Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographs supplied by ARCH FEMMESIS
The Sunflower Lounge is the fourth stop on ARCH FEMMESIS’ first national headline tour, following their recent EP release and support of Lancaster based rock band The Lovely Eggs.
Queering up Birmingham this Friday 28 October is Midlands based avant garde, electro-unk duo ARCH FEMMESIS, with their cacophony of galactic, feminine, punk-rave sounds.
Before sitting down, in virtual space, to catch up with dynamic performance artist ZERA TØNIN and chaotic synthesiser MEDDLA, I take one last listen through their EP Violents. While it’s easy to hear ARCH FEMMESIS (or watch them live) and only process an eccentric storm of colliding noises and sensual sensory experiences, there’s a softness apparent in the music video for ‘Madusa’ that needs exploring.
ZERA TØNIN, musician, muse, and ‘mother of queerlings’ kicks off the conversation, confident above the multitude of background art studio noises.
“Being on the road with The Lovely Eggs, they’ve given us advice, given us pointers. We know what it’s like now, we’ve emotionally prepared, we’ve got our arses in gear and we’re ready,” says ZERA, emphasising the end of each clause with a firm clap.
It’s clear the pair are raring to go, and while talking through their previous touring experiences, both ZERA and MEDDLA express how important it is their support slots hold spaces for queer, “especially fem queer people.”
“You’re slightly anxious that everyone’s going to be better than you, because they’re all fucking amazing,” grins ZERA.
“There’s a universal feeling of being the aunties and uncles of the little queerlings”.
MEDDLA adds, “On our own sets, we’ve enjoyed the new energy of fems and queers at the front…wishing us to get even crazier.”
From seeing them live, I know ARCH FEMMESIS’ sets aren’t just them playing songs, they’re multifaceted, interactive theatrical performances. So, I’m desperate to know what fits and fabrics we can expect now ARCH FEMMESIS have full control of the vibe.
“It’s going to be a sensory feast for the eyes and the ears,” states ZERA in a serious but slightly mystical tone.
“I’m currently in the arts studio, I have a sewing machine, I have the merch station, I’m making outfits, stage decorations…” their dedication to detail is evident.
In terms of the sound, MEDDLA explains – “We’ve been getting a bit more dancy, a bit more housy. Because we’re headlining, we really want people to party and be free to be in the moment.”
ZERA cuts in firmly, eye’s wide, “When we say house, we do not mean short-back-and-sides in a fucking club.”
Given the curated combination of masc and fem punk energy radiating from the duo, I didn’t think it was ‘short-back-and-sides-house’.
“We mean old skool, classic, 80’s, Chicago house – but make it British,” ZERA confirms.
Despite the leather-dom exterior, there’s clearly a glittery-bottom inside ARCH FEMMESIS. From their lyrics, to the settings of their music videos, to the soft wholesomes smiles they get when they talk about being surrounded by creative queerlings.
“There is a brutalism to our performance of femininity. We aren’t just sexy and pretty…” begins ZERA.
“…I’m quite pretty!” pipes up MEDDLA. They are and we all giggle as ZERA tries to catch up with her train of thought.
“There’s a softness with our recent EP Violents, it’s a play on words, on the word violets which is the flower of sapphics, and turning that into violence.”
ZERA describes the religious and mythological iconography – Kali, Salome, Medusa – all “demonised” in “recent Western society and culture” which has become the influential backbone behind their latest releases.
They explain, “Growing up Christian, I was told to think that Kali was a representation of the devil.
“But, growing up around people from the Asian community, they’ve explained she’s a goddess not to be fucked with – in a good way. She’s nurturing, she’s powerful.”
ZERA continues, explaining their musical interpretation of the feminine is “creative destruction”, the balance of two powerful forces. “I wanted to write music from those things which I’ve personally been taught to shun or shame.”
“And our song ‘Madusa’ is written as the background to that story which often doesn’t get told,” finishes MEDDLA.
ARCH FEMMESIS are devoted to creating a space which champions queer oddity and feminine expression. They’re putting their all into this tour, and I want to know what ARCH FEMMESIS are looking to get out of being in Brum.
MEDDLA starts off strong: “Birmingham, it’s one of our favourite cities to perform in. We always have such great gigs in Birmingham.”
“It definitely feels like you have such a sense of community, and you’re down to earth; humble and people will invite you in. We’ve always felt a lot of love from Birmingham.
“Bring your mates and your nan,” adds ZERA, “you might discover something interesting.
“We need queer epeople, fem people, outcasts. We’re tired of middle-aged men with beer guts in the audience; we love them, we love their money.
“But, we want it to be accessible to the people we made our music for. That’s the queer people, the minority genders and POC, people othered by the mainstream, it’s for them.”
ARCH FEMMESIS headline The Sunflower Lounge on Friday 28 October, with support from YNES, Retropxssy, and Greysha – as presented by Indie Midlands. For online ticket sales visit: www.seetickets.com/event/arch-femmesis/the-sunflower-lounge
For more gigs at The Sunflower Lounge go to: www.thesunflowerlounge.com