Energised Punk-Rock revivers of the RiotGrrl legacy, The SoapGirls are a band who have earned their stripes and grabbed a handful of everyone else’s along the way. The Parisian sisters, Millie (Vocals/Bass) and Mie (Vocals/Guitar) have courted controversy around the world with their outspoken lyrics and defiantly outlandish live shows.
Their current, delicately titled Sniff My Strap Tour sees The SoapGirls once again taking on the UK and Europe to promote their latest album, Elephant in the Room. I was lucky enough to catch them on a brief but well-deserved break in their relentless touring schedule to discuss life as independent artists, creative freedom and Miley Cyrus…
SoapGirls, how are you doing?
Millie: Zombified but very happy. Yesterday was the first day off in like 5 days or something. We’re doing 140 shows, we started in April and we’re going to the end of November.
…140 shows in 8 months?! That’s close to every day then?
Millie: I wish it was every day. I hate the days off
What was the last show you played?
Mie: The other day we had a show in Scarborough at the Apollo Barn Venue. It was a really cool venue. It was also the only venue that would let us play! Another venue had actually booked us but the council said we’re not allowed to play because apparently, it’s adult entertainment or something.
Millie: I don’t know… I’ve never heard such shit in my life.
Mie: So this guy, he’s gay and he’s very much against bullying and intolerance. He was like, “Fuck that, I’ll have them at my place!” and stepped in to save the show last minute.
Mille: We ended up having a really cool show!
Do you guys often come up against problems like that?
Millie: It depends on the area, but we’ve often had people try to get the show shut down. I love the fact that we cause so much shit but not for doing anything horrendous….
Mie:… just for being ourselves.
Millie: I want to inspire people and let them know that even though you will get a lot of hatred for being yourself…
Mie:… don’t ever change for other people.
So, where are the SoapGirls from originally and how did you get started playing music?
Millie: We’re Parisian but we moved to South Africa when we were about six. When we were kids we used to love entertaining people. People would come over to our house and be exposed to our singing, screaming or whatever it was. We put on a show and they would have to enjoy it. Then by the time we were 8 and 9 we wanted to do something with our lives.
Mie: In South Africa there’s a lot of need. You can’t pretend it’s not happening and look away. At the time our Mum had her own soap company so we asked her if we could take a few of her soaps and go door to door, and sell them like Girl Scouts for charity. We did that and the minute people opened their door we would start singing. They were like “Woah! What is this”?!
Mille: Eventually we went from the little village that we stayed at to the harbour where it was just tourists…
Mie: …and fisherman. That’s where we learned our colourful language!
Millie: *Laughs* We would go onto the tourist buses singing and entertaining people.
Mie: That’s also how the name came about. People were like “Hey, it’s the SoapGirls.”
Millie: After selling soap for 8 years, 365 days a year and being referred to as ‘The SoapGirls’ for all that time, no other name felt right. We could have been like The DEATH FALCONS, but no. *both laugh*
So, that’s when you became artists?
[Yeah,] when we were 12 and 13 this guy offered for us to come to his studio and record. It was a very dodgy situation but we came out with some cool songs. Eventually after a few years of going to different studios all around South Africa we were picked up by Universal Records when we were just 14 and 15. They got really interested after we had a song on a Japanese Compilation disc. At the time we thought being signed was like the biggest thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how original you are, whatever reason they initially signed you for, they will change you.
Mie: They’re basically just like a bank. It’s a business, you’re a product, that’s it.
Millie: We hated it. We were always fighting for creative control, it was a fucking nightmare. For four years we were stuck. We had songs on the radio and it was very successful but at the end of the day if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, what’s the point?
Mie: It doesn’t count for anything.
Mille: After that we sold everything that we had and got ourselves to New York. We were working with people there but after a month we realised that they were just trying the same shit. We turned down a big record deal which people at the time said was really dumb. We did needed the money badly but we were just, like, “No.” So we left and for a few more years we just kept on uploading music to YouTube. One day, someone from England contacted us, told us they loved our music and offered to organise a tour for us.
Mie: We were very skeptical because of all the crap we’d dealt with but it ended up being legitimate. So from 2015 we’ve been touring the UK and Europe every year.
So your last three albums are all self-released, is that right?
Millie: Yeah, since leaving the record label we’ve funded everything ourselves through blood sweat and tears. When we made the first album, Causes for Rebellion, we needed something to tour England with. We had 48 hours to record 16 songs which were not even finished!
Mie: When people are like “Wow, it’s so lo-fi, it’s raw!” we’re like…”Yeeeeeah, no sh*t!” For some of the songs, I was just sat there in a room with my guitar and a guy on his laptop, no booth, nothing, just playing! *laughs*
Millie: That album was real as fuck.
What inspires you when you’re writing music?
Millie: Everything. From political situations that we’re hearing about which just boil our blood, to animal abuse and things that really should be spoken about and fought for but no one’s saying anything because they’re too afraid or it won’t make them enough money. Also, any experience like, whether it’s someone that’s been blackmailing someone, any abusive situation, I’m gonna write about that sh*t. I love taking anger and channeling it into something positive. And you?
Mie: The exact same thing. Dude, we write the songs together…
Millie: Oh yeah sorry, I forgot. *both laugh*
You’ve got quite a pretty strong SoapGirls fanbase right? What are they like?
Together: Yeah, definitely.
Millie: Our fans are amazing.
Mie: D’you know, some of them they’ll fly from England to Holland, to Timbuctu, anywhere just to come watch the show.
Millie. It’s so cool. And it makes such a difference, because obviously doing this and being outspoken and very different you will get a lot of shit. So knowing that you have the support of people who are aliens like yourself, meaning that they don’t fit into society, it’s really cool.
And do you get to meet them?
Mie: We always lose our voices because we stay for hours afterwards talking to people.
Millie: We love the fact that we can talk to people and they always get exactly what we’re about. People who go to the show, they just get it and they love it and I enjoy the fact that they leave saying “I feel empowered” and I’m like “Damn right”.
Mie: We’ve gotten e-mails from people or messages from young people, 17 or 18, they’re like, “I came to see your show and I’m a very shy person because I get bullied a lot at school and after watching your showing I was like, wow actually, you know, it’s ok to be different and I’m going to embrace it.”
Millie: Some people even quit their job and said fuck you to their boss that they’ve hated for ten years.
Mie: And you can’t typecast our fans. We’ve had a 12-year-old at a show, and an 85-year-old woman getting on stage, taking off her bra, swinging it and saying, “Fuck you!” It’s cool. I think it’s great that we show people rock music and even the ‘rock life’ is not just for people of a certain age.
Millie. I think that’s a big problem in this world. People are so scared of standing up and doing things that they would have loved to. They’re scared of the judgement.
Mie: Then they get to that age when you shouldn’t be giving any more fucks because they’ve seen the bigger picture, and they’re still not allowed to just be themselves. That’s what I love about our shows, you can do whatever you want, if it’s not about hurting anyone.
You guys have quite a history gigging in Camden, right? You’ve been here a few times now?
Mie: We love it!
Millie: The first show we did in Camden at the Black Heart was really popular. You couldn’t get in, there were queues down the road. We didn’t expect that, we were shocked. But then the next year we went back and then, of course, this year as well.
We also performed at Camden Rocks for the past two years and it’s honestly our favourite festival we’ve ever played. We love everything about it, we think it’s brilliant! The fact that they took a chance on some band from South Africa and every year we’ve played it, it’s got more and more amazing for us. We did Dingwalls and Fest this year and we honestly love it.
Which was your favourite of those two?
Mille: The show that we did at Fest this year was my favourite, I loved all the people behind the scenes there that made the festival so great.
Mie: For me, Dingwalls was cool because when we got in it was empty. I was busy setting up and I had my face on and I said to this dude even if there’s no one here, just fuck it, rock it or whatever. When I looked up again it was full. I was like “What the fuck?!”
Millie: You couldn’t breathe!
What do you like in particular about the audiences in Camden?
Millie: They are there for music and to be as much a part of the show as you are. It’s just brilliant. You feel so much energy afterwards. Every time we’ve done Camden Rocks festival I leave on a high. I feel like I’m on something for a week.
Mie: There’s a whole mix of people and it’s like a real celebration. It’s electric.
Are there any bands you’ve come across in the UK in particular that you would recommend people to check out?
Millie: Definitely. At Camden Rocks we wandered into the Underworld and we heard what have become one of our favourite bands now, The Virgin Marys. Probably one of the best live bands. Like, damn.
Mie: I remember when we played Rebellion Festival last year, there was this band on the Introducing stage. I was ready to leave because we had to go somewhere, and then I was like, “Oh who’s that?” Their name was Strange Bones and I think they’re fucking cool.
Could you give me three words you’d use to describe your music?
Mie: Eclectic Passionate and R…
Mie: …aw. Sorry, that’s four.
Millie: MELODICRAW. Rawmelodic, man. It’s one word!
If you had a SoapBox Car what would you call it?
Mie: Bad Bitch 300.
Millie: Soap Bitches!
Johnny Rotten or Courtney Love?
Millie: Shit! I would say Johnny Rotten.
Mie: Yeah, Johnny Rotten. He was never ever scared to say things how they really were.
Millie: I respect the fact that he was one of the only people who dared at the time, when Jimmy Saville was like a saint to everyone, to say “That guy is a paedo”. He didn’t give a fuck about kissing people’s arses.
Kurt Cobain or David Bowie?
Millie: Sorry, Kurt Cobain. I fuckin’ love Kurt Cobain. He wrote some of my absolute favourite songs of all time and I think he was a very interesting person.
Mie: For me, David Bowie, because he was fearless.
Do you have any advice for new bands trying to build a career for themselves?
Millie: Yeah, just be original. Don’t ever look at other people and try and compare yourself That’s first of all really stupid and you’re going to pigeon hole yourself. Just create without the idea of what you think people want to hear. Be unique. Also, if you want a loyal fanbase, be interactive with people.
Mie: A lot of people are arrogant so they’ll have fans and then they treat them like shit. But it’s like, if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be here. So respect your fans.
Millie: Just be real and don’t be afraid to rock the boat.
Obviously you guys put yourselves out there and are very expressive in your performance. Unfortunately, that can sometimes attract trouble… Have you ever had any particular nightmare experiences at gigs?
Mie: Sometimes we’ll arrive at venues and the people clearly haven’t listened to our music, they don’t get what we’re about. In Italy, this guy came and he put these two cages up. We’re like, what’s this? and he’s like *in Italian accent* “Ah you’re gonna dance on the stage, in the cage”. We were like “No, no, no. We’re playing music,” and he was like “No, you don’t play the music. You’re dancing. Dancing girl!” And we were like…” No, we’re playing fuckin’ music!”
Millie: You know, last year, on our way to Camden we just got in from Europe and the tour van broke down as we reached Cambridge. We were stuck there in the middle of the night. We had no phones, no power, nothing. We couldn’t charge anything. We were literally stranded. We made it in the nick of time to the festival and just had to get on stage. We had to body-paint in the car. I was so desperate, I took a shit in a pack in the car because we couldn’t even stop at a toilet! That was pretty heavy. Our drummer doesn’t know to this day what happened.
Mie: Another was, we played a show in Leeds and this woman came in with a gang of her friends and her husband.
Mille: They stood in one corner, heckling us, heckling gay couples, goth couples, mimicking throwing up…
Mie: …saying “Oh you dirty sluts” and all this stuff. And it’s fine, you can say your shit, whatever, but after a while it gets a little bit annoying.
Millie: You’ve got this sour puss expression. It’s giving me musical erectile disfunction. Just get out man. It’s like imagine, you’re busy kissing someone and they’re gagging and throwing up. You’d be like “Ay, what the fuck is this?” It’s the same way I feel when I’m on stage.
Millie: So on the third song, I said what I always say: I said, “We do not stand for intolerance. This world, this society that we’re living in that is teaching us to feel that we have a right to look down on other people for an appearance and something that we don’t understand is bullshit. We don’t stand for intolerance and people like that can fuck off.”
This woman went insane! She was screaming like a banshee!
Mie: It was like everything we said was aimed at her?
Millie: No one had pointed her out but it clicked with her because she knew she was being a bitch. She was going insane so I said, “Let’s hear your point.” I tried to listen but she was making no sense. So at that point I just ripped out my tampon, drank my blood, put it on my face and just said get the fuck out. And everyone was like “YEAH, GET THE FUCK OUT.” I’ve never kicked anyone out of a show before because I feel like even if they don’t understand what you’re doing, they have a right to be there, they’re a human and they don’t have to like you.
Mie: But in this case the energy completely shifted in the room because the people were uncomfortable. It’s not nice having people standing there judging you.
Millie: It’s the same when I’m doing a show and I see someone pulling this face like they’ve got a pineapple shoved with acid up their asshole. It’s like, if you’re not enjoying yourself…
Both: Fuck off!
Can you tell us where we can buy your music?
Millie: If you want to buy physical copies, you can just inbox us and we will sign them and everything. Otherwise you can go on Spotify, Deezer, iTunes, CDbaby, Bandcamp.
…and where can we find you online?
Mille: That’s stalking, ok, you watch yourself man! No I’m joking *both laugh* Well we’ve got Facebook, thesoapgirls, Instagram: thesoapgirls, twitter: the_soapgirls. We’ve got YouTube, we’ve got…
Mie: Yeah, that’s it.
Mille: Ah man, I thought there was more.
And you’re back in Camden soon, right?
Both: Yeah, in November!
Millie: We can’t wait.