U.S. GIRLS

In­die-pop cru­sader ex­plains the power of provo­ca­tion be­tween bowl­fuls of curry.

Q (UK) - - Incoming - RACHEL AROESTI

“Be­ing con­tro­ver­sial in an in­formed way is a su­per-ef­fec­tive thing to do.”

Fresh off the M6, Meg Remy – aka U.S. Girls – slips into one of the or­ange vinyl booths that pep­per Manchester’s Bun­do­bust and tries to re­mem­ber which num­ber Euro­pean tour she’s cur­rently em­barked upon. “It’s like my 13th or some­thing,” she even­tu­ally de­cides. “I toured in the DIY way for years in gal­leries and squats, so this is my first big-time tour. Play­ing to al­most 800 peo­ple in London, I’ve never done that be­fore.” Af­ter years spent op­er­at­ing un­der the radar, the step up has been oc­ca­sioned by Remy’s daz­zling sixth al­bum, In A Poem Un­lim­ited. A col­lec­tion of rich and provoca­tive pop, it ne­ces­si­tates her shelv­ing the one-woman show she’s used to and tak­ing a seven-piece band on tour in­stead – a set-up, she’s dis­cov­ered, that comes with lim­ited culi­nary op­por­tu­ni­ties. “When it was just me tour­ing the pro­moter was like, ‘We’re go­ing to take you for a re­ally nice meal’, be­cause you’re one per­son so they can af­ford to do that,” she ex­plains. “This trip’s all very min­i­mal. We’re eat­ing the rider a lot of the time – we try and save the ba­nanas so ev­ery­one can have one in the morn­ing.” It’s a sit­u­a­tion that makes our seem­ingly end­less lunch of In­dian street food – bowls and bowls of okra fries, but­ter­cup yellow tarka dhal and pa­neer curry – even more of a wel­come treat. It won’t be long be­fore Remy is back in the com­fort of her Toronto home. De­spite her moniker (in­spired by the nick­name an ex-boyfriend gave to her breasts), Remy left the US for Canada eight years ago. It was a move pre­cip­i­tated by a re­la­tion­ship, but she’d been keen to em­i­grate for a while. “The stan­dard of liv­ing is de­cay­ing at a faster rate than most places,” she says. “There was an in­ter­nal bell go­ing off to get the hell out of there.” Long out­raged by in­jus­tice, as a teenage Crass fan Remy founded a rock band that aimed to “com­bat cool­ness” and the hi­er­ar­chy of high school life. She be­gan U.S. Girls a few years later, initially as an ab­stract noise project. Nowa­days, the creep­ily ob­scured vocals have been re­placed by crys­tal-clear lyrics that – un­sur­pris­ingly – tend to skewer the ex­cesses and evils of her home­land. Less pre­dictably, it’s not Trump but Obama and his drone strikes that form the sub­ject of her ire on In A Poem Un­lim­ited. On M.A.H., a bun­dle of Blondie-scented disco, she cri­tiques the lat­ter through the prism of a love af­fair gone sour. “I thought writ­ing about Obama in­stead of Trump was more ef­fec­tive. We don’t need to talk about Trump any more, we know he’s a piece of shit,” she ex­plains. “I think be­ing con­tro­ver­sial in an in­formed way is a su­per-ef­fec­tive thing to do.” There are plenty more galling ex­am­ples of that on what Remy dubs her “devil’s ad­vo­cate al­bum”, in­clud­ing a bit­terly comic take on sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the form of Pearly Gates, about a woman as­cend­ing to heaven who is told she must have sex with St Peter in or­der to gain entry. The sub­ject mat­ter has led crit­ics to men­tion the al­bum in the same breath as the #MeToo move­ment, and while Remy’s sup­port­ive of the cam­paign, she has mixed feel­ings about hash­tag ac­tivism. “With Hol­ly­wood and Time’s Up, you see these women at their fancy award show and it’s, ‘Time’s up for the men, you gotta stop treat­ing women like shit!’ Well, these women that are say­ing this are fuck­ing filthy rich. What about it’s time to quit stock­pil­ing wealth? You can’t at­tack one sys­tem of op­pres­sion and not look at the rest.” Remy, for her part, does not have any plans to ac­crue masses of cash. Her success with U.S. Girls has been in­cre­men­tal rather than in­stant – and she’s more than happy to have es­caped the trap­pings of star­dom. “I’m deal­ing with it on such a min­i­mal level,” she says of the rock’n’roll lifestyle. “But even what I have now – if I had been 21 years old, I’d be dead of an over­dose for sure.” Be­ing 33 in­stead, she sips her cup of chai be­fore slid­ing off to her Manchester show – older and wiser, but as hell-bent on speak­ing truth to power as ever.

Cur­ry­ing favour: Meg Remy, aka U.S. Girls, Bun­do­bust, Manchester, 18 May, 2018.

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