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Tuesday 29 October 2019

Heavy Handed: The Vegan Leather Remain True To Socially Aware Run Of Singles In Run Up To Appearance At South Coast Festival

It all started with two dubstep acts and a folk band, which perhaps explains the rainbow coalition of genres that spray across the album (Poor Girls/Broken Boys): punk, disco, metal, electronic pop – "all the main food groups" as The Vegan Leather bassist Matt puts it. 

"We all started going to a local open mic night called Create which ran in Paisley for young people," Marie Collins recalls. 

"Gian and Duncan's dubstep band Crown of Storms became a crowd favourite, and the gigs used to attract over 600 people to them." 

Realising the potential, Gian, Duncan and Marie began performing together, soon colliding with Matt on tour, and the four hit it off. The Vegan Leather was born.

And what is the world we live in? Connected yet fractured, glued to terror stories on 24-hour news cycles, unable to look away as the rich get richer and the planet gets hotter. 

Following the success of previous singles French Exit and The Hit, which addressed the pressures of nights out, commercial success and dealing with widespread misogyny, Heavy Handed continues the band's record of socially conscious messages delivered through the medium of ridiculously catchy dance-punk.

"The song is about being part of a cultural scene or environment that you're not comfortable with, not feeling 'cool' enough or that your art isn't 'good' enough," singer Marie explains

"It's that pressure to feed the cultural zeitgeist but standing in defiance and writing what you actually want to write about and being able to be who you want to be." 


The song references Marcel Duchamp ("Duchamp plastic / Branded in your art") whose famous 'readymade' pieces redefined what qualifies to be considered as art at the turn of the 20th century. 

For a modern band juggling their own artistic ideas within the parameters of commercial expectations, it's become an important reminder to create first and worry about the market later. 

"He challenged the idea of what is and what isn't art and we thought that was really important for us because when you're making music it's really hard to stay true to yourself and not feel pressured into going down a certain route."

Opening Poor Girls/Broken Boys and providing its explosive first single back in May, French Exit is the jittery opening to a record that explores the way we deal with those pressures.  


"Lyrically, the song is about social anxiety, a sort of inner voice telling you to go out and stay out to the bitter end when really you need to go home," says Gianluca Bernacchi.

As well as showcasing the band's musical versatility, it's an album concerned with dualities: light and dark, love and lies, anxiety and euphoria. 

"The album discusses the ways in which people are sometimes broken down by different situations or pressures," Marie explains. 

"The songs are a testament to how people learn to deal with hardships and tell stories of how we either succumb or resist to the world we live in."

Perhaps the most striking duality captured on the album is one of pop's oldest tricks: vibrant, upbeat music set against pitch-black lyrical themes. 

On Flakey the protagonist is frantic with existential dread: "Your greatest fear is if you die alone… I wanna turn off this switch." 

Holy Ghost is equally fraught: "I'll close the blinds, I'm doing fine." All driven by a relentless rhythm section, stabbing guitars and the charismatic vocal interplay between Gianluca and Marie.

If one idea guides the whole record, though, it's arguably from most recent single The Hit: the concept of "learning to exist" in a society that still doesn't treat everyone equally. 


"I started to write the song from the point of view of myself as a woman of feeling passive and commodified, and only there for other people's pleasure," Marie says of the track. 

"I then started to think about how this is also true for artists. Art/music that has real integrity or intrinsic value is often turned into something commercial through the pressure of capitalism. 

"Although there can be no comparison between an artist's plight to the daily oppression, violence and discrimination of women, I thought it was an interesting way to explore commodification."

The Vegan Leather's debut album Poor Girls/Broken Boys is out now. The band play Rockaway Beach Festival, Bognor Regis, in January 2020.

by: Mike Cobley




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