Pre-order I Play My Bass Loud
“Take cover! Raincoats bassist on gale-force form!” 5/5 Record Collector
Legendary post-punk musician, artist, and filmmaker Gina Birch today shares the title track from her debut solo album, I Play My Bass Loud, which will be released via Third Man Records on Friday, February 24, 2023. Pre-orders are available now. Watch the video for ‘I Play My Bass Loud’ now. The video was conceived and directed by Vice Cooler, a multi-talented musician, performer and video director. “Vice asked his long-term friend writer, dancer and choreographer, Oakland based, Brontez Purnell to be the central character of the video,” explains Gina, “There are five women bass players performing in the video, Emily Elhaj (Angel Olsen), Hazel Rigby (TBHQ), Mikki Itzigsohn (Small Wigs), Staz Lindes (The Paranoyds) and myself. We shot the video in L.A. so the bass players in the video are not primarily the ones on the track apart from Emily Elhaj who plays bass with Angel Olson and Gina B. The song is a celebration of bass guitar as a voice, simple or layered, pounding or dancing or everything at once. A celebration of a shout, a yell from the window, and the I am Here, of a woman's creativity on the bass guitar. I play my bass, my bass my bass my bass, I play my bass loud.”
Gina Birch will play the following UK headline shows this spring (tickets on sale now):
Tues, Mar 21st – The Hope and Ruin, Brighton
Wed, Mar 22nd – Oslo, London
Fri, Mar 24th – The Hug and Pint, Glasgow
Sat, Mar 25th – Whelan’s, Dublin
Mon, Mar 27th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
As a founding member and one-half of The Raincoats’ core duo since 1977, Gina Birch is a punk icon with a pop sensibility, an art-schooled adventurer who has painted, filmed, and created music by her own rules for over 45 years—using her visual art to tell stories, charging raw recordings with concepts. Her history converges onto her first solo album, ‘I Play My Bass Loud’, its title evoking her singular approach to her instrument as well as an ethos. She won’t hang back or play a supporting role. On ‘I Play My Bass Loud,’ Gina takes centre stage.
This all befits the feminism and idiosyncracy of Birch, who witnessed the first Sex Pistols show just before setting her creative foundation at Hornsey College of Art in the 70s. Seeing the incendiary Slits in London, Birch was changed. She formed the Raincoats with fellow art student Ana da Silva, offering a melodic counterpoint to da Silva’s darker undertow, developing her style under the influence of reggae and the Ronettes as much as Subway Sect and Lou Reed. The Raincoats, still active today, became one of the first bands on Rough Trade, typifying the timeless idea of punk as raw expression, not one sound.
The dubby, righteous anthem “Feminist Song” became the seed of ‘I Play My Bass Loud’ when it was released as a Third Man single in 2021 in celebration of Third Man London’s September 2021 opening (alongside releases by the labels other favourite UK artists including The Jesus & Mary Chain, Cornershop, Paul Weller, and lost Manchester group The Magic Roundabout). A reworked version of the track is on this album. Both ‘Feminist Song’ and ‘Pussy Riot,’ an ode to the Russian revolutionary art troupe penned around the time of their 2012 arrest, have been a part of the Raincoats’ set list for many years. ‘I Will Never Wear Stilettos’ underscores Birch’s unwavering streak of humour, “If people want to wear them that’s fine,” she elaborates, “but it does seem like a hindrance to running away. I never learned to be that kind of woman. The idea of wearing them seems so absurd.”
The title track features five women bassists, including the Modettes’ Jane Crockford and Emily Elhaj, bassist for Angel Olsen (with whom the Raincoats collaborated in 2016). “I always thought: if I open my big bay window upstairs and play my bass, I’m not some groovy young rapper. I’m this older white woman playing my bass guitar out of my window. I just want to stick my head out and yell down the street: HELL, I’M HERE, AND I’M PLAYING MY BASS LOUD!”
The title also has a feminist resonance, a rebuke to how women can be diminutively typecast and ignored: “There’s the whole thing about women playing their music and wanting to be heard, wanting acknowledgment or the space to do it,” she says. “The bass is sometimes assigned as a lesser instrument, and yet because of reggae and the creativity of a lot of women players, it has always been a creative and phenomenal instrument.” It’s a potent concept of refusal and agency: staking out space as a woman in her 60s in the music culture she helped shape, defining for herself what it means now to move forward as an artist.
The songs of ‘I Play My Bass Loud’ were largely finished before Birch brought them to co-producer Youth, of Killing Joke. “It was a fabulous experience to record at Youth’s in Wandsworth”, says Gina, “Youth likes my passion and my bad guitar playing. I like his attitude, so calm and focused... in a zen kind of way. We are in fact opposite sides of the same coin.” Together, they wrote the bonafide alt-rock anthem, ‘Wish I Was You,’ and its preceding tone poem, ‘And Then It Happened,’ which Birch called “a letter to myself.” The pair of songs collectively narrate a shift in perception—a woman stepping ever-further into her power and thriving—propelled by a much-deserved wind. Thurston Moore added guitar to ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Wish I Was You.’ And, in a wonderful turn, the Raincoats’ Ana da Silva has remixed ‘Pussy Riot,’ restructuring it and adding a bit of brilliant kitchen-sink clatter.
“The album distils my years of musical, political and artistic life with these genre breaking songs” says Gina Birch, “It’s a personal diary using sounds and lyrics, full of fun, rage and storytelling.”
In recent years, Birch has committed herself to painting, with her first UK show staged in recent weeks at Gallery 46 in Whitechapel, London; she also recently illustrated a book of Sharon Van Etten’s lyrics. But then Birch has never stopped making art. While in the Raincoats, she was a member of Mayo Thompson’s band the Red Krayola, and in the 80s, she also formed the pop project Dorothy with Raincoats violinist Vicki Aspinall. She was just beginning her career as a filmmaker, creating music videos for the likes of The Libertines and New Order, when a resurgence of Raincoats interest, sparked by Nirvana and riot grrrl, found the band reconvening in the 90s—and cited as an influence by Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth, Beat Happening, and many others. Kurt Cobain loved the Raincoats so much that he wrote extensively about them in the Incesticide liner notes and even asked the band to open for Nirvana in 1994 (he died shortly before the scheduled dates). During that first period of revived “Raincoats-mania,” as one DJ called it, Birch also brought her filmmaking talents into the band’s orbit, making videos for ‘Fairytale in the Supermarket’ and ‘Don’t Be Mean.’ She then formed the Hangovers before playing solo. Birch’s continued partnership with Third Man emerged naturally after the release of ‘Feminist Song’: “We just got on really well, and David Buick said, ‘Why don’t we do some more recording?’”
The album’s striking artwork features one of Gina’s paintings entitled ‘Loneliness’. With ‘I Play My Bass Loud’ and her recent paintings, Birch keeps discovering her singular voice. “It’s like a dream come true, Birch says of her creativity in both fields, “I've been working hard in my artists garret, mostly painting, but always writing songs… an idea forms in my head and I write it or paint it... and now it seems, these ideas are blooming wildly, reaching over the wall! I have a solo album coming out and a solo painting show. Almost simultaneously. It is so great.”
Album Track Listing:
1.I Play My Bass Loud
2.And Then It Happened
3.Wish I Was You
6.I Am Rage
7.I Will Never Wear Stillettos
8.Dance Like A Demon
11.Let’s Go Crazy