When Muncie Girls release their debut album ‘From Caplan to Belsize,’ they’ll be in their sixth year as a band. Although the Exeter trio are far from juniors, and have releasing a handful of EPs and splits across their career, Lande Hekt, Dean McMullen and Luke Ellis maintain that their upcoming LP still feels like a debut.
“I feel like the album has been a lot more thought through - more of a planned process than just winging it like we used to,” explains drummer Ellis. “It has more consistency. We knew the songs were going to be put out in the same body of work when we wrote them, so it’s got themes running through it, which we’ve never had before.”
One of these themes, seen in the album title, is reference to the work of poet Sylvia Plath, and vocalist Hekt’s obsession with her novel ‘The Bell Jar’ around the time ‘From Caplan To Belsize’ was written. The title references the two asylums the book’s protagonist is kept in, and is synonymous with the idea of the album being a journey, Hekt explains.
“There’s that moment in the book where she’s being told that she’s ready to move to a lesser security ward in the mental asylum, and she’s not really sure that she can do it. That ties in with quite a few of the album’s themes. It’s about feeling better about something but not being sure whether you should be making steps forward just yet.”
“I wanted to be very up front, and write words that tackle things head on, with direct messages.”
‘From Caplan to Belsize’ begins with the track ‘Learn in School’, a refreshingly unmasked take on the education system, and learning for yourself. Being more direct with her lyrics was something Lande deliberately aimed for. “When I’ve written lyrics before, I’ve found myself skirting around certain topics, whereas this time I thought I wanted to be very up front with it, and write words that tackle things head on, with direct messages.”
The subject matter of ‘Learn in School’ comes from a very real place, with all of the band having to create their own political education to form the opinions they now possess. “I learned the dribs and drabs that I know, mostly through conversation,” says Lande, “and if someone says something that I really relate to, I’ll look it up to make sure they weren’t bullshitting or whatever, and then learn from there. Immersing yourself in a group of people or a scene where politics is a topic of conversation is so important. None of us have studied politics, and we definitely weren’t given the education we needed. Not one piece of political education in any of the schools that we went to. You’ve got to find it for yourself, and that song’s about how it’s completely unfair that we’re not taught it, but you can read endless amounts of books in order to educate yourself. It’s annoying that you have to do that, but it is out there.”
Dean highlights underground punk scenes and bands in general as instrumental in his own political education and development, first hearing about inequality and injustice through the likes of Billy Bragg and Propagandhi. “It was those bands that first made me even think about politics. It had never crossed my mind through that. When bands helped me so much in my development in that area, it’s cool to now be in a band that at least touches on some of those areas.”
“Immersing yourself in a group of people or a scene where politics is a topic of conversation is so important.”
The band reference the idea of political songwriting having a reputation of being clichéd and uncool, and the unfairness of such tags, and believe they’re part of a community of young British bands saying the same things as them, whether explicitly through their lyrics or simply in how they conduct themselves. “[These bands] have had such an influence on us, and enabled us to have the confidence to do it ourselves too. Sometimes it can be really cringey when you think about political music, which really isn’t fair. These things are important and necessary to talk about. You’ve got to do it right though, and avoid the cliches.”
Being upfront and honest shouldn’t always be synonymous with cliches, and Muncie Girls’ dissection of lad culture and rape culture on ‘Respect’ is all the better for its straight-forward nature, with no metaphors to mask its meaning.
Focusing all their time and attention in to the full-length has given Muncie Girls a new direction and outlook as a band, and one whose debut album arrives with a strong message: “Become aware, and educate yourself if you can, because no-one else is going to help you. It’s encouraging people to be politically active, even just using your right to vote, and that the most important thing is to be aware. Don’t be completely detached from it, like we’re encouraged to be.”
Muncie Girls debut album ‘From Caplan to Belsize’ is out on 4th March.