Nicole Parnis September 11, 2019
Do Quit the Day Job – Talking Cross-Country Craziness with ĠENN
Remember the Spice Girls? You had Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary and what was the last one? Oh yeah, Ginger. I was six years old when I watched the music video for ‘Wannabe’, wide eyed as these celestial beings jumped on dinner tables and changed my world, and THE world forever. And there’s one band I know of at the moment that’s bringing back some feels.
The first time I met Cryptic Street, their now defunct band name, they were sitting on a beat up sofa in their practice room, in the urine-streaked garage complex in Birkirkara. Teenage ex-drummer Michelle sat on the end with blue hair way before Sarah Zerafa dyed hers. They were all wearing colourful socks and posed youthfully, laughing with bras on their heads. It was their “thing” at the time. This should have been a prompt for us all that these girls have an innate sense for self branding. Fast forward to late 2019 and I can confirm this theory has come true.
Enter brand change to ‘ĠENN’, the Maltese word for craziness. It’s going to take a while to get used to but not only does it represent the madness of moving across the continent but a lineup change in the shape of a new drummer, Brit Sophia Rosa Cooper, who’s going steady with the band now that they’ve relocated to Brighton.
You’ve got crowdsurfing pocketsized powerhouse Leona, cherry-bomb pixie cut guitar-shredding Janelle, goth-tastic bassist Leanne with her signature curls and purple lippy and fresh faced tatted-up Sofia Rosa on sticks. Put them together and they’re a hardcore rainbow cake of a band riding the wave of youthful fourth-wave feminism, high-kicking their way through stages across the UK and beyond.
Just like most bands on the cusp of “making it” bigtime, ĠENN keep pushing through with their part-time jobs, side-hustling with freelance work, caretaking, DJing and even – in the case of Leona – moonlighting as a cabin crew member. Say what?! Something tells me they’ll be flying transatlantic as a foursome soon enough. “Honestly, I don’t consider that we’ve ‘made it’.” says Janelle. “That’s a big term! We’re working our asses off basically.” And it shows! They’re definitely reaping the fruits of their labour, garnering a steady fanbase from up and down the country.
ĠENN recently opened up for big name punk band ‘Hands Off Gretel’ on tour, who they’ve become friends with. Frontwoman Lauren Tate, highly regarded as one of grunge’s modern day “pin-ups”, recently set the record straight via a viral Facebook post regarding the unwanted attention she gets as a female in the scene. Is this something you also want to address? I ask Janelle, and the answer is yes. “Our male fans are mostly respectful on the whole. You have to keep a boundary between our persona on stage and our day to activities, they’re two different things” she begins. “When we were younger we used to get adds and messages on Facebook passing inappropriate comments….thankfully as time went on, the whole mentality about women in music is finally changing, and we learned what to do and what not to do and how to approach these things as we grew up.” Wise words.
Still hot off the heels of their brilliant first album ‘Titty Monster’, ĠENN will keep playing all their Cryptic Street material, to the delight of their longterm followers. Songs like ‘Don’t Need No Men’ and ‘Damaged’ posess the qualities of real, longwithstanding riot grrrrl anthems from the likes of X-Ray Spex and Heavens To Betsy. It just goes to show that ĠENN are not all image and no substance, but a proper DIY package with all the components to make up a fully fledged, self-sufficient band.
When it comes to advice for local bands looking to do the same and be part of the ‘ġenn’ that is making the leap to try and make it in a big city, Janelle has this to say: “Our personal advice, I guess, is to prepare yourselves mentally. First of all because moving is fucking hard; you have to leave everything behind and start from scratch. I think the most important thing is to stick together as a team, to clarify your vision between yourselves and to find people who are committed.”
“With regards to touring abroad, as a musician you should never underestimate yourself or to underestimate yourselves as a “Maltese Band”. At this point we’re not a primarily “Maltese Band” anymore, but when we moved we were all Maltese, before finding Sofia, thankfully! As a woman, never underestimate yourself either, and go out there and kick ass. When it comes to touring abroad I would tell musicians to do their research, contact as many people as possible online and get your music out there! Buy flights well in advance. Establishing a network of good contacts is very important before deciding to take the leap, rather than just doing it blindly. Nowadays, you cannot just expect to be “discovered”, you have work hard to create a base of contacts before you can do anything else. To have a longterm plan basically…”
It sounds too me like they’ve got it all sussed. Here’s to ditching the small-island inferiority complex and being in it for the long haul. Viva l-Ġenn!
Catch ĠENN at Sajf Lajf on the 14th of September at Cloudberry in Sliema!