words by sammy maine
Although Alimony Hustle are only comprised of two members – Leah Pritchard and Matt Mndolo – they’re the kind of band that can sound huge and uncompromising. Stitching together intricate, thought-out elements, they produce punky, pop bangers that are both fun and focused. Their latest single “Miss GB” is all about Zara Holland who was stripped of her Miss. GB title after having sex on television during her stint on reality show Love Island. But it’s also about your dreams being ripped right out of your heart – of starting again and the terrifying uncertainty that comes along with it.
Alimony Hustle urge us to face these uncertainties head on. They tell us things are going to work out even if, at times, the world seems crappy and unfulfilling and well, a straight-up dumpster fire. They tell us that through embracing friendship, accepting help when we need it most and allowing ourselves to understand each other, we don’t need a crown; by doing what we want in the face of adversity, we’ve already won.
You’ve both had quite a long break from Alimony Hustle – how did you start things up again? Does it feel good to be putting out new material?
Leah: Yeah I moved away from Bristol to Sheffield so we’re now a long-distance band, which is very different. It’s nice though, I think we’re more focused when we see each other, and it’s a good excuse for Matt to make the 3-hour drive up to hang out.
Matt: We’re regularly google chatting in the office about something awful a colleague has said or done that day, which is a nice way to keep in touch. We did a couple of gigs last year that felt like a nice reminder that we could do this and it was still fun, so recording seemed like the next logical step.
It’s always scary to be putting out new material as you’re both putting yourselves out there – do you think being as good friends as you are garners a support network for each other?
Leah: Definitely, and also if we cast the net wider to the group of friends we have, we’re really lucky to have people who are so supportive of everything we do. We take things really slowly – i.e. a single every year – and I think that pace suits us at the moment.
Matt: I think we have to be, because this band feels more personal and connected to who I am than many I’ve been in, putting music out or even doing interviews feels like we are putting more of ourselves out there and that can feel vulnerable and risky, especially if you are particularly self-reflective or anxious. I couldn’t do this without the support and love of family and friends and bandmates, it supports me enough to keep the self doubt from being overwhelming. It’s also more rewarding because I am much more invested in this band and music due to its personal nature, and our friendship.
This latest single is about Zara Holland and the crappy incident surrounding her Love Island appearance – what was it about that particular incident that spurred you to write a song about it?
Leah: In case anyone’s not seen it, Zara Holland – who was Miss Great Britain at the time – went on this TV show called Love Island last year and was stripped of her Miss GB title for having sex on-screen. Zara absolutely adored being Miss GB. You could see the way she lit up when she talked about it, that she really just lived for it. I’m sure some people will think that’s silly, just like sometimes we think our own dreams – of changing career, of taking up painting, of writing a short story – are silly. It’s important to give respect and weight to all of these things. If your heart doesn’t break for Zara, you need to get to the doctor and check your heart’s still there.
Do you think that by covering something that happened on reality tv will allow the issues surrounding her de-crowning to be more relatable? That even though people think reality tv is trash, your song will allow people to see the seriousness and the crappiness of it?
Leah: I mean, I’d hope so. I always take reality TV seriously. Take Me Out shines a light on how men say “I like blondes” when they really mean “I like white women”, Ex on the Beach highlights the double standards imposed on women’s sexuality vs. men’s, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians is a masterclass on how celebrities can more effectively manage their public image. Look at First Dates! Putting old people, LGBT people and people of colour on primetime TV and saying: these people are worthy of love. That’s so political, and powerful. But I also don’t think things have to give up being trashy or fun in order to have worth. Why is it a waste of my time to spend an hour a day smiling? What’s so wrong with wanting to catch up with my shows so I can email my friends and chat about something we all love?
Matt: People have this tendency to talk about people who they see as famous or on TV as if they’re not really people. The way people talk online or in real life about reality tv stars, pop stars or people from TV, film or journalism, there’s often this complete lack of empathy as if the people don’t have their own feelings, fears, challenges and insecurities. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself and sometimes it’s only when you see it about someone you know or care about that it hits home how weird and unsettling it can be. Not even being mean or nasty but just talking about someone else in a way that seems like you have ownership of them. It’s weird because for a show like First Dates we all have empathy for the people we’re watching, however a show like Love Island or TOWIE will often be viewed very differently. I hope a song like this that has real empathy for the experience that someone has gone through stands in contrast to that tendency.
Do you find it easier to write from the perspective of a character or someone else? Do songs like this allow you both to learn more about yourselves?
Leah: Until now, every Alimony Hustle song has been from my perspective. I’m no good at writing songs from other people’s. With “Miss GB” I really strongly related to this feeling of her dream being snatched away, though, which is why it’s ended up kind of half from her perspective and half mine.
You mentioned the ‘death of dreams’ as one of the subject’s of the song and a lot of people would say that pursuing music is like a dream, too. Do you see it the same way? Or is Alimony Hustle just something fun for a pair of best pals to do?
Leah: This is definitely a dream for both of us. We’re both absolutely wild for music and have been since we were tiny and could only babble along to our parents’ music, so being able to play our own songs is a huge deal. If we ever say this is just a hobby, we’re lying.
Matt: You put a lot of effort and money into doing a band and putting out music. It’s easy to get caught up in the sometimes empty dreams of ‘making it’, which can lead to easily burning out. At the same time, for me, music is part of who I am, I can’t leave it. I feel dead if I’m not making or playing music for more than a few months. If you put too much on these empty ideas of success then it’s easy to lose what you love about music and see those dreams die. I think for us, success is having something to say that we get out there, being sustainable and having music fit within our lives and give to our lives, rather than being something that pulls the energy and joy out of the rest of our lives, if that makes sense. At least for now. I’m sure as time passes we will have to revisit and reconfigure those things as we grow and learn and change.
Would you say that you are both risk-takers? Or have come to be more so as you’ve grown a little older? Or perhaps less so?
Leah: I feel like I’ve been putting myself out there way more in the past 6 months or so. Writing this down now, I can see that this coincides with having started counselling at the end of last year, lol. I’ve been working on producing a magazine about mental health, writing more songs, and I’ve applied to start studying to become a counsellor too. I’m waiting to hear back about whether I’ve got in, but I’m going to put that in writing here now anyway. Before I would have thought that I’d be jinxing it by writing it down. So that’s a risk!
Matt: I was given a book by my counsellor years and years ago called ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’. I never finished it, but the idea that being afraid doesn’t have to be the end of the story is something I’ve taken to heart. In the last few years I’ve regularly done things I was always afraid to do before, like getting a tattoo and piercing, online and IRL dating, going out dancing, singing in front of people, wearing nail polish to work. This year I even went to an audition for The X Factor, mostly as a laugh, but equally because it terrified me. Maybe they don’t seem like big things but they’ve all been significant and rewarding for me.
Tell me about the narrative surrounding the B-side ‘No Chill’ and the ways it’s evolved the way you approach life and love.
Leah: As a result of being the child of a very drawn out, very tumultuous divorce, I have a lot of strange anxieties around abandonment. Like when I’m by myself, I can feel very (very) real fears that there are, e.g. severed fingers in my food, or there’s someone under the bed, or that everyone I know is dead. This can be really difficult for someone you love to handle – just the practicalities of trying to soothe someone who’s feeling like that, but also the mental strain of feeling like you have to prove your love extra hard maybe. This is a song I wrote really early on in my relationship with my girlfriend where I just wanted to say: I know it seems like I’m nervous or unsure about this, but I am not, and won’t ever be.
Alimony Hustle are playing Deadpunk Special in Bristol on May 6 and then at DIY Space for London on May 13.