheesy – got us all working towards what we really believed in from music, and how we want people to be treated fairly. We wanted it to be inclusive, we wanted it to be exciting; to be more than just a gig or an art show.

There was a huge focus on building that community, finding artists outwith Scotland, and trying to find ways to afford it, which wasn’t easy.

Gemma: We had little teams – I’m saying it in the past tense, but we’re just having a bit of a pause – making food for the bands, people would put them up… so every element is covered. Because sometimes when you go to a city, it can be quite cold: you turn up at the venue, there’s a promoter – you don’t know who they are, you maybe never meet them – you play, get a bit of money if you’re lucky, and then you find somewhere to sleep.

Whereas in our experience, it was a bit more of a DIY thing and that felt like it was starting to get lost [in] the last 10 years. So [we wanted to] keep it going and show people that this is how it can be.

Current Affairs – Photo credit: Matthew Arthur Williams

You’re often described as a post-punk band. And that’s a label which you hear all the time these days about lots of different kinds of bands. Do you feel that it’s overused? Do you feel it’s an apt description of what you’re trying to do with your music?

Joan: We’ll all probably have slightly different opinions on this. I’ve always thought about post-punk as basically just being ‘after the first wave of punk’. So to me, it’s when people are going a little bit deeper into their influences, or getting a bit better at their instruments. But it’s still got the punk ethic of ‘just give it a go’. So I don’t mind it. And a lot of my favourite bands would probably come under that umbrella, even though they don’t necessarily sound like each other.

Gemma: I think genres are so broad but sometimes they’re helpful for people, because we’re absolutely bombarded with music everywhere. And it’s sort of annoying as a musician, but if people can say ‘it’s post-punk, for fans of…’ then you sort of have a bit of idea whether you might like it, and probably helpful when you’re trying to navigate the absolute tonne of music available in the world!

Andrew: I don’t feel like it’s necessarily an overused term, I think it’s used accurately. There is just that breadth and that amount of bands that would fit under it. I mean, that’s why post-punk as a genre is never-endingly inspirational and brilliant to dive into, because it is everything post… punk!

I found the final track on the album, ‘Her Own Private Multiverse’, to be one of the most intriguing, with its enigmatic title and dreamy sound. Could you tell me a little bit about the story behind it?

Joan: That song’s one of my favourites, I think it’s quite special.

I’m not saying anything grand, I just think it’s like a really sweet wee song and it’s quite personally important. That was the first time that we had actually been able to practice together and write, so that wasn’t one that we bandied about.

We all wanted to write something slow, because we hadn’t for ages. So we started playing about with that, and these beautiful bits of music were coming together. And then lyrically… I’ve done a thing called Internal Family Systems Therapy before. Part of that is all about how you have to see yourself, or who you are, as lots of little parts. And all those little parts are doing something important for you, even if they’re things that give you the ick. So it’s about being curious about yourself, accepting everything, and showing compassion to all those little parts of you.

‘Her Own’ was supposed to be a song that talks about that, but it just gives you that same feeling that that kind of therapy gives, which is a sense that you’re not ashamed of any part of you, you’re not too self-critical. So maybe to shorten it: it’s supposed to make you feel worthwhile and to [tell you to] take care of yourself.

Current Affairs’ Off the Tongue is out 14th July via Tough Love Records

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