Piroshka: ‘I don’t want to keep making the same record over and over’

Two years on from Brickbat, their hurriedly recorded debut album, indie supergroup Piroshka have settled into a different sound on its follow-up.

Piroshka

For Love Drips & Gathers partners Miki Berenyi (formerly of Lush) and KJ McKillop (once of Moose) split songwriting duties while bass player Mick Conroy (of Modern English) took more of a hand in the production alongside McKillop – a role previously occupied by Berenyi and drummer Justin Welch (of Elastica).

The result is a less rocky and more considered affair, full of intriguing textures.

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“With the first one there was a bit of finding our way,” concedes singer and guitarist Berenyi. “With this one we knew right from the start we were going to work with Iggy (record label Bella Union’s in-house producer), that studio is part-owned by Bella Union so it’s a lot cheaper to organise, and it just meant we weren’t finding our way so much in terms of who we’re working with, where we’re recording, all the logistical practicalities. All of our time could be spent working on the songs and the sound of the album. It’s not like we had loads more money on this but our time was better organised.”

Although she credits Welch as “a total force of energy, without him the band would never have happened in the first place”, on this album Berenyi felt a change in approach was needed.

“I don’t want to keep making the same record over and over again,” she says. “Not that I did that in Lush, but I felt like there’s an element of if you’ve got some sort of success it’s quite difficult to tear yourself away from that path because it’s the proven formula whereas with a new band you can do what you like, it’s not like you’re going to break the bank or anything.

“Having worked with Justin on the first album, I just wanted to hand over the reins to Mick and Moose and see the direction. Everybody is still feeding into it, everybody is still contributing, but I thought if we could just shift that emphasis a bit and leave them to noodle in the studio with all sorts of pedals and trickery.

“(With) Moose’s songs, he had a particular idea of how he wanted them to sound. He was really up for being in the studio for hours and horsing about with that kind of stuff. It’s more of a studio album, for sure.”

If Brickbat was a more conscious attempt to steer the lyric writing away from their previous bands, Berenyi feels like here she and McKillop settled back into more of their “usual patterns” of personal reflection, albeit from a more “contemplative” middle-aged perspective. Hence there are songs about family, loss and in the case of Familiar, menopausal depression.

“Once you’re in your fifties it isn’t the same,” she says. “When I think about the songs that I wrote with Lush, it was about people that annoy you, things that you might be quite sad about, but there is something very different about being in your twenties.”

Far from being depressing, she sees their nuanced reflections on family as “quite uplifting”.

“Thinking about relationships and people is actually a really happy thing,” she says. “It’s actually quite a nice celebration, I suppose, of the people that have mattered a lot in your life. There’s nothing really bitter in these songs, they are quite lovely memories. Yes, there are people that we’ve lost and things that have gone, so it feels kind off sad, but it is actually a lovely thing to treasure.

“I think if the pandemic had been happening (when we wrote them) they might have been more anxious and edgy, more about the people that we might lose.”

Being able to write about menopausal depression in Familiar was “actually a bit of a relief”, Berenyi says. “Going through it, you don’t know if it really is the menopause, you think ‘Am I just in a bit of a bleak place? Am I getting old? Is it an ageing process?’” she says. “It actually feels...I hate the word empowering but it’s actually a bit of a relief to be able to think ‘OK, it’s a physical change, I can deal with that’. It does cause a huge mood shift and it is quite confusing. Ask any woman and you can get premenstrual blues and you can get pregnancy this, there’s all sorts of physical things that women go through that effect your mood, but this was just a whole new thing. Actually realising what it was and how to deal with it, that this was a familiar being that you have to kind of pacify, that you have to live with, I actually found really helpful.”

The song VO is dedicated to the late graphic designer Vaughan Oliver, who created all of Lush’s album sleeves when they were signed to 4AD. Berenyi says Oliver, who died in 2019 aged 62, was someone who she was “always really fond of”.

“4AD does have that ivory tower image but actually coming there and realising that not only all the other people who worked there were really nice but Vaughan was the antithesis of what you would think of as a kind of 4AD person because he was filthy as f*** and out there, really mischievous but incredibly talented,” she says.

“We were quite cowed, thinking we were just this tiny band and he’s not really going to want to do our stuff, but he was so enthusiastic, so into it, so we left him to it. I really respected him as a creative person, he wouldn’t just bang out something, it was really considered. He would listen to the music and try and capture the personality of the band and when he died it was a real shock, that was well too young. He did hammer his constitution a bit over the years, but still... It was really sad and everyone felt it really keenly and came along to the funeral. But increasingly at this age I’ve been to a few funerals now, it is depressing but I think funerals are wonderful things, actually, because everyone comes together and it is actually a real celebration to remember that person.

“It deeply affected me at the time I was trying to write these lyrics, but I didn’t want it too be some big moan on about life, I just wanted to capture some of Vaughan’s quirky little ways of speaking.”

Loves Drips and Gathers is out now. Piroshka play at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on November 3. www.facebook.com/piroshkaband