We caught up with the pair to find out all about their friendship, their influences and their brand new single
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY KALEIDO SHOOTS
Self confessed “Garage Rock Gal Pal Duo,” ARXX are at the top of our every playlist right now. Their unapologetic attitude paired with a pop-edge, makes ARXX (Hanni Pidduck on lead vocals and guitar and Clara Townsend on drums) a vital addition to the queer music scene.
Their focus on spreading positive mental health messages online, as well as championing women and non-binary artists, has already made them queer icons on the Brighton music scene, even winning a coveted slot to open for Dream Wife on their UK tour back in 2018.
The Brighton-based pair recently caught our eye after seeing that fellow queer musician SOAK helped out with their brand new video for Call Me Crazy. A song all about mental health struggles, but with a refreshingly upbeat tune, ARXX have also released merch designed by SOAK alongside it to raise money for key mental health charities.
Hanni’s strong vocals coupled with Clara’s skilful drumming make for the dream duo and we can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for them. Let’s get to know them better!
DIVA: Hi ARXX! How did you guys meet?
HANNI: We met because we were playing in different bands but played on the same bill a couple of times. Then my old drummer moved to Australia so I was looking for a replacement drummer for years. I was about to give up and then I messaged Clara. I asked if she knew anyone who would be interested and she said she would be. We had one rehearsal together, and we knew it was going to work.
CLARA: We knew of each other but we had never really spoken. I actually used to be a fan of Hanni’s band. I even bought the EP! I feel like our sounds are slowly merging together now.
Did you always want to be musicians? How did you get into it?
HANNI: I’ve wanted to be a musician since my first show, which was going to see Westlife. I was only about 12 and didn’t start playing guitar until I was 14. I self taught guitar and then that was it really. At first it was very cutesy but then I got an electric guitar and things got better.
CLARA: I went to go and see Mika who had a female drummer, Cherisse Osei – she was the first female drummer that I saw. Then our neighbours were getting rid of a drum kit so we just took it, but I didn’t get lessons for ages. I just used to mess around on it. When I got some lessons I instantly loved it but I didn’t think of it as like anything serious.
When we had to decide what we were going to do in school I thought it would be a cool option and my school were so against it, but here I am!
How would you describe your sound for people that haven’t listened to you before?
HANNI: We use alt-rock. Some people call it alt-pop, but I think that can be a bit misleading because some of our stuff is heavier than others. We don’t really care about genres when we’re writing and recording. As long as we like the song, that’s our marker for it being okay,
CLARA: It’s quite diverse. We have a country song, we have one song which is really heavy. We’re a bit all over the shop.
There’s something for everyone! Your latest single is called Call Me Crazy – tell us a bit about that song.
HANNI: I started writing it early last year. It was something I’d written in my lyric journal over and over again and I’d always had the idea of starting a song like that which was about mental health. I never quite got it out but we had this riff, that really worked with it.
It’s about mental health. It’s about specifically my experiences with depression and PTSD and inner dialogues. A lot of people pick up on it and think it’s about relationships. I guess it’s about my relationship with myself.
CLARA: We found a demo the other day from when we first came up with it and it was very different. It doesn’t have that pop-edge, we really struggled to get it to where it is now.
I love the video as well. What kind of creative input did you have in that?
HANNA: It was a very small team. We worked with our videographer Emma who is also a queer woman. I really love the music video for Boys by Charlie XCX, so we liked that idea of these mini scenes. To complement the mental health message we decided that each scene would be an act of self care. We thought it would be nice to have some of our friends and animals in the music video too!
CLARA: It was super fun. We wanted it to be all bubblegum and pink so that it would look happy and silly.
You made it during lockdown which is impressive. How did you take care of each other during lockdown?
HANNI: I think we’ve got a good understanding of each other. Clara’s generally Queen of the admin. I’m the classic creative, saying “I’ll write the songs and show up when you tell me to.”
I definitely experienced a lot of fluctuations in my mental health and Clara’s always been really sensitive about it.
CLARA: I think when there’s only two of you, it’s very different. There’s no other people to make decisions so you just have to. You can’t slack in a two piece. I don’t know how people have more than just two in a band.
What other queer musicians do you like draw inspiration from?
HANNI: In the olden days Joan Jett was a big influence on me. Sister Rosetta. that was a big influence for me in terms of playing electric guitar. More recently my favourite band is MUNA. Obviously Tegan and Sara, too!
What kind of influence do you think living in Brighton has had on your music? There’s such a big queer culture there.
HANNI: The music scene and the queer scene are still quite segregated. There’s definitely nights that are focused on queer bands and non-binary fronted bands, but there’s not that many gig spaces. But they are well received when they do play.
If it’s had an impact, it’s probably more subconscious. I would love to live in other places but I really enjoy the fact that when I’m with a partner, I can just live my life and not expect to get shouted out in the street like I might back at home.
CLARA: We’ve probably done more queer gigs in London really. When we were first starting out we would get booked for queer nights way more than we would compared to here in Brighton.
Would you say your fan base is quite queer as well?
HANNI: That’s such a weird one. In some places yes, but because a lot people find us on Spotify our audience is really diverse and there’s some older people too.
In Brighton it’s always gonna be that way because my friends come and I don’t think I have many straight friends.
If there’s a festival next year, what’s the dream line-up (alongside you of course)?
HANNI: Our dream is to support Haim. Dream Wife are another queer band that have been influential for us. Definitely MUNA and Dolly Parton.
CLARA: P!nk, The Big Moon, Marika Hackman, Florence And The Machine!
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