Listings are in the opposite order of appearance: headliner is listed at the top, next is the support band(s), and the last band listed is the opener.
Wednesday July 10
7:00PM doors -- music at 8:00PM
••• ALL AGES
$20 in advance / $22 at the door
grunge, alternative rock, lo-fi and shoegaze
alternative grunge indie pop rock
-from Kitchener, ON
-Twin sisters Phoenix (She/They) and Mercedes Arn-Horn (She/Her) have been making music together since they were barely teenagers. Cutting their teeth in the local scene of Kitchener, Ontario helped them find their feet but because it was dominated by blokes, they were often left feeling like the odd ones out. Later, when they started touring further afield, the pair were exposed to how “misogynistic the music industry really was”. Tired of biting their tongues, putting up with relentless sexism as well as realising they weren’t the only ones having to deal with it, Softcult sees the pair biting back. As their debut single promises, “something’s got to change”.
The duo had been toying with the idea of Softcult for a long while but the pandemic finally gave them the time to focus on bringing that vision to life. Recording at home and produced by Phoenix, the band are able to capture what they hear in their heads without a middle-man diluting things while Mercedes has taken charge of their music videos.
Wanting to rekindle their youthful love of music that saw them picking up guitars and drum sticks at age 13, Softcult is influenced by their childhood heroes Bikini Kill (“if Kathleen Hanna didn’t exist, Softcult wouldn’t either”), The Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones and My Bloody Valentine. Not interested in reviving the past, they also take inspiration from the badass bubble grunge of Beabadoobee, Cherry Glazer and Soccer Mommy as Softcult are a fiercely modern group working towards a better future.
“There have been so many opportunities to grow over the past year,” says Mercedes. “If you’re not using this time to recognize your own privileges or the toxic parts of society, you’re really wasting an opportunity to come out of this experience having learned something.”
Armed with a list of likes (ethical everything, creative freedom, social activism) and dislikes (the band won’t stand for sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, elitism or shitty band dudes preaching fake wokeness), Softcult are a group who know exactly who, and what, they stand for. Not only do Mercedes and Phoenix “want to be those inspiring role models for the next generation of girls” but they want to use Softcult to create a community that really is a safe space for everyone.
Those lists will act as a manifesto “so when we tour and other people are involved, they know what we expect. We really do just want to be transparent with everyone that listens to our music” and the pair are eager to put the work in to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
Despite knowing they wanted to inspire others to feel powerful, Softcult struggled to write a song about female empowerment “until we realized, we’re females and we’re powerful so let’s just write about ourselves.” It’s where ‘Another Bish’, the first song written for Softcult and their debut single, came from. “It's a rallying cry to not put up with the sexism and misogyny that we experience as women,” and despite its strength, the track maintains a certain vulnerability.
“Even the baddest bish probably has a little bit of self-doubt. It’s phony to act like this unstoppable force 100% of the time,” says Phoenix as Mercedes adds “it's just more real to admit that no one feels that way all the time.”
Other tracks across their two EP arsenal-in-waiting include ‘Young Forever’ which tackles the inequalities and unfair expectations that society puts on women as they get older (“you feel like you’re running out of time to settle down and start a family but why are those outdated ideas even a thing” asks Mercedes). ‘Uzu Maki’ is about assault and the ongoing healing process that follows trauma while ‘Gloomy Girl’ is about the emotional tax someone’s dwindling mental health can take on the people closest to them.
The band has no interest in wasting time with radio-friendly breakup songs. “When you’re a teenager, hopefully the biggest problem you face is some guy not liking you back but we’re 27 now, and we’ve both had experiences with sexual assault. There’s much more important topics to write about and I wish someone had spoken up about them when I was younger,” says Mercedes. “Maybe it would have helped us break the pattern of abusive relationships.”
Writing about their own experiences in such an honest, frank way does feel weird for them “but more than anything, we just feel like it's stuff that should be talked about. Even if it's a hard conversation to have, it's important to try” says Phoenix before Mercedes adds “We’re not interested in sugarcoating anything, it's supposed to be uncomfortable. Your skin should crawl when you listen to a song about rape.”
“It might seem like we're just super angry but it comes from a place of wanting to make positive change, which always starts with a conversation,” continues Mercedes. “If we alienate people because they feel uncomfortable, they don't get it or because they’d rather not think about it, then they're probably not the right people for this band. Trying to make it palatable for everyone was just not going to work.”
What Softcult really wants to do is “foster a community of like-minded individuals and make real change from the roots of the scene up.” They’ve got bigger dreams than wanting to play certain venues or getting songs on the radio. “This band is more about having a message, mobilizing people and being the change that we want to see,” says Mercedes while Phoenix hopes the pair “can do our part and know that we actually tried.”
Softcult is all about empowerment. After going through some rough times in her early twenties, Mercedes wants to do all she can to make sure no one else has to put up with the same shit. “No more being submissive,” she promises. “I refuse to stand by while abuse and sexism is so prevalent. It’s important that we educate not just the people that could become victims or survivors of the system of abuse, but that we also encourage people to hold their friends accountable and empower people to call others out. I really just want to make a difference. Hopefully our music inspires people to just not be assholes anymore.”
-from the Bay Area, CA
-"Present’s skillful blending of alt rock, post-punk and grunge sensibilities makes for an irresistible sonic experience. This is honest, introspective, authentic grunge, albeit with a modern twist, at its very best." ~ The Winchester