London based Modern Woman began life as the songwriting project of Sophie Harris, a literature graduate who started playing the songs solo at spoken word nights she ran. “I had a firm idea of the direction I wanted the project to go in, and I knew that couldn’t be achieved without a full band.” Harris says speaking of the band’s beginnings. “It was important to me to keep the tenderness and lyricism of folk music but blend this with heavier and weirder experimental elements.”
An introduction through a mutual friend led her to meeting David Denyer, an Anglo-German-Armenian composer by trade whose interests include Merzbow records and building his own instruments and pedals. The two started playing together with Denyer playing an array of homemade violins, synths, effects and percussion – including a battered wooden table with a metal colander nailed into it and jagged remnants of cymbals that take a pummeling throughout the band’s live show. Explaining the set up Denyer says; “We always talked about being influenced a lot by Tom Waits and there are lots of stories of him smashing up doors and using it as percussion so we gave it a shot. The colander was Sophie’s idea. I love pasta though so it sits really well with me.” Harris adds; “Musically, David and I have often spoken about childlike explorations of nature and I think this is exemplified in his way of using percussion – with natural and sometimes chaotic sounds.The riffs and melodies I prioritise to write around always have to carry this feeling for me personally. I love the way writers like Robert Macfarlane and musicians like Richard Skelton explore the landscape through their work; they seem to captivate that odd and horrifying sublime feeling nature can sometimes bring, and that was definitely an element we’ve tried to add to the music through dynamics and atmosphere”
After a period of comings and goings of different line ups the band was completed after meeting Madrid-born bassist plus occasional saxophonist Juan Brint Gutiérrez through an ex-bandmate of his, who in turn introduced drummer Adam Blackhurst. “I was very drawn to Sophie’s songwriting and vision that balanced tenderness and aggression in a similar way to our shared influences whilst remaining original and fresh. As a band this has been an amazing space to explore out-there ideas and recontextualise my background in improvisational jazz.” says Brint Gutierrez. “Meeting Adam and Juan was wonderful as it completed the sound. Adam was the last to join and after many drummers, his approach to playing perfectly complemented our love of experimentalism and noise” says Harris.
Playing their first show in the later half of 2019 the band quickly built a word of mouth following around their incendiary live performances playing alongside the likes of Dan Carey’s ScottiBrains, Tiña and Automatic, before lockdown cruelly stopped them in their tracks.
After being invited to play End of the Road’s streamed digital edition in 2020 it helped introduce the band to a wider audience outside of the smattering of shows they’d played in pre-pandemic times and earned them early fans from influential peers like IDLES, Squid and Black Midi. The band’s music, still based around Harris’ songwriting, explores a diverse range of sounds drawing from their melting pot of influences from post-punk and 60s folk music to free-jazz and noise. Lyrical nods to myth and folklore sit amongst songs that range from poetic monologues, stripped back folk songs to the ferociously experimental. “I am very interested in how nature is portrayed in art,” says Harris, “ The idea of generations of lived time running as undercurrents throughout the natural landscape, and how this is reflected in us all individually in the rawest of human emotion. I’ve always been drawn to myths and folktales as stories that best express this. Lyrically, then, I like to explore this feeling through my own stories, and sometimes going as far as to modernise myths or well-worn tales into a contemporary setting.”
End of the Road founder Simon Taffe says of the release “as soon as we accidentally stumbled upon a Modern Woman live show, we were obsessed. They were so fully formed. We were stunned to discover they hadn’t even recorded a song.” “Whilst the pandemic has been devastating for the live music industry as a whole, we also really felt for new bands and artists just starting out in their career. Artists who might get a bump from playing festivals like ours and the many other great events around the world, exposing them to a whole new audience and helping them build long lasting fan bases. We wanted to start a label as a way to showcase the new bands we love to our loyal following of music fans, and we’re ecstatic to be working with Modern Woman on their first release.