A blitzkrieg onslaught of screaming synths and industrial percussion characterises 'Valkyrie', the latest single from CURXES. It's a track that's as catchy as it is thrilling, and whets the appetite for the upcoming debut record VERXES. Roberta Fidora and Macaulay Hopwood's blend of electronica and the attitude of '70s punk, sets them apart from their contemporaries and is the kind of shot in the arm music needs right now.

We managed to wrangle some spare time from both Roberta and Macaulay (the duo are currently putting the finishing touches to the record) to chat about VERXES, the history of the band and their approach to making music.


You're currently in the final stages of recording your debut album, Verxes. How have you found that experience?

Macaulay: Exasperating and challenging, but ultimately rewarding.

Roberta: It's also been quite strange in that we've recorded songs in little pairs or groups, meaning we've developed our sound slightly more with each batch. As a result, some of the tracks feel like they're direct relations to one other and some feel like cousins who only see each other at Christmas where one drinks the booze cabinet dry.

It's my understanding that the record was written over the course of 3 years. What was the catalyst for entering the studio and committing these songs to record?

M: We started by just writing one-off songs and experimenting, trying to find a sound we felt encapsulated us, and as time went on we realised we were putting together a collection of songs which felt like a coherent body of work. As the album has been written and recorded over quite a long time, it should show a different array of styles. We're keen to get onto the next one now.

R: It's certainly been structured and fine-tuned these last three years, although for me personally it feels like I've been writing my contribution to it for the last 15 or so years, especially where the lyrics focus on identity, gender, thoughtwafts and for better or worse, being from Portsmouth. As Macaulay said though, we've already started writing the next album, where the aggression is a little less internalised. Maybe after that it'll be all sunshine, lollipops and Southampton.

You originally performed together as part of Hold Fast, what drew you more towards electronic music and setting out as a duo?

M: We'd both always had a love of electronic music and the end of Hold Fast felt like a good opportunity to try something neither of us had done before. Our musical tastes cross all genres and making electronic music is exciting in that you can shoehorn in pretty much any influence and it can work.

R: Having posh, drunk Londoners pronounce it back to me as "old fart" was enough to change my mind, to be honest. The reality of it though, is that electronic music allows you to take more liberties and buy toy keyboards.

You've also spoken about the importance of creative control, how do you make sure you retain that?

M: It's just the two of us, so we can cover most creative aspects by ourselves and, most of the time, don't really need to get other people involved. We write all the songs, play all the instruments, do our own artwork and with help from our friend Rob (@Zomtographer), create videos to match the sentiments of the songs. If we have an idea we believe in, we can see it through without any outside influence.

R: By arguing a lot and making horrible drum samples so that nobody wants to interfere. No, it's just that we both like to be immersed in a way that would probably drive most other people nuts.

Do you think honesty in music is only possible when an artist retains creative control?

M: Not necessarily, but if a singer has their songs written for them it will be someone else's honesty, not theirs. In a band, it's certainly easier if you have a few people's vision rather than lots all trying to have their input. The problem I've had in bands in the past is that there are too many opinions flying around which can detract from a good idea. A great idea can be focused on, but a multi-faceted one can end up feeling diluted.

R: It certainly helps in our case, but that's not to say that because something isn't entirely authentic, there isn't conviction or belief coming from the artist or band performing it. Plus there are many artists with total creative control who are excellent liars.

You've spoken about your embarrassment over cultural misappropriation, could you explain a little more what you mean by that?

R: I think music that exists without context is relatively short-lived anyway but when cultural awareness isn't there either, artists seem to make these really embarrassing choices or use inappropriate cultural markers to boost their record sales or profile. Personally, I cringe when an artist steps up as an ambassador of a movement or culture without first engaging in a mutual exchange of respect and understanding. It's why I can't accept contrived marketing campaigns like the one for Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way'; or Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus hitting a magic "twerk" button; or the Chad Kroeger-produced shit-fest that was 'Hello Kitty', without feeling cynical and a little disappointed.

There's a strong feminist theme running through your ideas, songs and even the album artwork, which features your grandmother, albeit concealed by repeating patterns. With more people talking about feminism, and a groundswell of support for those speaking out (such as Lauren Mayberry and Grimes) do you feel that change is imminent?

M: With successful artists now having a platform in which to speak out about feminism in music, change is imminent but it's going to be slow-going. It all has to do with ingrained attitudes - some people are just way behind the times. From a male perspective, I can see there is huge prejudice in music towards women and this does need to change. More often than not, the girl is just seen as eye candy. It may be that more men make a go of forging a career in music but it's hard to deny the lack of women in big roles within the industry.

R: Things definitely need to advance but I think Macaulay's right in that there's still a long way to go. More needs to be done to boost the confidence of women wanting to be involved in the music industry, in particular sound tech and studio production roles, which are notoriously male-dominated. Feminism, to us, is about cultivating mutual respect and equality between all genders. Gender-profiling, stereotyping and discrimination is harmful to everyone, not just women. The problem is that it gets misrepresented so much, mainly by some men who see it as a threat or by people that don't understand that feminist views are made up of many voices, not just one school of thought. From Laurie Penny to Beyoncé to Melissa Benn to Grimes, they all have their own definition of what feminism is. Projects such as Amy Poehler's Smart Girls and Everyday Sexism are important too in encouraging us all to have a conversation and by helping us to respect each other as humans. Because for all the "it's not that bad" and "what about the men?" comments, the pay gap still exists, being solely defined by your maternal or relationship role still exists, women being heckled and intimidated on public transport or as they walk along the street still exists and the denial of basic rights for women, still exists.

It's interesting that you mention the need for more equal representation behind the scenes as well as on stage. This isn't something that a lot of people mention when it comes to discussing feminism in music. It also seems to me that there is a lack of solidarity from men in the industry - other fields have much wider support but with music it's very focused on solo artists or the singer in a band speaking out. The only example I can think of that doesn't follow that trend (from recent years) would be Olof Dreijer of The Knife, who refuses to play festivals and shows without equal representation.

R: Absolutely. One of our "dream" festivals to play is Flow for that very reason. This year they hosted Neneh Cherry, Royksopp and Robyn, Janelle Monae, Die Antwoord, Poliça, Jenny Wilson and Jessie Ware. Last year, Kate Boy, Austra, The Knife, Cat Power, Alicia Keys, Bat For Lashes and Grimes were billed as main support or headliners. The UK seems a little behind on that front with the exception of some of the smaller festivals, but then we are the home of "LADS" and "BANTS" unfortunately. It's why when we saw this article [from the Telegraph] a while back, it didn't come as much of a surprise...

On the sound front, it's kind of interesting. When I was at college, the only other female musician in my class left because of boisterous comments about her ability as a drummer. At the time, I was too shy to say anything but for my chickening out, I suffered the same criticisms myself further down the line. I still remember all of us struggling to play a song we didn't particularly like, trying to muster some enthusiasm to work out all the different parts and the same drummer who was responsible for intimidating my classmate singled me out in front of everyone and said "Hey, why don't you learn to play the song right you fucking stupid bitch" and there was this chorus of laughter. It was one of my most humiliating experiences ever as a musician. Yet when it came to the music technology module, many of the people who had joined in with that display of masculine bravado were now asking for my help on how to use Reason and Cubase. An ex-boyfriend even submitted one of my compositions as his own and took all of the credit for it. With that incident in mind, it'd be good to see more of this in the UK, as nobody should have to deal with intimidation, let alone based on their gender.

How do you try to approach these ideas within your music?

M: We write in a partnership which puts an emphasis on equality. We like being a male/female act where everything is equal. For example we split everything 50/50 and both have to like song ideas if we're to progress them. Musically we try to encapsulate light and shade; one minute masculine, the next feminine. One moment happy, the next minute sad. It's these juxtapositions that makes up the core of Curxes musically.

R: Sincerity combined with a sense of humour. For all the dancing budgies, the video for 'Avant-Guarded' featured a "bird" being pushed around, negatively influenced by external advertising and ultimately in a cage. As well, like Macaulay said, the lyrics are often quite subtle and open to interpretation whereas our drum samples are quite abrasive and unavoidable.

It's been said you've been trying to capture the punk attitude of the late '70s. How do you think that period influences your creative decisions?

M: The post-punk antics of bands like Wire, who were always trying new ways of expressing themselves with little or no regard for commerciality, has influenced us. It feels important for us to push ourselves into territory that doesn't feel comfortable. Personally, the day I give up music is when I feel I'm writing on autopilot. In terms of the late '70's sound, it's a hell of a lot of fun just going a bit nuts and seeing what experiments you can get away with whilst still performing pop songs.

R: I'd say that late '70s post-punk and '80s electronic music in particular appeals to us, because there were a lot of hopes and ideals invested in certain movements without being overly-optimistic, but given that we went with the name Curxes, I suppose optimism has never been our strong point.

Finally, given the way your sound has changed whilst recording the album, were you ever tempted to revisit earlier tracks?

R: Precurxor was an interim release that grouped together the very early songs as they would definitely have been jarring next to 'Haunted Gold' and 'Valkyrie' in terms of album cohesiveness. Thematically though, the songs released from 'Haunted Gold' onwards share quite a few lyrical similarities plus many of the drum samples we created, even though they might structurally be very different to one another, so they sit together quite nicely. The only thing we've really altered specifically for the album, is the way we've built up the interludes between songs. Additionally, we took out a rain and thunder sample on a song because it sounded like something from a bad soap opera or sound fx record. However, we did keep the "chimp being shot out of a cannon" sample. We'll give out a prize if someone picks out where it is.

You can visit Curxes by heading over to their official website.