Great band. Terrible SEO.
Back in the 1970s the concept of punk was codified into a strict set of music, fashion and lifestyle parameters that were inherently limited. According to these parameters, you were either a punk – a white teenage boy in a safety-pinned denim jacket thrashing about on a guitar with three chords – or you weren’t. Today though, punk is something else. It’s about doing it yourself. It’s about casting notional rules aside.
Totally – for that is their wholly SEO-unfriendly, nineties Valleyspeak moniker – might not be the loudest or most aggressive band you’ll ever hear but make no mistake, they’re about as punk as it gets. A group of five girls in their late twenties and early thirties from disparate parts of the country (or in their drummer’s case, the world), the quintet came together in August of last year. This despite the fact that their vocalist had never sung before and their bassist had never previously played either.
The band’s origins also lie within the heart of the London DIY scene. Jade – said rookie singer – had been a part of the community at least on a supportive basis for quite some time prior to getting started with Totally, cheering on her favourite bands and generally getting involved. She and guitarist Laurel had lived with Lindsay Corstorphine, a member of Sauna Youth along with innumerable other punk acts.
Yet it’s fair to say that Totally have a sound distinct from all of that. “Most of my friends are in lo-fi punk bands but my vocals don’t suit that at all,” Jade says, her voice barely rising over the bustle of the East London arts café we’re sat in. “I’ve tried to shouty-sing and I think that sounds amazing and I’d have loved to have done it but it just didn’t work. They were always, ‘Aw it sounds too nice. Can you shout a bit more?’”
Jade and Laurel linked up with lead guitarist Fliss before recruiting Australian import Susan after watching her play with singer-songwriter Pete Astor at an in-store appearance. Novice bassist Franny rounded out the line-up. The group more or less coalesced around a former music venue called Power Lunches over in Dalston, followed by DIY Space in Peckham, south London, but they were sure they wanted to distinguish themselves.
“We knew we wanted to sound different to punk,” says Jade. “We’re a punk band in the sense some of us had never picked up instruments before, but I was just really sick of being told my voice wasn’t right for bands.” Fliss remembers feeling slightly removed from the old Power Lunches scene. “It kind of forces you to think about where your music is situated, which [for us] was outside of that.”