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Polexia! Interview: “We actually have an eerily similar taste in music”

We talk to the Liverpool noise-duo about their latest EP, ‘A Burial, A Resurrection’.

Liverpool’s Polexia! first started taking unbridled assault to our ears last year with their brilliant Wolf Eyes-inspired debut EP, Immolation.

The noise/spoken-word duo featured Polexia! mainstay, Johanna Connolly, and noise-maker, Danny Welsby before the latter departed for new pastures. Not one to rest on her laurels, Connolly quickly moved the project forward, drafting in LONESAW’s Jezebel Halewood-Leagas.

With the pair having featured across Merseyside with several live performances, including a support slot for J. Zunz, Polexia! (with a new exclamation mark firmly in tow) return with their follow-up EP, A Burial, A Resurrection.

While the Immolation EP was an incessant block of noise akin to a plane crashing into a mountain, A Burial, A Resurrection sees Polexia! in a new light.

Three songs deep, A Burial, A Resurrection starts with the title track – a dark wave march mixed with off-kilter pop. Machine follows and lends itself to the earlier origins of the band. Instead of sheer dissonance, however, Connolly’s sing-speak delivery passes off the kind of vibe that feels like a wild night out between Susan Janet Ballion and Justin Broadrick.  

And speaking of wild nights, there’s Bag! An off-its-head ode to smoking area culture and the absurdity these spaces sometimes bring. It’s Polexia! doing comedy, underpinned by the kind of glitch-laden, luminous bleeps reminiscent of early Vladislav Delay.

Following the release of A Burial, A Resurrection, Connolly and Halewood-Leagas kindly answered our questions regarding the EP, their influences and what’s in store for Polexia! in the coming months.

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Sun 13: So things have changed a bit since your first EP. Can you tell us how both you both met and how this new incarnation of Polexia evolved?

Jezebel Halewood-Leagas: “So Immolation was the first release we did on SPINE RECORDS, I had previously heard Johanna’s sound experiments that she was posting on Soundcloud, but we had not met in real life. I thought it was important for the first release on SPINE RECORDS to be female led,  to set a precedent for our intentions as a record label and I also wanted to encourage Johanna to pursue her ideas. I have to admit I also asked her because I wanted us to be friends! A bit creepy, I know. When the first line-up of Polexia! dissolved I think I pestered Johanna to let me join and she caved eventually.”

Johanna Connolly: “Yeah, as Jez said, I was doing some solo sound experiments during lockdown and Jez picked up on it, I made Immolation and then we kind of just went from there. The progression from that to this was really natural and we have a lot of fun.”

S13: It’s a massive departure from the Immolation EP. Firstly, is this how you see this project, as one that never produces the same things twice, and secondly, how much was Jezebel’s influence beyond this?

JC: “For me personally, I couldn’t make a record like Immolation again, it served its purpose and was a direct expression of my tastes at the time, just like this record is a reflection of our tastes and influences now, and they change and evolve, so the next Polexia! record will probably be very different. Jez has brought a fresh perspective to Polexia! for sure, and her influences are spookily similar to my own, we realised this right away, so it made things a million times easier when it came to getting on the same page about ideas and so on.”

S13: With regards to your writing process, is there a preparation phase? Do you need to research or create early versions of songs and refine them?

JC: “In terms of my lyrics, they kind of just come on a whim. It’s not exactly challenging material either, I write songs about machines and kicking off in smoking areas, and it’s kind of just little things that come into my head and I stitch them all together.”

JHL: “I tend to have a go at making the music on my own at home then we will meet up and see if it fits with any of Johanna’s ideas. To be honest, a lot of our ideas come out of silly jokes and then we go, ‘No wait, actually that’s a great idea!’

Polexia! (photo credit: Claire Welles)

S13: You worked with Ste Cole on this EP. How important was his input into these recordings?

JHL: “Working with Ste was excellent, and of course recording an EP in a church has the appropriate gothic flair.”

JC: “Working with Ste was very cool, it was my first time in a proper recording studio, so I was quite nervous about the whole process, but Ste really put us at ease and I think the EP turned out as well as it did partly because of that.”

S13: Onto the songs and Burial/Ressurection is almost like ‘Polexia go pop’. Can you tell us about this one?

JHL: “I was listening to a compilation of ’80s music called Deviant pop from Europe and I like the term deviant pop, that’s what we have started telling people we do.

“I don’t think we ever have any intentions set out when we go to rehearse and write a song, what comes out is just what comes out. I like a lot of ethereal goth pop music like Cocteau Twins, we sampled some bits from Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima’ by Krzystof Penderecki, which is one of the most terrifying pieces of classical music ever.”

Polexia! - A Burial, A Ressurection

S13: Machine feels like late night basement Godflesh! I’m intrigued – are they influences of yours and, by extension, who else would you consider your influences?

JHL: “You are right it does sound a bit like Godflesh! But that was not intentional, I haven’t really listened to a lot of their music, but we do both like a bit of the wonkier side of industrial music.

“We actually have an eerily similar taste in music which is nice, I think in Polexia! we are trying to channel the spirits of women who have made great experimental pop music like Cosey Fanni Tutti, Lizzie Mercier Descloux, Lene lovich, Nina Hagen and Malaria! We may have borrowed their exclamation mark)… but ultimately after a few drinks we both just want to listen to Kylie Minogue.”

S13: Bag! Really incorporates Scouse culture with noise. Was that the thinking behind this piece?

JHL: Bag! came from an idea I had for a silly performance piece about me never being able to find all the relevant bits in my bag to make a rolly and the amount of time in general spent rooting through said bag. A relatable saga, I think. I thought it would be funny to mic the bag up through distortion and it gradually get more noisy the more frustrated I got. Johanna went to town with the idea and it turned into an accidental, hopefully humorous commentary on drinking and drug culture, specifically our own experience of it in Liverpool.”

JC: Bag! is really one of those you have to see it to believe it kind of things. When it’s performed live, we have me rifling through my bag and throwing random objects out onto the stage. It really is just comedy, and scousers are just naturally hilarious in a really self deprecating way, so it felt right to emphasise that and make a song around that smoking area culture that we’re no stranger to! I don’t think anyone’s done a song like Bag! before, maybe not in Liverpool anyway.”

S13: The video is great, too. Was that something that happened on a whim?

JC: “Ste just offered to film something for us while we were recording with him and we liked the end result, it was done in one take and it sounded cool so we kept it!”

S13: Technology is always progressing. What is your relationship with the technology you use?

JHL: “We are always keen to experiment with different technology and ways to make sounds, neither of us have any real knowledge of music theory at all, so it’s important to be able to utilise what equipment we do have to get our sound, and also most of the equipment doesn’t come cheap so we have to make do with what’s available to us. I use waaay too much gear live now though so I might just use Ableton and a controller for our next project and save my back.”

S13: You have a few shows coming up; with two EPs down are you looking to release an album in the future?

JC: “We would definitely love to do a full album, yeah. We’re also wanting to establish ourselves outside of Liverpool by doing some live shows across the country, but I think the end goal is to do a full Polexia! record, whenever that will be.”

A Burial, A Resurrection is out now via Outsider Art. Purchase from Bandcamp.

Polexia!’s A Burial, A Resurrection EP launch will take place at Liverpool’s Kazimier Stockroom on Thursday September 22. Purchase tickets here.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

2 replies on “Polexia! Interview: “We actually have an eerily similar taste in music””

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