Canadian twin sisters Mercedes and Phoenix are the duo behind Softcult, a band that is playing their part in a new “riot grrrl” movement for the current age. They’ve just released their latest single “Gaslight”, so we caught up with Mercedes to chat about the new song, the toxicity of the music scene they grew up in, and advice for new musicians.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Gaslight”.
Softcult: Gaslight is a song we wrote about the emotional manipulation technique known as “gaslighting”. We wanted to write a song about what it feels like to be in that situation, and the mental gymnastics someone being gaslit goes through on a daily basis. We thought it was important to write from that perspective and express how that feels, as well as raise awareness of the red flags to look out for in our relationships. We also thought it would be a good opportunity to encourage self-analysis and ask ourselves “have I ever done this in my relationships?” If we can define exactly what gaslighting is and how it affects people involved, we can avoid contributing to it as well as becoming a victim of it.
FTS: How did Softcult become a band?
Softcult: We started making music in our home studio when the world first went into lockdown. It was right around the time when George Floyd was murdered, the Trump administration was terrorizing the world, riots, protests, bigotry and ignorance were flooding our news feeds. We were stuck at home feeling really frustrated at the state of the world.
The music came from that disenfranchised place, and from a need to try and make a difference. We wanted to use our voice and our platform to raise awareness, talk about important issues, and empower people. I think this project is a sign of the times. There are a lot of things we’ve been wanting to speak out about for years as women in a predominantly male dominated industry, a lot of experiences we’ve had and injustices we’ve witnessed, and 2020 was just sort of a breaking point. We were inspired by the world around us, as well as the punk and feminist icons that came before us. To us, Softcult is part of the next wave of the riot grrrl movement. We want to represent for the people that need a voice, carry the torch and raise awareness. During a time where we felt pretty powerless, music became our form of activism.
FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Softcult: To be completely honest, we grew up in a very toxic scene. A lot of the artists we used to look up to as teenagers have been outed as abusers and predators. The pop-punk, hardcore, Warped Tour scene we grew up in had roots of toxicity and misogyny that ran deep, we just didn’t recognize it at the time. I think that might be why, subconsciously, we’re so heavily influenced by the ethos of artists in the 90s like Bikini Kill, Nirvana, Veruca Salt, etc. Artists who were rebelling against societal norms and even norms in their alternative scenes, and had strong messages and themes in their music that were so vital for young people to hear. They paved the way for future generations and did what was true to them. I just personally find them so much more relatable than the problematic attitudes that the 2010s alternative scene has become infamous for. On a sonic level, we’re super influenced by Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, Radiohead, etc. I just love the emotional atmosphere and ambiance those artists have.
FTS: If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Softcult: It would be so amazing to collaborate with Pussy Riot. We love their music, their activism, their message, and their unbreakable spirit after everything they’ve had to overcome. They’re still unrelenting, and it’s inspiring to us for so many reasons.
FTS: What advice would you give to other musicians just starting out?
Softcult: I would say just do what YOU want to do. Be true to yourself, even if it’s not like anything that already exists in the music scene you’re in. I can guarantee if you write from a place of honesty and vulnerability SOMEONE out there will be able to relate. And not only will they relate, but they will cherish the music you make. Also, don’t give way to negativity. In my experience, someone who’s trying to knock you down a few pegs is usually projecting their own insecurities. If they feel threatened by what you have to say, it means you’re doing something right.
FTS: What’s next for Softcult?
Softcult: We’re about to release our second EP; “Year of the Snake” on February 4th! We’re excited to go on tour and play our first-ever live shows. More than anything I can’t wait to finally meet the people that have been supporting this project face to face and thank them for everything, share a memory and a moment together. We are touring the West Coast of the US with Teenage Wrist and then headlining a tour of the UK a week later. You can find all the dates at www.softcult.band
Check out “Gaslight”, the new single from Softcult!