Charmpit’s Debut Is A Scrappy Ode to the Friendships that Matter Most – AdHoc

Charmpit’s Debut Is A Scrappy Ode to the Friendships that Matter Most

The London punk quartet’s founding members discuss the mood board they created for their debut album, Cause A Stir, which perfectly captures the band’s spunky, DIY spirit.

London’s self-described “queer DIY POPstarPUNK” outfit Charmpit formed four years ago after guitarist / vocalist Anne Marie Sanguigni and bassist / vocalist Rhianydd York Williams moved from California’s Bay Area to the UK.

“We were just doing a cappella covers on the bus of Britney Spears, Beyonce, Cher, and stuff like that,” Anne Marie recently told AdHoc, over Zoom, of their early efforts. “We thought, ‘Let’s do a Girlpool thing.’ Our first song was absolutely awful.”

That didn’t stop Charmpit from participating in London’s First Timers Festival–which is specifically designed to support new artists from the ground up–in the spring of 2016. The duo became a trio with the addition of drummer Alex Iossifidis, and Anne Marie and Rhianydd started writing more material, drawing inspiration from west coast punk acts such as Shannon and the Clams and Tacocat.

The band went on to release a handful of jangly, pop-punk singles and EPs over the next few years before bringing on a lead guitarist (Estella Adeyeri) and getting serious about putting together an album. That album–Cause A Stir–has finally arrived, and it perfectly captures the band’s spunky, DIY spirit. Its twelve tracks touch on everything from self-destructive tendencies (“Bridges Go Burn”) to reciprocity (“Baby Needs A Breeze”) to Santa Cruz (where Anne Marie and Rhianydd first met as students) to chopping off your hair with emotional and practical support from your closest pals (“Dyed and Gone to Hairven”).

“The whole album is about friendship,” says Anne Marie, who, along with Rhianydd, spoke to AdHoc about Charmpit’s origin story, their connection to California, and the mood board they created for their debut. Check out the full interview and listen to Cause A Stir below.

Cause A Stir is out now via Specialist Subject.

AdHoc: When and how did Charmpit form?

Rhianydd: Anne Marie moved to the UK [from California] before I did, and then in 2016 I moved here. I had just started my life over. We were both like, ‘Winter is coming and the depression is nigh, so let’s have a project.’ 

Then there happened to be this thing called First Timers Fest, which is run out of DIY Space For London. It is a festival designed to diversify music-making and demystify it by having six months of workshops that lead up to the festival. So we signed up for that, and having something to work towards was really helpful.

Anne Marie: We actually started our Instagram before we knew the First Timers Fest existed. We were just doing a cappella covers on the bus of Britney Spears, Beyonce, Cher, and stuff like that as we rode around. We thought, ‘Let’s do a Girlpool thing.’ Our first song was absolutely awful. We realized we didn’t know how to write songs, so we did some covers. The first cover that we did was–what’s that band called?

Rhi: Girls?

Anne Marie: [singing] “I wish I had a boyfriend.” Then the first song we ever wrote was called “Droolin’ 4 U,” and the second was “Vacation.” I remember Alex was in the kitchen cleaning his dishes and he popped his head in and he was like, ‘That sounds good. You want a drummer?’ That made us feel like a real band for the first time.

And then Estella–our lead guitarist–we met at First Timers Fest. She was learning how to become a sound engineer, and she helped us plug in for the first time on stage. So that’s how we all came together as a foursome.

When did you write and record Cause A Stir?

Anne Marie: In 2016 we only expected to do that festival and nothing else. Then a couple DIY bands that were in the audience approached us about going on tour and were like, ‘What is a tour? What is merch? How do we do this?’

So we went on a tour when we’d only been a band for two months. It was great, but we didn’t have that time that other people have to sit in your room for years and, like, learn your instruments. We just dove in and were accepted, which was amazing. We gigged for free for ages and then finally we were like, ‘Wait, can we ask for, like, 20 pounds?’ We were really broke then. We hit the ground running really hard for like two years.

Rhianydd: We agreed to everything. We considered [our shows] free practice gigs.

Anne Marie: Then we were like, ‘We need to slow down.’ We wanted to discover who we are as musicians and songwriters. So we slowed down with the vision to make an album. Estella had just joined at that point in 2018. As soon as we decided that, I got taken away to California for a job. I was away for three months but we [built on] what we knew from First Timers. We found a producer who’s in the scene and set a date for recording.

Rhianydd: How much time did we give ourselves? Like six months?

Anne Marie: Yeah, something like that. It was crazy.

Rhianydd: We had like three songs, but we wanted twelve.

Who was that producer?

Anne Marie: His name is Rich Mandell–he’s in the band Happy Accidents. We played a gig with them and we were talking about the album, then Rich came to us like “Who’s gonna record [it]?” and we were like, “We don’t know,” and he’s like, “It could be me.” We listened to some of the stuff he had recorded, and we really liked the Cheerbleederz stuff.

[Our writing was] going a bit slow. I think me and Rhianydd were not in the best places we’ve ever been. But knowing that we’re homework punks that do things once they’re due, we hacked the studio to get a bunch of free trials. It’s this weird studio called Pirate Studio that’s run by robots. There are no humans. We would use each of our emails to get free things there. 

We were really scared for the first ten minutes and then we just wrote a song. We wrote everything within five months, maybe four. Every time we wrote a song we were like, ‘It’s gotta go on! We don’t have time!’ Everything that came out was written in those studios. We’d never written with Alex before–it was always just me and Rhianydd. So that was something we were nervous about but it worked really well.

Rhianydd: Estella also wrote a little bit with us, and that was really great. Our songs used to be like 1 minute [and] 20 [seconds], but having a lead guitar we were like, ‘Let’s make some room.’

At what point did you get connected to Specialist Subject?

Anne Marie: They’re a preeminent small punk label in the UK. Alex has been a pop punk boy since the time he was like 14, then he turned away from pop punk, then Specialist Subject kind of brought him back. He really liked the band Bangers. So we would play The Exchange [in Bristol], and that’s where their shop was. We admired a lot of the artists on the label, so we were always like, ‘Dream label!’ Every time they asked us to come play a gig, me and Rhianydd would be like, [whispering] ‘Are they flirting with us? Do they want to put out our album?’

Once we had the first masters back, we emailed them to [Specialist Subject] and then I was walking back from the gym and the email came in like ‘Yes, we love it.’ I don’t know what we would have done if they didn’t take it.

Rhianydd: We would have been broken-hearted!

You mention mood boards in the song “Princess Video.” What would a mood board for this album look like?

Anne Marie: Oh, it existed. It was Blu Tacked–you know that gummy shit?–to our kitchen wall. It’s a really narrative album. We’re from the era that got a CD and listened to it start to finish over and over. We always knew that we wanted this to be an album people would listen to start to finish.

Rhianydd: We love musical theater and Beyonce, so [we wanted] it to be a visual album, something you could produce for a stage.

Anne Marie: We were like, ‘We’ve got to start with a song about First Timers.’ We want people to enter the album listening to a song so simple that they realize they could have written it.

Rhianydd: It wasn’t a visual mood board–it was a bunch of post-its.

Anne Marie: We’d just be like, ‘We want a silly pop song. Really simple. 1 minute and 30 seconds. And we want that to go here, for a breath between these two emotions. We want a song about reciprocity and our friendship.’

Which songs would those be?

Anne Marie: That song is “Babe Needs A Breeze.” And “Kissing You” is our tiny little pop song.

Rhianydd: We wanted a lustful pop song.

Anne Marie: We were on the way to the mall with our friend Charlie and we were like, ‘We want a lustful pop song. What’s that bring up for you?’ And she was like, ‘You know when you’re about to go on a date and you have to wait that whole week for it and you’re just thinking about what you’re gonna wear and kissing them?’ We were like, ‘We will write you that song, Charlie.’

I love how you deliver the refrain “snip snip / cut cut” in “Dyed and Gone to Hairven.” The song feels like a metaphor for your approach to making music–using whatever tools you have at your disposal.

Rhianydd: There’s the line “Trim away all your dead ends / give the scissors to your friends.” You can lean on your friends for help, and for helping to transform yourself or get through something or express something. So it’s DIY, supporting each other, and putting yourself in your friends’ hands.

Anne Marie: [It’s about] being vulnerable with people that you have already gone through the process of deeming safe. Once you deem someone safe and you trust them, really leaning into that instead of letting your own trauma make you pull away.

Do you think that connects to your songwriting?

Anne Marie: Yeah. Another reason the album took so long is that me and Rhianydd have never written a song separately. It took a long time to meet in this place where we both could write, and luckily that   worked out with when we had started to go to the studio. 

My time in California had been really hard, work-wise, but had been amazing for seeing friends. So every time I was with my friends we might get high or do mushrooms or something, and I’d be in the bathroom and a little thing would come into my head and I’d [send] it to Rhianydd.

How does California pop up in your music?

Anne Marie: I think it’s sprinkled through everything. We’re privileged to be from there in the sense that Estella and Alex can still relate to us and relate to these things because they have soaked up so much California culture. Right before Rhianydd moved to England she had gotten really into the DIY Oakland scene, like Shannon and the Clams and Tacocat–well they’re from Washington. The whole album is about friendship, and I think writing songs that have California in [them] keeps me from feeling homesick.

Rhi: When we started getting into the DIY scene here, a lot of Californian artists would come over here and play DIY spaces and stay at our houses, and it became this really nice way for us to hold onto California.

Anne Marie: We met at [UC] Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is really on the album–there’s like three or four songs that hold Santa Cruz at their heart.

Rhianydd: I think partly because we were going to therapy while we were writing this album we were both thinking about the past. A lot of our reflections have a lot of California.