Manchester troupe create a col­li­sion of dub-punk, pol­i­tics and home­made capes.

Q (UK) - - Incoming - RACHEL AROESTI

As the sun sets on Hag­ger­ston Park in East London, Manchester band ILL are pos­ing for pho­tos in an as­sort­ment of daz­zling home­made capes, sil­ver and pur­ple se­quins glint­ing against the green­ery. Passers-by stop and stare, but they’d be even more agog if they could hear ILL in ac­tion: the group’s rau­cous, un­in­hib­ited post-punk racket is about as at­ten­tion-grab­bing as it gets. ILL burst into life in 2012, when vo­cal­ist Harri Shanahan, drum­mer Fiona Ledgard and bassist Whit­ney Bluzma de­cided to form their own band af­ter play­ing to­gether in Womb, a women’s im­pro­vi­sa­tion col­lec­tive born out of the drone, psych and noise scene sur­round­ing Manchester arts venue Is­ling­ton Mill. Joined by Tam­sin Mid­dle­ton on gui­tar, plus oc­ca­sional con­trib­u­tor Sadie No­ble, initially their new ven­ture was also an improv band, but over time their jams so­lid­i­fied into a se­ries of more traditional tracks, many of which are col­lected on their thrilling de­but al­bum, We Are ILL. “We’ve gone from weird ab­stract in­dus­trial to quite poppy,” is how Bluzma de­scribes their tran­si­tion. While “poppy” might not be the first ad­jec­tive that springs to mind when lis­ten­ing to off­beat tunes about in­ter­ga­lac­tic misog­yny (Space Dick) and dis­turb­ing public trans­port experiences (Bus Shel­ter), there’s cer­tainly some­thing in­fec­tiously en­ter­tain­ing about the group’s droll, dub-laced DIY rock. Not to men­tion their zany mu­sic videos, which fea­ture gar­ish make-up, fake beards and heaps of wonky spe­cial ef­fects. Along­side the green-screen-re­lated japes, the group are in­tent on mak­ing a more

se­ri­ous state­ment. The name ILL came from an in­sult thrown at the band when they first started, and fed into the cor­re­la­tion they saw be­tween women do­ing what they wanted and be­ing branded as un­well. “I was read­ing a lot of his­tory of medicine and they’d lock you up in an asy­lum for read­ing a novel, or be­ing a les­bian,” says Shanahan. “Re­mov­ing ovaries to cure hys­te­ria,” chips in Bluzma. “It makes me very, very an­gry,” con­tin­ues Shanahan, ex­plain­ing that their name, along with tracks such as ILL Song and Hys­te­ria, act as “a re­claim­ing – a ri­poste to the pathol­o­gis­ing and de­mon­is­ing of women.” For the band mem­bers them­selves, ILL func­tions as a bea­con of sol­i­dar­ity that goes be­yond the mu­sic. “There’s al­ways been some­thing great about women’s hobby groups, and be­ing in this band it’s the same kind of se­cu­rity and sup­port,” says Bluzma. Shanahan agrees. “It’s cathar­sis, it’s re­sis­tance, it’s ther­apy, it’s union and it’s protest. And it’s fun.” The lat­ter is some­thing ILL are keen to keep at the fore­front of their ac­tiv­ity – plans for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture in­clude record­ing new ma­te­rial and go­ing “more disco”. “It makes peo­ple feel amaz­ing – it’s lib­er­at­ing,” ex­plains Ledgard. “…And to jus­tify these capes,” quips Shanahan. Re­ally, ILL’s sparkly sar­to­rial choices are al­ready a fit­ting ac­com­pa­ni­ment to their mu­sic: a cel­e­bra­tion of wom­an­hood that’s wry, glee­ful and bril­liantly bold.

“It’s cathar­sis, it’s re­sis­tance, it’s ther­apy, it’s union and it’s protest. And it’s fun.”

Harri Shanahan

Capes of good hope: ILL (from left, Tam­sin Mid­dle­ton, Harri Shanahan (front), Sadie No­ble, Whit­ney Bluzma and Fiona Ledgard), Hag­ger­ston Park, East London, 11 May, 2018.

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