30 October 2019

'Punk's Dead': A Timely Release by Helena Pop


Helena Pop have just released a pretty old song, ‘Punk’s Dead’. A song that singer Jack Livingston tells me the band has been playing since they became a band. But the exciting thing for both Helena Pop and their fans is the new direction they have taken with this track.

“We’ve been playing this song since we became a band but not in the way that we recorded it. We played it as a more folky song, but we weren’t feeling like that’s a very good representation of where we are at the moment as a band.”

‘Punk’s Dead’ sees Helena Pop drop the acoustic guitar in favour of synthesisers. They still maintain the chaotic, rough around the edges energy that captivates their fans, but this track sees the group branch out and take on some of the more poppy characteristics of bands like Ball Park Music and Sports Bra.

Members of Helena Pop have come and gone, and they now have a different line-up from when they started out. This has given the group the opportunity to embrace a more electronic sound, and to move towards trying things out that interest all the members.

“‘Punk’s Dead’ was also treated like a test run for Helena Pop recording for the first time with Jono Tooke (Cry Club, Sports Bra), and that went really well.”

Livingston says that ‘Punk’s Dead’ was originally meant to feature on Helena Pop’s 2018 EP You Said You Loved Them, but upon recording the band found that the track just didn’t fit the energy of the rest of the record. Livingston who was playing solo shows prior to his Helena Pop induction explains that he wrote the original concept for ‘Punk’s Dead’ while performing by himself which meant it just didn’t feel like a Helena Pop song.

Photo by Claire Louise

“The way we do song writing as a group is very different than me just bringing a full song to the band and saying this is how we’re going to play it. I hope that our sound comes out in a way that reflects that we really like sharing the space. It’s not the Jack Livingston show, but originally the song came across that way.”

After a long weekend at the coast in the Winter of 2018 Helena Pop came back with the new concept for ‘Punk’s Dead’. The idea emerged from “a room that was once a shed where we strapped mattresses to the walls and blankets to the ceilings and made it into a mini studio.” The band recorded all their practices in the makeshift mini studio and workshopped them until they got close to the version of ‘Punk’s Dead’ that was released this week.

“It was a relief getting this song out because it’s been around for so long with the band.”

Interestingly, this song seems to have been released at just the right time; the lyrical content and overarching messages of ‘Punk’s Dead’ are probably more relevant in today’s political landscape than ever before. Livingston suggests that both nationally and globally there are a lot of extreme right-wing groups appropriating an anti-establishment or punk rock identity to “perpetuate conservatism and hate”. This is something the band calls attention to in the new single.

“There’s a movement within extreme right groups to try and paint themselves as somehow counterculture and like they’re doing something important, when they actually just represent the hegemony of the time. Conservatism isn’t cool, it’s not counterculture it’s just more extreme versions of what we already have in place.”

In an era when the world’s political leaders can condone racism and xenophobia and be met with such support as they have been, it seems that the commentary Helena Pop deliver with the release of ‘Punk’s Dead’ is very timely indeed.

Credit: Zoe Priest

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