With their debut album From the Mouth of the Cave storming up the indie charts and festival appearances galore over the coming few months, London’s 21-strong female choir Gaggle certainly know how to turn heads. And that’s before we get onto their flamboyant dress sense, utterly captivating choral harmonies and psychedelic videos.
As fellow workaholics, we were keen find out what exactly motivates one-time 586 member, now Gaggle mastermind Deborah Coughlin to command her flock. DrunkenWerewolf's Tiffany Daniels interviews:
What made you form the collective?
I wanted to make a big statement in the most powerful way possible. I went with my instincts and Gaggle was made.
It’s well known this is your brainchild, but perhaps not so well known you previously performed in 586. Besides having more band members, how does Gaggle differ?
One massive difference is me. When I was in 586 I was kind of wild and pretty much crazy, there was a lot of partying – I’d often be found wondering round the East End in slippers or on crutches and I was scared of supermarkets. 586 suffered from me being quite nuts and I like to think Gaggle benefits from me having harnessed the nuttiness and using it for the power of good.
Of course I worked with Simon again on the music for Gaggle. He’s one of my best friends in the world - I love him. 586 had some pretty interesting things to say, but we got lazy and we didn’t get the right people around us all the time. But I loved that band – ‘twas very sad when it ended. Steve’s writing is really awesome (and sometimes cringey) [stories down] - there’s a blog about it here http://586tourtales.wordpress.com/
You have 21 members. Has the band grown over time? Was it ever going to be a ‘standard’ line up and how did it form?
I did try out “Crows” with a ‘standard’ line up pre-Gaggle. We supported Selfish Cunt and were called, for one night only, Stop Hitting Yourself. We did four songs including a cover of the theme to Round the Twist. It was after this gig I decided, that even though it seemed hard, I had to be more ambitious and I had to just simply work harder. So I did. I started with three girls, then twelve, then sixteen, then twenty five - and right now we're twenty one and it’s perfect.
We started a cappella, went to backing track, got in our amazing drummer Sara Leigh Shaw (who we had to share with Nicola Roberts last year) and it’s only going to get more complicated. It’s been growing constantly and getting more complicated - like my tomato plants. There’s been lots going on behind the scenes, under the ground, we've all be learning lots.
Do you all have a history of working with music?
Nope. It’s not important - well I guess it is that I have and that Sara has, that loads of the girls have played an instrument at some point or sung - but not everyone has. Gaggle is what the Gaggles bring to it, which is much more than singing training - or knowing music theory.
You’re all women (duh): was that an important factor when you formed? What motivates you to be in a gender-specific band?
What motivated me at the beginning was an imbalance, where there weren't enough women like my mates represented on stage. There weren’t enough of the kind of girls I find smart and fun on stages, but there were plenty in my local pub. It continues because Gaggle has been life changing for the girls in it, it’s the best Gang EVA.
Loads of different genres have been applied to your music. How would you describe it, and do you mind applying labels to your sound?
The music is the most honest reflection of stuff I want/need to express. I have a back catalogue in my head of sounds, atmospheres and feelings. I try to bring these thoughts and ideas to life. So its part séance - to try and awaken buried thoughts in people’s minds (my own included) and part party. We want people to have fun, there’s no law saying séances can’t be fun - the album is like a séance being lead by Cheerleaders.
What influences you to cover the style of music you do? Are your music tastes similar? Do you ever argue over what direction to take a song or does someone generally take the reins?
I wrote the majority of music for this album with Simon. I direct the project and so the choice is mine - but of course I listen to anyone who has ideas. The style of our music can be anything I want it to be, I would never ever want to say one style - we've done covers of Sabbath & Maiden at the Kerrang! Awards, done a radical WI opera at the Royal Albert Hall - joined in with My Morning Jacket on Jools Holland and I reserve the right to do every and any style in the whole world. One life etc.
So many voices in your group must give you some autonomy when it comes to sound, but live, do you ever find yourselves limited by your lack of instruments?
I love live music. Gaggle is more than music though. Putting instrumentation on backing track and/or through Ableton live frees other aspects of our performance. But like I said this is something that will develop.
Have you toured the UK yet?
We haven’t done a tour yet, but we've been up and down loads of festivals! Reading, Leeds, SGP, Latitude etc.
Have you had to compromise on how much you can tour because of band dynamics? Travelling must be a pain in the neck!
Gaggle have travelled round France, Norway, Germany and the UK. For thousands of years large groups of performers have travelled. I don’t think it’s any more difficult with Gaggle. It just costs more money!
What’s your ideal live setting? Do you prefer conventional venues or are stages often too small?
Anywhere where there’s an amazing audience. Highlights so far include our sold out Bush Hall show, the Royal Festival Hall, headlining the Lake Stage Latitude, Frankfurt and Falmouth.
Will the festival performances you have planned this year differ from previous gigs, and if so how? Which are you looking forward to the most?
Our shows are getting wilder and more creative.
You have a very prominent visual style. For you, does music and fashion go hand in hand?
Absolutely. Though let’s swap fashion for art. I love fashion but it’s good to be broad - I think anything that makes a bit of magic is essential.
Was there a conscious move to ‘brand’ GAGGLE, or is this just your collective style? Do certain members influence your look more than others?
Honey Gaggle (@HoneyGaggle) has created with various other people a lot of our costumes - she’s amazingly talented - I find stuff all over as well.
What was it like recording with so many members?
It was really tiring conducting everyone for hours and hours, days and days - and I think for the Gaggles there was a lot of waiting around at points. It was beautiful too, there were real tears on that album, real laughter, and I think only one fight about whether to get square pizzas or round. We got square.
Besides performing at the aforementioned festivals, what else do you have planned to promote the release?
We've been doing loads of ninja gigs, protests, pop ups, guerrilla gigs. We're making some really interesting other things too.
Keep an eye on Gaggle’s Twitter account - @GAGGLE – for more goings on!