Interview: Colour Me Wednesday

Words by Daniel Rourke       Photo by: Katie Gatt  

Colour Me Wednesday have been a staple of the British queer-punk scene for the best part of a decade. From local Uxbridge shows to sharing the stage with the likes of Lemuria and Propagandhi, the ever-changing quartet are gearing up to release their sophomore album, 'Counting Pennies in the Afterlife'. Burn After Writing sat down with the band to discuss the new record and much more.

Burn After Writing: You’ve recently announced your second album ‘Counting Pennies in the Afterlife’, what can you tell us about it?

Jen Doveton: We can tell you that we’ve had a lot of fun and put a lot of work into making 11 interesting, dynamic and catchy pop songs, recorded to a better standard than our previous releases and with more confident musicianship and a more consistent conceptual thread.

Harriet Doveton: It felt right making this album. Although it was hard at times getting the songs together in time I feel like every track is so important to me. I love our first album but I feel like this one is a more confident and honest reflection of our musical interests and strengths. It’s super poppy but has much more interesting guitar work in it, sounds, melody work, dynamics. It was also a great collaboration between us 4. The songs are essentially the Doveton sisters' in the sense of where the lyrics and melodies came from. But the general input, ideas, beats, additional guitar work, how the songs actually came together and the final say on finished products came from all of us. So it has this organic shared identity.

BAW: A few months prior to the announcement of this album you released the track Blossom which proved to be a departure from the usual punk/indie-pop sound found on your records. Will the upcoming record follow the same path, or will it be a return to the classic Colour Me Wednesday sound?

Jaca Freer: If it's not too much of a cop-out, it's a bit of both, but also going down some new paths that we haven't explored at all before. A few of the songs are more down-tempo and chilled like Blossom, and a few nod their heads towards our previous releases, but we've also got a much bigger sound overall, lending itself to a fuller 'rock' vibe. As Harriet and Jen's songwriting has been getting stronger we've also got some absolute pop bangers on there as well which we hope our old-school fans will still like!

HD: There are also two versions of Blossom - the original (which Jaca is referring to) and the remix. The original Blossom is a chill acoustic song exclusive to the 'Don’t Tell Anyone' 7” out on American Laundromat records (which you get a free download of if you buy any merch on our pre-order page!) But since the beginning of Colour Me Wednesday we’ve always been into remixes of our songs. I think overall we’ve had 5-6 remixes of our songs put out there in the world before social media had rules and you’d just upload tracks whenever you felt like it with no hype or worries.

Blossom was really cool because it was written as a chill acoustic song, but in my head I could always hear an electronic version. So that’s when I asked Dean from Doe to work on it as I knew he’d create something really cool, he then got Rich from Happy Accidents involved and out came that amazing remix! Coming back to our album…we’ve got just one chill acoustic song and we’ve got a song that incorporates more electronic sounds, which I’m very excited about.

JD: I think there’s still a lot of our classic sound on this album, but not much like the acoustic sound of Blossom, we used that as a rare opportunity to crack out the acoustic guitars and percussion.

BAW: Today has seen you announce the album title and the artwork, following the announcement of the record itself several weeks back. It’s rare to see such a staggered rollout of information for an album, usually, it’s the complete opposite. What’s the thinking behind this approach and has it created more interest in the record/band?

JF: We'd like to pretend that this was all completely intentional and we have some grand marketing strategy. In reality, however, it's largely due to us rushing to try and get everything done on time whilst also trying to survive with so many other things going on in our lives and keeping afloat in 20th-century capitalism in the UK. Which actually ties in with the themes of the album anyway, so I guess you could say our promotion strategies reflect the album content as well!  But even so, given the short lifespan of social media posts and contemporary media, it's good to have a constant output of content so that people stay aware of what you're up to, so we feel like this works for us.

HD: Yep, to be honest, a lot of it is because we’re a small team of 4 trying our best to get everything done in time! There’s just so much to do yet I cannot resist these DIY Dovetown releases! But I agree with Jaca, I like giving updates and spacing stuff out in announcements. I remember when I did the Pledge campaign with The Tuts we released information weekly through updates and didn’t reveal things like album title or artwork straight away. It keeps people on their toes! I also think our output is pretty high quality for a working-class DIY group.

BAW: You’re a band that doesn’t tend to do anything without meaning and emotion, so what’s the meaning behind the album title?

JF: For me, the title is a critique of the capitalist mentality of the accumulation of wealth that we're all forced into by the business elites and the fact that, after we die, none of that will be relevant. The entire portion of our lives that centres around making money will be rendered meaningless. Some of us have jobs that we enjoy and believe benefit people, but the drive for profit is not the thing that will benefit us at the end of the day.

HD: And we chose this line because it was one of my favourite lyrics from the whole album too (written by Jen) but also managed to represent those themes Jaca has mentioned. We noticed there were a lot of references to death, the afterlife, things being re-born, things being torn down and feeling lost running through a lot of the songs. General post-apocalyptic vibes. I also like how it sounds like an existing novel or play, we had to Google to check just in case!

BAW: Following similar lines, what can you tell us about the album artwork and the thought process behind it?

JD: The feeling behind many of the songs on this album is the underlying feeling of fear but also desire for the capitalist system we live under to finally collapse. I think we all have apocalyptic visions running through our subconscious - I have dreams about some kind of end to all this all the time and sometimes it feels almost optimistic. I’d describe the album cover as a post-apocalyptic young adult novel from the 1980s about a scrappy band of youngsters building new communities in the debris… with our axes and baseball bat.

JF: The politics behind the title of the album is nothing new, anti-capitalists, socialists, and anarchists have been saying these things since capitalism began as an economic model, but the public discourse and activism has still been dominated by men. So the statement we're making is that the end of capitalism isn't going to come around anytime soon if our movements are still infested with patriarchy, so we, as women and trans-femmes, have to take it into our own hands if we want to create a post-capitalist world that will respect us as we deserve to be respected. We can be queer femmes and still command our own space and be threatening.

BAW: As a band, you’re probably one of the most relentless when it comes to creating merch and different packages for fans. How does the band come up with their ideas, is it simply whatever you like you create, or is there some form of strategy behind it?

Laura Ankles: I love seeing a Doveton come up with ideas for it because inevitably they get really excited and tell us and then we all hype each other up about it! I really liked doing all the drawings for the merch bundles this time - I'm trying to get more into doing art and Harriet really encouraged me with this.

HD: Basically we love capitalism. JUST KIDDING! I do love it at the merch table though [laughs]. But there is something nice about creating imagery and exciting merch to represent your music. We’ve created a lot of hand-made merch over the years. Printed a lot of our own t-shirts. So making something with your hands then seeing people wanting to buy it is a pretty nice feeling. Most of our artwork is done by the incredible illustrator Akbar Ali and telling him our ideas and seeing what he comes up with is honestly such a buzz. In terms of strategy, I feel like we roughly know what works. Like our Wednesday Addams designs have been popular so we’ve re-visited that with a fresh design for our t-shirts on our pre-order page.

JD: It’s really great that we can have ideas for cool visual stuff to create and people will buy it off the back of how we sound. Harriet and I were visual arts students so it’s nice to put some of that experience to good use too.

BAW: You’re one of several bands at the forefront of the UK queer punk scene, have you noticed any growth within that scene during your time as a band, and are there any areas in which the UK punk/DIY scene as a whole need to improve upon to give more queer bands a platform?

JD: We are so deeply immersed in the scene that it’s hard to tell how it looks from the outside, but to us, it seems to really be thriving. Some festivals are making sure their lineups are diverse and representative, some promoters are taking steps to make their gigs more accessible and safer.

In terms of my journey through punk/DIY music, it feels like the macho, white, straight man bands have been pushed aside a bit. The homogeneous lineups and dodgy and exclusionary practices, like moshing, for example, have been heavily critiqued recently and abusers have been outed… but that might just be because my focus has shifted away from the Slam Dunk Festival punk mainstream and into this radical niche.

I think if we keep talking loudly about diversity, accessibility, and anti-hierarchical practices, it does make a difference. Having standards and looking beyond your own success is a must for bands in this scene. I think there is a trend of certain bands, even within this small scene, rising to the top because they still fit in with the mainstream idea of what a punk band looks and sounds like. In other words, bands with white, cis, probably straight men in them are still going to get all the best offers. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of unpacking to be able to overcome that as a scene - the audience, the promoters and bookers, and those musicians themselves have to be willing to change their habits and maybe give up some of their privileges.

LA: It definitely has got better representation-wise over the years. I felt pretty isolated going to shows as a queer teenager when I only had my toes out of the proverbial closet, but that's definitely not the case for me anymore. With regards to both the queer punk scene and DIY in general it's still pretty white so there is still plenty of room for improvement here. There's also a lot of anti-trans rhetoric floating around at the moment even in our more "woke" spaces, so it's important for bands like ours to take a stance on this. TERFs are not welcome at our shows. Their feminism is not our feminism.

BAW: Forgive me if I’m wrong but Colour Me Wednesday has always struck me as a passion project. It seems like something that you’ll do to the absolute best of your abilities when together, but there are also other projects that each member has away from the band. How do you find it balancing this band with everything else going on in your lives?

LA: I'm a very creatively driven person, so it feels natural to have my fingers in a lot of pies musically. I get something different out of all the things I do. Colour Me Wednesday allows me to concentrate on shredding, which is my teen fantasy, Sugar Rush! is my songwriting vehicle and Crushing lets me play drums in a completely different style. I work part-time in my day-to-day life which makes everything a bit precarious but I can't imagine going back to full-time work right now.

HD: I’m tired, but it also feels nourishing being involved in more than one project at a time and sometimes works together nicely. I don’t get much rest but I’ll rest when I’m dead. No one’s counting pennies in the afterlife.

JD: I think that for me and Harriet, we never would have continued the band through so many lineup changes if it wasn’t a true representation of who we are as songwriters and creative people. It’s one of those things where if we quit tomorrow, in a month we’d have 10 new ideas for perfect Colour Me Wednesday songs because Colour Me Wednesday is who we are and we are very grateful that other people like Jaca and Laura are like-minded enough to be a part of that.

BAW: With that, what comes next for Colour Me Wednesday following the record's release?

JF: Gigs! And lots of them! We've been working so hard on writing and recording the album for the last 6-7 months and haven't played many shows, so it'll be great to get back on the road touring Europe in May and the UK in June/July, as well as some festivals and potentially a VERY EXCITING TOUR that we're yet to announce!

LA: Hopefully sell out shows at Wembley right? That's the usual trajectory?

HD: We’ve got something else to announce after we finish touring the album which is pretty exciting. Also playing some new places...

BAW: Finally, Burn After Writing was created on the idea of giving a break to bands who don’t necessarily get a chance. Are there any bands you’ve come across throughout your time as a band that our readers should be listening to?

LA: Kermes' album is coming out very soon and I guarantee that's gonna be amazing! They're a queer punk band from Leicester drowning in chorus and they're incredible live. Joyce Delaney from Glasgow for sassy pop vibes, Worst Witch from Bristol for noisy vegan hardcore, Gutless from Florida for big punk tunes.

HD: I’m really into Great Grandpa right now. Also Tommy Genesis, Charli XCX and Empress Of. I saw Hookworms live the other day and they were really great. Doe also have a new album coming out soon, Crywank has a new album out. Also excited about new Hop Along! Th’sheridans also have a new great song out! Also Happy Accidents who we're off on a European tour with soon! And Bad Moves are a great band. That’ll do.

JF: I have a few personal favourites on the DIY scene like Petrol Girls, Doe, Screaming Toenail and Porridge Radio, but they're all doing quite well now as well! In terms of smaller bands, I have to rep bands who've come out of the First Timers Fest project that I'm involved with where every band plays their first ever show! Some great bands who've come out of that are Charmpit, Best Praxis, Jellie Rolls and Panic Pocket!

Pre-order the upcoming Colour Me Wednesday album on CD or vinyl, plus a bunch of limited edition merch items and bundles:

Mainland Europe