"Try turning it on its side," Doug shouts from across The Music Fix office. "No, the other side," shouts Matt. They really aren't helping. Our interview room isn't tiny, but I'm having to move the table around to try and accommodate the 22 member Gaggle. "Have you tried taking the legs off?" questions Steve. It's clear there is no way this is going to work.
Maybe they posses a sixth sense or they've experienced this before, but it's with some relief when only three members of the troupe actually arrive. So we sit down with Kiki, Strick and Gusset to uncover more about Gaggle.
Hi Gaggle, thanks for chatting to us. How are you today?
Gusset: Smooth and hairless.
Kiki: I'm okay, thanks for asking. Hope you're having a good day.
I'm great thanks
Strick: I have a cold. I am a moaning minnie.
I’m sorry to hear that, Strick. So if people ask you who Gaggle are what do you tell them?
G: HONEY, MISSMISS, WUNDERLA, LAUNETTE, ALIBI, SARAH, OLYDOROU, D, MACCLEAN, GUSSET, DELILAH, STRICK, GREEN, KIKI, NAMSOO, KUMARI, CULWICK, LIPSTICK & COUGHLIN
S: I tell them we are a collection of intelligent, smart and fit women - just getting to grips with the art of singing and moving their hands in time to the music.
K: Gaggle is so fluid and dynamic that I usually just tell people the gender and number of participants along with the lyrics to some of the songs we sing. Gaggle is very hard to pin down. We're a group of random individuals who have become a friendly community of singers, performers, designers, artists and writers. We sing about some of the harder and darker things in life like drinking too much and dragging your broken heart around like a chain shackled to your leg. But it's not all doom and gloom when it comes to our personalities, rehearsals and performances. We're not horsewomen (or womyn) of the apocalypse.
Whose idea was it to form Gaggle? Was there a set idea or did it evolve into the format you are in today?
K: Gaggle is Deborah's brain child. She's the artistic director, if you will, and had a very clear vision of the group when she invited childhood friends, drinking buddies and acquaintances to help her realise this project.
G: Coughlin lured us all to The George Tavern and locked us in a room with no gin until we started singing. It didn't take long. By the time we came out, we'd evolved from the worms that we were into the acid-coloured, hooded beings that you see before you today.
S: Yeah, It's all Coughlin's idea - and very much arrived as a fully formed child. Evolution is natural, and will happen; the best thing is no-one knows into what.
We liked Deborah Coughlins’ previous outing with the amazing 586. Is she the core visionary in the band or is direction decided democratically between you all?
K: Deborah is the head honcho with the vision but we handle costume preferences (for example, some of us are uncomfortable for physical or religious reasons with skimpy outfits. Not that baring flesh is what Gaggle's about). Gig dates are done democratically - with the majority holding sway.
S: Deborah rules with a velvet wand.
G: She rules us with an iron fist in a velvet glove. We let her.
There are 22 members in Gaggle – is that the limit or do you plan to grow further?
G: Sometimes we have to eat one. They generally get replaced eventually.
K: 22 is not the limit, but it is an ideal number to get the variety of voices and multiplicity of parts that makes our sound so interesting.
S: 22 is the mystical number (for reasons utterly unknown to myself) - or rather the aim is for it - we're down a few at present. That's it for today, can't speak for tomorrow.
You single ‘I Hear Files’ is out on the 22nd of February and there are 22 members in the band. There must be great significance in the number 22?
G: Two little ducks?
K: Oddly enough one potential member didn't join because she believes 22 is a bad number in numerology. There's no special significance except in terms of sound quality and diversity but feel free to invent some myths about how it relates to Joseph Heller or cricket pitches!
S: Well, there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and there are 22 chapters of the Revelation of John in the Bible. Psalm 118 verse 22 contains all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and is dead centre of the Bible. The number "22" is worn by Manchester United player John O'Shea - the only player in club history to have played all 11 positions. It’s the number of yards in a chain and the length in yards of a cricket pitch. It's two little ducks and there are 22 cards in a major arcana tarot deck - the 22nd card being The Fool. Also, the digital root of 22 is 4 - which is the number of hard work. You learn something new every day! 22 inches is also the height of Simon’s hair.
Phew – so is this a strictly 'no boys' venture?
G: No men either.
S: It's no boys - as it's an all girl choir, much in the same way a Welsh male voice choir is no women. Though the reasoning behind us may be a little different.
K: We're not opposed to men (physically, sexually, emotionally or working in collaboration with) but Gaggle is a group that allows women's experiences and voices to be heard, quite literally. There's something amazing about a group of women singing about liking cigarettes and guitars. Not liking skinny hipster cigarette-smoking boys who play guitars.
Is there a manifesto for Gaggle?
G: Drink gin, get thin, win win, win win.
S: Gaggle is 22 different manifestoes. We aim to be different.
K: There's no manifesto, per se. Like England, we prefer an unwritten, amorphous constitution based on convention and precedent, which allows for flexibility.
With 22 of you logistically things must be tough. How do you manage to organise yourself?
G: Female intuition.
S: Basically, there’s a lot of liberation in doing something 99% of the population probably thinks is impossible. Time and Management are very very big in Gaggle. We may not always be able to be spontaneous - but with a lot of planning comes some pretty sublime results.
K:. Getting Gaggle together is as easy as herding cats. Thankfully we have Allie Bailey managing us. One of her exciting duties is to figure out who can attend each gig, rehearsal, recording session etc. She makes sure everyone gets email updates about soundcheck times and scheduling issues.
Allie arranged this interview - she seems very organised. Do you all get on or are there ever tensions with so many members?
S: We all get on remarkably well. No one believes this. I guess its considered boring. We are quickly learning each other's boundaries and are immensely respectful of them. And when we didn't, it got pretty violent. Steep learning curve.
G: There's a Gaggle Fight Club every Thursday night in The George. That tends to sort most things out.
K: We all get along quite well and have friendships with each other that extend beyond the group. It's really fortuitous considering most of us didn't know each other a year ago. There's the inevitable tension when someone drinks too much on the coach after a gig and insists on doing karaoke while others want to sleep or when Team Edward fans gang up on Team Jacob fans (kidding), but otherwise there is surprisingly little drama.
We mentioned the single ‘I Hear Flies’ earlier – what’s that about?
K: 'I Hear Flies' has its roots in William Blake's poem 'The Sick Rose'. It's about not noticing the illness within as a beautiful exciting and flowering life is marred by drinking & partying to excess. Everyone's drinking ("Mum's drunk / Dad's drunk / friends drunk / foes drunk") and having fun - "I smell roses" - but the relentless beat and the cacophony of voices reminds listeners that death is not far away (flies landing on carrion implied in 'I hear flies').
S: Happy Hours aren't necessarily thus.
G: The Sick Rose
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
(Either that or drinking too much gin.)
When was your first live performance? How did that go?
G: I was a chicken in the school play when I was five. I went down a storm as far I can remember. How very kind of you to ask.
Thanks Gussett - I kinda meant as Gaggle
S: I joined after the very first performance of Gaggle, but my first live experience felt exactly the same as the time I sang the first verse of 'Once In Royal David's City' solo at the Corby Glen Methodist Chapel Christmas service in about 1989. Slightly terrifying - but very gratifying although not very Christian.
K: Our first performance was in April 2009 in the upstairs bar at Koko. Wunderla wrote a brilliant blog entry about it: http://gagglegirls.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html
If one of our readers comes to see you live what can they expect?
K: An audience can expect a slew of sassy, strong women stomping, shouting and singing their way into your synapses.
S: Some new hand movements and the threat of Gusset and Miss Miss drumming. If you’re totally virgin to seeing us then I expect it’s quite terrifying and a bit weird. But in a sexy good way.
G: Watch the video. It'll give you a good idea. And maybe a few nightmares.
I’ve seen several of your live YouTube videos - they are amazing. What’s on your rider? Are you bankrupting venues?
G: What ISN'T on our rider?
S: We get the same size rider as a normal sized band, which is a bum deal - but understandable I suppose. We try to always feature gin and raw vegetables for Launette. I’d like to see more cider personally - and pepperamis. Less shit beer as no-one drinks it.
K: I missed out on the glorious trip to Transmusicales and the delicious food there! In most London venues we're lucky to get water bottles and cans of beer; like Red Stripe. My ideal rider would be fresh fruit and vegetables, a litre or more of water and a chilled bottle of white wine. Yum.
I’ve made it through my adult life without ever eating a pepperami! Who came up with the name?
G: Giles Brandreth. He's good with words.
S: It’s all Coughlin's plan.
K:. Yeah - Deborah's ex suggested the name after she described our early rehearsals and our frustrating quest to find an appropriate moniker.
There are obvious comparisons with yourself and The Polyphonic Spree in terms of numbers and uniform. I saw them play in a really small venue and it was a life-affirming experience. Are you fans of them and the power that such a large band can project?
G: The Polyphonic Who?
K:. I'd never heard of The Polyphonic Spree until I was in Gaggle and we began garnering comparisons to them. Gaggle isn't as, er, life-affirming or, well, cheesy as them but the power conveyed by a large group of people is certainly part of our charm.
S: When they started, I was quite intrigued by them as I loved Tripping Daisy when I was younger. Then I heard 'Soldier Girl' and I thought it was just such a great song. They're well into being happy and we're pretty different. For starters there's 23 of them. They're apparently doing a new album this year. We could join forces. But then no-one would ever want to put us on live if you think of THAT rider.
That would be an epic combination - Spree vs Gaggle! Are there arguments over what goes on the stereo or are there bands you all love?
S: I always moan as what normally gets put in every interview question, 'what are you listening to?' is never what I’m listening to! So yes to your question....erm... though Im sure we agree on some things. ( FOR THE RECORD [sound of opinion being crowbarred in] its currently Tap Tap, Bat for Lashes , Johnny Trunk, Broadcast, TV On The Radio. Shitmat, Company Fuck, Jan Terri and Erasure)
Some great selections.. I loved the Tap Tap album it should have been bigger though. We did a piece with Shitmat around the John Peel anniversary last year – he's a lovely bloke who’ll be pleased to get a mention.
K: Oh heavens, yes. It's so difficult to pick favourite musicians with a group this big. We have such diverse tastes ranging from Brit Pop, indie, rock and jazz to qwwali plus broadway show tunes and house.
G: But we all love Simply Red. There won't be a Gaggle party without a group rendition of 'Stars'.
I only looked this up before we started (so this is news to me) but a gaggle is a term used for geese that are not in flight, when flying they can be called a skein. Did you know that? Maybe you could be called Gaggle in the dressing room and Skein on-stage?
G: We are good, but we haven't actually achieved flight quite yet.
K:. Yes, a gaggle has an interesting etymology. I think we're more interested in the ways in which gaggle is used as a derogatory or negative term like "a gaggle of squee-ing teenage fans" or a group of disorganized people. We're reclaiming gaggle as a word for a group of powerful, determined and individual women who know their own minds and have a strong collective identity.
S: We are 'Gaggle' on stage and "Oh God it’s fucking 'Gaggle'" off.
It’s been really interesting talking to you all - thanks for speaking to us. What are your plans for the rest of 2010?
G: To issue our own stamps.
S: 2010 is the year of corporate sponsorship and mass taking over the world in the name of The (Wo)Man.
K: World domination & Gaggle action figurines!
So as we try and work out how to get the legs back on the table we wish Gaggle to best of luck for the future. They are a band to make a real effort to see live and their single is truly amazing – keep your eyes peeled on TMF for a review soon.
Individual pictures - Jason Ferguson
Group shot - Shane Deegan