It is sometime in the middle of 2008. I am walking down Stoke
Newington High Street, having left the train station AGES ago. I am trying to find Bardens Boudoir, a venue I have never heard of
that is apparently in Stoke Newington. Bardens is actually a mile
away, in Dalston. 0.2 miles from Dalston Kingsland station, in fact. It is raining.
Deborah has a gig. Her first since 586 split up. Three out of five
members of the now defunct 586 are backing her – Simon on guitar and Grant on drums. Matt from SohoDolls is playing double
bass. I go along ‘cos I’m curious to see what she’s been up to, and
because the 586 break-up wasn’t handled too well and I’m still feeling
a bit guilty. And – back then – feeling mildly competitive. They play four songs: First up is 586’s Dancing On Graves, then a new song called Walter’s Daughter or something. It’s a bit of a silly Gypsy stomp, fun but slight. Then they play a song called Crows. It is fucking amazing, a kind of Gorillaz-style lurching ska-hop
skank. I am instantly jealous.
And then she goes and ruins it by covering the theme tune to Around The Twist!
2009ish, and I hear rumblings that she’s been pulling together a
22-girl choir, recruited from and rehearsing in The George. “Christ,” I think to myself. “And I thought it was bad when just Deborah
and Sam’s periods synced.”
And then I ponder the logistics of organising 22 girls.
Suddenly, there is a Myspace page, complete with an a cappella demo of Crows. Woah. Having loved the version I saw at Bardens, I’m initially a bit disappointed.
Sounds interesting though.
Gaggle start playing live. Early shows are slightly hampered by dodgy
sound – the perils of playing venues that are used to three-to-five-piece bore-rock bands – but people start to really dig what
they’re doing. They look amazing, all in matching dayglo cloaks. Its a
uniform, but each member has personalised patterns and accessories. Initially, stuff like I Like Cigarettes and I’m A Drunk sound a bit like We Got Bored-style throwaway nonsense-pop (this is a good thing), but then, in the haze of a drunken hour, I see them play the Latitude festival in July 2009 and I notice a lyric I hadn’t quite caught before. In the verse of I’m A Drunk, they repeatedly chant the words “I smell
roses but I hear flies.”
“Ooh,” I think. “That’s a bit good.”
Gaggles come, Gaggles go. I’m A Drunk is renamed I Hear Flies and is
released as a single. At the launch party, in a church in central London, they debut a song called The Cave. Deborah and Simon had played me a demo version in their studio that was good, but the
live version is even better. They perform it whilst marching down the aisle in funeral-procession stylee, a dark, hymnal monster.
As gig openers go, it is terribly dramatic. Liar still sounds like the
theme from Inspector Gadget, though.
Things build. Every now and then I pop in to a show. One night in
2010, Deborah and I meet for poncey Martinis at the Polish Bar in Shoreditch. The night degenerates into a massive bender. We
go to a club, get increasingly hammered, meet some girls and go back to Deborah’s to carry on drinking. She tells me all about a feminist opera that she is reworking called The Brilliant & The Dark, and in the small hours of a rainy Wednesday, she plays me the first piece they’ve recorded.
“Fuck me,” I think. “This is amazing.”
The Brilliant & The Dark is performed, recorded and released as a
limited edition vinyl record. They even perform it at the Elgar Rooms at the Royal Albert Hall. I go to that show and it’s like This Is Your Life, but a different life, an older one, full of people I haven’t seen in years. Ex-586 members’ parents, friends, old drivers…it’s a bit brilliant. The show is a massive racket, augmented by a further 20 Gaggles.
I ponder the logistics again. 42 personalities. Jesus wept.
More Gaggles come and more Gaggles go. I meet Deborah for a coffee in Waterloo Station one evening to clarify some points for this blog. She plays me a song being considered for the upcoming album. It is called Hello Spider and is basically everything she has been talking up – everything she has been threatening to write – since I met her. It’s brilliant.
2012 has been a big year for ex-members of 586. Two months ago Grant’s girlfriend Meike gave birth to a beautiful baby girl they named Idahlia. Last month Sam Christie finally married Mark
Heffernan out of Remodel. Earlier this month I married the really hot regular from my club night, Nuisance. Yesterday, Deborah and Simon and the rest of the Gaggles released their debut album, From The Mouth Of The Cave. Last week it was streaming on The Guardian’s website, this week you can buy it. Everywhere. It’s cracking. Hello Spider closes it. The Cave opens it. Somewhere in between them is a song called The Power Of Money that will make a cracking single later this year.
I believe some congratulations are in order.
Listen to From The Mouth Of The Cave here: