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Meet Lambrini Girls, a fizzing cocktail of righteous queer fury

As they gear up to release debut EP ‘You’re Welcome’, Lambrini Girls tell Rolling Stone UK about the genesis of their powerful sound

By Emma Wilkes

Lambrini Girls (Picture: Bridie Florence)

Before they play their breakout single ‘Help Me, I’m Gay’ at their passionate and all-embracing live shows, Lambrini Girls ask the crowd one question: “Put your hand up if you’re a gay legend.” Usually, about half the crowd will raise their hand.

But it wasn’t always like this. Not so long ago, the Brighton duo found themselves in an unprecedented situation when they asked the same of a crowd in Belgium and only one person put their hand up.

Half of the punters thought, ‘Fuck this’, and left. What mattered to Lambrini Girls, though, was that the one queer person in that crowd could feel seen by the queer band in front of them. It’s part of their core mantra. “What we really want to do is get ourselves into spaces that aren’t designed for people like us,” says vocalist Phoebe Lunny. “Queer people, femme people, non-binary people – anyone who isn’t a straight white man.”

The duo – completed by bassist Lily Macieira – are kicking the door open with their debut EP, You’re Welcome, a Molotov cocktail of feminist fury tackling subjects from abuse and lad culture to transphobia and the trivialisation of queerness. If that doesn’t sound exciting enough, Iggy Pop’s a fan, dubbing them his “favourite new band” and personally requesting that they open proceedings at his one-off Dog Day Afternoon concert in Crystal Palace in July.

Ahead of a break-out summer, Lunny and Macieira tell RSUK more about what they stand for:

Did you start the band with the ambition to stand up and call for change, or did the message come a bit later down the line?

Phoebe: When it first started, for me personally, it was very much like, ‘We’re going to be a fucking sick queer band and we’re going to come in sticking two fingers up being like “Fuck you all”’. But something we realised quite quickly is how much abuse there was [in our local scene]. It then became a case of ‘What can we do about this?’ The reason why abuse is so rife in creative circles is because nobody calls their friends out at all, because people are too scared about social standing or confrontation or whatever it is, they don’t want to rock the boat, and it totally normalises it.

Lily: As it went along, it became more and more obvious how much misogyny, and how much of oppression even and sexual abuse there is in the music industry. I only joined the band about a year ago, but I’d played in a lot of bands and I’d actually sort of gotten to the point where I didn’t really want to play as much anymore. But I feel like with this particular band, I had a sort of a quiet voice in the back of my mind that said, ‘This is probably the one that matters more than anything’.

What made you decide to write about the specific issues you talk about on this EP?

Phoebe: Speaking about abuse culture in the music scene with ‘Boys In The Band’ is extremely important to us, because that’s something we’ve directly experienced, how intimidating lad culture can be, and how problematic that is with hyper masculinity. But I think it’s extremely important to talk about things which aren’t going to affect us, like with ‘Terf Wars’ [the song is a direct riposte to transphobia].

I think that’s an extremely important thing that we have to acknowledge because a lot of the time with bands which are pushed under the ‘Riot Grrl’ bracket, what that brings with it is a very Riot Grrrl crowd who are a bit older. Unfortunately, Riot Grrrl can be very TERFy. If you look at bands 30 years ago, and they were putting on festivals where you had to be an assigned female at birth person to go to them, and stuff like that.

Lily: I just think with anything, it’s obviously easier to be passionate about something that affects you directly. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But I think we can all push ourselves a little bit further and think about the people all around us, and think about all of these awful things that are going on for trans people specifically at the moment. It’s important to be passionate about any issues that diminish anyone’s identity and anyone’s right to exist.

‘Help Me I’m Gay’ centres around the trivialization of queerness. How has that personally impacted you?

Lily: It seems that being gay or being queer has now been, in typical capitalist fashion, turned into a brand.

Phoebe: It’s absolutely fucking bollocks. There’s so many different aspects to it, because you look at the way that cisgender men fetishise queer women in every way, the way that the media does it as well. The way that queer people are tokenized in the media, you see that all the time.

We’re seeing a lot more bands with feminist messages breaking through or becoming more well known – Witch Fever, M(h)aol, Big Joanie et cetera. Why do you think this is?

Lily: I think it’s probably just a natural evolution of the social climate. I hope also that this will encourage more queer and non cis male people to get into those spaces where they might not necessarily feel welcome, because they are male dominated. That was a really big issue. For me, when I was starting out, alternative music was full of men. I mean, even before it was about playing music, I trained as a sound engineer, and it was just absolutely nerve racking for me to even get over the fact that I had a right to be there. The difficult thing for me with that was that I didn’t see that much representation. I think as a society, we’re all very much waking up to how much representation in society matters, whether it’s gender related, or ethnicity related. It matters because you can really internalize this idea that you don’t belong in certain spaces, because you’re not seeing yourself there, and that really limits your options and what you allow yourself to do. I think it’s all just kind of snowballing a little bit in the best way possible, hopefully, and we’ll just keep pushing until we do actually reach a point where things might be equal.