PVA Share New Single “Bunker”

PVA
Photo by Sal Redpath

GRAMMY-nominated, South London trio PVA have shared a new single titled “Bunker”. The single follows the announcement of their highly anticipated debut album “BLUSH”, which is due out 14th October via Ninja Tune.

Following their critically acclaimed EP “Toner”, the band’s stunning debut album sees them further consolidating the beating pulse of electronic music with the raw energy of a life-affirming gig and reveals more about the trio than they’ve ever previously shared. The eleven blistering tracks from the group, Ella Harris and Josh Baxter (who share lead vocals as well as handling synths, guitars and production) alongside drummer and percussionist Louis Satchell, are made from a formula of acid, disco, blistering synths, the release of the dancefloor and cathartic sprechgesang post-punk.

Channelling elements of leftfield industrial punk, the new single “Bunker” sees PVA lean into a darker sound than any of the singles from the record so far. The track sees Josh Baxter take up ominous lead vocals, which prowl amongst oscillating basslines and unsettling, hypnotic synths, before giving way to a euphoric final section of uplifting electronica and powerful, frenetic drumming.

Speaking on the track, the band says, “We started playing ‘Bunker’ almost as soon as the band started. Originally just a looped groove, it has evolved into the live track it is today through various compositions and outings live. The song tries to act as a reminder to overcome the want to chase things that ultimately lead to isolation.”

The latest single comes on the heels of their recent tracks “Hero Man” and “Bad Dad”, which have both earned significant plaudits across press and radio, with the former being added to the BBC Radio 6 Music playlist, and both earning major support from the likes of Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs, and BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders, who the band also recently recorded a ‘Future Artists’ session with (inc. a cover of Big Thief’s “Not”).

As further proof of the band’s mesmerising live allure, PVA have also recently been nominated for “Best Live Performer” at this year’s AIM Awards – votes for the band can be placed HERE. The band also recently announced their biggest UK / EU headline tour to date, which will take place across October and November 2022 in support of “BLUSH”. The tour follows on from a series of incendiary performances across Latitude Festival, Standon Calling, The Great Escape, Route du Rock, Into The Great Wide Open, Congés Annulés, and Wilderness this year, as well as SXSW in 2021.

PVA began when Harris and Baxter began making what they dubbed “country-friend techno” together in 2018. Their first show, at night called Narcissistic Exhibitionism at The Five Bells pub in New Cross, took place just two weeks after they met. The night was curated by Harris and featured painting, sculpture and photography upstairs, and bands on the ground floor. She booked PVA as headliners. One of their first songs ‘Divine Intervention’ was born from Harris dictating her dreams to her new bandmate.

After this early stage they then recruited Satchell to bring a new dimension to their live shows. These more muscular gigs helped PVA establish a cult reputation among London gig-goers, particularly as they barely put any music online. Seeing the live show was really the only option. They established themselves as key players in south London’s fervent indie scene alongside Squid, black midi and Black Country, New Road. This then led to slots at SXSW, Pitchfork Music Festival and Green Man as well as national tours with Shame, Dry Cleaning and Goat Girl. Even in their earliest iterations, however, their existence beyond the confines of a traditional band set-up were clear. It wasn’t unusual to be able to catch them twice in one night, once at Brixton sweatbox The Windmill and again at Deptford’s subterranean Bunker club, where they played their first headline show and DJ’d regularly.  

The group released their debut single ‘Divine Intervention’ through Speedy Wunderground in late 2019 with debut EP ‘Toner’ arrived a year later via Ninja Tune (home to similarly iconoclastic acts such as Young Fathers, Black Country, New Road, Bicep, Kae Tempest, Floating Points, and more). The EP – produced by the mercurial Dan Carey (black midi, Bat For Lashes, Fontaines D.C.) – saw the trio earn plaudits across a wide-range of press and radio including placements in multiple end of year lists such as: the NME 100 list, DIY’s Class of 2021, Dork’s 2021 Hype List and Fred Perry’s One’s To Watch 2021, as well as The Guardian, NME, The Times, Evening Standard, The Telegraph, Clash, DIY, The Quietus, Dazed, and Dork who gave the EP a 5* review.

It also featured a remix of ‘Talks’ from Mura Masa that picked up a GRAMMY nomination in the category of Best Remixed Recording at the 2022 ceremony, as well as also having further remixes of the track from Gilla Band, Lynks and members of black midi and Squid, whilst PVA themselves remixed tracks by friends Goat Girl and Shame.

On their debut album PVA carry that same energy from the live circuit, while also building out a holistic world full of texture and heart. “BLUSH” is rich with industrial-sized beats that pack a heavyweight punch, jagged punk spirit, and moments of hushed contemplation from Harris’ poetic lyrics. It sprints tirelessly throughout, linking influences including Portishead, PC Music, Laurie Anderson, and cult rave-pop duo The Pom-Poms with ease.

“We wanted to surprise people and do something more than just get across how we sound at a gig,” explains drummer Satchell. “It’s quite an anxious record sometimes that is relating to mental health issues and carries within it the anxiety of making an album. It’s been a rocky ride but we always pick ourselves up.”

This is the sound of a group pushing past expectations and delivering an album that opens up new worlds of possibility. Defying easy categorisation might be instinctive to PVA but “BLUSH” makes other elements of the band’s world clearer than ever before. During the past two years Harris has worked on solo material as lime zoda and written two collections of poetry, much of which she used as the basis for lyrics on “BLUSH”.

Album opener, ‘Untethered,’ is a moment of celebration born from achieving that very same kind of release. There is a frantic energy to the song that makes remaining static an impossibility while its themes of transition, joy, and reframing negative situations continue throughout “BLUSH”. Harris had “loads of therapy” during lockdown and came to terms with a lot of major life situations. “I just feel happier with myself and that was really important for the songs, too,” she says.

This is something Baxter shares, too. “Vicariously, through Harris, I get to express my queerness, too.” He leads the vocals on both ‘Bunker’ and the saw-toothed industrial banger ‘The Individual,’ songs dealing with identity and the characters that we see within ourselves. ”This album is definitely exploring who we are as people,” Baxter says. “We’ve all had this personal growth and the album is about us allowing us to be ourselves more and being comfortable with that.”

“BLUSH’s” artwork also reflects the themes explored across the album, the concepts of release and liminal spaces, various characters and their relationship with gender and sexuality, and a breaking down of oneself to allow love in. Heavily inspired by sci-fi and high fashion, Harris says the album’s aesthetic is “one of simplicity, bold colour (pinks / blues) and relationship with the body and the forms the body creates (stretching / dancing / bending / collapsing). The model is caught between lightness and dark – wanting both and conflicted, pulled by external forces in both directions.”

“BLUSH” was written during various lockdowns, a testing time for a band used to finding the limits of their sound live on stage. Adversity, clearly, doesn’t get the better of PVA, though. If anything, they feel some enforced distance strengthened their songwriting. Harris wrote poems and learned to produce music, Baxter worked with other artists as a producer, and Satchell continued his music course at City University, studying ancient African polyrhythms among other techniques. “We’d got apart from one another with what we were making and had to come back together,” Harris explains. “We could have just bashed the album out but I’m really happy we took our time with it. It feels a lot more like us.”

The album was produced by the band alongside friends Ben Romans-Hopcraft and Jamie Neville over a two week period at Neville’s home studio in south London. They then mixed the record at FOLD, the club hidden away on a trading estate in Canning Town. One place intimate, another industrial; this is PVA’s world.

Creating a world in which these songs could exist, not as disparate entities but cohesively and connected, was key to PVA. Over time the songs have changed and grown, resulting in a record that is at once gargantuan and yet deeply personal; purpose built to ricochet off the walls of any major venue yet stitched with enough personality and individuality to make the epic feel easily grasped. “The album has taken on a life of its own,” Harris states. “It’s really become something we didn’t expect.” Having set out to surprise people they ended up shocking themselves. The result, however unpredicted, is nothing short of revelatory.

“BLUSH” will be available on CD, standard pink LP, limited edition blue LP (available via independent record stores), limited Dinked edition pink sparkle LP w/exclusive PVA zine, and digital formats. Pre-order the album HERE

Tour dates:

20th October – Strange Brew, Bristol, UK
22nd October – The Workmans, Dublin, IE
23rd October – Swn Festival, Cardiff, UK
24th October – Joiners, Southampton, UK
26th October – Chalk, Brighton, UK
27th October – Mash, Cambridge, UK
28th October – Castle & Falcon, Birmingham, UK
29th October – Gorilla, Manchester, UK
31st October – Broadcast, Glasgow, UK
1st November – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, UK
2nd November – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK
3rd November – Village Underground, London, UK
10th November – Badaboum, Paris, FR
12th November – V11, Rotterdam, NL
15th November – Yuca, Cologne, DE
16th November – Molotow Sky Bar, Hamburg, DE
17th November – Stengade, Copenhagen, DK
18th November – Badehaus, Berlin, DE
20th November – Cafe V Lese, Prague, CZ
22nd November – Ampere, Munich, DE
23rd November – Bogen F, Zurich, CH
25th November – Razzmatazz 3, Barcelona, ES
26th November – Moby Dick, Madrid, ES

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