Truth be told, there’s little that makes a new band more exciting than a bit of chaos – and on that metric, there are few that get the heart racing quite like Lambrini Girls.
Life for Brighton’s Lambrini Girls has been pure chaos from the very beginning. Born in lockdown, the band’s very first gig took place at a huge celebration of the local scene at Brighton Dome. For vocalist and guitarist Phoebe Lunny, the night did not go entirely as planned.
“Drank three bottles of wine, ripped my trousers, came out to my mum on stage,” she grins, while bassist Lilly Maciera, not yet in the band at that point, laughs as she describes the show as “a fucking circus…”. “It was a bit of a strange time,” ponders Phoebe. “But anyway, loads of people were like, ‘who the fuck is this band?'”
Now, with support slots with the likes of Frank Carter being followed by being hand-picked by Iggy Pop for his Dog Day Afternoon festival later this summer, that’s a question that has to be asked less and less these days.
The Brighton scene has a rich history of producing interesting alternative bands, and Lambrini Girls fit straight into that heritage. Both Phoebe and Lilly played in local cult punk band Wife Swap USA (a group that also included half of buzzy Lime Garden), and after snagging a last-minute invite to headline The Great Escape’s opening party last year, things really began to click into place with a set that combined an anarchic sense of punky mayhem with a biting and searing dead-eyed stare at some major issues at play within both the local area and the wider world.
It wasn’t all cartwheels and downing bottles of Lambrini (though there remains plenty of that). The brutalising ‘Boys In The Band’, based on a specific band, takes a fierce aim at a DIY scene that still protects abusers rather than dealing with them. “The worst thing about it is when it gets ignored because it totally perpetuates the issue,” explains Phoebe. “And it makes us as much of an issue as the people actually doing it and abusing.”
After time living in London, and chatting to people from other towns and cities, she realised it wasn’t a purely Brighton problem. “It’s an inherent problem with DIY punk culture,” she says. “It is fucking everywhere!” “It’s across all music genres, to be honest,” adds Lilly. “There is a power dynamic between men and everyone else in the music industry, just because it’s obviously been so dominated by them for quite a long time already.”
The uncompromising way that Phoebe introduces ‘Boys In The Band’ at each show makes it impossible to look away. “The only way sometimes to make people listen is to literally shout it in their faces,” she says. “Because it’s not going to be a safe space if people aren’t informed as well.” “It’s just as much a part of us as the chaotic, rowdy side of things,” agrees Lilly, “You can’t pick and choose; you’ve got to take it as it is.”
As you’d expect from a band with song titles like ‘Terf Wars’, there’s no disguising that Lambrini Girls are fiercely unafraid to wade into issues. But don’t expect just a bunch of catchy slogans, for this is a band that live and breathe the subject matters that they’re bringing to the stage. So are they expecting any backlash from The Internet the bigger they get? “We probably will get a shit ton,” laughs Phoebe. “But when that comes, we’ll just eat it up, yum yum yum. Bon appetit.”
They’re already facing down the haters, whether that is sound guys calling them “stupid women” and trying to mute their mics mid-set (apparently due to ‘obscenities’) or poorly thought-out toilet graffiti. “I am fucking ready for it!” grins Phoebe before revealing that Brighton police have a folder marked ‘Lambrini Girls’ for reasons she can’t divulge. We still don’t know whether to believe her or not…
Their debut EP ‘You’re Welcome’ transfers all that chaotic live energy onto record perfectly, right down to the memorable album art – a flaming turd. “It was surprisingly difficult finding someone who would just do that,” explains Lilly sadly. “Some people just have too much artistic integrity to draw a pile of poo these days.”
The recordings themselves carry all the fire and unpolished power of the live show, something that was important to the pair. “I think it takes away a bit of the authenticity when that happens,” explains Phoebe. “You look at certain bands; Sorry is a good example. Their production on ‘925’ is fucking sick. What an album, what a fucking blinder. Then you hear them live, and it just sounds like two people busking in a tunnel.”
As the shows get bigger then, the band are intent on continuing to open up a safe space for their fans. ‘Gay Legend’, in particular, is always a set highlight, with the front of the room reserved for those gay legends in the crowd. It’s a natural progression from the Riot Grrl ‘Girls To The Front’ movement.
“Loads of people don’t identify as women,” points out Phoebe. “We’ve got non-binary legends there too. And we want all the people who are in the minority to be like, ‘this is my fucking space; let’s go’. Even if it’s just for one song, you are moshing cheek-to-cheek with other gay legends. Spit is swapping. If you’re on the floor, a gay legend picks you up.”
It’s not just Phoebe herself that’s come out during a Lambrini Girls set now, either. “We had a guy in Manchester do it,” she says. “What a fucking legend. It’s quite a compliment, really. I wouldn’t come out to me, Jesus Christ. This girl is fucking mental!” ■
Taken from the May 2023 edition of Upset. Lambrini Girls’ debut EP ‘You’re Welcome’ is out 19th May.