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'We're Not As Scary As We Look, Unless You Piss Us Off': Meet Witch Fever

Thursday, 27 October 2022 Written by Emma Wilkes

Witch Fever aren’t always angry, they promise. “We’re actually all pretty fucking weird,” clarifies guitarist Alisha Yarwood. “We’re all weird in our own ways. Even when the music’s serious and the lyrics are serious, we do want to bring good vibes.”

“We’re not as scary as we look,” bassist Alex Thompson adds, wryly. “Unless you piss us off.” 

The Yorkshire four-piece are huddled around a picnic table backstage at Reading Festival, an hour or so after pulling off a hair-raising set on the Festival Republic stage. They bounce off each other with convivial, sibling-like energy, their spirits still high from the buzz of performing. When they get to writing music, however, a whole different, but no less captivating, side of the band is brought to the fore. 

Their debut album ‘Congregation’ is a doom-punk exorcism in the most literal of senses. It delves into frontwoman Amy Walpole’s experiences coming of age in the cult-like Charismatic Church, which she left aged 16, with memories of unspoken traumas bubbling under the surface of its dense, haunting walls of guitar. 

It’s an arresting body of work, and often a deeply disturbing one, unsparing in its detail but leaving enough holes for the imagination to fill with chilling possibilities. 

Its subject matter was perhaps an unconscious choice more than a conscious one. “For some reason, it’s always what anything creative I do has been about,” explains Amy. “I’ve always ended up just sort of purging myself of stuff that has happened to me and continues to happen to other people. I’m just drawn to it naturally.”

“I feel like anyone that writes music is going to draw from their own experiences, even if it’s not on purpose,” Alisha suggests. “There’s something cooler about it because sometimes, the music kind of draws it out of you.”

There’s an undercurrent of feminist anger to Witch Fever’s music as well. Although the framework of the Charismatic Church might seem worlds away from modern secular society, the structure that underpins them both is patriarchy, and with patriarchy comes a particularly gendered kind of violence, shame and oppression. 

Once again, assuming the positions of feminist firebrands wasn’t an intention of theirs from the outset, but their beliefs became part of the core of their identity as a band almost out of necessity.  “We never started with this political idea,” points out drummer Annabelle Joyce. “But over time, it’s become important in all of our lives.”

“We’ve been so politicised out of our control anyway that it’s impossible not to address,” adds Alex. 

They’re more than happy, now, to call out the music industry for its misogynistic track record. “The music industry…and life…is fucking shit,” Amy sighed earlier as she strode about the stage. “The live scene has been sexist, racist and misogynistic, rife with disgusting behaviour. I hope you fuckers here aren’t the people who do that.” A couple of months before, while presenting the Kerrang! Award for Best Festival, they called upon the festival industry to do better in including women and non-binary acts on its lineups. 

When it comes to solving a problem like misogyny in music, the to-do list is, naturally, rather long. Where, then, do Witch Fever think we should start? “Men taking accountability,” Amy answers swiftly. “Men learning, men educating themselves. The majority of the time, white men are the reason why the industry is so difficult to be a part of. We need to have men ask this question in interviews.” 

“Everyone’s been trying to answer it for fucking ages,” acknowledges Alisha. “It’s hard, but small things can still make a change.”

Witch Fever's 'Congregation' is out now on Music For Nations.


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