LIVE REVIEW: The SoapGirls, Trillians, Newcastle, 3rd July 2019

The SoapGirls at Trillians in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The SoapGirls are one of those bands who seem to have as many detractors as they have fans, though it’s debatable how many of the former have taken the trouble to see them and listen to their music.

Their opinion seems to be based on the fact that the core of the band, sisters Camille (Mille) and Noemie (Mie) Debray, take to the stage wearing little more than body paint and elaborate headpieces which wouldn’t look out of place on West End chorus girls.

They’ve been accused of looking like strippers, called sluts, and had buckets of fake blood thrown over them at the behest of the boss of one venue where they played, for ‘exploiting themselves and damaging the feminist movement’.

The SoapGirls at Trillians in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Originally a dance-pop act, they enjoyed some success in their homeland South Africa at the turn of the decade with a major label debut album, then changed direction and embraced DIY punk ideals and a grittier sound. Lack of authenticity is another common criticism.

I first saw them at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool in 2017 and was unsure what to make of them. The tunes were decent enough for them to be invited back the following year, but were people only there for a punk rock peep show?

Having now been to one of their own gigs, a sweaty affair at this intimate rock bar, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. If that’s how two confident, intelligent, women choose to express themselves, who is anyone to tell them different?

Mie of The SoapGirls at Trillians in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The SoapGirls are about to release their fourth album, Elephant In The Room, and this date was part of their Sniff My Strap tour.

Mille made it clear from the off that if anybody was uncomfortable with people expressing themselves and being whatever they want to be, they should, for want of a better phrase, leave now.

As soon as the girls hit their stride, it’s obvious they are a very proficient band indeed, that their songs stand up on their own merit, and after a few minutes you don’t even notice they’re virtually starkers.

Mille of The SoapGirls at Trillians in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

They’re backed by a male drummer, recruited whenever they are in the UK, and he enters into the spirit of things by playing in just a pair of shorts.

They’ve spent the last five years playing extensively here and in Europe, building up a following who see beyond the nudity and enjoy their music for what it is: raw, energetic and played with passion.

Sharing vocals, the girls have catchy choruses aplenty in their self-penned songs, with elder sister Mille railing most against prejudice and injustice, and preaching inclusivity and freedom of expression.

Mille of The SoapGirls bends over backwards to put on a show. Pic: Gary Welford.

Half a dozen songs in she sheds her 6in stiletto boots and foot-high headpiece, and then she really lets loose.

Playing barefoot, she’s much more able to throw shapes, high kicking and literally bending over backwards to put on a show – all while playing some mean bass.

Visually, it’s a mesmerising show, and the music’s not bad either. The SoapGirls have a grungy indie-pop sound, served with a healthy side of punk attitude – think late 80s/early 90s alt-pop-rock outfit Voice Of the Beehive crossed with L7 and Hole and you’re not far off the mark.

Mie of The SoapGirls at Trillians in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The highlights of this hour-long set were Society’s Rejects, which is the title track of their second album, current single One Way Street, the incendiary Break You, and the closing Bad Bitch.

Mie and Mille clearly enjoy every moment of their time on stage, maybe because as youngsters they were street performers and sold handmade soap (hence the name the SoapGirls).

There’s no airs and graces about them at all, and they’re happy to spend time chatting to fans after the show. Even if they don’t look like your typical punk rockers, with all they’ve been through, they’ve more than earned their credentials.

Gary Welford owner