Hailing from the Leicester DIY scene, Kermes serve a healthy chunk of discord and clashing noise to suitably introduce ‘I Wanna Be Yr Sometimes’. It’s a frank opener to their debut album, ‘We Choose Pretty Names’, and it’s a precursor for the no holds barred, unreserved psyche that the quartet have built their record upon.
Kermes are insatiable live. Thankfully, their ravenous energy has been captured and bottled nicely to produce a luring cocktail of minimalistic production and effervescent vocals from front-woman Emily Rose Teece. ‘The Argonauts’ encapsulates Kermes’ raw delivery and transparency. This no-frills attitude they wear proudly adds a shiny sheen of accessibility to their music and personas alike. ‘The Argonauts’ is messy, coarse and gloriously gritty, and the freedom and dynamism that radiates from the band on-stage is offered in an equally rapturous portion on record.
Propulsive drums drive the album and set a frenetic pulse, which aptly mirrors the whir of conflict and questions that are fought with in Teece’s autobiographical and frank lyrics. “What if I’m not ready?” contemplates the insecurities and fears of growing close to someone and embarking into relationships in ‘Ready For Love’. The hairline cracks in Kermes’ fearless armour allows this insecurity to seep in at times. “Let’s just ride into the sunset,” Teece sings in the topically named ‘Questioning’; an idyllic love story ending would always be cushy wouldn’t it.
Like falling back into a fluffy, shoegaze-filled pillow, the self-proclaimed trash-pop queer-punx pause for breath in ‘Boyfriend’, climbing down from defiant calls to once again grapple with the vulnerability that is ever present. Twinkling percussion and a lulling, melancholy melody close in around self-analytical lyrics: “I don’t want a lover, I just need a life.”
For all of the insecurity and uncertainty that is acknowledged in their abated interlude, Kermes harness ten times the amount of ferocity, audacity and deserving pride.
A self-celebratory middle-finger goes out in ‘Time To Shut Him Up’, from all of the women who have been made to feel undervalued by members of the male gender. Proclaiming loud and clear: “You wanna be an idol, you wanna be an icon…Here’s one for the girls, protecting what you’re worth.” It’s an unashamed celebration of a woman’s value, however that woman defines her mind or body.
Picking up from a cathartic and guttural release of an outro, title track ‘We Choose Pretty Names’ defines Kermes’ accessibility and joyous inclusivity. Jarring guitars and solemn percussion echo pensive lyrics: “I want you to notice I’m me.” Kermes have a welcoming openness, and their candid reflection on transgender identity, mental health and queer relationships is not only hugely empowering for them, but for anyone who is experiencing their own, subjective, battles and victories, in turn. This is what makes Kermes so utterly charismatic and commendable.
They end their triumphant album with the immaculately matched, and equally triumphant, ‘Yr Beast’, which chronicles the increased exposure and vulnerability of being trans, and as Teece forthrightly depicts as “stepping out of line,” in a society which seems to be growing in hostility and closed-mindedness. “I’m not sorry for the state of my body, I’ll never be sorry for that” – again, middle fingers all round, in this unapologetic and downright jubilant celebration of self-worth and entitlement.
Kermes’ debut album is fierce, raw and imperative in their personal cause, because it’s not just personal, it’s everyone’s business to be as inclusive and accepting as Kermes have made this whirlwind of a record. The tireless East Midlanders are unavoidably contagious onstage and off. They’re a feast of jubilance and dauntless comradery. Go back ‘em and have a communal whale of a time:
14th April – YMCA – Leicester (Headline).
18th April – Gwdihw – Cardiff (With Happy Accidents).
19th April – Nottingham TBC (With Happy Accidents).
20th April – Wharf Chambers – Leeds (With Happy Accidents).
Kermes’ debut album, ‘We Choose Pretty Names’, is released on 13/04/18 via Robot Needs Home.