The first time I came across The SoapGirls [ Hextall…. tread very carefully here! Ed ] was at Camden Rocks Festival at the Black Heart Tavern. Possibly one of the hottest gigs I’ve ever been too, the girls put on a show to remember and supercharged the crowd in a heaving room with barely enough room to breathe let alone move.
A gig at Surya just off the Pentonville Road in London [CLICK HERE TO READ THE REVIEW] gives me the opportunity to catch up with Ca(Mille) and Noe(MIE) Debray to talk about their influences, the live show, their clothing choices and of course some of the controversy they’ve courted since arriving in the U.K.
AH: What a sweat box the Camden Rocks show was. It was probably the hottest gig I’ve attended in a long time.
Mille: Oh my god! We, I’ve never been so hot.
Mie: Our faces felt like they were crying, they were sweating that much.
Mille: My eyes were burning but I loved it, you know how I tell if I had a good time in the show. The sweatier I am, the better the show was. When I leave the gig and I don’t think its really ever happened to me and I haven’t been burst to sweating.
Mie: Even I let you smell my guitar strap, it stinks.
Mille: –Stinks. And that’s a smell of rock and roll man.
Mille: No, when the show hasn’t like hurt you in some way but in a good way, it wasn’t — you didn’t give your all. I was wearing, a tie round my neck. I wrung it out. Three hours after the show, it was still soaking wet.
AH: Was that the first time you’d played Camden Rocks or have you done that before?
Mille: We’ve never done the festival before.
Mie: Yeah, that was the first time.
AH: Who else did you check out on the day?
Mille: Oh, God we went everywhere.
Mie: We really wanted to go see The Damned then like the queue was so long.
Mille: We waited in the queue for ages.
Mie: And then we’re like, no it’s fine.
Mille: But we saw the Virgin Mary’s which were like insane. They’re one of our favourite bands now and we walked around and we went to like the market and stuff.
Mie: Yeah. And saw the police.
Mille: Yeah. And we ended up like taking hundreds of photos.
AH: Now, tell me, growing up, you’re French-born educated in South Africa. When did you move?
Mille: When we were about 5 and 6.
AH: So it wasn’t long after you’d moved there that you started doing the whole soap thing (selling hand made soap and street performing for various causes)?
SoapGirls: Yeah. It wasn’t that long. [What begins now is the recognition of how in tune with each other the girls are. Throughout the interview the simultaneously answer questions and make comments unprompted using the same words and sentences. they often say siblings have a connection but this was pretty impressive.]
AH: Was that out of necessity for just earning money in the family it was the fun thing for you guys?
Mie: It started when we saw like a newspaper article because the healthcare system in South Africa is shocking. The public healthcare system. And there was an article of a new born baby and they didn’t have enough equipment at this hospital.
Mille: Like incubators to keep it alive.
Mie: So we saw a mom and she was making soaps.
Mille: And we wanted to be Girl Scouts.
Mie: So we said “Can we take one of your soaps and like”.
Mille: Go door to door
Mie: And raise funds for this and she was like “Okay, yeah sure”. And we took like 5 soaps and we went door to door but she would like to follow us ’cause she was like “Oh, this is the bad idea.” You’re gonna get like kidnapped.
Mille: And she was irritating and we were like “Dude, you’re killing us”. And we went to the harbour, it’s a tiny little village where we stayed and we would go on the tourist buses and sing in different languages for the tourists, it was really weird, it was fun though.
Mie: And then we’d meet people from all over the world but like selling these soaps and we put on weird little shows and do different accents and languages and then we ended up raising a lot of money. We bought the incubator that we wanted to buy and the humidifier and yeah.
Mille: We helped homeless people, we did a lot of things for years and it was good, it gave us the grounding we needed to be on stage and to have a very thick skin.
Mie: Our mom didn’t like it but yeah. Well, she was proud but still.
AH: So you were already doing the singing on the buses, when did you pick up the instruments?
Mie: Well, I first tried a guitar when I was 12.
Mille: I was 13.
Mie: And I really sucked but like I was like “Yeah, I’m a rockstar”.
Mille: Yeah, we thought we rocked. We’re like yeah, making everyone listen to us.
Mie: And our mom was like “Yey” and then the people like “No, no, no you sucked,” and then we carried on but then I put it down and then when I was 13 then I’m ready like.
Mille: Got into it.
Mille: And I picked up the bass because she couldn’t play ’cause she’s got a guitar and she’s quite nit picky and she’s irritating and I wanted an instrument she couldn’t play. Okay, I’m joking on that but it’s half the reason.
Mille: ’cause she’s so annoying.
Mie: But it’s real, because guitar — she can’t play and sing but she can play and sing bass.
Mille: Yeah, as soon as I picked up the bass I was like it just felt natural and I was like “Wow” and I knew it was my instrument but guitar I still play, whatever, but not when I’m around ’cause she’s annoying.
Mie: I’m not that bad.
Mille: No, you’re a bastard[When the insults fly between the pair, they really really are done with a smile, a nod and a wink. The insults fly thick and fast at times but there’s no mistaking the affection the pair have for each other. they say blood is thicker than water and the bond between the two is clearly rock solid], ’cause she’s good, she’ll be like “Oh, no, no, you should play,” and I’ll fuck off.
Mille: We’re siblings okay.
Mie: If i tried to play the bass she’s like “No, no, no you suck”. Yeah.
AH: You need that little bit of a rivalry surely though.
AH: Does it come out on the stage I would imagine it would?
SoapGirls: No, no, no, we respect each other we’re like, we might fight but if someone else got involved we’d both turn on them. [Again, word for word, both at the same time.]
AH: It’s a cool thing to hear you both start the sentences together.
SoapGirls: That was also from when we sell soap. We used to speak at the same time. Yeah. [And again…]
AH: OK, I’m totally freaked out about it.
AH: Looking at the album, Society’s Rejects, there’s a lot of — not aggression but determination and anger on there. There’s a lot of what feels like history for what you’ve gone through over the years. From what it sounds like growing up in South Africa, it’s a different sort of world compared to where you are now.
Mie: But you know what the funny thing is maybe its a kind of a good thing that we’ve seen even from a young age because people think “Oh! people will be nicer to young girls like us working for charity”.
Mille: No we were hated, we got so much shit and we were just doing good work.
Mie: Oh people, we got so much shit. It wasn’t even funny like even from the ages like 11, 12 whatever we would say “Oh slut” or whatever.
Mille: Whores and that.
Mie: Yeah, so we kind of grow thick skin. Yeah.
Mille: Yeah. And also the lyrics reflect what we feel and we’ve always been like society’s rejects so we’re running from that point of view. We’re not hermits, but we do live on our own bubble.
Mie: We do shave our legs, no, joking. [Laughs]
Mille: No, we live on our own bubble so we’ve often — ’cause we’re not the same, we have a hard time for it and those lyrics we would not have been able to write the kind of music we do unless we’d live through the shit that we have. Put it that way. You wouldn’t just casually write that.
AH: Depending on the content of the lyrics and what you’ve had happen to you in life, does that then determine which of you sings it?
Mie: Like even when how songs starts or it starts with the guitars first sometimes the bass. I usually write the choruses and then she’s always on the verses.
Mille: And sometimes she doesn’t like what i’m writing on the verse and she’ll right her own verse and sometimes I hate what she’s written for me and I’ll write…
Mie: She’ll write something kind of different.
Mille: She tried her own verses and then.
Mie: Even though one time she was, I was on the shower and she was playing on the bass and she have written a whole different song and I was like “No, no, no scrap that, this is how it should go”.
Mille: There’s no formula to it.
AH: Does that compromise come easily?
Mille: Yeah, we never have a fight
Mille: On music and stuff, whatever’s right.
Mie: Except that because I like sometimes can may be cheesy music and she’s like “No, you’re not doing that, no”.
AH: Your musical tastes are quite diverse although you do have common ground on bands that could loosely be grouped as grunge.
Mille: Our middle ground is Grunge. Yeah. Napalm Death, I like extreme bands and things like that but she doesn’t and she likes Fleetwood Mac.
Mie: I like Crowded House [Laughs].
Mille: Which, if someone plays that near me, I will start going like violent like I’m so sorry I respected great music but when I’m in the car and they’re playing and I actually like my knuckles. [At this point the mere thought of Crowded House seems to cause Mille to threaten to shatter the nearest beer bottle in her vice like grip. Sadly the bottle, almost full, is mine….].
AH: Don’t kill the bottle!
Mille: Yeah, I will not kill the bottle [laughs]. When they play that shit I’m like “No!”.
AH: It’s not angry enough?
Mille: It irritates me to be honest, really, it does. I respect it but its…..[sighs]
AH: But it’s great that you got passion about music isn’t it? The tracks from the album don’t fall in to that middle ground though, it’s got a real feel rooted in the 70’s punk vibe.
SoapGirls: Oh, that’s cool.
Mille: This album, there’s quite a diverse range of songs I would say. It’s not like one genre where we are slave to so we called it Revolt Rock. It’s called elements of different kinds of music but it’s not like eclectic that we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.
AH: I’ve seen a lot of review struggle to put you in a genre….
Mille: We just called it Revolt rock it makes you revolt people that like disgusted and it will also make people think “Fuck yah” I like, revolutionised man, like stand up for your rights, well it’s good.
AH: Well that’s the bit that stands out though. Although you mentioned revolting, where on Earth did the fish eye thing come from? [Shows often involve a hapless member of the audience coming onstage and being encouraged to suck an eye from a dead fish… well, why not?]
Mille: Ah, Okay. I’m a very twisted and — not sick person — but very twisted person and I do like to make people question things. For instance the fish eye, people eat fish, they eat things but it’s almost like the eye is taboo but the eyes sees everything and I like making people uncomfortable because it makes them question things in what is normal and what isn’t and it’s quite weird when you see people’s reaction to it. If I could — I don’t eat meat off stage but if I could get a human eye on stage I will do it as well.
Mie: Trust me, she’s not joking.
Mille: No, I think that eyes are beautiful, it’s the soul.
AH: And how many times has the ambulance been called when you’re doing these things?
Mie: Quite a few times.
Mille: Many times. Yeah. Most of the people have come back for more though and it’s really awesome.
Mie: But it’s so funny though. I Germany, when I think it was this second.
Mille: No the first German show.
Mie: Oh the first German show and the guy, they have to call the ambulance for this guy. And with the Germans, they were laughing, they were like…. [laughter]
Mille: We were like “Woah”.
Mie: like “Oops” and they were taking selfies with this guy and it was like “I’m getting stretchered out like [laughter]”. Yeah.
Mille: I was gonna say in England it’s a little bit more like “Oh shit”.
Mie: But apparently, there’s a guy and he didn’t get it at all…
Mille: He’s been sending emails to venues.
Mie: To venues and he said there’s a date rape drug that we put in that its called Soap that’s the street name and he got raped after and we rape guy on stage.
Mille: Yeah. We put drugs on the juice that I’ve drunk myself and many woman as well.
Mie: So watch out man. Yeah.
Mille: But apparently this is like some dangerous criminal activity.
Mie: Yeah. We do dangerous criminal activity. I mean look at this stats man.
Mille: Of course we’re not. But imagine coming up with that shit!!
Mie: We raped guys on stage, seriously [laughter]
Mille: I’m still a virgin and I definitely wouldn’t have done that on stage. No, thanks. No. But some venues have been like “Oh my God” and some laugh and then some are actually serious.
Mie: Yeah. Like the ones in Europe they were like “What is this going on about the SoapGirls? They’re raping guys on stage, what are you doing?” [laughter]
AH: Because they just don’t get it.
Mille: Yeah, they take things quite serious. But I mean the fact the guy saw the street name for this Soap. Just come on…..
AH: So you’re 2 years into playing gigs on a regular basis now, what’s changed?
Mie: Now 2 people turn up. No, I’m joking, no.
Mille: No, no, no. More people are coming to the shows. I think just more and more people like not just more of a curious they’re actually enjoying the music and they’re coming out to shows. It’s just cool.
AH: And they started to see regulars now?
Mille: Yeah. We have even from the first show Francis who comes to every single show It’s like a gang, they’re cool.
AH: Is Sam [The band’s manager] still driving you around everywhere?
Mie: She is.
Mille: Yeah, she is.
AH: She’s gonna be here tonight?
Mille:Yeah, Oh God she is always here.
AH: Yeah. She’s clearly got your back though?
Mille: Very much.
Mie: Definitely Yes.
AH: And you do not mess with her?
Mie: She’s tiny but she’s like a rottweiler.
Mille: But she’s fast, she just doesn’t stand for bullshit.
Mie: Even in Germany last year it was in Uni that we performed. There was a Nazi guy and kept like going like this and threatening us and then sound like broke a bottle and just like.
Mille: No, I broke the bottle, she took the screw driver.
Mie: She took the screw driver and she like on a tiptoe to tap him ’cause he’s really tall, and she’s like “Hi”. Yeah in Africa whenever we don’t fuck around so come let’s go, I’ll really fuck you over” [laughter]
Mille: I just took the stage with a smashed bottle and then the guy run away. I was like “Where are you going man?”
AH: Obviously when it does calm down, after 20 shows in a row, what do you do when you get a break?
Mille: We like to sing Kumbaya in the garden. No I’m joking [laughter]
Mie: No joking [laughter]
Mille: We make stage outfits and maybe write a bit, sleep a little bit when we can. I don’t know if the idea of a break is always a nice but once you’ve had 1 or 2 days you kind of you need to be doing what you wanna do.
AH: What are you passionate about outside of all of these?
Mie: Gardening, crochet [laughter]
Mille: No, I would say: music, fashion, people, and animals. We’re very fashionable animals and like the elderly and kids, we love kids so like even in South Africa we’ll volunteer at the children’s home, hang out with the old people.
Mie: And I like baking, I do like baking.
Mille: Oh God…
Mie: I’m terrible but I like it .
Mille: Oh, your baking sucks.
Mie: Yeah and I end up almost poisoning everybody.
Mille: Yeah and if we tell here her stuff sucks and she wants to kill us and I was like “You almost killed us and you’re upset with us”.
Mie: But then they eat them so it’s fine.
Mille: Fuck off! [Laughs] It’s out of desperation. Otherwise we love, I think we’re pretty much just right. Whenever we’re not like touring we’re just going to start writing.
With Society’s Rejects now available, take the time to embrace what it means to be a real, honest rock band. Go and see a show, experience raw energy at its finest and if you’re willing, try the fish (eye). You never know you might like it. If all else fails, the number for emergency services in the U.K. is 999.