2018 – Cuckoo Spit EP (PNKSLM056) – Listen/buy
2018 – Calf of the Sacred Cow LP (PNKSLM037) – Listen/buy
2017 – Headless Pin Up Girl EP (digital EP) – Listen/buy
2016 – Love In Toxic Wasteland EP (digital EP) – Listen/buy
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Hot on the heels of February’s debut full-length, London’s premier purveyors of psych rock, Chemtrails, return in December with a new EP.
Taking their cues from the highly prolific artists that most influence them, including Oh Sees and Ty Segall, the songwriting partnership of Mia Lust and Laura Orlova have crafted a fresh six-song set that furthers their commitment to a psych-meets-sixties-pop sound whilst also standing apart from their LP Calf of the Sacred Cow both musically and thematically. Like all of their output to date, it was recorded in their living room, and is intended to tide fans over before album number two, which the band intend to cut live in the studio.
If Calf of the Sacred Cow was an outwardly political statement, having been written in the aftermath of a stormy 2016 that saw victories for Vote Leave and Donald Trump, then Cuckoo Spit sees Lust turning her gaze inwards. “Each of our records is like an antidote to the last one,” she says. “This one has the happiest song we’ve ever written - ‘I’ll Never Be’ - as well as the saddest, in the title track.” ‘Cuckoo Spit’ plays on the metaphor of the titular birds laying their eggs in a different mother’s nest, with the egg then hatching and the chick going on to gradually force out all of the other babies. “The chicks are like imposters, basically,” Lust explains. “That’s how I felt when I came out as being trans. It was like, in the eyes of the people around me, I’d changed into this other person, and displaced the one they knew. In the song ‘A Killer or a Punchline’ on our album, there’s a line that says I’m “a cuckoo chick, instead of what I could’ve been.” So the EP title is an expression of defiance.”
Elsewhere, Lust’s own life choices were increasingly playing on her mind; they’re something that crop up continually throughout Cuckoo Spit. “A lot of what I was thinking of, when I was writing the lyrics, was what I’ve sacrificed to make this band work. A lot of my peers have careers and make good money and are saving up to buy houses, whereas I’m doing something that might be considered naive to be spending my time on. There’s all these cliches about doing what you love, and you’d like to think they’re true most of the time, but they're sometimes quite hard to mentally stand your ground on. I was working through the fact that I have real ambitions for the band, and that I want to stand tall on the decisions I’ve made.”
Lust’s insecurities were amplified by the fact that she headed down a lofty academic path before Chemtrails started out; she has a PhD in theoretical physics, only to find that to be a similarly difficult field to break into. “That’s why I do think this EP is still political, just in more of a personal sense,” she says. “I know from experience that the government aren’t interested in funding science that asks the big questions, like where we come from or what particles are actually made of. They only put money into things where they know they’ll get instant financial returns. It seemed impossible, so I thought, fuck it, I’ll go back to Plan A and try to be a rock star instead, since that’s just as naive.”
These new songs are a testament to her burgeoning talent as a songwriter. The cuckoo is the EP’s eponymous bird but a magpie would’ve been just as appropriate, given that Lust seems to swoop upon anything she sees as shiny and then produces a gripping amalgam of all of her influences. Cuckoo Spit runs the gamut from Black Lips to Blondie via Pixies, but holding everything together is Lust’s sharp ear for melody and no shortage of hooks. “It seems like, whenever I write, some sort of pop music comes out. I mean that more in the sixties and seventies sense than the modern one!”
Lust and Orlova are currently in the midst of a lineup reshuffle before they head out to play a handful of UK shows later this year. What’s for sure is that, whenever the new-look Chemtrails is finalised, they’ll be a band who speak boldly to the present climate. “When we started the group, we didn’t know what chemtrails actually were,” laughs Lust, who plucked it from the Beck song of the same name. “I always thought it referred to those tracers you get when you’re on acid, and you move your hand and it leaves a trail. I thought, what a great name for a psychedelic band! But then we found out about the conspiracy theory, and realised we had a name that summed up the inane stupidity and desperation of the political situation, in this era of paranoia and fake news. It fits the band that we are at the moment.”